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Permitted Development rights proposals criticised

21 December 2012

Likely to result in poor quality development, create neighbourhood conflict, going beyond what Ministers had indicated and without any real evidence that it would boost the economy, the Government's proposals for a relaxation of permitted development rights (PD rights) contained in the recently issued consultation document were criticised by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) the membership body of town planners in the UK.

Richard Blyth, Head of Policy and Practice, said: "We feel that the proposals for increasing PD Rights without safeguards may result in poor quality development and create neighbourhood conflict without any real evidence that it would boost the economy. Furthermore the consultation document is not consistent with and goes beyond repeated undertakings made by Ministers."

The RTPI's main concerns:

Neighbour disputes

The RTPI feels that the issue of neighbour disputes has not been fully considered. The building of extensions, particularly in built up areas, can be very contentious with neighbours keen to protect their own homes from being overlooked and from having their natural light reduced.

Ministers say garden, the consultation says curtilage - they mean different things

The consultation offers a safeguard that "development will not be able to cover more than 50% of the curtilage of the house" (p 7).  This is not what Ministers said earlier in the autumn. Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP said:

"With regard to arbitration between neighbours, we are expecting people to operate in a neighbourly fashion, and there are the safeguards on curtilage and for ensuring that no more than half the garden is built on."

We can envisage many an opportunity for plots where the extent of the front garden, the hard standing, the side passage and the existing footprint of the house and garage mean that you could extend up to 50% of the curtilage and cover a great deal more than half the length of the back garden. In the lower example below half the curtilage would cover the entire garden:

garden curtilage

Impact on planning departments  

We are concerned that the changes to PD Rights may have a negative impact on local government finances.

Questionable benefit to homeowners and construction output and the impact assessment is flawed

The impact assessment is flawed in that no value is placed on the impact on the value of neighbours' property nor on the impact on their quality of life (which would apply to neighbours who are not owners). The impact assessment also suggests that proposals would be boost the economy by encouraging otherwise constrained construction activity. The consultation suggests that an extra 10,000-20,000 extensions will be created but this is unsupported.

The temporary period of 3 years

We are concerned that the changes to PD rights, without relevant safeguards, could lead to accidental breaches of planning control by developers.