Richmond MP leads successful revolt against bigger house extensions


The proposed change in planning laws has come under criticism.


The Conservative MP for Richmond has joined with other political figures to force the coalition to rethink their controversial plans to let people build larger loft conversions and extensions without needing planning permission.
Zac Goldsmith MP has been a bitter critic of the proposals, which would ease planning permission for the next three years. The plans would double the permitted length of extensions to eight metres for detached homes and six metres for other houses, although it would retain the rule that extensions should not take up more than half the garden.
“Given that 90% of applications are already successful, removing people’s right to object will simply guarantee that the remaining 10% – the most contentious, un-neighbourly, antisocial developments – proceed as well, causing unnecessary conflict between neighbours,” he said.
The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles MP made a last minute offer of a compromise to prevent the rebellion but gave no details of his revised plans.
In the vote, twenty four coalition MPs voted against the Government, and so the Bill must now return to the Lords for further amendment.The Conservative peer Lord True, who is leader of Richmond Council, put forward an amendment last month to give individual councils the power to opt out of  the proposals, but although passed by the Lords, it was voted down by the Commons.
Councillor Mike Jones, Chair of the Local Government Association’s Environment and Housing Board, said he was frustrated that some people had voted against this amendment.
“It is hugely disappointing that MPs have failed to listen to the concerns of their constituents, councils and peers and voted against this common-sense amendment and local opt-out,” he said.
“Imposing this home extensions free-for-all on the whole country will risk opening the floodgates to thousands of unsightly and unsuitable extensions which could create disputes between neighbours, impinge on garden space and increase flood risk.”
Back in 2008, Labour changed the planning regulations to allow extensions on houses without planning permission so long as they did not cover more than half the area of land around the original house at the rear of the property and subject to size restrictions.
It is estimated that more than 20,000 applications for extensions were refused last year as unsuitable or over concerns for neighbour privacy.
The proposed rules on relaxing house extensions are part of the coalition’s wider easing of planning rules to boost the construction industry and economic growth.
This includes removing some requirements to build social housing as part of a development, an extension of a scheme to help first-time buyers and new government guarantees for major infrastructure projects.
Conservative MP Heather Wheeler reiterated that the government’s policy would create jobs and is an opportunity to kick-start local economies.

But Zac Goldsmith is adamant this is a wrong- headed policy.  

“The Government must now table a new amendment that reflects the spirit of Lord True’s amendment and which is acceptable to backbenchers, the Opposition and the House of Lords,” he said.  
“Given the strength of feeling in Parliament and in local authorities across the country, it will have to be good, or it will easily and simply be defeated.”
Photo courtesy of NotinmyCuppa, with thanks.

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