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With Olympic and Paralympic fever creating a British summer which will long be remembered, the government are determined to build upon the goodwill and stimulate the economy with a proposed relaxation of planning rules.

Along with the proposal for the planning rules for domestic extensions and businesses to be relaxed, plans have also been introduced which might enable developers and national house builders to develop sites without the obligation of creating affordable housing. This proposal will work on the proviso that the developer can prove that the development of affordable housing might make the site commercially unviable.

The thinking behind this proposal is simple. The government is working on the premise that the easier it is for people to extend their homes, the more likely they are to do so. It is hoped this will create a welcome boost to the construction trade, which will inevitably lead to more jobs, an increased spend on materials to furnish these extensions and an additional tax income through the extra VAT.

In theory the proposals sound foolproof, but Mark Hobbs, a senior partner in the residential conveyancing department of Howells Solicitors, believes that despite the existence of much bureaucracy and red tape at present, the changes will only spark a moderate level of activity.

Mr Hobbs, said: “Generally speaking, full planning permission is required for extensions which are more than three metres from the rear wall of any property or four metres if the property is detached. The intention is for these limits to be doubled.

“Although this will doubtless be a big help to some people, from a legal perspective the area still remains a complicated one. All too often the residential conveyancing team here at Howells has to deal with problems which arise when a property is sold and all of the relevant permissions are not in place. Aside from that the need for building regulation approval will remain as well as the requirement for all electrical and gas installations to be up to relevant standards.”

There is also concern amongst residential conveyancing solicitors that the new proposals could result in an increase of disputes with neighbours, as the legislation which dictates how close to a neighbour’s boundaries a property can be developed is not likely to change. The advice from Howells is that it is always sensible and courteous to discuss any developments you wish to carry out with your neighbours first.

If the government’s proposals get the go-ahead then the advice from the residential conveyancing solicitors here at Howells, is to seek professional advice before embarking on any alterations to your home. A little time and money spent at the beginning of such a transaction can reap significant rewards in the long term.

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