The Scottish Government's plans, released this week, to extend "permitted development rights" for householders so that planning permission will no longer be required for a wide range of alterations and extensions, have received much coverage. Phrases such as "cowboys' charter" have been in vogue in the press, along with warnings over "neighbours from hell".
So far as I am aware, works that currently require a building warrant will continue to do so, which should in theory retain a level of scrutiny that what is being erected will be properly carried out. There has been little mention of this in the media coverage.
But that gives a clue to what appears to me to be the serious weakness of the proposals as presented: that they underestimate the level of public ignorance of the relevant law, and in addition present too much of a temptation to people to see what they can get away with. To many of the public, planning permission is the necessary and sufficient licence to build, and if that requirement goes, how many developments will go without proper scrutiny because neither developer nor neighbour realised they should have such?
And as for the rules that will apply, how easy will it be to tell whether some of them have been observed? If an extension goes up one metre from a neighbour's fence, as will be allowed, how is the neighbour to know whether or not it exceeds the permitted 40% coverage of the "curtilage" (in effect, garden) of the property? Will a neighbour any longer have any right to advance notice, and scrutiny, of development plans? It seems to me we are in danger of entering the age of the fait accompli.
I leave it to others to debate whether the actual percentages etc proposed as the permitted size of extension are in themselves reasonable. They certainly cover alterations large enough to generate considerable friction between neighbours. To my mind the real questions, on which the consultation paper appears to be completely silent, relate to how planning control is in future to be effectively policed.