Loft conversion planning laws scrapped in boost for families looking to extend their homes

Families stuck in cramped homes are to benefit from an easing of planning restrictions on extensions and loft conversions, the Government announced yesterday.

Housing Minister Caroline Flint said she was axing red tape to help families who cannot afford a bigger house or get a mortgage for one.

The changes will allow homeowners to bypass planning permission costing up to £1,000 for extensions up to three metres from the original property and for loft conversions of less than 50 cubic metres.


Homeowners looking to convert loft space will no longer need to seek planning permission under new government regulations

But critics warned of an extensions 'free-for-all' fuelling neighbour disputes, as next month's new regulations will make it harder to object to extensions that overlook a garden or take away light.

Ministers predicted the changes will remove around 80,000 - or about a quarter - of planning applications from the log-jammed system, saving around £40million and freeing up council time for more pressing matters.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors welcomed the move to decongest the planning process. But spokesman Andrew Walker said: 'Household applications are notoriously contentious and there will always be concerns regarding privacy, overlooking and a loss of amenity.

'It is often not the size of an extension but the ability to overlook which causes contention.'

He added: 'Part of the Government's rationale is to allow people to extend their homes rather than move, but this policy could result in a lack of available small units for first time buyers.'

The Government said those building extra rooms would not have to pay more council tax.

But the Tories warned that families who want to extend could face a £1,000 charge for each new room. The 'bedroom tax' has been trialled in the village of Purbeck in Dorset and may be copied by cashstrapped councils across Britain.

Conservative local government spokesman Eric Pickles said: 'The grim reality is that under Labour, you'll be taxed if you move, and taxed if you don't. The housing market needs another new bedroom tax like a hole in the head.'

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