Coalition's Planning Reforms Watered Down To Give Neighbours A Say After Backbench Revolt

Aerial view of a suburb of Exmouth
Aerial view of a suburb of Exmouth
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The Government has watered down its controversial planning reforms, with a new right for neighbours to be consulted before homeowners take advantage of relaxed rules on extensions.

The original proposals led to a rebellion by 16 Tory MPs and eight Liberal Democrats in the Commons on Tuesday following warnings they would trigger disputes between neighbours.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has now written to MPs setting out a "light-touch neighbours' consultation scheme" for building work which will not require planning permission under the new rules.

Ministers announced last year that they intended a three-year relaxation of the depth of allowed single-storey extensions from 4m (13ft 1.5in) to 8m (26ft 3in) for detached houses and from 3m (9ft 10in) to 6m (19ft 8in) for all other houses.

Eric Pickles laid out the new plans to MPs this week

Pickles said the approach would build consensus, ensure uncontroversial projects were fast-tracked and save householders money.

In a bid to win over rebels he said the scheme was similar to proposals set out in 2007 by Zac Goldsmith, a ringleader of the Commons revolt.

The Growth and Infrastructure Bill containing the measures is in its final stages in Parliament and the changes will be introduced in the Lords on Monday.

Pickles told MPs: "I hope this shows that we have listened constructively and made a targeted and common sense improvement."

The government has made the concessions following a backbench revolt on Monday

But Mike Jones, chairman of the Local Government Association's environment and housing board, said there were "serious questions" about the new system.

He said: "Councils have been calling for the right of neighbours to have a say to be protected, and we are pleased that Government is listening.

"However, there are serious questions to be answered as to how this new separate scheme will work in practice.

"Government needs to clarify how this new scheme, which will require planning departments to dedicate a significant amount of time and resources, will be paid for at a time when local authorities are already facing significant cuts to their budgets."