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Could neighbour votes mean easier home extensions in England?

By Claire Miller

Streets across England could be set to get a vote on how their neighbourhoods look, according to new plans set out by the Government. Under plans outlined in the Queen’s Speech, new laws will give people a say on whether more loft conversions and conservatories can be built on their street without full planning permission.

When people want to make changes to their homes, such as extensions, loft conversions and conservatories, they may or may not need to seek planning permission first. Permitted development rights (PDRs) are rights to make certain changes to a building without the need to apply for planning permission.

These include being able to make rear and side extensions that take up less than 50% of the size of the land around the original house and are less than 4m high. They can also allow people to convert lofts, with restrictions on size, or change attached garages into living space.

The Government's plans could allow individual streets to vote to allow development that goes significantly further than these present permitted development rights. Under the plans for “street votes” on local design codes, if at least 20% of residents submit a proposal for a street plan, the council must hold a binding local vote on it, according to The Times.

There's no figures on the number of permitted developments that go ahead each year - as most homeowners don't have to notify local authorities before making the changes. In some cases, the legislation requires an application to the local planning authority to determine whether prior approval is required.

In 2021, 23,578 such applications were made to local authorities in England, up from 20,486 applications for prior approvals for permitted developments in 2020, and 20,777 in 2019. Numbers, however, were down from 26,239 in 2018.

Most of those who applied last year (69%) were told they didn't need prior approval to go ahead with their plans. Of those who did need permission, 3,222 were granted, while 4,110 applications were refused, meaning 83% of these larger housing developments went ahead.

Councils can withdraw specific permitted development rights across a defined geographical area, bringing these types of development within the control of the main planning process.

Householder developments are those that require planning permission such as bigger extensions, loft conversions and conservatories not covered by permitted development rights. There were 254,484 of these applications in 2020.

The number of decisions made on householder developments was 60,200 in the quarter ending December 2021, accounting for 58 per cent of all planning decisions, up from 57 per cent of all decisions made in the quarter ending December 2020. Authorities granted 90% of these applications.

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