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Government to launch planning reforms before new year

THE GOVERNMENT confirmed this week that it will introduce its controversial planning reforms to speed approval of major infrastructure projects before the new year.

A bill to reform the UK's planning laws was announced in the Queen's Speech last week.

The Office for the Deputy Prime Minister confirmed this week that passage of a new bill is one of the government's most pressing legislative priorities.

The government wants to smooth the path for projects deemed of vital national importance - for example, schemes like Heathrow Terminal 5 or the new container mega terminal at Dibden Bay, Southampton.

Deputy prime minister John Prescott has pledged to draw up a 'national spatial strategy' defining the UK's infrastructure needs. He wants to replace county based planning guidance with larger scale regional spatial strategies.

Prescott is seeking to set strict timetables for decisions on projects that are called in for public inquiries. He also wants to limit planning constraints in designated 'business planning zones', earmarked for economic regeneration.

The Confederation of British Industry this week praised the government for pushing ahead with planning reform.

But the proposals, set out in the government's planning green paper last December, have drawn fierce criticism from environmental groups.

INFOPLUS www. odpm. gov. uk lThe government this week published a Waste Emissions Trading Bill aimed at curbing the amount of municipal waste sent to landfill. Local authorities will be assigned notional landfill 'allowances'. Authorities that exceed their allowances will be able to buy landfill 'credits' from authorities that come in under their allowance through recycling, incinerating or composting waste.

www. defra. gov. uk

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