UK home owners to benefit from relaxation of planning rules

Temporary rules to encourage spending of money on home improvements

Home owners in the UK are set to benefit from a relaxation of rules which mean they can build single storey extensions and add a conservatory to their property without going through the normally rigorous planning system.

It is part of a major announcement from the government aimed at kick starting the building industry and reviving the nation’s beleaguered property industry.

They are part of a set of temporary rules that will come into play next month and last until 2015. The government hopes that the temporary change in rules will encourage home owners to bring forward plans to spend money on improvements.

The current limit for single storey extension is three meters for semi detached homes and four meters for detached properties and this will double under the new plans. Double storey extensions and loft extensions will still require planning permission.

Also under the new legislation businesses will be allowed to expand their premises significantly without planning permission. Shops will be free to add another 1,076 square feet of working space, and industrial units twice as much.

There will also be a massive boost for the housing sector with the UK Treasury underwriting up to £10 billion of borrowing by property developers and housing associations and institutional investors being given incentives to build more rental properties.

Jennet Siebrits, head of residential research at consultants CBRE pointed out that the creation of a housing taskforce to boost the private rented sector, as recommended in the Montague Review, is much needed.

‘Demand for private rented housing has increased, with 1.3 million private rented households created over the last decade. Over the last two years alone, rental households have increased by 12.5%, or 370,000. This sector needs to be properly facilitated in order for it to continue to grow,’ he explained.

Jon Neale, director of residential research at Jones Lang LaSalle, praised the decision to pour resources into unlocking stalled building projects, as recommended in the Montague Review.

‘It is clear that the government is now introducing more radical measures aimed at increasing the supply of new housing and providing a much needed stimulus for the wider economy. The supply chain for new homes is almost entirely domestic and therefore any increase in construction provides huge ‘multiplier effects’ for the rest of the economy,’ he pointed out.

‘The funding of additional affordable homes, probably through the new affordable rent product, and an extended programme for the FirstBuy schemes will provide more direct stimulation for the housing and house building industries,’ he added.

Chris Wojtulewski, director of the planning consultants Parker Dann, said that the relaxation of planning rules for home owners will go down well and the announcement is welcome news for developers.

‘With demand for housing weak, many developers who bought land in the boom times are holding back on building in the hope the market will improve. The relaxation of the Section 106 rules may just tip the balance in their favour and get some of these schemes underway,’ he said.

But he warned it could have side effects.

‘Everyone agrees on the need to build more homes but building more homes at the expense of social housing schemes will come at a political cost for the government. The idea that the private sector will step in to replace council housing schemes dates back to the Thatcher era. Now, that orthodoxy is being put on hold in an attempt to kick start the stalled construction sector,’ he explained.

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