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Watford Borough Council to write to government in opposition to planning law change
Politicians in Watford have warned plans to allow homeowners more freedom to extend their homes could lead to "neighbour wars" in the town.
Watford Borough Council is set to write to the Coalition Government voicing their opposition to proposals to remove local authorities’ planning powers.
The move comes after ruling Liberal Democrats put forward a motion attacking plans to allowing people to extend their homes by up to eight metres without seeking planning permission.
Under current rules people have to get permission for any planned extension that is more than three or four metres long.
The motion, which was put forward by Oxhey councillor, Iain Sharpe, and seconded by elected mayor Dorothy Thornhill, also criticised plans to weaken council powers to force developers to build affordable housing.
The motion said: "This council believes that local people, through their democratically elected local authorities are the most suitable judges of what development is acceptable in an area and the suitable level of contributions a developer needs to make."
However the motion also carried praise other Coalition Government’s housing plans to provide 15,000 new affordable homes and bring empty properties back into use.
At a meeting on Wednesday, elected mayor Dorothy Thornhill said the motion had been put forward as the council could not agree with government proposals that were "blatantly wrong".
The motion found backing among other Liberal Democrat councillors who urged other parties to support it.
Woodside Lib Dem Alan Burtenshaw said: "This will be horrific for people living next door."
Steve Rackett, the leader of the Green group, said plans to allow larger back garden developments would have a particularly serious effect in crowded urban areas of Watford.
He added: "There are not going to be neighbour disputes, but neighbour wars."
The government’s proposals also met opposition from former Conservative, turned independent councillor, Malcolm Meerabux.
He said the extension plans could "blight" communities and contrasted them with Conservative ministers’ pre-election promises to protect gardens and green areas from development.
Councillor Meerabux concluded by quoting Dr Martin Luther King saying: "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
However Labour leader Nigel Bell attacked the Liberal Democrat motion as "disingenuous" for opposing the Conservatives, whom they support in government.
In the end the motion was carried, but the Labour group abstained from the vote.
As a result the council will write to Eric Pickles, the secretary of state from communities and local government, outlining the views expressed in the motion.