In an attempt to reduce the number of planning applications by up to 80,000 each year, the Government has published legislation to simplify common householder developments.

The revised regulations, which come into force on 1 October 2008, mean that most homeowners will no longer need to go to the time and expense of obtaining express planning permission when extending their houses.

The new rules will allow both loft conversions and rear extensions. Loft conversions which are not overbearing will enjoy automatic permission. Rear extensions will no longer have a cap on their cubic volume.

The new rules are designed to strike a balance between allowing homeowners to make improvements and limiting the size of extensions so that neighbours and neighbourhoods are protected from obtrusive development.

In a related move, the Government has also published new planning regulations designed to reduce flood risks caused by surface water run-off. New driveways or parking areas over five square metres will not need planning permission provided they are constructed using surfaces which allow the water to soak through to the ground. Proposed driveways of more than five square metres using traditional, impermeable surfaces will still require planning permission.