In helping homeowners to improve their houses it is proposed to increase existing permitted development rights for extensions to homes and business premises in non-protected areas for a three-year period. This is justified on the grounds that “this will mean less municipal red tape to build small-scale home improvements,” free up resources in local authorities and boost the local construction industry. Yet this will rob many private individuals the chance to have a say on neighbouring development which affects them and give them the impression that the planning system is completely impotent. Residents appreciate the role of the local authority as independent arbiter in protecting amenity and heading off unsuitable proposals which could cause dispute.
The proposal is a recipe for neighbour conflict and community unrest. For every householder carrying out an extension, two or more neighbours could be upset and their amenity and the character of the area compromised. In any case this proposal flies in the face of the Government’s determination to protect garden land. One of its first acts was to limit “garden grabbing” by removing gardens from the brownfield land category, where development is encouraged, in combating constant infilling proposals by developers seeking to build on garden land. Substantial take-up of the option could lead to heavy loss of garden green space. Questions remain about the likely extent of take-up given current constraints on household budgets. Neighbour conflict and community discord surely outweigh any limited economic gain.