A Treasury commissioned report - The Barker review – is calling for England's planning system to be made quicker and simpler and more building on green belt land in England
The Barker Review of Land Use Planning also calls for a new independent planning body to grant consent on major proposals like airport extensions and major infrastructure projects, clearer planning guidance to ensure the economic benefit of developments are taken into account and reform of business rates on empty properties.
The report's author - Treasury economist Kate Barker – makes the point that just under 13.5% of England is actually developed, while the protected green belt surrounding cities covers almost 13% of the country and much of it is low-value agricultural land with little landscape quality and limited public access.
Environmentalists fear the proposals hint at more construction on green belt land and that projects like airport extensions, motorways and new energy plants would be passed by the new planning body irrespective of local objections.
The report states that: "Regional and local planning bodies should review their green belt boundaries to ensure they remain relevant and appropriate."
Critics of the current planning system, especially businesses, have maintained for some time that the creation of a new national planning body is vital.
They argue that, at present, some local councillors are reluctant to take difficult planning decisions in the face of political pressures, such as strong local opposition to a new housing schemes.
The government will deliver a new White Paper on planning in March 2007 and it is expected to incorporate some of the Barker Review's recommendations.
ECONOMIC PARTNERSHIP COMMENT
This report comes at a time when most local authorities are preparing their Local Development Schemes (LDS), which will replace their Local Plans. The LDS will determine the framework for development for the next 20 years and is subject to strict consultation timetables (see earlier story in Knowledgebase Local Plan replacement. 2nd October ).
For a city like Brighton & Hove with very little land and some controversial development proposals the review is timely. There is resistance from some quarters to the development of the urban fringe even though most of it is of very poor landscape quality and some of it would actually be improved by development e.g. Toad’s Hole Valley.
The report’s recommendations about establishing a new planning body for large scale developments will meet with resistance from residents but may not be as controversial amongst politicians who are often burdened with the needs of tomorrow’s generations competing with the wants of today’s.
A prominent local Conservative politician made a plea some time ago for the decision on the King Alfred development to be decided by the Government Office for the South East (GOSE) because it was too controversial to be determined locally (see earlier story in Knowledgebase Conservatives ask for King Alfred to bypass planning committee. 31st march 2006)
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Toad's Hole Valley