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Minister denies planning reforms will gag public

In the lead up to the release of the Planning Reform Bills full proposals, a minister has had to deny criticisms that changes will remove public rights to protest against incinerators and energy from waste plants. Minister for Local Government John Healey said that there would be more public consultation, transparency and scrutiny but added: Delays to projects caused by the complex planning process meant that communities did not get the infrastructure they needed to equip the country for the future. His comments were a response to claims by groups such as the Planning Disaster Coalition (PDC) and Friends of the Earth that reforms discussed in Mays Planning White Paper will remove the publics right to challenge projects at a public enquiry. Healey said: Delay must not be the objective of the planning system. He also added that slow processes suited campaigners against such projects. People need to feel that they have been listened to. People laying themselves down in front of bulldozers if they think that they have not been is not good. We want to deliver a fairer and faster system. We want a well informed debate as infrastructure is often controversial. He said that it is because of this controversy and lack of popularity for large projects, like incinerators, that counter arguments carry more weight. Healeys comments came as he addressed a CBI conference about the need for major infrastructure development in the UK. Another speaker, Campaign for the Protection of Rural England chief executive Shaun Spiers, added that planning has become polarised with distrust on both sides of the debate. He said: You dont get rid of complexity and controversy by elevating economic interests over the public and environment ones. Image: Minister for Local Government John Healey

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