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Slated planning reforms to go ahead

THE GOVERNMENT will press ahead with sweeping planning reforms despite severe criticism of its planning green paper from a commons select committee last week, NCE can report.

The government will publish a planning policy paper next week, leading to new legislation in the autumn.

Producing the document before parliament breaks for its summer recess on 24 July will pave the way for a planning bill to be included in the Queen's speech this autumn.

It is widely believed that the paper will mirror the government's controversial green paper on planning, slated by the Transport, Local Government & the Regions select committee last week.

Among its proposals, the green paper sets out strategies for speeding up the planning process by making parliament responsible for approving major infrastructure projects in principle. Public inquiries would be held to thrash out details of the scheme, but would be kept to strict time limits.

The proposals have won strong support from major infrastructure operators and business groups such as business lobby group the CBI.

But the select committee fears that the plans will rob county councils, local people and pressure groups of the right to object to schemes.

'The government ignores at its peril warnings that the proposed system will constrain effective participation by those with real interests, ' the report says.

The proposals 'will not for the most part achieve their key objectives of introducing greater speed, simplicity and certainty, ' it adds.

The report goes on to claim that the plan to give parliament responsibility for approving major infrastructure projects will backfire. In order to decide on the detail of a scheme, planning inquiries will go over much of the same ground as parliament, resulting in duplication of work. Parliament will find it difficult to draw a line between approving a scheme in outline and getting involved in detail.

The parliamentary approval process could also conflict with the Human Rights Act, says the report.

To make informed decisions, parliament will be forced to commission impact studies that will take considerable time to prepare, said London First transport policy director Irving Yass.

The committee was also 'astonished' by the lack of attention to resourcing of planning authorities.

INFOPLUS The report can be found at www. parliament. uk

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