Government presses ahead with planning shake-up

The Government today confirmed its commitment to pressing ahead with reforms to the planning system which have attracted criticism from green groups.

The Queen's Speech included a Planning Reform Bill which the Government said would enable the UK to meet needs for housing and infrastructure and address the challenges of climate change, energy supplies and pressures on the environment.

The Bill would establish an infrastructure planning commission and streamline the planning regime, including the process for granting permission to nationally significant projects.

The Bill's aim is to deliver "more timely and predictable" decisions on infrastructure projects which are key to economic growth, energy provision, quality of life and tackling climate change.

But the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) is concerned the Bill will cut the public out of the process of planning decisions and could help push through new airports, roads and power stations which would damage efforts to fight climate change.

The conservation charity has also raised concerns over the Housing and Regeneration Bill included in today's Queen's Speech, which aims to deliver three million new homes by 2020.

The Bill would support better use of public sector land and brownfield sites, as well as establish new sustainable "eco-towns", but CPRE warned the provision of new homes must not be at the expense of the environment and greenbelt land.

And Friends of the Earth's planning co-ordinator, Naomi Luhde Thompson, said the plans to overhaul the planning system were "bad news for democracy and bad news for the environment".

"It is particularly disingenuous for the Government to use climate change as an excuse to push through these changes.

"In reality the majority of the projects that will be given the green light under the new system, from motorway widening-schemes to new airport runways, will lead to an increase in carbon dioxide emissions.

"We are completely behind the development of new renewable energy sources, but stripping away people's democratic right to have their say is the wrong way to go about it," she said., 06.11.2007

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