Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Garden offices and the Localism Bill: guest post

As the Localism Bill in the UK nears the finishing line, we asked our planning guru Lynn Fotheringham from InsideOut Buildings to give her views on the likely impact of the legislation:
1. Do you find planning legislation hard to understand?

If you google “The Localism Bill and planning” you will find many misinterpretations of the new planning proposals - a reminder not to believe everything you read in the internet!

The government IS suggesting that neighbourhood councils would be allowed to write a plan suggesting what type of domestic building work would be allowed in their neighbourhood WITHOUT having to make a planning application. The government IS NOT suggesting that local neighbourhood councils and parish councils will have the power to sit in judgement upon whether or not their own neighbours’ are granted planning permission for a specific extension, loft conversion or garden office.

The neighbourhood councils would not get free rein when writing these plans. They would receive guidance from their district council’s professional planners and have to take note of the councils existing planning policy for the area e.g. if you live in Guildford and form a neighbourhood plan, the neighbourhood plan has to fit generally with the established planning policy for the whole of Guildford. The neighbourhood would then have a referendum to decide whether or not to adopt the plan.

2. What will happen in reality?

A neighbourhood plan could decide to allow everyone in the parish/neighbourhood to build extensions of loft conversions or garden offices WITHOUT planning permission. But knowing the NIMBY tendencies of parish councils this is highly unlikely. They will want to control their area, not give more freedom. In my opinion neighbourhood/parish councils are more likely to want additional planning control for various catergories of domestic development where it is not currently needed.

3. How does this affect garden offices, sheds and greenhouses etc?

The permitted development rights for outbuildings in England that were introduced in Oct 2008 are already very restrictive, so are unlikely to get worse if included in a neighbourhood or parish plan. Will this get better under the Localism Bill? Will the shedworkers of England return to the heady days when you could put any building in your back garden as long as it wasn’t near a public highway? (These looser restrictions still apply in Wales and Scotland.) I don’t know the answer to this question.

4. What are the current rules for garden office planning permission?

What I do know is that under current legislation, if personal garden offices or sheds need planning permission they will get it. At InsideOut Buildings we have never had planning permission refused for one of our garden office buildings.
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