In December 2005 the Chancellor and Deputy Prime Minister commissioned economist Kate Barker to independently review the land use planning system in England, focusing on the link between planning and economic growth. Her recommendations to improve the responsiveness, efficiency and transparency of the current system were published in The Barker Review of Land Use Planning this week.
The planning system has a profound impact on our quality of life, but the current system will come under increasing pressures in the coming decade.
Businesses, residents and others want a system that can continue to secure economic prosperity alongside vital social and environmental goals, Barker said.
Calling for a radical overhaul of the planning system for major infrastructure projects, including waste, Barker suggests that following full consultation ministers should set out Statements of Strategic Objectives. Regional planning bodies would then factor policies contained within the Statements into Regional Spatial Strategies. And decisions on individual applications could be taken up by an independent Planning Commission, consisting of a panel of experts drawn from various professional fields - cutting out ministerial decision making time.
Industry welcomed the report. CBI deputy director general John Cridland said: A sound planning system is vital to economic growth, but businesses have been badly hampered by the slowness and uncertainty of the current process. Kate Barkers recommendations signal a positive shift in planning culture, and we welcome a cutback in bureaucracy and a more pragmatic approach to minor applications.
While Environmental Services Association chief executive Dirk Hazell said:
In the next few years £10 billion of investment in new infrastructure will be needed for the UK to meet its environmental obligations and sustainably manage the countrys waste. We welcome these proposals to streamline the planning process, to make it clearer for developers and to reduce the time taken by local authorities to develop plans and consider applications.
But as Cridland concluded, the report has identified many concerns long-held by industry on the system. Now it is up to the Government to ensure her imaginative ideas to address them are swiftly implemented.