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Last Updated: Saturday, 19 May 2007, 16:06 GMT 17:06 UK
Shake-up for home extension rules
Building bricks being laid
Ministers are concerned about the time and bureaucracy involved
Plans to cut red tape to make it easier in England to build home extensions are expected to be announced by Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly next week.

A White Paper will propose that minor developments such as conservatories would no longer need permission where there is little impact on neighbours.

It also includes plans to replace public inquiries into major schemes with an independent commission.

The Tories and Lib Dems said they would oppose such plans as undemocratic.

Less bureaucracy

The number of private planning applications has more than doubled since 1995 to almost 330,000 per year, and ministers say they are costly and cumbersome for homeowners.

We need a faster system, but obviously we can't have people simply building a garage where they like
Lord Sandy Bruce Lockhart, Local Government Association

A seemingly routine planning application can take up to three months to be decided, and cost up to 1,000, they say. Yet nine out of 10 householder applications are finally agreed.

It is believed the changes could reduce the number of applications by up to 90,000 per year - up to a quarter of householder applications overall.

Ms Kelly will say the system should support people's aspirations to improve their homes, while retaining safeguards on noise, siting and size to protect their neighbours.

"Many people do not want to move but do want more room to bring up their kids, or to make minor home improvements or tackle climate change through micro-generation," she said.

Chair of the Local Government Association, Lord Sandy Bruce Lockhart, said he agreed a faster, less bureaucratic system was needed.

"We need a faster system, but obviously we can't have people simply building a garage where they like, if it cuts out a neighbour's view," he told BBC Breakfast.

"We need to see in the White Paper how it deals with that, how it deals with the need to have a neater, faster simpler, but take in to account neighbours as well."

Urban sprawl

For more major developments, an Independent Planning Commission (IPC) would look at the potential impact on air quality, noise and traffic problems.

But critics say the IPC starts with the assumption that the development will be given the green light.

The changes will help Labour's friends in the nuclear and supermarket industries, rather than giving local people a genuine say
Dan Rogerson, Lib Dem spokesman

Shadow local government secretary Caroline Spelman said: "Conservatives will vigorously oppose the plans for a new undemocratic government quango to dump developments on local communities."

Liberal Democrat Housing Spokesperson, Dan Rogerson MP said: "All the indications suggest the changes will help Labour's friends in the nuclear and supermarket industries, rather than giving local people a genuine say in planning.

"Gordon Brown mustn't sacrifice local say in planning and sustainable development in a bogus quest for faster decisions."

Other measures in the White Paper include:

  • Allowing minor amendments to be made to a planning permission without the need for a full planning application, for example the minor repositioning of a door
  • Reducing bureaucracy by for example introducing a standard application form
  • Introducing a new fast-track appeals system
  • The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has said it fears the White Paper will further undermine the ability of planners to contain urban sprawl.

    The organisation said the tone for the document was set by plans to build on about 10,000 acres of green belt land.

    The Department of Communities and Local Government said its record showed it could increase building on brownfield sites and protect the green belt.




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