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    Reform of the planning system

    A Government Green Paper on what looks like being the most fundamental change to the planning system was published [in January 2002]. ‘Delivering a Fundamental Change’ along with three ‘daughter documents’ on compulsory purchase orders, major infrastructure projects, and planning obligations, is the start of a journey by Lord Falconer to change the culture of planning from an obstacle to progress, to a proactive means of bringing forward the right kind of development.

    The main proposals are:

    1. Abolition of structure plans, local plans, and unitary development plans and their replacement with local development frameworks.

    2. Replacement of regional planning guidance with statutory regional spatial strategies. These to be prepared by a steering group including regional development agencies and representatives of public, business and voluntary sectors but still passed in final form by the Secretary of State.

    3. For major applications, local authorities and developers to agree at the outset a timetable for delivering a decision.

    4. Reduction in number of statutory consultees and setting of a statutory timescale for responses.

    5. Establishment of business planning zones where no consent would be necessary for development in accordance with tightly defined parameters.

    6. Outline planning consents replaced by a new system of master-planning.

    7. Time for lodging appeals reduced from six to three months.

    8. Twin tracking and repeated applications to be abolished.

    9. Government to set statutory targets for delivering decisions on call-ins and recovered appeals.

    There are many more proposals too numerous to quote here but an electronic version of the paper is available online.

    Nationally the Chambers’ immediate response to the Green Paper has been positive. The document recognises our major concerns about the impact of planning on economic competitiveness and attempts to address a range of issues around layers of bureaucracy, unwieldy development plans and inefficient processing of planning applications. Consultation on the Green Paper lasts until 18 March and [the] Chamber will be adding its opinion to the national viewpoint from British Chambers as well as adding to the debates within the South West Regional Assembly and the West of England Strategic Partnership.

    All the members of the Chambers ‘e-consultation’ group, Sounding Board, have been consulted and may have registered their interest and willingness to respond, but the changes indicted are wide ranging and radical and all consultees will need time to consider the implications.

    “Bristol Chamber of Commerce Business Update” February 2002