Planning reform: fewer homes, more unemployment – and a threat to the privacy of your home

Under new proposals, the Tories and Lib Dems will let your neighbours build an ugly 8 metre extension that overlooks your property

The Tory-led Government has spectacularly failed to get the British economy growing again. They inherited an economy that was recovering from the global recession, and they pushed it back into recession by making unprecedented public spending cuts that crushed consumer confidence and forced up unemployment. At the same time, there is a crisis in housing as fewer affordable homes are being built at exactly the same time as homelessness and overcrowding are rising.

The Government have already admitted that the prime objective of the coalition Government has failed – they will not be able to pay down the deficit by the time of the next election due in 2015. They are flailing around trying to find ways to get the economy growing again so they can stave off electoral Armageddon. To that end they have announced that developers will no longer have to include affordable housing as part of new housing developments, scrapped rules intended to restrict the conversion of office blocks into housing, and intend to scrap the requirement for home-owners to secure planning permission before extending their property by up to eight metres. Far from boosting the economy this will slow it down.

Lambeth has already granted permission for huge regeneration schemes in our borough. New privately-funded developments are planned in Vauxhall, the Albert Embankment, Waterloo, Streatham and elsewhere. As part of these, private developers will provide thousands of new jobs and hundreds of new affordable homes paid for by the developers’ profits from selling private apartments. These schemes have already been agreed, and work is about to begin. But thanks to the Government’s latest wheeze all that could come to a juddering halt. Developers may come back to the council to negotiate removing the affordable homes that won’t make them any profit. They’ll make more money as a result, but hundreds of people on the housing waiting list will be denied their new home, and planned jobs will be delayed as building work fails to start on schedule.

The conversion of offices into luxury homes will be just as damaging. Currently owners of office blocks need the council’s permission to convert them into different uses. That allows councils in areas with high land values (like Lambeth) to protect jobs. Fewer offices in the area means fewer jobs.

To add insult to injury, the Government have come up with a plan tailor-made to anger home-owners in suburban streets. Anyone who wants to extend their home by up to eight metres will be able to do so without any need for planning permission. The process of getting permission exists so that neighbours who fear they will be overlooked, have daylight blocked out, or be faced with a hideous monstrosity out of keeping with the area can be prevented. The Government’s going to sweep all that away. You may value the privacy of your home and garden, but the Tories and Lib Dems don’t.

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About Steve Reed MP

I'm Labour Member of Parliament for Croydon North after being elected in a by-election in November 2012. Before that I was Leader of Lambeth Council since 2006, and was a councillor for Brixton Hill from 1998 to 2012.
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