Campaigners angry at Growth and Infrastructure Bill

 
Countryside view in North Yorkshire Campaigners fear the landscape will be spoiled by developers

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Campaigners have accused the government of creating a developers' charter as its Growth and Infrastructure Bill was due to be debated in the Commons.

The government says the bill is needed to stimulate development.

But critics say it betrays ministers' promises to leave planning decisions to be made at local level.

They say it will rush through greenfield schemes for business and housing against the wishes of people living nearby.

Ministers have been persuaded that the planning system causes unnecessary delays to projects that will help the economy and create jobs.

The bill will create a fast-track for large-scale business and commercial projects which will allow decisions to be taken within 12 months.

Decisions on business and retail parks in future may be taken by the secretary of state in the first instance.

It will allow developers to submit plans directly to the national Planning Inspectorate where councils have a track record of poor performance.

The bill will relax rules on developers to deliver social housing, and make it easier to install broadband infrastructure.

It will also make it harder for residents to use "village green" rules to prevent development in their local area.

Start Quote

The bill is a poor recipe for delivering either growth or infrastructure”

End Quote John Hoad Campaign to Protect Rural England

The Campaign To Protect Rural England (CPRE) says the provisions make a mockery of the government's stated commitment to localism.

CPRE says the plans will spoil some of the UK's best-loved landscapes. It warns of a rash of "broadband clutter" in national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty.

It believes the bill will be counter-productive. John Hoad, head of planning at CPRE, said: "Government rhetoric about local planning inefficiency and bureaucracy holding up economic growth is a diversion from the real issue - lack of funding for development.

"The bill is a poor recipe for delivering either growth or infrastructure. The new laws, combined with the disingenuous message ministers are sending about unnecessary red tape, will seriously damage the capacity of the planning system to protect our countryside and environment and deliver the right growth in the right locations."

Village greens

The Open Spaces Society is particularly angered by changes to village green laws, which apply to any patches of open ground enjoyed by local people - not just in villages.

Kate Ashbrook, its general secretary, said: "The clause will make it difficult, if not downright impossible, to register land as a town or village green once it has been identified for development.

"The government wants to stop so-called 'vexatious' applications to register greens which, it claims, are being submitted solely to thwart development. In fact, few applications are purely vexatious and the clause has the effect of killing genuine applications too."

These and other green groups are also separately strongly opposing plans for almost 200 new road schemes in the countryside, which businesses say will help stimulate the economy.

The greens thought they had won the intellectual war over the economics of road building after the government's technical committee SACTRA warned in the 1990s that there was no guarantee that road building would stimulate jobs.

In fact, the committee said, new roads might actually drain economic activity from a depressed remote area.

CPRE president Sir Andrew Motion said: "New roads will ruin our precious landscape and produce even more misery-making bottlenecks and tailbacks. Other solutions are infinitely preferable - solutions that do not compromise unique and beautiful countryside."

'Aspiration nation'

He is especially concerned about plans for the Wye Valley; the green belt round Durham; the Peak District (Mottram-Tintwistle bypass); Blackdown Hills; and the Norfolk Broads.

The prime minister said on publication of the Growth Bill: "(This) is all about helping our country compete in the global race and building an aspiration nation where we back those who want to get on in life.

"We are slashing unnecessary bureaucracy, giving business the confidence to invest, unlocking big infrastructure projects and supporting hardworking people to realise their dreams."

The bill has been welcomed by developers who say the current rules inhibit projects in unintended ways.

For instance, the law allows councils to oblige developers to pay towards local infrastructure if they build, say, a new office block. It is a de facto development tax.

If developers want to vary a planning consent they are liable to pay a second fee that could run to millions of pounds for a very big scheme. The bill will stop this sort of double-charging.

Developers also say the rule obliging them to create social housing as part of private developments makes some schemes unviable. This too will be altered. And less paperwork will be needed for a planning application.

Labour's shadow planning minister, Roberta Blackman-Woods, said: "All in all the planning system and communities could be seriously damaged by this knee-jerk response to the government's economic failure."

Alister Scott, Professor of Environmental and Spatial Planning at Birmingham City University said: "The Bill is presented at a time when public confidence in politicians is at its lowest and ministers should not forget their populist mantra of localism, localism, localism.

"Now, amidst concerns that the wrong sort of localism might result, the government have seen fit to change the agenda in favour of Secretary of State centralism, centralism, centralism. Never has the planning system been in such a pickle."

Follow Roger on Twitter @rogerharrabin

 

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  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 25.

    @22, to be fair, a lot needs redevelopment, which often still means planning red tape.

    But yes, it would be better not to develop over more land while we have so much developed land going to waste.

    The real problem is that the party pushing this change wants to rig the economy on house prices, ignore the past, and not annoy their traditional supporters.

  • rate this
    +38

    Comment number 24.

    There is no need for large scale new developments. In Europe people live in the centre over the tops of shops. This gives landlords rent on three/four floors reducing the high cost of rents to small business thus encouraging more businesses into our towns. Reduces congestion, reinvigorates centres, helps reduce crime,affordable rents for all. Weak Government being coerced by big business again

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 23.

    @8. Paul
    Correct but Cameron made a promise to give local communities a say. It was much part of his election campaign and many will have voted for him because of that and all those other promises he made, which most have been U-turned. Developers are now king not the local people whose voice will be silenced. Just remember that in the next election.

  • rate this
    +65

    Comment number 22.

    Anyone travelling around the UK will know that the hinterland of any large town or city has miles and miles of warehousing type architecture. Lots of them have obvious vacancies. There is absolutely no need to build any infrastructure. It's already there. It is time to use what we already have.

  • rate this
    +50

    Comment number 21.

    Relaxing a few planning laws will NOT stimulate the economy.

    We have idiots in charge !!

  • rate this
    +75

    Comment number 20.

    Over 720,000 properties are empty just in England alone. Add that to the vast amount of empty shops and offices and there are more than enough properties to go round without wrecking the countryside.

    Most of the houses are owned by the minority rich who keep the prices high with no wish to sell. That is the main cause of the housing shortage.

    Oh, and the banks have all but stopped mortgages.

  • rate this
    +28

    Comment number 19.

    Does anyone actually believe a word that comes out of Cameron's mouth? From development to the EU, he will say what he knows we want to hear, and then do what he intended in the first place. We thought Gordon Brown was a useless PM. But this one we have now is a deliberate fraudster and with his mathematically chancellor and waste of space deputy, will continue to drag this country down.

  • rate this
    +27

    Comment number 18.

    An interesting policy from a party traditionally affiliated with landowners.

    Better provision for the installation of broadband? Good plan.

    Make it easier to ignore the electorates' opinions on building on our heritage? Um..

    Centralisation of decision making where councils have a "poor record"? Dubious.

    Relaxing social housing regulation? We're not in this together, are we mister Cameron?

  • rate this
    +38

    Comment number 17.

    If there is some green land locally used by people for more than 20 years for walking and other outdoor pastimes, get your village green application in NOW.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 16.

    With the population estimated to top 70 million soon, look forward to a new estate coming your way any day now. When the country is just wall to wall concrete, we can all starve to death in squaller.
    It's called sustainable developement, it will be good for growth.

  • rate this
    +51

    Comment number 15.

    So the government feels that growth depends on building houses and building offices for businesses to establish themselves in.
    Has anyone reported on how many unoccupied unaffordable houses and offices already exist?
    Developers want bg profits, green field sites means they don't have the headache and cost of clearing old industrial sites.

  • Comment number 14.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +33

    Comment number 13.

    A huge U_turn that has quietly taken place. People remember Cameron's promise to let local communities decide about development in their area but that will now be swepped away and few will realise it until suddenly open spaces will be built on. It is already happening in our twon where a large field will be built on to 'make it look tidy' and 'stop vandalism'. Public outcry was dismissed.

  • rate this
    +33

    Comment number 12.

    This bill is intended to help big business only, giving them an unfair advantage over smaller local business who don't have millions of pounds to give away for local infrastructure.

    If councils would actually let small companies in the local area expand their business by developing land, instead of shooting down anything that might look like economic progress. Then this would not be happening!

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 11.

    At Probus in Cornwall we been subjected to the dictates of the autocrats at Cornwall County Planning as a new estate has been build on the sight of a slaughter house. Each time residents have complained to the Parish council re the estate they have passed them on to CCC and CCC have ignored both residents and PPC. Contractors are given permission to do as they please, local planning ? Tosh

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 10.

    "And did those feet in ancient time....."
    Enough said.
    I wonder how some parliamentarians and others with vested interests in housing "development" would react to (unwelcome) estates being built in the fields and pasturelands next door to their own houses. Oh, it would be a different story then, wouldn't it.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 9.

    The rich get richer and the poor get walked all over. Whats the point of local Government?

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 8.

    7.chrislabiff
    Tory government, vested interests, profit.
    ---
    I think you'll find this goes for any government. I can remember the Labour party having a number of its members involved in financial sleaze and they were all involved with the expenses scandal. None of them are beyond reproach.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 7.

    Tory government, vested interests, profit.

    Look guys, just join the dots ok?

  • rate this
    -32

    Comment number 6.

    Unemployment falling .
    Record employment .
    GDP growing .
    Europe beating growth forcasts
    Borrowing down .

    And what do the BBC come up with .
    A few of their mates flu hung mud over coalition policy .

    Its not just the BBC news header bar that's red through and through .

 

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