Planning Laws to be Relaxed

Published: 8 November 2012

You may have read recently that planning restrictions on home and business extensions are to be eased by the Government as part of a package of measures to help kick-start the economy.  The Coalition wants to make it easier for homeowners and businesses to expand their properties, in the hope of a boost to economic activity.

Another 16,500 first-time buyers are also to receive help getting on the housing ladder under an extension of the FirstBuy scheme to be announced by the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister.

Would-be homeowners without a deposit are given an equity loan of up to 20% of the purchase price under the scheme.

It makes sense to help those buyers at the bottom of the property chain and it is hoped that this will see all parts of the UK’s property market improve, because many first-time buyers simply cannot afford to get onto the first rung of the property ladder.

Going back to planning, the government is "determined to cut through the bureaucracy that holds us back.  That starts with getting the planners off our backs. Getting behind the businesses that have the ambition to expand. And meeting the aspirations of families that want to buy or improve a home."

Homeowners and businesses will, for a limited time, be able to build much bigger extensions without planning permission than at present, under the changes to be unveiled today.

The new Permitted Development Rights will make it easier to install conservatories and loft extensions without going through what are often weeks of planning red tape and paperwork.

Full planning permission is currently needed for any change to a home that extends more than three metres from the property’s rear wall in the case of a terraced property, with a requirement to fill in complicated applications that can take eight weeks or longer to be considered. During the relaxation of the rules, homeowners will be able to extend to six or eight metres beyond the property’s rear wall, depending on whether it is a terraced or detached property.

Businesses will be able to expand their shop by 100 sq m and industrial units by 200 sq m, and shops and offices will be permitted to develop up to the boundary of the premises.

So, is this the boost that the economy needs? New housebuilding is at its lowest since the 1920s. A new national planning policy framework has only just been pushed through parliament.

The Government has also discussed plans to encourage councils to re-designate green belt land as suitable for construction, so long as "compensating new green belt land" is identified to replace it.

Friends of the Earth have different ideas: "The planning system shouldn’t be blamed for the current housing shortage – developers already have permission to build thousands of homes, but are unlikely to do so until the economy improves."

For the time being, planning laws remain unchanged.

If you are unsure about your rights and obligations in respect of any alteration or change to your property, please speak to one of our  lawyers in the Property Team at Fletcher Day LLP, who will be pleased to assist.  For further advice please call Paula Abrahamian on 0207 632 1443 or email