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      Queen’s Speech stresses importance of planning and housing reforms

    The Government has stressed that major planning and housing reforms are central to the latest legislative programme announced in the Queen’s Speech.

    Parliament will be considering no fewer than five separate Bills (one in draft form) over the next nine months which will provide the planning system with major challenges and opportunities.

    Communities and Local Government is expected to publish two of the measures – the Planning Reform Bill and the Housing and Regeneration Bill – shortly.

    The former will establish:

    • an independent infrastructure planning commission
    • a single consent regime for nationally significant projects like power stations, reservoirs and airports
    • changes in the regulations for local development plan documents
    • new arrangements to allow local authorities to decide appeals on minor planning applications
    • the new-look Housing and Planning Delivery Grant system.

    The latter Bill will underpin the merger of the Housing Corporation and English Partnerships in a new body called the Homes and Communities Agency. It will also flesh out the Government’s new housing provision targets, help the delivery of more affordable housing and aid the creation of ten eco towns. The legislation will also introduce the new statutory planning charge, the alternative to the Government ‘s earlier proposals for a Planning Gain Supplement.

    The Government has indicated that more than 50 separate bids had been made for eco-town schemes.

    Also due to be published shortly is the Government’s Climate Change Bill This will spearhead the Government ‘s drive towards a low carbon economy, reinforce the moves to low and zero carbon new development and require ministers to look at how the UK will adapt to the impact of climate change. This will emphasise the key role of the planning system.

    Due in the next couple of months is the Energy Bill, widely expected to help start a programme of new nuclear power stations, usher in major reforms in the consent and licensing regimes for power lines, gas infrastructure schemes and change the rules on financial help for renewable energy schemes, which will be a major determinant of the sort of projects queuing for planning permission.

    Ministers have also promised a draft Marine Bill which will set out a new planning regime offshore.

    Communities secretary Hazel Blears said: “The Government is facing up to the big challenges that we face as a nation – climate change, globalisation, energy security and demographic change.

    “The Bills announced in the Queen’s Speech will help us achieve this by delivering a better planning system for infrastructure and better homes”.

    Read the Communities and Local Government press release on the Queen’s Speech