Government warned on ‘over simplifying’ planning rules

In what is being hailed as the biggest shake up of the planning system since the Town and Country Planning Act of 1947 the Government is set to transform the British system.

However, sustainable professionals – who are still pouring over the document – have already voiced concerns the move to simplify the current guidance is going too far.

The coalition Government today (July 25) put its draft National Planning Policy Framework out for a 12 week consultation.

In the guidance more than 1000 pages of planning rules have been ‘streamlined’ into 52 pages of policy aimed at making the country more sustainable.

The hope is the document will make it easier for major energy infrastructure improvements to be carried out, while also improving transport and protecting the natural environment.

As expected the draft confirms the Government’s view that planning plays an important role in tackling climate change and making the transition to a low carbon economy.

In the document support for energy efficiency improvements to existing buildings are outlined.

While is also backs expansion in renewables and for low carbon energy infrastructure, including community-led initiatives.

The framework also offers support for the electric car, by ‘encouraging’ decision makers to provide charging points.

Minister for communities and local government, Greg Clark, branded the current guidance ‘unwieldy and complex’.

He said: “National planning policy and central government guidance has become so bloated that it now contains more words than the complete works of Shakespeare, making it impenetrable to ordinary people.

“Today’s proposals set out national planning policy more concisely, and in doing so make clearer the importance of planning to safeguarding our extraordinary environment and meeting the needs of communities, now and in the future.”

Home Builders Federation executive chairman, Stewart Baseley, said the implementation of the guidance would be crucial.

He said: “How local authorities implement the policy remains critical and will require a change of culture across the board if it is to be transformational.

“This is the most important planning document since the Town and Country Planning Act of 1947 – it is vital we get it right.”

Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) director general, Tom Foulkes, was concerned the condensed rules were too simple.

He said: “It’s absolutely imperative that we make the planning system more ‘user-friendly’ to ensure over-complicated applications and processing delays do not deter investors as they have done in the past.

“However we would warn against over-simplifying such an important area of guidance which must deal effectively with infrastructure projects that are crucial to both the national and local economies.

“Delivering the next generation of low carbon infrastructure – that economic growth, international competitiveness and quality of life relies on – requires a predictable, democratic and swift planning process that builds confidence within industry.”

Luke Walsh

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie