Green campaigners attack new planning laws

Tony Gosling tony at
Tue May 22 11:06:02 BST 2007

Government's planning shake-up

Watch the report

21 May 2007
By: Keme Nzerem

Proposed radical changes to planning laws could end local involvement in
planning decisions.

Nuclear power stations, airport runways, supermarkets: they could be
coming to your back yard - yet you might not get a say.

The government has proposed radical changes to planning laws which it
hopes will mean an end to long disputes about big building projects.

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 But that could be at the expense of local involvement in planning
decisions, which would be made independently, taking the sting out of
unpopular projects.

However, some critics say it's yet more evidence of Gordon Brown's
centralising tendancies.

The Channel tunnel rail terminal in London's St Pancras station is the
centrepiece of Britain's largest ever construction project. 60 miles of
high-speed railway connect us with continental Europe. It needed hundreds
of separate planning applications, and after 20 years it is only just
nearing completion.

And this is a project that went well - which is why the government chose
St Pancras to explain why planning laws in England and Wales just have to
change. The planning process for Heathrow's terminal five got bogged down
for years, and the terminal is still not open.

Today's proposals bear all the hallmarks of Gordon Brown's vision of power
to the people. They are being sold to the public as an opportunity to
engage with major infrastructure projects from inception - overseen not by
politicians but a new independent commisision.

Environmental campaigners claim streamlined planning laws will simply be a
rubber stamp for nuclear projects.
Or at least that's how it's meant to work. The Tories dismiss it as yet
another quango.

There is no national infrastructure issue more contentious than nuclear
power. Sizewell B took 73 months to clear planning permission. This
Wednesday's energy white paper is expected to endorse a further eight new
power stations. Environmental campaigners claim streamlined planning laws
will simply be a rubber stamp.

And as for the challenge to combat climate change and develop renewable
energy such as wind power, it is so much easier when you streamline the
planning process. But is it the wrong proposal, too late?

Green campaigners attack new planning laws
By Colin Brown, Deputy Political Editor
Published: 22 May 2007

Green campaigners have condemned ministers for "steamrollering" objections
to major new schemes for nuclear power stations, airport runways,
motorways, waste incinerators and even wind farms.

Friends of the Earth led green groups in attacking a White Paper unveiled
by Ruth Kelly, the Secretary of State for Communities, which will amount
to the biggest shake-up of planning rules in a generation. It proposes
replacing lengthy and costly public planning inquiries with an independent

Streamlining the system will cut the time taken for schemes to gain
approval from several years to a limit of nine months.

"This will enable the Government to steamroller through its decisions,"
said an FoE spokesman, adding that public hearings such as the inquiry
into a nuclear waste dump by Nirex will be a thing of the past.

Many critics said the White Paper was being introduced to make it easier
for the Government to approve a new generation of nuclear power stations,
which will be foreshadowed in an Energy White Paper on Wednesday by
Alistair Darling, the Trade Secretary. He is also expected to propose more
wind farms and other forms of renewable energy sources.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England said it feared the White Paper will
make it easier to develop major infrastructure projects, large
supermarkets and housing estates on green field land. It will abolish the
"needs test" for out-of-town retail developments which require developers
to show there is a need for stores on the fringes of towns.

It will also be made easier for householders to get planning permission
for small extensions such as lofts and wind turbines on their homes, but
campaigners said they were a "smokescreen" to push through more
controversial measures.

The changes presented green lobbyists with a dilemma because they support
more use of renewable forms of energy, such as windpower. The changes will
enable planning applications for wind farms or wave-power machines to be
fast-tracked along with a new generation of nuclear power stations.

The Tories warned they would oppose the legislation, which could be
included in the next Queen's Speech - the first under Gordon Brown's
leadership - after a three-month consultation period. Public inquiries
were being replaced by a "centralised, undemocratic, planning quango",
said the shadow Secretary for Communities, Caroline Spelman.

Ms Kelly defended the White Paper, saying the impact on high streets in
town centres of large-scale retail developments would be taken into
account. She insisted that people would have a say in major public schemes
when they were announced, but their delays had to be reduced.


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