Observer: Fast track for planning laws

Paul Mobbs mobbsey at
Sun Jul 15 21:51:56 BST 2001,6903,521809,00.html

Fast track for planning laws

The Observer, Sunday July 15, 2001
by Nick Mathiason

The most radical shake-up of the planning system for 50 years is on its way 
from the Government.

Prompted by Treasury concerns that the present system puts Britain at a 
disadvantage to competition from other countries, Ministers want to create a 
fast track for projects of 'national interest', such as major transport 
infrastructure improvements to prevent them being mired in long legal 

This will infuriate environmental campaigners, who will argue such a move 
panders to big business and is anti-democratic.

With a much-vaunted £180 million, 10-year transport strategy in the wings, 
prominent Government figures are concerned that it has taken nearly a decade 
just to get the fifth terminal at Heathrow through the planning process. They 
want future projects to be eased through quickly.

Government also is concerned that it risks losing international businesses 
because there are too many layers of consultation before major buildings can 
be built. The Treasury 'is deeply concerned' that the Wellcome Trust may 
still base its prestigious genome research project away from Cambridge 
because of what it considers to be restrictive planning policies. Wellcome is 
still arguing with local authorities about whether it can expand its campus.

The Treasury, which has completed a report into the UK planning system, is 
expected to unveil its 'fast-track' proposal this autumn.

Government sources have told The Observer there will be a planning Green 
Paper at the turn of this year that will attempt to streamline the system, 
cutting the number of bodies that must be consulted by law while promoting 
greater public involvement.

The Government is keen to promote 'clusters' based around universities, where 
like-minded businesses can foster innovation. But it feels this can't be 
delivered now.

In the capital, the Corporation of London, the City's local authority, is 
seething at English Heritage's insistence that a public inquiry must be held 
into a plan by property tycoon Gerald Ronson to build the tallest building in 
the Square Mile.

'It's this sort of decision that baffles us,' said a leading City figure. 
'The planning system is in absolute chaos. It's a mess, unpredictable and 
costly. There are too many layers to go through.'

But a Green Alliance spokesman said: 'Plans to fast-track projects is just 
bulldozing by another name. If this plan is true, the Government is removing 
a legitimate lever of protest and removing everyday people from the heart of 
the political process.'


More information about the Diggers350 mailing list