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

    Comment number 465.

    I belong to wildlife groups, if you want to save some of our land join Woodland trust, this land is saved from developers also RSPB and Wildlife trust these can investigate when something dodgy appears to be happening in your area. I feel I am doing something positive instead of banging my head against planners/councils determination to desroy all green spaces for cement to cause floods a bit

  • Comment number 464.

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 463.

    It seems the UK lost the war against NIMBYs some time ago. Hence a lack of roads, rail, homes, future power supplies...//

    Rubbish. For homes, the problems are largely caused by the immigration led population boom. Immigrants have also caused wages to stagnate. Double whammy..

    In transport, the problems are mainly a failure to maintain what we've got, especially given increased use.

  • rate this

    Comment number 462.

    I too do not wish to hear about affordable housing. Affordable housing should NOT be a code-phrase for cheaply made shoeboxes. It should be decent housing, and we should bring the housing market under control such that decent housing doesn't involve enslavement to the bank for the rest of your life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 461.

    The idea of the green belt disappearing outside our towns and cities filla me with dread as we will have nothing left for future generations, Laws must change to allow for building of more modern apartment style sky scrapers in the Cities, planning law’s like those protecting the views of St Pauls, as anything that sacrifices the country because of the stubborn attitudes has to be stopped.

  • rate this

    Comment number 460.

    Remember all the fuss about the Newbury by-pass and the Twyford Down protests? Load of layabout tree-huggers getting in the way of progress. Now the roads have been built and everyone is happier. And there's still plenty of countryside to see.

  • rate this

    Comment number 459.

    I can back up what 357. roleypoley says. The main road through Lancaster *just about* copes with the traffic but as soon as there's any kind of problem (e.g. traffic lights stop working or roadworks) then it gridlocks and there's a mile-long backlog.

    More importantly though, the bypass would open up the deprived parts of northern Lancaster, which are in desperate need of development.

  • rate this

    Comment number 458.

    446. tabasco12
    'People seem to think this country is like Hong Kong. The reality is that we have plenty of open space'

    What they thought in Hong Kong when it was empty, no doubt.

    Another Government re-think based on response to 'market forces' AKA Whoever has the biggest bag of money. Did anyone really expect anything else from the Tories?

  • rate this

    Comment number 457.

    "The PM said on publication ... : "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."

    Yes, but he won't have to worry about bad planning and overcrowding affecting his life. He can have as much space around his property or move if there is something that will affect his quality of life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 456.

    433 MilfordHaven. If everyone in UK owned 2 houses there would be no trees/grass now. We have over 1 million empty properties plus well over 1 1/2 million 2nd home owners, yet millions people. To me one house 1 owner. Stop all building refurbish empty property , triple council tax for 2nd home owners to make them sell. Limit family to 2 kids only tax additional, send all illegals to own country

  • rate this

    Comment number 455.

    @445. where am I

    You perpetrate an urban myth.

    Plenty of places have regenerated their tumbledown Victorian industrial areas into modern living spaces. If the mix of housing and amenities is right people will move there.

  • rate this

    Comment number 454.

    Concrete the whole lot over.

    When you have done your worst nature will eventually restore balance.

    pity mankind will learn too late.

  • rate this

    Comment number 453.

    New houses being built near me cost £400k upwards. Small houses with tiny gardens that are not affordable to most anyway. And as for building 200 new roads whats the point. There are less road users as people can't aford to run a car. If they realy want to build something why dont they build a huge hole and throw all our tax dollars in it and then jump in to.

  • rate this

    Comment number 452.

    The re-development of a Victorian city centre area in my town shows the positive aspects of brownfield development.

    Many Victorian houses have been retained. Derelict ones have been demolished, and new mid-rise buildings with underground parking have replaced them.

    Result - higher density, higher quality housing with better roads and parking, all within minutes' walk of the city centre.

  • rate this

    Comment number 451.

    Build houses for "affordable rent". Lets stop this obsession with property ownership once and for all. it is at the root of the lack of social cohesion, homelessness, substandard housing and misery for millions of people in the UK.

  • Comment number 450.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 449.

    @446 tabasco12

    We have plenty of formal industrial sites to build. We shouldn't be destroying the already endangered woodlands.

  • rate this

    Comment number 448.

    Docklands was a brownfield sit. It was developed as a district project and its a desirable place to live. six houses in the middle of an industrial estate would not be so desirable.Develpers need to plan holistically not just for a quick turn over and a heavy purse.

  • rate this

    Comment number 447.

    I get sick of the word affordable. My son sold his after 3 yrs for £105,000 yet the affordable ones according to cameron is £275,000. Other son well over£100,000 less than "affordable" not yet sold. They can be affordable once only as the new owner will want to sell at the market price which could be 2 yrs after they buy it, making huge profit as they wont want to subsidize the next owner.

  • rate this

    Comment number 446.

    I see all of the usual cliched arguments for the UK to simply stand still on new infrastructure are out in force. People seem to think this country is like Hong Kong. The reality is that we have plenty of open space, some of which can be used for building new homes.
    It seems the UK lost the war against NIMBYs some time ago. Hence a lack of roads, rail, homes, future power supplies...


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