You’ll be forgiven for missing the changes to planning regulations introduced by the Government in May this year. Initially announced in September 2012 by David Cameron, the relaxation to the laws aimed to ‘slash unnecessary red tape across the planning system’. Ministers suggested that the changes would boost the economy by helping the construction sector and first-time buyers, but the plans were admittedly controversial, with several Tory back-benchers and Labour ministers arguing that they would simply ‘open the floodgates to thousands of unsightly house extensions’.
The introduction of the Neighbour Consultation Scheme, while an appeasement to these ministers also reduces the time taken to obtain planning permission and the costs involved. While new regulations state that an extension or addition to your home is now considered a ‘Permitted Development’ and therefore is not subject to planning permission, this is still subject to an extensive list of limits and conditions.
Previous regulations, which stated that a single-storey rear extension must not extend beyond the rear wall of the original house by more than 3m if an attached house or 4m if detached, have altered. A permitted development may now extend beyond the rear wall to 6m if an attached property and 8m if detached. Fantastic, you may think. This means you can build an extension without having to apply to the council for planning permission, only it doesn’t, your permitted development is now subject to the Neighbour Consultation Scheme.
Under the new scheme, homeowners wishing to build single-storey rear extensions larger than 3m must submit an application form including a detailed written description of the planning proposal, a plan of the site, the address of any adjoining properties (including the rear) and a contact address for the developer. The local authority will then serve a 21 day notice on the adjoining owners or occupiers and the development may only then go ahead after no objections have been raised within this period, or it is decided that the effect on the adjoining properties is acceptable.
Sounds complicated? An important factor is that the application process costs absolutely nothing and if the local authority does not notify you within a 42 day period the development may go ahead regardless. Building regulations do of course still apply and the extension must be built in accordance with the details approved by the local authority. It is strongly recommended that homeowners apply to their local borough for a Lawful Development Certificate following the Neighbour Consultation Scheme and prior to works commencing on site so that a record of the development is accessible via the Planning Register should the property be sold in the future.
The scheme, while seemingly confusing is designed to help those looking to increase the market value and size of their property. With property prices in London estimated at 61% higher than the national average, homeowners are finding it increasingly difficult to move. Terraced houses rarely afford the space necessary for a growing family and an extension can be the only practical option.