Big construction projects should be easier, peers argue

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Peers have called on the government to simplify the planning system for large infrastructure projects.

Labour's Lord Berkeley, who sits on the board of several transport bodies such as the European Rail Freight Association and the Aviation Environment Federation, said he wanted to "streamline and simplify the regime in order to reduce the delay, cost, uncertainty and risk in delivering some of these big projects".

He added it was "depressing and discouraging" the Department for Transport had not delivered national policy statements on railways, the road network and rail interchanges.

Conservative and former Environment Secretary Lord Jenkin of Roding also put his name to Lord Berkeley's proposals, put forward at committee stage of the Growth and Infrastructure Bill on 4 February 2013.

Lord Jenkin suggested, in reference to onerous paperwork for developers, that "one way of dealing with that could be to improve the pre-application process".

Responding for the opposition, Labour spokesman Lord Adonis recognised that simplifying the system would help reduce the cost to businesses of lengthy planning applications.

"In the present economic downturn where businesses are under so much pressure, the Planning Inspectorate, like other parts of the public service, should seek to keep its costs and charges down to an absolute minimum," Lord Adonis said.

Communities and Local Government spokesman Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon told peers: "The government certainly are sensitive to concerns about the challenge for developers of effectively co-ordinating various application processes for a range of consents across a range of departments and government agencies."

Lord Ahmad explained ministers "are taking forward a range of actions to address this concern", such as the introduction of a single development consent order.

The bill is intended to promote investment in infrastructure projects and reduce delays in the planning system.

Under the plans, some infrastructure projects will be referred to the secretary of state, rather than local planning authorities, to be determined within a 12-month timetable.

Most of the provisions in the bill will apply only in England.

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