Planning approval for major infrastructure projects must be speeded up to avoid the UK grinding to a halt, two key government advisors warned this week.
Bank of England economist Kate Barker's review of land use planning and former BA boss Rod Eddington's transport study both suggested streamlining the planning system and taking major projects out of local planning authorities' control.Ministers should, according to Barker and Eddington, set out strategic objectives on issues such as energy, transport, and waste. Specific projects that fall within these national objectives should then be reviewed by an Independent Planning Commission, made up of professionals from a range of fields, rather than councillors or politicians.'By setting out a clear framework upfront for decision making through Statements of Strategic Objectives, democratic accountability is established from the outset,' sates the Barker review.'The time taken to reach decisions could then be reduced to some extent by cutting out the Ministerial decision-making phase, in addition to stricter timetabling of decisions, ending joint and linked decisions, changes to the inquiry process, and bringing together into a single process the range of consents often required.'Under the current system, major transport projects such as the Jubilee Line extension and the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, which cross numerous planning authorities, have been able to be approved as bills before Parliament.However, there is a lack of coordination in planning other infrastructure of national importance such as power plants and waste incinerators, which can often be held up for years due to local opposition.