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Coalition's planning reforms 'fraught with danger'

By Gloucestershire Echo  |  Posted: November 20, 2012

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THE right to legally challenge large-scale planning developments is to be dramatically restricted, the Prime Minister said yesterday.

David Cameron vowed to curb people's right to ask a judge to review controversial plans in a bid to promote economic growth when he addressed the Confederation of British Industry.

He told business leaders the current judicial review system had been abused by campaigners with 'hopeless cases' who were looking to delay developers.

But the judicial review had been a popular tool for campaigners and councils wanting to overturn decisions.

Tewkesbury Borough Council launched a judicial review into the government's decision to back developers looking to build a total of 1,000 homes near Bishop's Cleeve in July.

The authority's chief executive Mike Dawson said: "Our appeal against the Secretary of State's decision to give permission for two major housing developments in Bishop's Cleeve is an important one.

"The Secretary of State's decision went against widespread local opposition."

One of the proposals outlined by Mr Cameron included reducing the three-month time limit currently in place for people seeking a review.

The cost of applying would also increase.

Mr Cameron's announcement came months after the coalition floated another set of potential planning reforms.

They included plans to make it easier for home owners to build extensions and allow the Government to take applications away from councils deemed to be acting unsatisfactorily.

Andrew North, the chief executive of Cheltenham Borough Council, said: "Taking away powers from local authorities that are deemed to be failing in the planning process is anti-democratic and contrary to the government's rhetoric on localism.

"I think that if people understand, as I am sure they will, that they are unable to appeal to the local authority about development just next door that they think is inappropriate and they are informed that this is because of a change in government policy then inevitably they will blame the government and that is where the blame should lie."

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  • incomer2007  |  November 21 2012, 4:41PM

    So local objection will count for nothing. No change there then. Since when have planning committees listened unless it endangered their own lucrative income from councillor duties.Most decisions are deferred for recomendation to un-elected unaccountable planning officers with bonus driven targets to meet.The way ahead for preventing rapant development might be to change a few local rules such as ; reduce the densisty per hectare, wider roads, more parking spaces per house.Planning rules should be changed to ensure that grey water systems, solar panels & upgraded insullation are installed as standard, along with power saving street lights. Finish time penalty clauses should be included in all planning applications to ensure roads are fit for purpose for new houses when occupied. Use the Community Infrastructure Levy to fund qualified engineers to oversee the construction drainage and roads. I am sure there are many ways in which the local community can gain added benefits from these build and be damned developers. Look how Norway managed to gain massive income from its North Sea Oil resources whilst the UK stepped back from demanding the same for fear of alienating the oil giants. Land is our precious resource and the big developers must be made to respect the local concerns and reduce their ambitions.They will of course say that these measures will increase the cost of much needed houses. If demand is there why does it take 7 YEARS to complete a site of 250 houses? who is kidding who? Sustainable development is just that.Able to sustain the whole community not just a few councillors ,planners and developers.

  • Bonkim2003  |  November 20 2012, 9:21AM

    Local sentiments/objections never influenced planning - what stymied planning is local misguided politics used by those in power to raise their own political profiles. Vested interests always got their way as they knew how to play the system - all that is being done is to simplify - local planning committees will decide except where greater national interests are involved - which is no different to what it was. Major infrastructure projects were never in the gift of local planning committees. Ref the Tirley gas pipeline pressure reducing station, and all major power stations, nuclear, and barrages, major waste facilities, etc, included.

  • GlosYap2  |  November 20 2012, 9:05AM

    Interesting to see that "promoting economic growth" rather than "the war on terror" is becoming the latest tool of government for kerbing the democratic rights of the public. Unfortunately the new legislation isnt just about planning, its about reducing the accountability of a government across the board.

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  • Lecorche  |  November 20 2012, 8:57AM

    It's the thin end of a wedge to slide through unhindered large projects like a Barrage or Power Station that would never otherwise get through on the cheap. Think China. I've no problem with a neighbour making their home better. I do have a problem with a pseudo dictatorship that would just tell what we're getting and to lump it.

  • Bonkim2003  |  November 20 2012, 8:44AM

    Since when does local people objecting development in their vicinity become a planning consideration - and where local sentiments/politics have interfered with particular decisions, councils had to spend huge amounts in litigation/challenging appeals, and finally conceding defeat. The new planning legislation simplifies, eliminates the thousands of pages of planning garble easily interpreted by planning officers or minority pressure groups (NIMBYs) to suit their own objectives. The new legislation is an enabling one - and provisions exist for environmental and other safeguards as before. Essential to liberate planning, and trigger economic development.