Under new legislation that comes into force today, English home owners will need to get planning permission if they want to concrete over their front garden or lay a new patio.
 
The Government believes such restrictions will bring an end to losing green spaces in towns and cities and lower the risk of flooding and subsidence.
 
However, homeowners that elect to use permeable materials, allowing water to soak through to the ground, for driveways or parking areas over five square metres will not have to seek planning permission.
 
In addition, homeowners will be able to carry out loft conversions and build extensions without having to obtain permission from their local councils.
 
The Government estimates this will remove the need for about 80,000 households to seek planning permission, saving them up to £1,000 in costs. It should also reduce planning snarl-ups, with fewer applications for planning staff to sift through.
 
The new rules are intended to help homeowners make improvements more easily, while at the same time limiting the size of extensions to keep the neighbours happy.
 
Larger extensions running back more than three metres from the original property or loft conversions over 50 cubic metres still will require permission.
 
‘From today, people will find it has become much easier to convert the loft and build on an extension,’ says Housing and Planning Minister Caroline Flint.
 
There are some concerns, however, that it will be difficult to police whether people are adhering to the new regulations and building within the stipulated dimensions.
 
Simon Lindesay-Bethune from agents John Wilcox & Co in Holland Park, west London, believes most homeowners will either remain blissfully ignorant of what they are allowed to do when it comes to extending their home, or stick to the letter of the law.
 
‘It can be particularly difficult in built-up places like London where you can spit across four gardens because people live so close together. Building works in such areas has a great impact on everyone, so loosening planning could have a detrimental effect if people stray outside certain planning boundaries,’ he says.
 
‘People will think they can extend down as well without planning permission, which will not be the case.’
 
Already, several local authorities, including Kensington and Chelsea, have expressed worries about flooding if there are fewer places for run-off water to go.