Headlines: May 22nd, 2007



Local authority leaders have welcomed proposals in the Government’s Planning White Paper but they say the time has come for it to act speedily to put in place plans to reduce the levels of central policy guidance and to end the involvement of ministers in local decisions. Meanwhile, environmental campaigners have said they will work hard to get a stronger environmental emphasis in final legislation.

The wide-ranging White Paper has four key elements, the creation of a better quicker system for decidding on big infrastructure projects with enhanced community engagement; the simplification of the local planning system to speed up home improvements such as extensions and conservatories; a bigger role for planning in tackling climate change and steps to ensure the system continues to support vibrant town centres.

The Chairman of the Local Government Association, Sandy Bruce-Lockhart, said the White Paper did contain measures that would make the planning system more responsive to the needs of local people. The Government, he said, had talked the talk on deregulation and devolution now it had to show its willingness to act. “Councils will be pleased that the White Paper proposes a reduction in the volume of national policy guidance, fewer government appeals and an end to needless involvement by ministers in local issues which can and must be decided by democratically-elected councillors. We will be pressing the government to put these proposals in place speedily, with determination, and with a willingness to devolve further,” he said.

It was also encouraging that the Government had listened to councils’ concerns and was proposing a clear role for local authorities but, he said, the White Paper should have made more progress on limiting the role of the national planning inspectorate so local councils and local people had power to make decisions about developments in their areas.

The conservation charity the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England said it feared the proposals would make it easier to develop big infrastructure projects, large supermarkets and housing estates on greenfield sites. “CPRE will be working hard over the consultation period, which closes in less than three months,to get a stronger environmental emphasis into the final Planning Bill,” said Marina Pacheco, CPRE’s head of planning.