Plymouth leader warns planning reform will have 'dire consequences'
THE Government's announcement to relax planning laws will "set neighbour-upon-neighbour" according to the council leader.
Cllr Tudor Evans said he thought the Prime Minister's proposals to allow certain extensions to be built without residents needing planning permission "could have disastrous consequences for the city's suburbs, with massive extensions blighting neighbours homes".
David Cameron yesterday said in Parliament that he wanted to help "kick-start" the economy by "getting planners off people's back".
Homeowners would be allowed to build extensions or conservatories of up to almost 30 feet without needing planning permission, David Cameron and Nick Clegg said.
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Businesses will be able to expand shops by 100 square metres and industrial units by 200 square metres.
Shops and offices will be allowed to develop up to the boundary of the premises.
"We're determined to cut through the bureaucracy that holds us back," said Mr Cameron.
"And meeting the aspirations of families that want to buy or improve a home."
But Cllr Evans said: "We need to look at the detail but the initial headlines are extremely worrying. Removing planning permission for extensions for up to eight metres could have a massive impact on people's lives.
"This means people will have no say if their neighbour wants to build something that completely blocks their light or is incredibly intrusive and not in keeping with how an area looks. How that stacks up as an economic measure, I've no idea."
The Government should instead do more to target developers who have permission but whose work has stalled, he said.
"There are more than 6,200 plots in the city with planning permission but where work hasn't started or is incomplete. That is not planning getting in the way of progress."
Plymouth receives an average 500 household planning applications a year. In 2010/11 it received 532 and last year it was 475.
Over the same period the number of household applications that were processed and determined was: in 2010/11 – 559, of which 94 were refused and last year 462, of which 54 were refused.
Cllr Evans added: "While we want to see growth, this is not the right way to go about it. These are cobbled together measures that not only do not make sense but have pretty dire consequences. If this goes ahead, residents could be paying the price for years"
Cllr Vivien Pengelly, shadow Leader of the Council, said she thought it should be easier for families to be able to extend their homes, especially as people were relying on alterations such as loft extensions, rather than going through the expense of moving in the current economic climate. This would also help to create building jobs locally.
But she said it was also important for the Government to realise that with a backlog of more than 6,000 properties, something should be done.
"I think it would be excellent to get the housing minister down here to see how many applications Plymouth has which are approved but cannot move on to development."