A greater Manchester MP has warned that local decision making will be taken out of the hands of residents if new planning regulations are introduced.
Michael Meacher, who was addressing a fringe meeting at the Labour Party Conference, in Bournemouth, said a government white paper was “dangerous for local democracy” and could lead to an explosion of approvals for nuclear power stations, supermarkets and wind farms.
Mr Meacher, who was addressing the meeting which discussed the national and local planning needs explained: “I accept that the planning process is not working as well as it ought but I think the deregulation of the current planning system by prioritising the growth of the economic and social criteria is a serious mistake.”
Mr Meacher said under a new Infrastructure Commission major policy decisions would be made in the national interest with little or no involvement or input from local members of the public on issues such as desirability of the development and safety.
“It will remove democratic accountability. The public will lose the right to cross examine witnesses in public inquiries. Instead the commission will have the discretion, but no questions can be asked about whether the project is needed or indeed if its safe.”
According to Mr Meacher, under the proposed regulations councils would have a duty to consult on planning issues but he said no decisions have been taken on how it is to be done.
He added: “On major infrastructure projects the community consultation will be carried out by the developer; as if a development promoter will fairly examine other options.”
“The public should be heard or there will be no trust in the planning process. Sadly, this is a situation where the government has done a deal with large private business interests. Private power over public interest.”
By Peter Devine
26 September 2007