There was no meaningful Parliamentary vote on whether people will be able to add two storeys to their house, or a block of flats, without seeking planning permission. MPs and Lords got no say in this decision, as it was agreed by the Minister using secondary legislation. There was no chance for peers to suggest amendments requiring people to bring a home up to modern, high standards of energy efficiency, when a lot of money is being spent raising the roof.
The Government’s planning white paper proposes a total overhaul of the English planning system, which will require primary legislation. But then the government brings these piecemeal regulations which, in themselves, make huge changes to the planning system. The government really should have brought this as part of the primary legislation so that it can be fully considered, rather than rush it through as secondary legislation and simply nod it through.
In the Government’s planning white paper, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “We will build environmentally friendly homes that will not need to be expensively retrofitted in the future, homes with green spaces and new parks at close hand, where tree lined streets are the norm and where neighbours are not strangers.” – yet nothing in these regulations delivers on those green ambitions.
The government needs to put green, carbon neutral, Earth positive development at the heart of its plans. There is a green benefit to increasing housing density by adding new storeys to existing housing. I recognise that. Better to use the existing footprint of an existing home to protect the green belt and the nature belt.
But, and it’s a big but, the impact on the existing character of our communities will be huge. A three storey house looks very different to a two storey house, and a four storey house is even more so. Simply using the same building materials and styles doesn’t mitigate this.
Then there is the issue of views. It’s unfortunate that the only protected views are in London – because there are many very beautiful and highly cherished views all across this country. A lot of these will be lost or spoiled with very little community say.
A lot of people are going to be surprised, shocked, and distraught when their neighbours’ houses all of a sudden double in height. Lost views, sunlight, and privacy will leave them wondering what happened, and how. There will be a lot of anger and local councillors need to put the blame firmly on this government.