Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Human rights rules may end fast-track planning

Proposals in the Planning Bill to fast-track major infrastructure schemes could contravene human rights legislation, planning lawyers warned this week.

Under plans first revealed by the then-communities secretary Ruth Kelly in May 2007, planning applications for projects considered nationally important by government will no longer be considered by local authorities but fast-tracked through the process by a central Infrastructure Planning Commission (NCE 24 May 2007).

"The new system is designed to reduce the scope for objectors to challenge this or any other major development," said law firm LG's head of planning Trevor Blaney.

"There may well be an issue as to whether the proposed new procedures comply with the European Convention on Human Rights and the government has acknowledged this."

The European Convention on Human Rights is addressed in the explanatory notes for the Planning Bill, which is going through Parliament and is expected to receive Royal Assent this summer.

The government believes the provisions of the Planning Bill are compatible with article 6 of the Convention as although there will be no automatic right to a public hearing, such a hearing will take place at the discretion of the Commission.

However, Blaney believes there is a difference between a right to a public inquiry and a public inquiry at the discretion of the Commission. "It's possible someone might go to the High Court to see whether it does contravene human rights," said Blaney.

"Planning inquiries can run for years, but they are a safety valve. It's a worry that we may see a return to Newbury bypass and Swampy.

"At Newbury there was a good answer from the highways department in that the matter had been to public inquiry. However, once you water down that inquiry system, it's whether that answer is still valid."

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Please note comments made online may also be published in the print edition of New Civil Engineer. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.