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by administrator @, Tuesday, November 13, 2012, 12:05

Planning Minister Nick Boles has announced new powers to make it easier for families to make home improvements in a way that also protects the amenity of neighbours.

The reforms would, for a time limited period, slash planning red tape, sweep away unnecessary rules and bureaucracy and help tens of thousands of homeowners and companies.

The vast majority of the 200,000 homeowner applications submitted each year are uncontroversial. Almost 90 per cent are approved but still have to go through an application process that is often costly and creates delays.

In many cases the current system adds little value yet forces homeowners wishing to extend their home more than a few metres from the property's rear wall to fill in complicated application forms that can take eight weeks or longer for the council to consider.

A consultation paper published today proposes making it quicker, easier and cheaper to build small-scale single-storey extensions and conservatories by extending permitted development rights.

The Minister made clear that safeguards will remain to ensure any impact on neighbours and communities is acceptable. The new rights will not apply in protected areas such as National Parks, conservation areas, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Sites of Special Scientific Interest and do not remove the requirement for separate listed building consent.

Permitted development only covers the planning aspects of development and does not remove requirements under other regimes, such as building regulations, the Party Wall Act or environmental legislation.

Nick Boles said: "These proposed reforms will make it easier for thousands of hard working families to undertake home improvements to cater for a growing family or to build a conservatory.

"Homeowners and businesses must be allowed to meet their aspirations for improving their homes and premises but this won't be at the expense of neighbours, communities and protected areas."

It is estimated that up to 40,000 families a year wishing to build straightforward extensions will benefit from the proposals, and will be able to undertake home improvements to cater for a growing family or look after an elderly relative without unnecessary costs and bureaucracy. Some 160,000 homeowner applications will continue to be considered through the planning system as at present, including all the larger, more complex and controversial cases.

The proposals will save householders £150 in planning application fees along with many indirect savings on transaction costs such as professional fees, production of scaled drawings and time spent compiling and presenting information.

The estimated total savings on the planning application process is up to £2,470 depending on the level of information required to support the application. If the requirement to seek planning permission were removed these costs would no longer be incurred.

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