New development rules which will cut the red tape for home improvements, combat the effects of climate change and protect World Heritage sites have been introduced today by Housing and Planning Minister Caroline Flint.
New planning regulations being laid in Parliament today will mean that from October the majority of homeowners will no longer need to get planning permission when extending their existing homes.
The changes will allow people to build both up and out for the first time without needing to pay to up to £1000 to be granted specific planning permission. As a result, a quarter of all householder applications (80,000) will be removed from the planning system each year, potentially saving the nation up to £50m.
Importantly the new rules strike a balance between freeing homeowners to make improvements and limiting the size of an extension so the neighbours are protected - larger more intrusive extensions will still require permission. In addition, no-one undertaking these types of home improvements will be required to pay any additional council tax on their homes.
Housing and Planning Minister Caroline Flint said:
"Today I am scrapping the red tape so it is much easier to convert the loft into that extra bedroom and build on an extension.
"The new rules will cut out planning permission for about 80,000 households a year and crucially saving as much as £1000 in some cases - a real difference to already stretched family finances making home improvement an increasingly attractive option.
"Often people grow out of the family home, but now those who don't really want to move will find it easier to improve instead."
Secondly, the regulations will also reduce the flood risks caused by surface water run off. New driveways or parking areas over five square metres will not require planning permission if they are constructed using surfaces that allow the water to soak through the ground.
Two thirds of the homes affected by the floods last year (about 55, 000) were due to surface water run-off causing £3bn of damage.
By giving only permeable surfacing automatic permission homeowners will be encouraged to consider the impact of their surface water drainage much more carefully and to ensure the effects of that run off reduces the likelihood of neighbourhood flooding.
Surface water can be drained using permeable surfaces such as concrete block paving with gaps, porous asphalt or gravel, wheel track only paving or through installation of 'soak-away' systems.
Ms Flint added:
"Many homes also need better protection against flooding which is why the changes will promote permeable surfaces for driveways that allow surface water drainage - a major factor in recent floods."
Thirdly, all 17 English World Heritage Sites will be upgraded to the same protection levels as conservation areas, national parks and areas of outstanding beauty. For the first time these sites which include the Tower of London, Hadrian's Wall, Westminster Palace, Maritime Greenwich and Durham Castle will be protected against potentially damaging development.
Currently only around half of our World Heritage Sites are protected by conservation status. Even minor development such as roof alterations or erecting new buildings nearby can have a devastating impact on a World Heritage Site. The changes will no longer allow any sort of development without getting specific planning permission.
Ms Flint added:
"All English World Heritage Sites will now have conservation status protection from potentially damaging development that could threaten their iconic status, character and authenticity."
Also going live today on the planning portal website is a new interactive guide to help consumers understand the planning requirements when making home improvements. People simply click on the part of the house they are changing and it explains the rules. In addition, a new user friendly guide will be published for builders and DIYers to help explain the types of acceptable surfaces for front gardens.