Expand villages by a third and allow extensions without planning permission ‘to solve homes crisis’

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

dailymail Villages should be expanded by a third to solve Britain's housing crisis, a group of Tory modernisers will recommend today.

A new group backed by Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude and Planning Minister Nick Boles also proposes that homeowners should be given the right to build a one storey extension to their home without planning permission.

And in a book published today the self-styled modernisers say those who don't own a home should be allowed to buy any piece of unprotected land and build on it.

The group called Bright Blue say the changes are needed to treble the number of homes being built each year but encouragement for huge new building in rural idylls was condemned as liable to change many communities out of all recognition.

The plans are advanced in a volume of essays by conservative modernisers for which Mr Maude has written a foreword, warning that the party must keep on changing 'if we are not to face electoral oblivion'.

But some of the policy proposals are highly controversial.

In the highly contentious area of planning reform the group says the government's proposals to offer local control of planning and compensation for those affected 'doesn't go far enough' and that a 'big bang is needed'.

The book proposes that all councils should be forced to put aside new land for 3 per cent growth in house building every year. 'Non-compliance would mean losing the right to refuse any development in the area,' the book argues.

That would mean building around 750,000 new homes a year, more than three times the current rate of 232,000.

'This may sound a lot, but is the equivalent of a village of 100 houses growing by 35 houses over ten years, a reasonable and organic rate of growth.'

The book concludes: 'The 'localism plus incentives' reform will not deliver sufficient housing. Only a big bang approach will work: one that allows individuals to solve their housing needs themselves by creating universal rules that circumvent local bureaucratic petty-fogging and self-interested opposition to development.'

The planning proposals are outlined by David Cameron's former policy director James O'Shaugnessy, but Bright Blue said all ideas should be attributed to the group as a whole.

Cabinet Ministers Mr Maude, Home Secretary Theresa May and Culture Secretary Maria Miller all sit on the board, while Universities Minister David Willetts has also written a chapter.

Other backers include Planning Minister Nick Boles, Neil O'Brien, a senior adviser to Chancellor George Osborne and Tory MPs Margot James and Charlotte Leslie.

The plans were swiftly denounced as unworkable by countryside campaigners.

Shaun Spiers, Chief Executive of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, told the Mail branded the proposals: 'It sounds bonkers and a very good way to lose an election.

'There is no evidence that just releasing land gets houses built. You get the same number of houses it's just that they're in the countryside instead. Giving people the right to add an extra storey will pitch neighbour against neighbour.

'People who come up with these bright ideas have no real sense of how contentious can be.'

The book also contains plans to enabling for-profit companies to set up and run state schools and calls for pupils to be taught in mixed-age classes and not allowed to move up a year until they attain certain standards.

The group also wants to enabling more private companies to hire and pay prisoners.

A senior government source declared the planning proposals 'daft' even though ministers have already announced plans to allow larger extensions.

A Whitehall source said: 'This is not government policy and we have no plans to adopt these proposals.'

By Tim Shipman  
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