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Planning Bill to save '£5bn by 2030'

The Planning Bill will be published today, designed to ease the passage of major infrastructure projects through to the stage where building can begin.

Communities Secretary Hazel Blears said the Bill would bring the average time for decisions on major projects down to under a year. The consultation into the construction of Heathrow's fifth terminal took seven years.

The Bill will:

- Give Ministers the responsibility of drawing up 'national statements', which must take sustainability into account.

- Ensure developers have a legal duty to consult the local community, local authorities and other stakeholders as projects are prepared.

- Make planning inquiries more accessible to the public, with the public's rights to be heard protected. Any person who registers an interest will be able to give oral evidence.

- Give application decisions to an independent Commission consisting of leading experts from a range of fields within a clear framework of legal duties set by Parliament and policy set by Government.

- Allow householders to install small-scale renewable technologies - such as solar panels and wind turbines - without planning permission

- Give local authorities more power, both to to raise cash for local projects and develop local schemes.

Blears said: "Through quicker and high quality decisions our Planning Bill will help deliver on the Government's long-term vision for Britain in relation to housing, climate change, energy security, transport provision, and prosperity and quality of life for all.

"The new measures show that it is possible to deliver not only a faster and more efficient planning system, but high quality decisions with greater community involvement.

"There will always be controversial projects that stir opinion and require difficult judgements to be made. However having a stronger system will ensure all opinions - particularly those of the public are heard sooner. Making good judgements in less time is of benefit to everyone. Long-lasting stale-mates that finally stagger to a conclusion are no good for anyone."

The Freight Transport Association (FTA) was one of the first bodies to respond to the publication of the new Bill. "The National Policy Statements will, for the first time, give developers of infrastructure a clear basis from which to plan investment.

"The Infrastructure Planning Commission should be an effective body for deciding on the appropriateness of individual developments. It will give a proper balance to local interests and the wider economic needs of the country," said FTA’s Head of Rail Freight and Global Supply Chain Policy, Christopher Snelling.

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