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Planning for the future


Nimbyism must be curbed if we are to get anything build says former Environment minister Elliot Morley.

Civil engineering is often taken for granted in the UK.

Everybody wants new roads, sports facilities, rail links, homes, schools, public utilities and waste facilities, but not all of them in their own back yard.

Provision of such facilities is also very political which is why I'm delighted to explore a few themes with NCE.

What sort of energy policy should we have? Is there a role for nuclear power? Which is better, public transport or private cars? Should we build new roads or protect the landscape?

There is also financing to consider, particularly for public projects. How much is there a role for Public Private Finance and Private Finance Initiatives?

We have seen Design Build Finance Operate introduced particularly for toll roads and bridges, but is it good value for money and does it spread risk fairly?

But above all, there are every day issues for the civil engineering sector like skill availability, planning and regulation.

Planning has the unique distinction of being an area of concern for everybody involved in the construction chain.

Sound planning law is essential to a modern society, and unfortunately there are plenty of examples around of what happens if you don't have sensible planning policy.

Schools that are too hot in summer and too cold in winter, 1960s sink estates, buildings sitting in flood risk areas and poor quality design and build.

But the main problem is we are becoming a nation of Nimbys.

There is virtually nothing these days from a power station to a bus stop that doesn't generate a flood of objections.

Local people must have a say, and removing their right to object and seek to amend is not the way of dealing with this.

But we must ask: does the process have to take so long?

Does it have to be so complex and could there not be some measure of common sense?

A typical example of this is the rejection - against the advice of planning officers - by East Yorkshire councillors of an application to build a waste treatment and transfer station following a residents' campaign.

The area needs this facility pretty badly and it seems that the chosen site is ideal. It is out of sight. It is next to a dual carriageway and sits in a former landfill site.

However according to the residents of North Ferriby this is not acceptable, even though they are a long way from the facility and there will be no impact on them apart from their perception of what it might do to their house prices.

Amazingly the planning inspector rejected the council's appeal. I wonder where the inspector thinks these sites should go?

There must be a new way of taking account of serious objections without bowing down to the usual Nimby nonsense.

Spatial planning is probably the way forward.

There is a government review of planning policy going on.

This is an opportunity to revise procedures without over-riding people's rights. I hope all those with an interest have made their views known.

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