Speaking at a Christmas Drinks Party organised by the Burghclere and Newton Branch of the North West Hampshire Conservatives, Sir George expressed concern about the Government's plans for an Independent Commission to make major planning decisions. Sir George was Minister for Planning from 1990- 1995.
"Let us remind ourselves of what the Chancellor said in his Pre Budget report."
“Just as we made monetary policy independent of Government—then financial services policy, and then competition policy and much of industry policy—it is time to adopt the same approach for planning. We will now consult on the proposal that in future, while Ministers will set policy guidelines, strategic decisions on location and planning permission for major infrastructure projects will be made outside of day-to-day political control and instead by an independent planning body.”
"I think that is pretty dangerous stuff , taking as it does the most sensitive decisions about planning away from the democratic process, with no accountability at all.
Ministers could set policy guidelines – every family should have a decent home; the UK should generate 50% of the power that it needs; airport capacity should increase in line with international travel; prison capacity should accommodate the requirement of the courts; asylum seekers should be housed in secure accommodation while their claims are processed - we could have a whole series of innocuous sounding policy guidelines. From that moment on, planning permission will be granted outside what Brown calls political control; but what I call the democratic process.
It is a further move in entirely the wrong direction, leading to yet more remote and unaccountable decisions. You can’t have a commission deciding whether and where we should have a new airport. We are a Parliamentary democracy, and Parliament will not stand for this further erosion in Ministerial answerability to the House of Commons."