Headlines: June 2nd, 2008

Campaigners are calling today for the Government to listen to the public and to drop what they call, ‘ill-conceived proposals for an unnecessary and expensive new planning quango.’ The Campaign For The Protection of Rural England is also urging the Government not to impose airport expansion without a proper public debate.

Paul Milner, CPRE’s Senior Planning Campaigner, is making the pleas to coincide with the Report Stage of the Planning Bill, which MPs are due to debate today. CPRE is part of a broad coalition of conservation, environmental and civic organisations which believe Ministers should listen to serious public concern about proposals which they fear could reduce democracy in the planning process.

They are worried that the Bill could clear the way for the imposition of policies that have not undergone proper debate or environmental appraisal, such as airport expansion, as well as removing rights from local communities to hold developers to account at public inquiries.

The campaigners are also raising concerns over the proposal for the establishment of an Infrastructure Planning Commission, which could make decisions on major developments but would not be directly accountable to Parliament or the public. They say that proposal emerged from the report prepared by the economist Kate Barker although the idea had been advised against by a senior High Court judge five years previously. Those opposed to the Commission believe it will be expensive with annual running costs estimated at 9.3 million pounds a year as well as a one-off cost of five million pounds to set it up.

Mr. Milner said, “The Government’s plans for a Commission will make the planning system less open and accountable than it is now, and they will also make it more expensive for the taxpayer. Gordon Brown now needs to listen to the high level of public concern and learn from the experiences of the past.”