Relaxation of planning rules

In a move that risks igniting rows between neighbours over unsightly developments families will be able to add an extra two floors to their homes without having to get full planning permission.

Homeowners will be able to pursue a fast-track approval process to build upwards, pushing through new schemes in weeks rather than months, under new rules laid out in Parliament. The Housing Secretary,  Robert Jenrick, said he hoped people would use the powers to build additional bedrooms for growing families or more “granny flats” for elderly relatives. The new powers will also allow developers to convert redundant town centre commercial blocks into new homes.

Mr Jenrick said: “These changes will help transform boarded up, unused buildings safely into high quality homes. It will mean that families can add up to two storeys to their home, providing much-needed additional space for children or elderly relatives.”

The Ministry of Housing insisted developers would have to comply with building regulations, and to consider the impact on neighbours, and the appearance of extensions .

However, countryside campaigners and town planners were appalled, and warned that quality would fall as developers were allowed to build sub-standard homes without any property oversight from local authorities. Under the reforms homeowners will be able to apply through a “prior approval service” to extend their properties, thereby severely limiting communities from blocking unsightly development. Daniel Slade, from the Town and Country Planning Association, said the reforms would lead to an explosion of “thousands of tiny, poor quality ‘homes’ in unacceptable locations like industrial estates”.

The CPRE chief executive, Crispin Truman, said, “Our evidence has shown that three quarters of housing developments should not have been granted planning permission due to poor or mediocre design quality. Further deregulation as proposed here, would only make the problem worse.”

Councils can only block new developments for a limited number of reasons including traffic congestion, flood risk, and noise pollution.