Except for properties in a Conservation Area or subject to a conservation order, the owner of a residential property should be allowed to alter or rebuild his property without seeking new planning approval, as long as the structure complies with Building Regulations and general zoning requirements as to height, percentage of land occupied by building and materials.

Why is this idea important?

The cost of housing is inflated in the UK inter alia because of the huge bureaucratic hurdles placed in the way of anyone who wants to knock down and rebuild, or substantially alter, a property to make better use of the available plot, to the extent that the norm in even stereotypically rule-bound Germany that if you own the freehold, you can build what you want on it within pre-set limits and guidelines, is unthinkable in the UK. Flimsily built post-war housing in particular, as well as some even older housing stock which has long since outlived its asset life, which should be demolished and rebuilt from scratch to make more efficient use of the developed land,  is left to stand because owners and developers know the process of getting planning permission is too fraught with dangers of failure, or high costs and delays of going to appeals, for them to contemplate it.

As a consequence, we also have the poorest quality housing stock of Northern European countries and the most energy-inefficient.

We a need a radical break from existing practice. The proverb "an Englishman's Home is His Castle" is completely untrue as often an Englishman is not able to touch it without getting not just the approval of the council to a microscopic level of detail in plans, but de facto the approval of all neighbours to any plans. Neighborhood Associations exercise a stalinist "reign of terror" in many suburban areas in blocking any change which does not conform to a narrow view of what is acceptable taste.

This entire planning system should be swept away and replaced with a system – for existing built land – of default approval of any scheme which conforms to pre-set parameters e.g. maximum height 15 metres, maximum construction to land 66%,  and conformity with Building Regulations.

 The existing restrictive system for greenfield development could be left in place, and similarly properties subject to a Conservation Order will still require specific approval. Tighter rules would also apply in Conservation Areas.

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