Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government
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Better rules will help home improvements and World Heritage Sites

Better rules will help home improvements and World Heritage Sites

COMMUNITIES AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT News Release (220) issued by COI News Distribution Service. 10 September 2008

New development rules which will cut the red tape for home improvements, combat the effects of climate change and protect World Heritage sites have been introduced today by Housing and Planning Minister Caroline Flint.

New planning regulations being laid in Parliament today will mean that from October the majority of homeowners will no longer need to get planning permission when extending their existing homes.

The changes will allow people to build both up and out for the first time without needing to pay to up to £1000 to be granted specific planning permission. As a result, a quarter of all householder applications (80,000) will be removed from the planning system each year, potentially saving the nation up to £50m.

Importantly the new rules strike a balance between freeing homeowners to make improvements and limiting the size of an extension so the neighbours are protected - larger more intrusive extensions will still require permission. In addition, no-one undertaking these types of home improvements will be required to pay any additional council tax on their homes.

Housing and Planning Minister Caroline Flint said:

"Today I am scrapping the red tape so it is much easier to convert the loft into that extra bedroom and build on an extension.

"The new rules will cut out planning permission for about 80,000 households a year and crucially saving as much as £1000 in some cases - a real difference to already stretched family finances making home improvement an increasingly attractive option.

"Often people grow out of the family home, but now those who don't really want to move will find it easier to improve instead."

Secondly, the regulations will also reduce the flood risks caused by surface water run off. New driveways or parking areas over five square metres will not require planning permission if they are constructed using surfaces that allow the water to soak through the ground.

Two thirds of the homes affected by the floods last year (about 55,000) were due to surface water run-off causing £3bn of damage.

By giving only permeable surfacing automatic permission homeowners will be encouraged to consider the impact of their surface water drainage much more carefully and to ensure the effects of that run off reduces the likelihood of neighbourhood flooding.

Surface water can be drained using permeable surfaces such as concrete block paving with gaps, porous asphalt or gravel, wheel track only paving or through installation of 'soak-away' systems.

Ms Flint added:

"Many homes also need better protection against flooding which is why the changes will promote permeable surfaces for driveways that allow surface water drainage - a major factor in recent floods."

Thirdly, all 17 English World Heritage Sites will be upgraded to the same protection levels as conservation areas, national parks and areas of outstanding beauty. For the first time these sites which include the Tower of London, Hadrian's Wall, Westminster Palace, Maritime Greenwich and Durham Castle will be protected against potentially damaging development. Currently only around half of our World Heritage Sites are protected by conservation status. Even minor development such as roof alterations or erecting new buildings nearby can have a devastating impact on a World Heritage Site. The changes will no longer allow any sort of development without getting specific planning permission.

Ms Flint added:

"All English World Heritage Sites will now have conservation status protection from potentially damaging development that could threaten their iconic status, character and authenticity."

Also going live today on the planning portal website is a new interactive guide to help consumers understand the planning requirements when making home improvements. People simply click on the part of the house they are changing and it explains the rules. In addition, a new user friendly guide will be published for builders and DIYers to help explain the types of acceptable surfaces for front gardens.

Notes to Editor

1. The revised General Permitted Development Order can be found at

Home extensions

2. Until now householders have only been able to get either a small loft conversion or a rear extension without requiring planning permission. Anyone who had previously extended their property - by as little a 10 per cent in the case of terraced houses - required planning permission.

3. The new rules will now allow both and be based on straightforward measurements for what is permissible for loft conversions and rear extensions. For example a 1 storey extension could be up to 3 metres deep. Non overbearing loft conversions will also be allowed automatic permission which will make a real difference for people living smaller properties. We have already introduced change to the rules so homeowners can install solar panels without planning permission.

4. Rear extensions will no longer have volume caps. Loft conversions continue to have an overall volume cap to control overbearing conversions on larger homes. This means that:

* Terraced houses: loft conversions can be up to 20cms back from the eaves of the roof or have a maximum volume of 40m3. In addition a single or two storey rear extension can go back a maximum of 3m from the original house.

* Semi-detached: loft conversions can be up to 20cms back from the eaves of the roof or have a maximum volume of 50m3. In addition a single or two storey rear extension can go back a maximum of 3m from original house.

* Detached: loft conversions can be up to 20cms back from the eaves of the roof or have a maximum volume of 50m3. In addition a rear extension can either be a single storey extension going 4m back, or two storey one going 3m back from the orignial house.

5. Local authorities will be able to introduce local variations by using Local Development Orders to allow bigger extensions or Article 4 Directions to restrict development where necessary.

6. Extensions and conversions are widely cited as the best way to increase the value of a property - a recent building society survey found that on average extensions added 12% and lofts conversions 11% to a property's value much lower than constructions costs usually around £10,000.

World Heritage Sites

7. The government is committed to protecting places in Britain of real historical importance and last year the DCMS published the first Heritage Bill in 30 years. The bill will unify heritage protection regimes and devolve decisions to English Heritage. The development controls for heritage sites will cover all the 17 English sites which are as follows (date of inscription by UNESCO in brackets):

* Durham Castle and Cathedral (1986)
* Ironbridge Gorge (1986)
* Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites (1986)
* Studley Royal Park including the Ruins of Fountains Abbey (1986)
* Blenheim Palace (1987)
* City of Bath (1987)
* Frontiers of the Roman Empire (Hadrian's Wall) (1987)
* Westminster Palace, Westminster Abbey & St Margaret's Church (1987)
* Canterbury Cathedral, St Augustine's Abbey & St Michael's Church (1988)
* Tower of London (1988)
* Maritime Greenwich (1997)
* Derwent Valley Mills (2001)
* Dorset and East Devon 'Jurassic' Coast (2001)
* Saltaire (2001)
* Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (2003)
* Liverpool - Maritime Mercantile City (2004)
* Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape (2006).

8. The new interactive guide to home improvements can be found at:

Permeable Surfaces

9. The user friendly guide for builders and DIYers to help explain the types of acceptable permeable surfaces for front gardens is available at

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