News: Planning reform boost for UK housing

Wed, 28 Nov 07

A new Bill that will make the planning system quicker, more transparent and easier for the public to become involved in will be published today by Communities Secretary Hazel Blears...

The Planning Bill will reform the planning system for major infrastructure projects which is increasingly struggling to deal with the challenges of the 21st century - climate change, protecting the environment and the need for new homes.

The Bill will establish a better system for dealing with those decisions with opportunities for public participation locked into each stage of the process. It will also strengthen accountability and ensure decision-making is transparent and fair with sustainable development at its heart.

The changes are expected to bring the average time for decisions on major projects down to under a year ending years of unnecessary delays on the infrastructure the country needs to tackle challenges of a modern world and help tackle climate change. On average £300m a year will be saved, nearly £5bn by 2030.

Greater say for Communities

Communities too will have a far greater say - with the Bill including a package of measures that will strengthen public participation in the setting of national infrastructure policy, the development of individual projects and planning decisions themselves.

The Bill will also simplify the local town and country planning system, improve the appeal process and puts a duty on councils in preparing their local plans to take action on climate change.

Local councils will also be able to set charges on new developments in their areas to contribute to community infrastructure like roads, schools and hospitals.

Major infrastructure decisions with community consultation locked into every stage.

Under the Bill:

  • Ministers will set national priorities for infrastructure following public consultation and Parliamentary scrutiny.

  • In drawing up the national statements, Ministers will be under a duty to contribute to sustainable development and to carry out an appraisal of their policy's sustainability.

  • Developers will have a legal duty to consult the local community, local authorities and key stakeholders on their projects as they prepare them.

  • Planning inquiries will be made more accessible to the public, and public's rights to be heard will be protected. The Bill will make it clear that any person who registers an interest can give oral evidence at relevant stages of the inquiry.

  • Decisions on applications will be taken by an independent Commission consisting of leading experts from a range of fields within a clear framework of legal duties set by Parliament and policy set by Government.

  • Streamline the local planning system - cutting red tape for local householders and tackling climate change

The Bill and other reforms being announced today will:

  • Make it easier for homeowners to extend their homes. Planning permission will not be required for minor developments such as conservatories, small scale extensions where it is clear they have little or no impact on neighbouring properties.

  • Allow householders to install small-scale renewable technologies - such as solar panels and wind turbines - without planning permission subject to safeguards and standards to ensure there is little or no impact on neighbours.

  • Give local planners more flexibility when developing local plans and speed up plan-making by removing unnecessary bureaucracy.

  • Enable local councils to apply a new charge to secure a contribution towards the costs of community infrastructure to deliver the development plan from landowners who benefit when planning permission is granted.

  • Require local councils to take action on climate change when preparing their local plans.

  • Provide more resources for local authorities through a greater contribution from users of planning services.

Hazel Blears said: "Through quicker and high quality decisions our Planning Bill will help deliver on the Government's long-term vision for Britain in relation to housing, climate change, energy security, transport provision, and prosperity and quality of life for all.

"The new measures show that it is possible to deliver not only a faster and more efficient planning system, but high quality decisions with greater community involvement.

"There will always be controversial projects that stir opinion and require difficult judgements to be made. However having a stronger system will ensure all opinions - particularly those of the public are heard sooner. Making good judgements in less time is of benefit to everyone. Long-lasting stale-mates that finally stagger to a conclusion are no good for anyone."

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