PLANS to waive restrictions on house-building will prove to be a “recipe for carbuncles” as home-owners across England watch their neighbours build “ghastly” 25-foot extensions without consent, MPs have warned.
Ministers yesterday unveiled a raft of measures designed to kick-start house-building across the UK by offering a string of incentives to both large and small-scale developers.
Business leaders and house-building firms warmly welcomed announcements that the Government will offer £10bn in financial guarantees to support building projects, offer loans to 16,500 first-time buyers toward their deposits, and spend £300m on affordable and empty homes.
But Opposition MPs fear a scheme to allow home-owners to build extensions and conservatories of up to 25 feet without planning permission would spell disaster in many communities.
“This is a nightmare scenario,” said Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman. “You won’t want to live next to a ghastly, horrible concrete and brick extension.
“It is a recipe for carbuncles. I fear for constituents who take pride in their homes, with neighbours putting up horrible extensions without planning permission. We will all have to pray that we have a good neighbour.”
Labour’s Roger Godsiff warned the proposals will “cause great concern”, while Lib Dem Sir Bob Russell said the shake-up could be “a green light for bad planning”.
Under the changes, full planning permission will only be needed for extensions of more than six metres on terrace properties, or eight metres on detached homes.
A number of Yorkshire MPs raised concerns that increased “garden-grabbing” will have a knock-on effect on surface water flooding, as lawns are paved over without consideration. “My constituency was flooded badly in 2007 with surface water,” said Hull North MP Diana Johnson. “What thought has been given to the flood risk of extending permitted development?”
Meanwhile councils and environmental groups warned the measures will mean communities have less power to hold back unpopular developments.
House-building firms will be allowed to tear up previously-agreed deals to provide cash for community schemes such as parks and leisure centres if they can show their plans are no longer financially viable.
And councils could be stripped of the historic power to decide planning applications altogether if their decisions are deemed to lack “speed and quality” by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles.
Andrew Pendleton, head of campaigns at Friends of the Earth, added: “David Cameron promised to champion localism, but these proposals will allow developers to bypass councils, limit the ability of local people to have their say on developments in their area and create a catalyst for disputes between neighbours.”
But Mr Pickles said making it easier for people to build larger extensions would “boost the local economy” and have “social benefits” where people wished to build flats for their elderly parents.
“We are expecting people to operate in a neighbourly fashion,” he said. “And there are safeguards on curtilage and ensuring no more than half the garden is built on.”
Mr Pickles also dismissed fears of a threat to the green belt, claiming the protected areas include “old quarries and scrapyards” which should be built on if replacement land is found elsewhere.
“The green belt is immensely important,” he said. “Within the green belt, however, is a lot of land that was previously developed.
“It seems to me common sense that we should be able to use this opportunity to swap land.”