Govt back-pedals on easier home extensions but opens the way for pop-up restaurants

Changes to planning rules continue to fall under the spotlight as Communities secretary Eric Pickles has made a u-turn over easier home extensions while making it easier to open “pop-up restaurants and cafes”.

In what some would say is the latest example of the government back-pedaling on policies almost as soon as they meet opposition, the Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles announced two weeks ago that he is to reach a “sensible compromise” on proposed changes to planning permission rules.

The original aim was to ease the rules for three years and allow people to build extensions to their homes that were twice the current permitted 4m. This would, the thinking went, help provide a boost to the construction sector and the economy overall. However, Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs objected to the proposals in the Growth and Infrastructure Bill in such numbers that Pickles has had a re-think.

Property-owners were to be given the right to extend as far as 26ft without planning permission or opposition from adjacent families. A revised scheme means homeowners will still have to notify their local council, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said last night.

Local authorities will notify neighbours of any applications and approve them if there are no objections made within 21 days. Councils will decide any contested cases, with the most difficult developments being decided at a full council planning committee.

The shadow communities and local government secretary Hilary Benn said of Pickles:

“He tries to suggest this is about empowering people, but what he is trying to do is take away the rights of neighbours to object to developments that they think are going to affect their rights and their amenity. I don’t think that the back gardens of England should be made the victims of the failure of the government’s economic policy.”

But new planning rules are likely to make it easier to open pop-up restaurants and cafés, and convert disused farm buildings for these uses.

Under changes to planning rules to come be implemented on 30 May, new restaurants, cafes, and selected other businesses will be allowed to open for up to two years in buildings designated as class A1, A2, A3, A4, A5, B1, D1 or D2.

Pickles said:

“People looking for premises to test new business ideas and other pop-up ventures will find it easier to identify sites and open more quickly.”

The new rules have been implemented as an amendment to the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development Order) 1995.

In a related development, the “culture of using meritless judicial review applications” to delay immigration decisions and hold up development will be attacked by new controls announced by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling.

The changes will tackle the soaring number of judicial review applications being made in England and Wales.

New figures show the number of applications rose from 6,692 in 2007 to 11,359 in 2011 – but just one in six were granted permission to proceed beyond the earliest stages and the number which were ultimately successful fell from 187 to 144.

Even cases which are refused at the first stage take an average of 83 days to be dealt with, while cases which lead to a hearing take an average of 275 days.

The changes announced on the 23rd April have been designed to drive out meritless applications and speed up the court system for people with genuine cases.

External Links

Pickles climbdown as neighbours keep right to oppose extensions
Pickles’ planning proposals to benefit pop-up restaurants
Pickles pledges compromise on planning
No more using judicial review as a cheap delaying tactic


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