The Independent’s planning map

Today’s front page of the Independent shows this government’s list of major projects that it would now like to push through. The paper are right that some of these will prove highly controversial, and some may be misjudged. The overall impression, however, is how few there are after a long decade of practically no expansions of capacity for rail, road, power generation or water supply. This government has invited in millions of new people, demanded major housebuilding and shop and factory building programmes from the private sector, yet has done nothing to expand the capacity of the main networks where it is the owner or the main instigator and regulator. The Independent’s map shows that the South east will still be very short of road and rail capacity, with nothing major planned.

Having wasted eleven years the government now claims to be in a hurry. That is why we face its horrible Planning Bill again this week, seeking to transfer the responsibility for major planning decisions to an unelected quango away from elected Ministers and Councillors. What we need is a government with foresight and powers of persuasion to allow the development of the new capacity we need on all our major networks – a government prepared to spend on compensation to homeowners where their amenity is adversely affected by new developments. Instead we have a government which wants to fight another battle against our right to a hearing and representation, as they seek to make the planning process even more remote from individuals affected by major projects. Far from speeding up planning decisions on these major projects, this Planning Bill is slowing them down, by taking yet another year out to have a constitutional battle over how to do it instead. Why can’t they just get on with it under the existing system? Why have they left it all so late? Why do we need yet another quango when we are already groaning under the number of planners and the complexity of the system? Why don’t they at least get rid of English regional planning at the same time, so we have a few major national projects decided nationally, and the rest settled by local government?


  1. backofanenvelope
    June 24, 2008

    Lots of "why don't theys" in that piece.

    Answer – because they are a bunch of prats!

  2. NigelC
    June 24, 2008

    Yesterday Herts County Council launched a judicial review of the first regional plan, the East of England Regional Spatial Strategy saying the Government had not complied with its own planning process

  3. Letters From A Tory
    June 24, 2008

    Labour know they are running out of time and bulldozing through planning projects is the only way that they can give the illusion that they are supporting the UK economy and energy industry.

    They had every chance to solve a lot of our energy and economic problems over the last 11 years, and they've only just realised how screwed we all are.

  4. paul coombes
    June 24, 2008

    I’m a bit confused mainly, I suspect, due to my own ignorance. You say “so we have a few major national projects decided nationally”. Does that mean that currently there is a system whereby national projects can be decided nationally from which I would infer that this proposed new QuANGO would take its place, or do you mean that you would like to see some other new method of national projects being decided nationally instead this new QuANGO? I hope that makes sense.

    Reply: Today some projects are decided nationally by Ministers on an Inspectors Report. Under the new system the government would lay down policies, then national issues would be decided by a new quango. We do not need the quango in my view.

  5. mikestallard
    June 24, 2008

    For those of us who are conspiracy theorists against the EU, the new planning law is quite simple:
    The Regional Authorities have their plans which, of course, in true Soviet style, demand housing for the proletariat – sorry eco towns. These ghastly outrages on otherwise beautiful Polish/English countryside have to be rammed through somehow.
    Therefore we need a central Commissariat to do that.

    The other evening a Conservative Housing Minister came on TV and spoke the most sensible words: let local people decide planning and, where we think fit, we will actually subsidise them. I thought that really made sense.

    My next door neighbour but one has just chopped down a large and beautiful silver birch in his garden. I was so outraged that I actually allowed myself a sarcastic remark to the (totally innocent) tree surgeons who did the destruction! Nthing like local planning to get people aereated.

  6. William B.
    June 25, 2008

    Local councils around the country take their responsibilities for planning very seriously. Hearings are in public and often well attended, there is some "ya-boo" intervention from spectators from time-to-time but far less often than one might fear.

    When Mr and Mrs Bloggins submit a written objection to their neighbour's application to build an extension which will reduce light to their garden they are not dismissed as NIMBY-ists by the planning officers, their objection is considered and weighed and reasons are always given if it is overruled. Indeed, Mr and Mrs Bloggins are often visited in person by a planning officer so that they can show how their garden will be affected and explain why they are concerned. If their objection is overruled they will often (but by no means always) accept that decision because they have been given a fair hearing.

    The planning system is an excellent example of the effectiveness of having decisions taken at a local level following fair and open consideration. Not only is such a system likely to result in decisions which are acceptable to the local people, but it gives reassurance that people can have a say on matters which affect their everyday lives.

    The more remote the decision-maker, the greater the chance for discontent. Those of a statist disposition will approach such a prospect with equanimity, those who value personal independence, fairness and accountability will not.

    This awful Planning Bill seems to be yet another example of the removal of powers away from local people. Whether it leads to objectively "better" decisions is a moot point, but it will undoubtedly make people feel that they have less and less of a say in decisions that affect them and that is, in my opinion, to be avoided wherever possible.

  7. Susan
    June 27, 2008

    Yes, of course it does. But why isn't DC saying this? Mr Redwood, you have never strayed from your convictions and I respect you for that. However, it's getting to the point where I don't know what the Conservatives represent. A pinch of that and a pinch of the other won't convince those of the electorate who think about politics and life and recognise how they impact on each other. More needs to be done by DC and his front bench.

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