• Govt to make it even harder to fight bad planning decisions

    3rd September 2012 | News | Claire
  • A fresh Coalition assault on “ludicrous” planning laws will make it harder for residents to object to new developments and encourage councils to allow building on greenbelt land, the Chancellor has said.

    David Cameron and George Osborne insisted that more changes in planning rules were urgently needed as part of a package of reforms to restart growth in Britain’s stagnant economy.

    Rural campaigners warned that the latest proposals – which come only months after a widespread overhaul of planning laws – contradict government promises to protect the countryside.

    Legislation expected next month will propose new curbs on residents’ ability to protest against new developments, giving them less time to appeal and ensuring fewer cases face legal challenges.

    Rules allowing councils to authorise building on the green belt by redesignating other land will also be streamlined to encourage more building in areas given legal protection from development.

    Mr Osborne suggested he wanted England’s planning system to move as quickly as that in other countries including China.

    “I think we can speed up planning – it is absolutely ludicrous that it takes years to get planning decisions in this country. You can get much faster decisions on the Continent, let alone in countries like China,” he told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show.

    “This country, in the current economic environment, cannot afford to wait years for development.”

    Mr Osborne highlighted moves by councils including Cambridge to allow building on greenbelt land, which is then replaced with other land newly classified as part of the green belt. “I’d like to see more of that,” he said.

    Even though the controversial new National Planning Policy Framework was only approved by ministers months ago, they still say that the system is a significant obstacle to economic recovery.

    In a newspaper article, the Prime Minister accused communities that object to housing of holding back the economy.

    He wrote: “A key part of recovery is building the houses our people need, but a familiar cry goes up: ‘Yes, we want more housing; but no to every development – and not in my back yard.’” He added: “The nations we’re competing against don’t stand for this kind of paralysis and neither must we.”

    Mr Cameron vowed to end the “dithering” and “paralysis” which is holding back Britain’s economy.

    New planning rules will be at the heart of an Economic Development Bill due to be published next month.

    It will impose new time limits on appeals against planning permission, and tighten the criteria for referring a planning decision for judicial review.

    The Coalition last year faced fierce political resistance when ministers proposed sweeping away many protections for greenfield land.

    After protests from groups including the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), the National Trust, and The Daily Telegraph’s Hands of Our Land campaign, ministers rewrote their rule book with safeguards for the countryside. Government sources insisted the Coalition would continue to protect the green belt.

    Shaun Spiers, the chief executive of the CPRE, questioned whether new planning rules would make any difference to the wider economy.

    Developers are currently holding “land banks” of more than 200,000 plots with planning permission, which they are not building on, he said.

    “If planning restrictions are relaxed, you’re not going to get any increase in the overall number of houses being built.

    “All that will happen is an increase in the number of houses being built in the wrong places,” he said.

    Chuka Umunna, the shadow business secretary, said ministers were creating “huge policy uncertainty”.

    “For God’s sake make your mind up,” he said. “They published a whole new planning policy framework in March.”

    The latest changes are part of a set of schemes the Coalition says will remove impediments to growth and investment.

    The Treasury will soon unveil details of a plan to provide government guarantees for up to £10?billion of investment by housing associations and other developers. The guarantee complements a pledge to underwrite up to £40 billion of private investment in infrastructure projects.

    The Government will also establish a “small business bank” to help small and medium enterprises get access to credit.