The need for more homes has always been one of the biggest issues in the country’s housing crisis. One of the main reasons for families wanting to move home is the need for more space as their families grow and so, in 2013 and 2015, the planning permission rules were relaxed to try and alleviate this issue.
Initially in 2013, Nick Clegg, as Deputy Prime Mister, brought in temporary planning rules to allow larger single-storey rear extensions without the requirement of a full planning application. The temporary rules allowed terraced and semi-detached homes to be extended by just over 19ft, whilst detached houses were able to add even bigger extensions of up to 24ft. Since those rules were relaxed six years ago, 109,320 people have taken advantage of the temporary rules (aka “permitted development size guidelines”).
Homeowners wanting to extend within these permitted development guidelines must still inform the local authority of the extension beforehand, and local authority officials still need to then notify the neighbours. If the neighbours object, the local authority could stop the extension being built, but only if it is likely to damage the character or enjoyment of the neighbourhood. The planning process exists for a reason and whilst these relaxed planning rules are popular with property owners, it does mean local authorities have little chance to deliberate the impact of these extensions on their locality. However, 22,779 permitted developments were refused in the same time frame, meaning 17.2% of permitted development planning applications have been refused since 2013.
These temporary rules have recently been made permanent, as the government believes these measures will help households extend their properties without fighting through the time-consuming red tape of obtaining planning permission. The government sees this as part of a package of planning reforms aimed at building more households, building them better, quicker and making the housing market work, meaning families can grow without being forced to sell and move… or does it?
The average size of a property in Wigston is 955 sq.ft
… internally (1,093 sq.ft externally), whilst the national average is 929 sq.ft internally (1,081 sq.ft externally). Interesting when compared to the average size of new homes built nationally, which is 12.1% lower at 818 sq.ft internally (927 sq.ft externally).
These relaxed rules only apply to single-storey extensions, though. Most growing families don’t need an extra downstairs reception room, they need an additional upstairs bedroom. This means that if families do want an extra bedroom upstairs, they will still have to go through the rigmarole of submitting a full planning application. Although many Wigston people have used these rules in the last 6 years to build a decent size ‘granny annex’, there are other, less explored options out there.
The government made a second (less advertised) temporary change to planning rules in 2015, which has also recently been made permanent. Many may have missed it, yet it has a bigger potential impact on the housing market. The new rules make permanent the removal of planning rules to allow office blocks and shops to be converted into residential homes without a full planning application being made. Since 2013, 11,090 office blocks and 1,750 shops have been converted into residential households. This doesn’t sound a lot, but in 2017 alone, converted shops and office blocks provided 37,000 new households across the country (or 17% of the new households created in 2017).
Over the next decade, more and more office blocks and shops will be converted into residential properties, and this will slowly change the dynamic of the housing market and the high street. I’m not sure whether that will be for the good or bad… only time will tell.