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Tax measures back planning reforms

BRITAIN'S 50 year old planning system is to be updated in an attempt to allow more decisions to be taken at the regional level, the government announced this week.

The most significant proposal outlined in a new consultation paper published this week is the use of taxation or financial incentives to sit alongside traditional planning regulations. It suggests such measures could become central in shaping the forthcoming integrated transport policy by encouraging new-build closer to existing transport infrastructure.

Planning minister Richard Caborn said: 'When one looks at the planning system and what it covers, there is a strategic vacuum in terms of regional land use planning.'

But in apparent contradiction to his promise to decentralise decision taking, Caborn said that greater use of parliamentary processes would be considered for projects of national significance. This could mean extending the powers of the existing Transport & Works Act, which allow the Secretary of State to take the final decision on whether a project goes ahead. The TWA currently covers only rail and inland waterway projects, but could in the future be applied to projects such as roads or airports.

'This would require primary legislation but would reduce the number of issues which have to be dealt with at the public inquiry,' explained Caborn.

Consultation on the proposals ends in April.

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