The case for planning reform

The Government’s controversial planning reforms should receive full
support as far as I am concerned. Opposition by groups like the National Trust
amounts to “hysteria” in my opinion.

Coalition proposals to simplify the planning process and favour all “sustainable
development” are vital for economic growth.

Critics argue the changes would lead to urban sprawl and the destruction
of Britain’s natural environment and yet a survey of businesses by the British
Chambers of Commerce (BCC) found a majority thought the planning process was a
barrier to growth.

A total of 69 per cent thought decisions on planning were taken on
political grounds, not on the merits of an application, and 54 per cent thought
councils ignored the advice of their planning officers.

To me these survey findings clearly show that the planning process is a
barrier for companies and that, in some cases, it’s holding back the economic
growth we so desperately need.

We need to get the debate on planning reform away from hysteria and back
to common sense. Business people understand that planning has a purpose and
that developers can’t just build anything, anywhere. It’s not a case of
throwing out the rule book to grow the economy at any cost. Yet there’s clear
evidence that the system is too complicated, too costly, and too uncertain.

It creates mistrust among businesses, undermines investment and holds
back our recovery. We all want to protect areas of great beauty and natural
diversity, yet business’s experience of planning shows that the system is a serious
brake on economic growth, prosperity and jobs. It can’t be right that sensible
proposals to reform the planning system are portrayed as changes that will lead
to urban sprawl, environmental degradation and shoddy buildings.

As for the National Trust jumping up and down perhaps they should look at
their own record of development. They have built hundreds of new homes and have
planning permissions to build many more.

They apparently firmly believe that planning reforms should deliver
benefits to communities and the environment as well as the economy. However,
they have ridden rough shod over campaigners who were against their
developments and for which the gain has not been for the local community but
for the National Trust themselves.

The National Trust state that dice are heavily loaded to favour
development and local people simply won’t get enough say – Pot calling the
kettle black isn’t it?

Let us not forget the latest row that has seen the Campaign to Protect
Rural England (CPRE) accused of “gross hypocrisy” after receiving a
£620,000 grant to support neighbourhood planning.

Talk about cake and eat it. It’s gross hypocrisy for them to take
thousands of pounds of taxpayer’s cash to assist with the government’s planning
reforms yet at the same time be shamelessly opportunistic and attack them.

Their credibility is completely undermined and perhaps they should think
about paying their government funding back. But I bet they don’t.

This debate will rumble on but hopefully the Government will stick to its
guns.

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