Decisions on major infrastructure projects such as airports, motorways and power stations are in future to be taken by an independent commission.
It comes as part of a major planning shake-up announced by the Government. Communities and Local Government Secretary Ruth Kelly said the reforms outlined in her Planning White Paper would produce a system fit for the 21st century, which would be fairer, faster and less complicated.
Environmentalists accused the Government of trying to push through controversial developments such as nuclear power plants and airport runways in the face of community opposition. But business said the changes would help the UK deliver the major transport and energy projects which the country needs to compete internationally.
The White Paper aims to prevent a repeat of the seven-year wrangle over permission for Heathrow’s Terminal Five by setting a statutory limit of nine months for most decisions.
And it gives householders more discretion to improve their homes, removing the requirement for planning permission for minor developments such as conservatories, small-scale extensions, solar panels and wind turbines, where it is clear they have little or no impact on neighbouring properties.
Unveiling the White Paper in the House of Commons, Ms Kelly said it would create the legal framework to meet the country’s key infrastructure needs for the next 10 to 25 years.
She told MPs: “An inaccessible and sometimes baffling system makes it hard for people to have their say on issues which can have a big impact on their quality of life. Too often it favours the well resourced over the less well-off.
“Decision-making can be painfully slow, causing costs and prolonged uncertainty that are in no-one’s interests, not individuals nor communities, nor developers.”
As well as taking decisions on individual projects, the new commission will allow “open floor” debates where residents can have their say, rather than having to go before a courtroom-style inquiry.
The new system will replace over eight different planning regimes and could save more than £1 billion within 10 years, said Ms Kelly’s Department for Communities and Local Government.
21 May 2007
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