The Prime Minister’s pledge to put reforms of the planning system at the heart of the drive for economic growth has to be greeted with cautious optimism.
19 November 2012 announcement
David Cameron announced on November 19, in a speech to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), that the pursuit of economic growth will now come before all other concerns.
The Prime Minister told business leaders that to ensure Britain keeps its place in the top tier of world economies; he is willing to put previous concerns aside and “throw everything we’ve got at winning in this global race”.
Plans include strict new curbs on the legal right to ask for a judge to review controversial planning decisions. The rules, he said, are being abused to frustrate economically vital developments and solicitors and campaign groups are fuelling a massive growth industry of seeking judicial reviews of planning decisions.
Planning reforms to out strip barriers to investment
Our National Head of Planning, Mark Dodds said: “We welcome Mr Cameron’s commitment to planning reforms and to stripping away the barriers to investment. Frivolous objections to planning applications don’t benefit anybody but, of course, there have to be checks and balances in the system.
“This latest announcement reflects the Government’s new initiative in terms of coupling and associating tax rises and a greater tax take with investment in new infrastructure projects to drive the economic recovery - such as new internet infrastructure, new energy infrastructure, additional runway capacity and HS2. We will have to wait and see if it is another example of announcements being big on content but light on actual impact.
“The interesting point will be whether the response from some sectors of the press, whose misinformed and misguided campaign against planning reform last year undermined the initiatives included in the National Planning Policy Framework, will continue to stand up or whether the Government’s strategy will be better managed and presented and more focused on specific objectives and schemes.”
He added: “The rumblings from the press recently appear ominous. The strategy to expand internet and 3G and 4G networks was criticised for encouraging the unfettered building of masts and satellite dishes in our national parks.”
Time-wasting by judicial review applicants
Mr Cameron told the CBI that many judicial review applicants are guilty of “time-wasting” and bringing “hopeless cases” simply to waste developers’ time. He outlined a number of changes the Government wants to make, including shortening the three-month time limit on applying for a review.
Charges for an application will rise and the number of possible appeals against decisions will be cut from four to two. The current rules encourage “weak or ill-conceived cases which are submitted even when the applicant knows they have no chance of success”.
It added that the number of applications for judicial review rose from 160 in 1975 to 11,200 last year. Only around one in six applications is actually granted.
Mr Cameron’s assault on planning laws comes just months after the Coalition concluded what was said to be a far-reaching reform of the planning rules. The introduction of the National Planning Policy Framework led to major protests from campaign groups, which warned that it would lead to unrestrained building on rural land.