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
    +6

    Comment number 505.

    @504 angry_of_garston

    "I have learned to take politicians promises whilst out of power with a large pinch of disbelief."

    The ones IN POWER are worse, trust me!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 504.

    I have learned to take politicians promises whilst out of power with a large pinch of disbelief.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 503.

    While this debate is not just about housing it does mean developers not having to listen to local comment. district councils already overide local people so lets stop this.
    House, affordable or not need a reformed standard of quality, The sizes of rooms are inadequate -the smallest 'bed'room are only just big enough to get a cot and chest of drawers in- In my opinion,not a 'bedroom.'

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 502.

    I find "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." concerning. I think it important that greedy developers bear the cost of the necessary infrastructure including car parking that is necessary to support their development. Think of large retail park in a gridlocked area of the city.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 501.

    #492. Derpsworth
    Still waiting for evidence that the amount of land used for development (houses, roads etc) is doing anything other than increasing, which is actualy what the post was about. Feel free to send me a link to something else irrelevant. alternatively try and answer the question.

  • Comment number 500.

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

  • Comment number 499.

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

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 498.

    It will be fairer than powerful councillors protecting their areas whilst allowing development elsewhere. Currently, majority group councillors can protect their own backyards from development whilst allowing it all over the place elsewhere. I personally would like to see people like Cameron with pig farms at the end of their gardens and dual carriage ways bisecting their pretty little villages.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 497.

    486.
    Merlin from London
    A tax on unused dwellings and second homes might be better but of course that would hurt the people who keep our pseudo-democratic political elite in business
    ------
    Many "unused" dwellings are in the hands of relatives of deceased, trying to sell them. You wish to penalise them? Many 2nd homes are owned by landlords, overtax them and you kill the rented sector. You choose.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 496.

    491.Leodisthefirst
    lol, what is that? some kind of insult? Its a username - rather than being a dig at me, it shows you're just being childish. Grow up.
    Urbanised? 10.6% of England, 1.9% of Scotland, 3.6% of Northern Ireland and 4.1% of Wales - hardly the apocalypse.
    Our major cities dont need more people or businesses - build on green and there will STILL be a zillion acres of green left

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 495.

    487

    Im an ethical adviser and a member of UKSIF. So to point out I am not responsible for the mess you may be in. I have a good standard of living and its not at the expense of others.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 494.

    490.CensorMeQuick

    There is plenty of space but the filthy rich do not want us to get our grubby mitts on it.

    "
    More than a third of Britain’s land is still in the hands of a tiny group of aristocrats, according to the most extensive ownership survey in nearly 140 years.

    A group of 36,000 individuals – only 0.6 per cent of the population – own 50 per cent of rural land. " (Mail)

  • rate this
    -5

    Comment number 493.

    paople need houses .As far as planning is concerned the NIMBY reigns suprime .THe nimby has his house but will not approve anything new near him . The present planning structure works on the idea of dont pass anything at any cost and if you have to approve delay as long as possible the result is that aleardy expensive housing costs even more .

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 492.

    489.ukblahblahblacksheep
    The idea of 'concrete sprawl' is neither daft nor an idea"

    Oh really?
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-18623096
    98.5% of the UK says otherwise

    most of the UK is barely populated:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/interactive/2011/jun/30/uk-population-mapped

    Also, we import nearly half of all the food we consume at the same as time paying farmers not to farm

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 491.

    @476. Dipswitch

    You have confused 'built on' with 'urbanised'.The grass verge outside my house is not 'built on', but it is urbanised - as is 10% of the land.

    Only 1/5 of UK land is suitable for crop production and it is that area which is up for grabs. Reduce the productive area and there will be less food to go round. Up the population at the same time and you make matters worse.

  • Comment number 490.

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

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 489.

    #476. Derpsworth

    The idea of 'concrete sprawl' is neither daft nor an idea.. it is happening all the time. Deny reality if you want, you won't be able to provide any evidence to the contrary.

    So... what is an acceptable %? Do we need to bother to produce food in the UK?

    Population Growth and the chaos of the Capitalist Free-Market are the
    principle problems. There are solutions to both.

  • Comment number 488.

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

  • Comment number 487.

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

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 486.

    A tax on unused dwellings and second homes might be better but of course that would hurt the people who keep our pseudo-democratic political elite in business (unfortunately that elite includes Labour as well).

    No doubt supermarket chains will find it easier to put small shopkeepers out of business and won't have to repeat planning applications until local opposition is exhausted, as at present.

 

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