FAST-TRACK planning rules could lead to 'poor quality' housing in Oxford, the city's civic society has warned.

On July 21, the Government announced an extension to permitted development rights (PDR), which allow a range of building types (including offices, shops and warehouses) to be converted into housing without a formal planning application.

A second relaxation of the rules could see applications by homeowners to add two-storey extensions to existing buildings fast-tracked through the planning system.

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Although Oxford is well-known to be short of housing, especially affordable housing, Oxford Civic Society has now said that is has misgivings about what this might mean for the city.

Vice-chair Gillian Coates said "Converting buildings which have outlived their current usefulness into desperately needed housing is an attractive idea and, since Oxford comes at the top of the list of unaffordable places to live, this might look like a welcome initiative.

"But it is essential that any such work meets acceptable quality criteria for residential occupation in terms of space and amenity. It is hard to see how this can be guaranteed without rigorous scrutiny of any plans."

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She said the society was also concerned about what easing the criteria for two-storey extensions might 'lead to'.

She said: "The Government has specified a requirement carefully to consider the impact on neighbours and the appearance of the extension, and we hope the city council will exercise the maximum discretion here.

"Listed buildings and Conservation Areas enjoy special protections, but the authorities have a duty to ensure that residents in all areas of our city enjoy an attractive built environment and are protected from inappropriate developments.

“This is not nimbyism: other civic societies around the country have expressed similar reservations.”