• MPs to debate mega extensions today

    16th April 2013 | News | Claire
  • MPs have been urged to back a local opt-out for controversial planning changes in England, ahead of a vote.

    Ministers want to double the maximum size to which home extensions can be built without planning permission, in a bid to boost construction.

    But the Local Government Association (LGA) wants MPs to give individual councils the power to reject the rules.

    The LGA says the plan could “open the floodgates” to thousands of “unsightly and unsuitable” house extensions.

    Ministers announced last year that they were considering a three-year relaxation of the planning rules to allow single-storey extensions of up to eight metres for detached houses and six metres for other houses to be built without planning consent being required.

    The proposal has angered some local authorities and is opposed by Labour.

    Talks with MPs
    The government has been consulting on the plans, but last month the House of Lords voted through an amendment on some separate legislation – the Growth and Infrastructure Bill.

    The amendment, proposed by Lord True, leader of Richmond Council, called for local authorities to be given the option of rejecting the planning rules for extensions in the event they are adopted at a national level.

    The government said the Lords defeat did not change its position and insisted the change in extension rules would “bring great benefits to individuals and help drive economic growth”.

    On Tuesday, MPs will vote on whether to accept or reject the local opt-out, with some coalition MPs, including Conservative Zac Goldsmith, expected to rebel and vote in favour of it.

    Planning Minister Nick Boles held talks with Tory MPs on Monday night to discuss their concerns. He has also written to all coalition MPs urging them to vote with the government and accused his critics of “misunderstanding” the proposals.

    ‘Free-for-all’
    Cllr Mike Jones, chairman of the LGA’s environment and housing board, said: “The local opt-out is a common sense compromise.

    “Imposing a home extensions free-for-all on the whole country risks opening the floodgates to thousands of unsightly and unsuitable extensions which create disputes between neighbours, impinge on garden space and increase flood risk.

    “The 22,000 applications which are rejected each year are knocked back for good reasons and it would be totally wrong if extensions, which were previously rejected due to objections from neighbours or because they were judged to blight the neighbourhood, could now sneak back in unimpeded.

    “We agree with the government that stimulating the construction industry is essential to economic recovery but sweeping national changes which remove the rights of residents to have a say on development is not the answer.”