Can Planning Happen More Quickly?

<p>Members of the British Parliament attempt to speed up the process for planning major projects. But some advocates and observers fear the public's voice will be muted.</p>
June 25, 2008, 12pm PDT | Larry Schooler
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"'The current planning system has been a major threat to Britain's economic future for many years,' says John Cridland, deputy director general of the employers' organisation the CBI.

'We simply do not develop major projects with the seriousness those projects deserve.

'At a time we're trying to ensure the lights stay on, next time we have a particularly cold winter, we have got to have a planning system which finds speedy and clear decisions about where infrastructure's going to be built. At present, it's hopeless.'

The bill proposes that the government should set out its vision for a variety of big build projects - airports, power stations, major roads, that sort of thing - in a series of what they are calling national policy statements.

A coalition of environmental and conservation charities, representing more than five million members, say democracy will be squeezed out of the process.

'The proposed developer will be the one carrying out the consultation - so that seems like a conflict of interest,' says Marina Pacheco, from the Council for the Protection of Rural England.

But while the effect of this new legislation will be felt in the towns and countryside, it is at Westminster where the decisions will be taken - and some MPs are saying that the Planning Bill is becoming as contentious an issue as the 42-day terror legislation."

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Published on Tuesday, June 24, 2008 in BBC
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