Should House Extensions Rules Be Relaxed?

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Proposed changes to planning rules that could see a surge in disputes between neighbours will be scrutinised over the next month.

The Government hopes to boost the economy by allowing homeowners to build bigger extensions without the need for the council's consent.

Tony Lawrence is in the middle of having a new bedroom and bathroom built at his home in Ipswich. It took two months to get planning permission and the application cost him £150. If the rules are relaxed that process would not have been necessary.

"It would probably have saved us some time. The fact is you submit it and you have to wait a certain time for it to be done," he said.

"That time could have been better used for me to get out and find a builder or it could have started early."

As the regulations stand a semi-detached or terraced house can be extended by three metres without planning permission as long as it is a single storey structure. The new rules would double that to six metres or nearly 20 feet.

And instead of being limited to four metres, a detached house could be increased by eight metres or 26 feet, again without the need for any consent.

The rules would apply as long as the house is not in a conservation area.

Building regulations will still have to be followed so that certain standards are met but the fear is relaxing the planning rules will cause a free-for-all with unslightly extensions springing up in back gardens across the country.

It is one of the concerns Ruth Reed, from the Royal Institute of British Architects , will be raising during the consultation.

She (SNP: ^SHEY - news) said: "If the amount of leeway given to householders is very great, then we might get very large extensions that overshadow neighbours, overlook neighbours and that generally have an impact on other people's lives to a greater extent than is probably acceptable. That's the worry." 

The relaxed rules would allow businesses to add larger extensions to their premises too.

It is all part of a package of changes being put forward by the government that will also see an increase in the number of houses being built.

The theory is that more construction means more work for builders, suppliers and fitters.

But builder Gary Ambrose fears there is a flaw in the plan.

"I personally don't think it will make a lot of difference because with the economy as it is, people can only spend what they've got," he said.

The idea is to relax the rules for three years, but while the new regulations might only be temporary the extensions that emerge as a result will last a whole lot longer.