Fears that planning changes could trigger disputes between neighbours

Mediation Plus, the community mediation service for Wealden, is concerned that Government plans announced last week to relax planning permission requirements for property extensions may trigger a wave of disputes among residents.

The service – which has been providing independent and impartial community mediation since 2006 – deals with an average of 120 cases each year.

Among the most common causes of disputes between home owners are parking, boundaries and extensions such as conservatories and garages.

The plans announced last week would allow extensions of up to six metres – double the current limit – to be built without local planning consent.

Service manager Clive Gross said: “While the current planning process may seem cumbersome for small developments like conservatories and garages, it does at least provide a mechanism for genuine concerns about the impact of these works to be properly considered.

“Any extension larger than the current three metre rule may have significant implications for the occupiers of the adjoining properties in terms of outlook and privacy.

“Doubling the threshold seems to suggest that planners should only get involved when the damage is potentially already done.”

Statistics from the Local Government Association show that the proportion of planning applications approved by town halls has risen over the past decade, reaching 87% last year.

Home owners who may previously have been refused planning permission for legitimate reasons may now decide to exploit the proposed planning permission ‘holiday’ to go ahead with these schemes.

Mr Gross continued “Mediation is a very effective way of resolving disputes, especially if people come to us early before issues escalate.

“Unfortunately, once a building is up it is usually too late and arguments can even turn violent.

“We hope the very short public consultation process being scheduled for these proposals will allow the Government to reflect fully on their implications.”

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