Coffee House

Planning ‘love-in’ fails to rouse good feelings

16 April 2013

9:06 AM

16 April 2013

9:06 AM

So it doesn’t look as though last night’s ‘love-in’ that I reported went particularly well. Cheryl Gillan described planning minister Nick Boles last night as ‘completely unmoveable’. Meanwhile, Zac Goldsmith, leader of the rebels on the extensions row in the Commons, was on the Today programme this morning calling it an ‘odd policy’ and ‘very bad, clumsy politics’. He argued that there were other ways of using construction to promote growth:

‘There are alternatives: we could relax the planning system without undermining democracy, without going against everything we said in opposition about localism, protecting back gardens and so on. We could easily have a sort of default green light for developments that aren’t opposed by neighbours.’

What’s irritating Tory MPs more than anything is that they can’t see how allowing homeowners to extend their properties without planning permission fits with Nick Boles’ overarching argument that new developments need to be attractive and of high quality so that the local community will accept them. But that relies more on ‘making the case’ to developers, rather than regulating for quality.

This is a technical issue, but it will be interesting to see how the whips work today to reduce the numbers of rebels if last night’s drop-in session with the minister had no effect.


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  • Daniel Maris

    …another policy disaster from the Party that gave you Grant Shapps…

    Anyone who lives cheek by jowl in London knows how silly and unworkable this scheme is. But presumably this was one of Osborne’s brilliant strategic ideas.

    • Mr Creosote

      Would that be the Grant Shapps that co-authored a report with Kevin McCloud bemoaning the fact that we have the lowest rate of self-build in Europe, but then presided over the “garden grabbing” legislation as Housing Minister that removed, at a stroke, the land supply for most self-builds??
      Joined-up thinking at its best!

  • andagain

    The slogan of the modern Conservative Party: “Set the people free! …unless they want to build home extensions.”

    • Daniel Maris

      You mean “unless they want to block out the light to the neighbouring property”. Perhaps you don’t think that’s important.

      • andagain

        What a curious reason to build a home extension.

  • Timple

    We have brownfield land near us that has had permission for housing for over 6 years and the owners still leave it fallow. It’s not planning holding back housebuilding in my area at any rate. How about we start to tax brownfield unused land? Perhaps that will encourage owners to start using it. Meanwhile the thought of my neighbours building massive extensions without needing to cross any planning threshold is very horrific. I am sure Nick Boles lives in a detached house with plenty of land around because that seems to be the only way you can protect the environment around you….

    • Mr Creosote

      You’ll probably find the Brownfield site was bought at the top of the market, includes 30-35% affordable housing, high remediation costs and is now unviable as a result – this is the usual reason.
      The developers will try and renegotiate the S106 agreement – if they’re not successful you’re going to be looking at a vacant plot for the foreseeable.

      • Timple

        We’re heading for Japanese-like lost decades then.

        • Mr Creosote

          This is precisely why we need radical government action – such as allowing people to build extensions, for a limited 3 year period, without planning permission (subject to various constraints, outlined in the legislation). This is radical, but it’s certainly no free-for-all.

          • Timple

            I reckon taxing land which has development permission is a real radical shake up. Fiddling with planning in peoples backyards which only blocks 10% of requests anyway is pretty conservative.

      • dalai guevara

        Section 106 and Grampian Sums are hardly ever a shop stoppers.

        It is mostly misjudging target markets and affordability.

  • biggestaspidistra

    The planning process doesn’t result in attractive buildings or necessarily buildings of high quality, it results in bureaucracy and puts a brake on development. That may be preferable to the free for all which will develop from this.

  • DWWolds

    Actually the planning system already favours the bully boy developers. They simply build outside of the planning consents and then go for retrospective permission. Presented with a fait accompli the local authorities are usually too lazy to fight citing the cost of doing so as an excuse. And anyone whose property is affected is deemed to be merely a “third party”. A 24ft extension is large if your property happens to be next to it. This proposal is a recipe for disaster.

    • HookesLaw

      24 ft is for detached houses.
      for semis its 18 feet (well 6m)

  • Mr Creosote

    “..protecting back gardens and so on…” Utter nonsense. Back gardens have been about the only source of building land for SME builders and self builders available in the last 15 years. Thanks to the Tory “garden grabbing” legislation, access to this building land has been cut off for the last few years.
    It is therefore no surprise that we now have the lowest rate of self-build in Europe.
    It is also no surprise that most local authorities cannot demonstrate a 5 year land supply as a result of turning off this particular tap – hence they are now defenceless against the volume house-builder cartels and their bolt-on housing estates.
    The same myopic Tory dinosaurs that voted for the above are now trying to prevent property owners building extensions, employing local small builders and generally improving the economy – what happened to the small state and rights of the individual?

    • dalai guevara

      Very good point indeed, and I must agree – but who is controlling quality if not during the process of submitting for planning approval? Why not curtail existing legislation rather than abolish it completely?

      • Mr Creosote

        Applicants still have to apply for Building Regs, therefore build quality will be retained. New extensions are time and size-limited and will only be single storey + there are various other constraints associated with special landscape areas, listed buildings, conservation areas etc..

  • zanzamander

    I heard Zac Goldsmith on Today and am completely with him on this. This bill is a recipe for disaster. As if we don’t already have to put up with loud music, barking dogs, fouling cats, badly parked cars, spoilt kids etc. – and now this. Your neighbour will now be free to erect a monster and there is nothing you can do about it. This will be Leylandii on steroids. As it is our society is getting fractious by the day, if anything, this will make things worse.

    • telemachus

      And the stimulus to the economy from the building?

    • Mr Creosote

      This is scaremongering.
      Reading the proposed legislation will show that “monsters” are completely out of the question. Property owners will merely have enhanced permitted development rights, enabling them to build extensions slightly larger than those they can build already (but still only single storey and limited by the size of the existing rear garden).

      • HookesLaw

        keep quiet – you must not upset the Spectator when its on a crusade, nor the numpties.

  • kyalami

    Isn’t it about time that we set up a system where individuals could easily buy plots of land and build individual homes? Mass development leads to cookie cutter sameness, both boring and ultimately depressing. How about letting existing residents of a borough, or adjacent borough, bid for individual parts of a field scheduled for development?

    • Mr Creosote

      What, you mean develop on green fields?!… Quelle horreur…

      • kyalami

        I share your horror. I am saying as an ALTERNATIVE to the big developers.

        • Mr Creosote

          I was being ironic….anything that promotes self-build and architect-designed quality building gets my vote, vast housing estates do not.

      • Russell

        Where there is now beautiful little villages with protected status, there was once just green fields.
        How about building beautiful little villages today in green fields so that the occupants can enjoy their lives instead of rabbit hutches on the edge of urban monstrosities.

        • Mr Creosote

          I agree entirely – just try putting in planning permission to do it, but try not to get killed in the Nimby avalanche that follows.
          Maybe we could start with the field that nice Mr Goldsmith is sat in!!

          • Russell

            Perhaps Mr Goldsmith would like to demolish his house along with his neighbours so that we can all enjoy the pleasure of the green fields their houses have spoiled! Surely they could not object to more green fields!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

    Planning Permission is crap anyway. Someone selling their land or home to a developer is not going to object to his application for PP and often it is the vendor whose property will be most affected post-sale

    • Mr Creosote

      This is precisely why the phrase “garden grabbing” is such a misnomer – it implies there is an unwilling seller.

  • In2minds

    Nick Boles will do to the Tory party what Gordon Brown did to Labour.

    • HookesLaw

      No, thick back benchers are doing their best to do that.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

        In your book “thick” is an adjective liberally applied. It suggests you read your school reports daily

        • HookesLaw

          Thick is as thick does. Tell us what the interest is thats paid on what you claim is a EU 217 billion ‘deficit’ or was it ‘debt’.

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