HOMEOWNERS will be free to build extensions, extra storeys and conservatories without the need for traditional planning permission, the government will announce this week.
In one of the strongest examples of the government’s desire for the devolved power of a “big society”, a bill will sweep away many planning regulations by giving neighbourhood groups the right to approve developments via local referendums.
Under the plans, to be outlined in a localism bill, these new groups will be allowed to draw up agreed categories of development known as “neighbourhood development orders”. The reforms would mean that homeowners could add to their homes without the need for traditional planning permission if they won support within their neighbourhood group.
The minister for decentralisation, Greg Clark, told the Sunday Telegraph: “This government has ambitious proposals to make the system fit to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Above all, we want to change the philosophy behind local planning. We want to move away from a system with significant elements of imposition from above, to one with participation and involvement at its heart … [and] real opportunities for people to have a say.”
He said the idea was to move away from a system that sought to resolve local issues from above “towards one which enables mature debate at local level”.
The devolution of planning powers, the brainchild of David Cameron’s strategy director, Steve Hilton, was one of the main pledges in the Tory manifesto which invited voters to “join the government of Britain”. The manifesto said: “A Conservative government will introduce a new ‘open source’ planning system. This will mean that people in each neighbourhood will be able to specify what kind of development they want to see in their area. These neighbourhood plans will be consolidated into a local plan.”
The reforms are meant to give residents greater powers in blocking developments often imposed by local planning authorities without regard to the feelings of communities, according to the Tories. The party manifesto said: “Significant local projects, like new housing estates, will have to be designed through a collaborative process [involving] the neighbourhood.”
But residents will have a financial incentive to approve developments. A proportion of a tariff paid by developers to local authorities will be handed over to neighbourhoods to provide “clear incentives for communities which go for growth”.
There will be limits to local residents’ rights. They will not be able to prevent developments classed as being of national interest. So, opponents of the planned high-speed rail link from London to Birmingham would not be able to make use of the new planning laws.