Page last updated at 17:09 GMT, Thursday, 11 September 2008 18:09 UK

Open door for extensions on homes

The loft of a home
Loft conversions typically add 11% to the value of a home

Families in cramped homes are to benefit from a scheme to scrap planning permission for many extensions and loft conversions, the government has said.

The regulations, effective in England from 1 October, will mean 80,000 fewer applications and save up to 50m, Housing Minister Caroline Flint said.

She said families struggling to move due to the credit crunch would benefit.

Two-storey extensions will be allowed if they extend no more than 10ft (3m) from the back of an existing property.

Loft conversions will also be allowed without planning consent if they extend no more than eight inches (20cm) outwards from the eaves of a property.

They must also be no bigger than 50 cubic metres - about the size of a room measuring 18ft by 12ft. For terraced houses it is 40 cubic metres.

Household applications are notoriously contentious
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors

In conservation areas, loft conversions will still be restricted but single-storey rear extensions will be permitted.

The scheme has been talked about for several years but details have only just been revealed.

Caroline Flint said: "The new rules... will save as much as 1,000 in some cases - a real difference to already stretched family finances, making home improvement an increasingly attractive option.

"Often people grow out of the family home but now those who don't really want to move will find it easier to improve instead."

Sophia Alexander, 28, from Ealing in west London was in the process of applying for planning permission to build a second bedroom in her loft but has now decided to wait until the rules are relaxed.

She owns a flat above an estate agency and with their permission hopes to go ahead with the building work after 1 October.

"This is good for me, it takes the pressure off. I can start getting on with it," she told BBC News.

"You want to make improvements but it's a long, tiring process to go through and quite expensive.

"I want to increase the value of the property and rent out the second bedroom to get some income, so this really does benefit me.

"It means I can start the work and get my lodger in quicker and won't be stressing about whether I get the permission or not. I don't need to even think about it any more."

Loft conversions allowed up to 8ins (20cm) outwards from the eaves of the roof
Lofts no bigger than 50 cubic metres (18ft x 12ft) for semi-detached and detached homes and 40 cubic metres for terraced houses
Single or two-storey rear extensions allowed up to 10ft (3m) from the original house
Loft conversions still restricted in conservation areas but ground-floor rear extensions allowed
Building regulations still apply to all conversions

Domestic planning applications have doubled in the last 10 years to almost 330,000 a year, the government said.

Around 90% of applications are accepted and ministers believe they are wasting the time of councils which should be freed up to concentrate on bigger projects.

Councils will have the discretion to tighten or relax the rules to fit local circumstances.

Building regulations will also remain in place, which means people will still have to show that health and safety standards are met.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors welcomed the changes but said there was a danger tensions between neighbours could increase.

A spokesman said: "Household applications are notoriously contentious and there will always be concerns regarding privacy, overlooking and the loss of amenity.

"It is often not the size of an extension but the ability to overlook that causes contention."

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