The Future of Planning may be Permitted

  • Building Design Expert
  • 4 years ago

It took me a while to realise, but eventually I cottoned on that that my local planning authority was just a front for a small number of government departments headed by ministers, with a seemingly endless supply of civil (some not-so) servants, who, it would appear navigate between pillars and posts at the minister’s behest in an effort to give substance to the latest whacky idea. And so the development of the latest iteration of ‘Permitted Development’ regulations was born.

Some government ideas have all the physicality of an express train, and no amount of authoritative advice from industry can slow or divert it. The very thought that 8.0m long, single storey extensions, were going to save the construction industry, you may be forgiven for thinking, might have come from the pen of J. K. Rowling.

Why don’t they listen?

My memory is perhaps not quite what it was, but of the hundreds of domestic extensions I have completed over the course of my career, I am struggling to exhaust the fingers of one hand for those that were approaching 8.0m, or even 6.0m long for those poor folk (like me) that live in semi-detached and terraced houses. For the detached dwellers, even if their rear gardens can accommodate an 8.0m extension; even if the original dwelling will not turn into a mere lobby to access the new accommodation; the problems remain the same. Those, for example, of junction of extension with existing wall, where 1st floor windows that had no intention of playing any part in this particular game are fouled by the awkward line of a new pitched roof. Sometimes overcome by skilled architectural design and manipulation, but all too often just plain unavoidable.

But issuing a benefit for the doubt here; the ivory high rise dwellers that contrived this scheme have been knocked back by a microwave of public and industry opinion that has forced a re-think on implementation. Because now, having had pointed out the potential for abuse, and social annoyance in general; government have said “okay just to show you we have listened, the only way to implement your six or eight metre extension will be to apply to your local authority with a ‘Notification of a proposed Larger Home Extension’”. I don’t know about you, but when I was growing up that used to be called a planning application. This one might be classed as ‘on steroids’, but there is still:

* An application form

* Requirement for drawings – at least a site location plan and written description (drawings preferred)

* Notification issued to boundary neighbours

* An application determination period of 42 days

* The LPA may request further information if it feels it necessary

* A 21 day objection period

There’s even an appeals process in the event the application is refused, and any approved proposals must be completed by 30 May 2016. A full planning application it is not, but neither is it permitted development; which is what it started out as, and lay householders who have habit of grasping wrong ends of sticks, will still see it that way.

When the government PR machine first trumpeted this idea, all they announced was that permitted development rights would now see the limit on rear extensions extended to a maximum of 8.0m. They conveniently left out the bit about this measure applies only to detached houses. There will still be limits applying to heights of eaves and ridge, and proximity of walls to boundaries. Oh, and there will remain exceptions concerning properties in designated areas: Conservation, Outstanding Natural Beauty, National Parks and the like. But because the politicians only choose to give us half the story, in the ‘secret half’ confusion reigns.

In truth this has ended up a confuddlement to which Ms Rowling might have been proud to lend her name. A product of a kids bath time idea, that probably seemed quite coherent to the kids, but its final contusion manifest after processing throughout he Whitehall sausage machine has left it a poor deranged beast put out to pasture. The best it has going for it is a finite lifespan of three years. So it doesn’t have to be shot, it will simply die.

Industry didn’t like it from the outset. Even the Local Planning Authorities soon followed suit. Is it all really about politicians thinking they are right? Any extension should be professionally designed, so the net saving of the £172 planning application fee, and two weeks, demonstrates little real advantage to the hard pressed tax payer. Not forgetting that an extension that is twice the size, is also twice the price. Anyone else got a whacky idea?