Lib Dems may block Monster Extensions – Telegraph


Lib Dem councils are expected to line up to criticise the plans during an emergency debate at the party’s conference in Brighton today.

Local Government minister Don Foster admitted that concerns were “deeply concerned” and said he would take back the worries to Whitehall.

Ministers also unveiled plans yesterday to double the size of home extensions that can be built without planning permission on Sept 6.

Home owners could build 6m (19ft) beyond the back wall of their home in the case of a terrace or semi-detached house, or 8m (26ft) in the case of a detached house.

However there is a growing rebellion among councils over the plans, which could be in force early next year, amid fears they will allow unsightly building to go ahead in middle class suburbs across England, and create a surge in rows between neighbours.

A motion to be debated today at the Lib Dem conference calls on the Coalition to withdraw the plans, claiming that they “ignore local democracy, will fail to protect local communities and will encourage more neighbourhood disputes”.

It adds that that the proposals, which are backed by David Cameron and Nick Clegg, “go against the spirit of the Localism Act 2011 which encourages more local control of planning policies”.

Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, Mr Foster – who is in charge of housing and build regulations policy – said he had met with five separate groups of councils – including the association of Liberal Democrat councils and the Local Government Association – from across the country over the past three days.

He said: “While there is much in the overall package announced on 6 September, with which they are happy or willing to work with, there is one idea – putting extensions in people’s gardens – with which they are deeply concerned.”

Mr Foster said the debate on Wednesday would be an “opportunity for them to express what their concerns are, or any changes that they think and I will be there to listen and my key message will be ‘there is a consultation, it is not a done deal’.”

He added that he would be “feeding in the views of the party” into the consultation, but would not be mandated to block the plans if delegates backed the motion.

The push on planning, coming only months after a huge row over the last major reform, has alarmed rural campaigners and raised fears of a new attempt to build on large areas of the countryside.

But Mr Foster insisted that the green belt was safe under the Coalition, despite suggestions from Chancellor George Osborne that ministers want to relax protections to encourage building and boost the economy.

He said the Government had to “look at innovative ideas” to persuade construction forms to build more homes.

Asked if the green belt was safe under the Coalition Mr Foster said that it was “crucially important”, adding: “That does not mean to say that there can’t be as there are under the current rules, variations in the green belt.

“The green belt is there to protect places and if we can find ways of protecting them by making a change – reductions in the green belt with an extension somewhere else – that makes sense.”

Mr Foster continued: “Saying that the green belt is sacrosanct does not mean to say there won’t be changes to it.”

Under a new economic regeneration bill, to be published next month, minsters are set to unveil some tweaks to planning rules to speed up planning decisions and give ministers a more hands-on role in waiving through big projects.

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