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Major planning reforms for a sustainable future

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Major planning reforms for a sustainable future
Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly has unveiled major reforms of the country’s planning system to make it fit to tackle new challenges in the 21st century – speeding up the system alongside improved community consultation.

The wide-ranging White Paper has four key pillars:-

A better, quicker system to decide major infrastructure projects with enhanced community engagement and an improved level of expertise.
Simplifying the local planning system for householders to make it far easier to make home improvements like extensions and conservatories, where there is little or no impact on neighbours.
Planning playing a bigger role in tackling climate change.
Ensuring the planning system continues to support vibrant town centres.
The government also pledged a new commitment to protect the green belt. The White Paper makes clear previously developed brown field land must remain the clear priority for housing development with our parks and green spaces protected.

The simplifying of the local planning system for householders will allow councils to focus on strategic priorities such as more homes for future generations and tackling climate change.

The White Paper will;

Bring in a new system for dealing with major infrastructure decisions (transport, water, waste and energy) with community consultation locked into every stage of the process:

A new system will replace over 8 different planning regimes and could save over £1 billion within 10 years - it includes:

A new national policy framework set by Ministers and parliament setting out how we will meet the country’s key infrastructure needs for the next 10-25 years, bringing it together under one legal framework. This will be subject to public consultation.
A new stronger but clearer inquiry system with more expertise. This will be led by an independent commission consisting of leading experts from key sectors - including planners, lawyers, environmentalists and community experts - who will take decisions on individual projects. This will include new "open floor" debates where residents can have their say rather than having to go before a court-room style inquiry hearing.
A new legal requirement on developers to consult with the public and key parties such as environmental groups and heritage experts.
Major expansion of free access to advice from planning professionals – so not just those who can afford to pay can make their voices heard.
Slash planning red tape for local householder applications and supporting local planners:

Planning permission will not be required for minor developments – such as conservatories, small scale extensions and microgeneration devices like solar panels – where it is clear they have little or no impact on neighbouring properties.
At the same time local authorities will retain the right to restrict planning permission with strengthened safeguards to deal specifically with eyesore developments.
Allowing minor amendments, like the repositioning of a door, to be made to a planning permission without the need for a full planning application.
Simpler information requirements for all applications, with for example, the introduction of a standard application form.
Introducing a new fast-track appeals system - so appeals have to be lodged within eight weeks rather than six months and the time to deal with these standard householder appeals is slashed from 16 weeks to eight.
Allocation of £28 million through the Planning Delivery Grant (PDG). These grants support local authorities to provide a swifter and more efficient planning process.
New measures to tackle climate change:

Planning policy rules to put tackling climate change at the heart of building new communities for the first time. New developments across villages, towns and cities will have to consider measures to reduce carbon emissions.
Housing Minister Yvette Cooper to head a new ‘green offices’ taskforce with industry to set a timetable and action plan for delivering substantial reductions in carbon emissions from commercial buildings within the next 10 years.
Cutting red-tape for householders wanting to install small-scale renewable technologies – such as solar panels. Planning permission no longer required where it is clear there is little or no impact on neighbours.
Cutting red-tape for the use of microgeneration in commercial and agricultural business.
Ensuring the planning system supports vibrant town centres

The Government will bring forward new planning rules to enable councils to better prioritise town centres over out-of-town shopping and block developments that threaten the survival of high streets and small shops.

A new test will require councils to scrutinise any proposal for shopping developments outside of the town centre.
It will require councils to carry out a rigorous assessment of the impact of unplanned out of town developments and to refuse any application that may have a negative impact on the local high street.
Local councils will also get the power to rule whether a development will support the town centre and benefit the consumer, in deciding whether new shops should get the go-ahead.
Ruth Kelly said;

“It is 60 years since the Attlee Government introduced the Town and Country Planning Act – the system has created thriving towns and protected our green spaces.

“But today we face challenges that the Attlee Government could never have foreseen – the need to cut emissions from climate change, or the need to support high-quality jobs and build more homes.

“If we are to thrive, we need a better system for taking the difficult decisions. If we do not the risks are significant – energy shortages, mounting congestion and increasing pollution.”

She added;

“There are parts of the current system which can be costly, confusing and inaccessible for local people.

“We need a simpler system that is quicker but which locks in community consultation at every stage of the process.

“We must meet the challenges of low-carbon living, protect the vitality of our town centres and improve how we consult local people. We must also build the infrastructure we need to support our communities and ensure high quality jobs and international competitiveness.”

“Nobody will agree with every planning decision but our reforms will make the system better focussed, fairer, faster and more accessible for all. They will support our goal of improving the places where we live, work, visit, and enjoy.”

The planning system has improved significantly since 1997. Decision-making is quicker, house-building has risen and town centres have been revitalised – more than 40 per cent of new developments are built in the heart of towns and cities compared to less than 25% ten years earlier.

However, communities can still find the planning system too hard to engage with. For example, determining major infrastructure decisions can be inaccessible to local people and too slow and bureaucratic in meeting the needs of the country as a whole.

Trade and Industry Secretary Alistair Darling said:

"We need to streamline the procedures so that people can have their say at the same time as reducing delays and uncertainties. Secure, clean energy supplies are vital. Currently major energy projects, including wind farms, can take many years going through the planning system which is confusing and unpredictable for both industry and communities.

“With a third of our power stations needing replacing by 2020 these new proposals will help industry make the investments that the country needs, and provide communities with clarity on how they can take part in the decision making process."

Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander said;

"Transport plays a crucial role in everyone's life and in the UK's economy. In the past our planning system has sometimes lead to too much uncertainty and delay for projects that would deliver big benefits for us all.

These proposals, consistent with the Eddington transport study, will improve the decision making process whilst still ensuring that schemes remain subject to rigorous scrutiny and wide public consultation."

Environment Secretary, David Miliband said:

"Getting the right planning decisions for everyone is fundamental to the quality of people's lives. It ensures everyone has access to green space and unspoiled countryside and supports the economic development which is vital to creating jobs and ensuring our continuing prosperity. But the challenge of climate change means we also need to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and use our natural resources wisely.
"This White Paper proposes to simplify the planning system and ensure that we meet our social, economic and environmental objectives, including tackling climate change, in an integrated way. I believe these reforms are essential if we are to create a planning system that is fit and able to meet the challenges we face."

Notes to editors
The ‘Planning for a Sustainable Future’ White Paper can be found at www.communities.gov.uk/index.asp?id=1510503, the accompanying consultation document can be found at www.communities.gov.uk/index.asp?id=1510731


The White Paper sets out our detailed proposals for reform of the planning system, building on Kate Barker’s recommendations for improving the speed, responsiveness and efficiency in land use planning, and taking forward Kate Barker’s and Rod Eddington’s proposals for reform of major infrastructure planning. Further information can be found at http://www.communities.gov.uk/index.asp?id=1162076 and www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/media/39A/41/eddington_execsum11206.pdf


The allocations for the first tranche of PDG for 07/08 together with accompanying documentation can be found at http://www.communities.gov.uk/index.asp?id=1143674
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