Sir George attacks Government planning proposals
5 Jul 2002
Sir George Young pledged that he would resist Government plans to centralise the planning system and Liberal Democrat proposals to take many planning decisions at a distant regional level. While a cross-party House of Commons Committee condemned Labour¡¦s plans as ¡§unworkable¡¨, Gordon Brown and John Prescott are expected to announce soon further proposals to weaken planning protection against housebuilding on greenfield sites.

¡§There is overwhelming opposition to Labour¡¦s ill thought-out planning proposals. Their changes will be bad for business, bad for democracy and bad for the environment. They would allow decisions on major housing development near Andover and Basingstoke to be imposed by Whitehall on environmentally sensitive areas and green fields, ignoring the views of local residents."

¡§By contrast, we pledge to protect local communities¡¦ say on planning decisions and safeguard the role of local councils. Instead, we want to strengthen the role of local councils by abolishing national and regional housebuilding targets. Rather than building more executive homes on the Green Belt, we need to focus on regenerating our existing towns and cities, and ensure there is more affordable housing to buy and rent in urban areas."

¡§Yet Liberal Democrats offer nothing better. Despite what they may say locally, their national party wants housebuilding and spatial planning decisions to be taken at a regional, not a local level. This would mean that politicians and bureaucrats in Guildford could impose sprawling housing estates on Andover and Oakley, irrespective of local wishes.¡¨

Notes to Editors
- The Government¡¦s Planning Green Paper weakens local communities¡¦ involvement in planning in a number of ways (published 12 December 2001,
„h Structure Plans will be abolished removing county councils¡¦ role in planning (p.16);
„h More decisions will be taken at a regional level, with the introduction of new ¡¥regional spatial strategies¡¦ (p.21).
„h National statements on infrastructure will override local views (p.27), and decisions on major infrastructure projects will be decided centrally - removing councils¡¦ involvement (p.49).
„h A new central government quango ¡V the ¡¥local planning advisory service¡¦ will interfere in the decisions of local authorities (p.57).
„h A new stealth tax on development, harming businesses (p.59).
„h 90% of planning decisions will be decided by officers rather than councillors (p.58).

Further proposals are expected to weaken planning protection (cited in Sunday Times, 30 June 2002).

- The cross-party House of Commons Transport, Local Government & the Regions Select Committee published its report on the Government¡¦s Planning Green Paper on 1 July 2002.
It commented, ¡§we conclude that the Government¡¦s proposals are unworkable¡K the overall result would be a more contentious, expensive, uncertain and time consuming system¡¨ (p.41), ¡§it largely ignores the environment¡¨ (p.45), ¡§the Government¡¦s proposals for tariffs would replace one form of complexity with another¡¨ (p.46), ¡§the 90 per cent target [of planning decisions to be decided by officers] is arbitrary and no justification was given for it¡¨ (p.44), ¡§the public would also lose confidence in the inquiry system since long established rights of hearing would be restricted¡¨ (p.47).

- The Liberal Democrats¡¦ proposals for regional government (Don Foster, Empowering the People: Plans for Strong Regional Government, February 2002), involve ¡§spatial planning (including housing numbers)¡¨ being decided at a distant regional level, not a local level (p.4)
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