Orthodox delight as government relaxes planning law on house extensions
The Charedi community has welcomed a government move to relax rules on loft conversions and the construction of rear extensions to houses.
From October 1, many householders will be able to build an extension or a loft conversion without having to seek planning permission. The £1,000 fee to be granted specific planning permission will also be dropped.
Ita Symons, chief executive of Agudas Israel Housing Association (AIHA), said: "This is the most fantastic news. It will have a very strong impact on bigger families in the Orthodox Jewish community in Hackney and Haringey, many of whom have been living in overcrowded conditions.
"The fact that the fees have also been scrapped is important for those families who could not afford them. These new rules should make the process much easier and people should be allowed to get on with it. This is long overdue."
But Hackney Council, with which the AIHA has had countless battles over extensions, was more circumspect. It said that its main concern was "to protect the appearance of buildings that front on to streets. That will be unaffected by the government's new regulations, which apply only to rear roof extensions.
"The new rules will mean that certain extensions will be able to be built without planning permission. There are, however, other requirements, including not raising the overall height of the roof or incorporating verandas or balconies, that will apply.
"It will also remain the case that where a property is in a conservation area, roof extensions will require planning permission regardless of their size." Mrs Symons, however, said Orthodox families tended not to live in those parts of the borough.
She said: "Hackney will be biting its nails because the council won't like this. They have been making life so difficult for us. I do hope they are not going to interpret the new rules so that it will be difficult for the community to build much-needed rooms."
Last December, the JC highlighted an ongoing row between the Charedi community and Hackney Planning Watch, a local association that at the time was opposing Hackney Council's own plans to relax extension regulations in certain areas of the borough. No-one could be reached for comment from Hackney Planning Watch.