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Ministers need to be bold with planning laws
6:20pm Wednesday 12th September 2012 in Business
RADICAL change is need in the planning system to kick-start real development, create jobs and the economic growth that goes alongside it, writes Ross Smith.
Last week's Government announcement that it was to relax planning legislation has the potential to provide much-needed stimulus to the construction industry. By removing the red tape and bureaucracy that surround planning applications many people and companies will escape months of form-filling, expense, and potentially a lengthy decision-making process.
Ministers should continue to be bold with planning legislation. Hopefully, if successful, these new rights could continue indefinitely, rather than a short term measure.
The reduction in planning applications and decisions for local planners will also free up council time to work on other aspects of planning reform, including getting Local Plans in place to attract economic growth to the North-East.
Firms will also welcome the proposals for businesses to be able to have decisions taken by the Planning Inspectorate rather than councils. Research by the British Chambers of Commerce demonstrates that many councils override advice from their planning officers when it comes to key decisions, meaning that many applications are being turned down for political reasons rather than on their merits.
Planners are not enemies of enterprise, they are vital partners in it.
The North-East is going to need planning to work effectively in the next few years. Our capacity for greater growth in the North-East is one of our biggest competitive advantages and the quality of our planning services needs to back that up.
The Government's National Planning Policy Framework should on balance make it easier to deliver that.
But while much has been made about its presumption in favour of economic growth, its real emphasis is on a presumption in favour of an areas local plan.
We need effective documents, based on strong consultation with businesses, that give a clear signal to the market about the type of development that will be welcomed in our region.
The problem is that local government budgets have been cut more severely than the rest of Whitehall spending. North East budgets have been cut more severely than the rest of local government. And planning budgets have been cut more severely than the rest of town hall services.
This is yet another example where public sectors cuts have hit our region hardest, but businesses have been doing all they can to improve the economy, hopefully this new approach to planning policy from the Government is a signal that it might just be ready to match our commitment.