Neighbours to get say on extensions
The Government has watered down its controversial planning reforms, with a new right for neighbours to be consulted before homeowners take advantage of relaxed rules on extensions.
The original proposals led to a rebellion by 16 Tory MPs and eight Liberal Democrats in the Commons on Tuesday following warnings they would trigger disputes between neighbours.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has now written to MPs setting out a "light-touch neighbours' consultation scheme" for building work which will not require planning permission under the new rules.
Ministers announced last year that they intended a three-year relaxation of the depth of allowed single-storey extensions from 4m (13ft 1.5in) to 8m (26ft 3in) for detached houses and from 3m (9ft 10in) to 6m (19ft 8in) for all other houses.
In his letter to MPs Mr Pickles said: "I believe colleagues' key concern has been about potential effect on neighbours' amenity, and the lack of any say for those neighbours. I propose we tackle this head on. We will seek to move ahead with these new permitted householder development rights, but introduce a new light-touch neighbours' consultation scheme."
Under the revised scheme homeowners wishing to build extensions under the new powers would notify their council with the details and the local authority would then inform the adjoining neighbours.
If the neighbours do not object the development can proceed, but if they do raise concerns the council will have to consider whether it had an "unacceptable impact on neighbours' amenity". If councillors decided it was necessary the proposed extension could be considered by a planning committee.
Mr Pickles said the approach would build consensus, ensure uncontroversial projects were fast-tracked and save householders money.
In a bid to win over rebels he said the scheme was similar to proposals set out in 2007 by Zac Goldsmith, a ringleader of the Commons revolt.
The Growth and Infrastructure Bill containing the measures is in its final stages in Parliament and the changes will be introduced in the Lords on Monday.