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Planning disaster

The government is proposing important changes to the planning system for ‘Major Infrastructure Projects’ (MIPs). A consultation is in progress.

New airport runways are classed as MIPs, as are any airport expansions of more than 5 million passengers per year. They would be processed by a different planning scheme, involving National Policy Statements and an Infrastructure Planning Commission.

This is of real concern to any community threatened by huge new developments, so it is very relevant for those living near, or affected by, airports and their growth.

The key issue is that objectors will not be able to argue at a public inquiry against or in favour of a scheme on strategic grounds, for example national policy, economic justification or climate change. CPRE (Campaign for Preservation of Rural England) has produced a short summary.

CPRE briefing

The Government’s Planning White Paper was released on 22nd May, and will fast-track massive and damaging new developments, increase UK CO2 emissions, and reduce the right of local people to object to schemes that threaten their communities. Green campaigners have condemned ministers for “steamrollering” objections to major new schemes for nuclear power stations, airport runways, motorways, waste incinerators and even wind farms. People fear the proposals for Major Infrastructure Projects (MIPs) will reduce the level of real community involvement in deciding what gets built in their local area.

Members of the public have until 17th August 2007 to respond to the Government’s proposals.

The Barker Report suggested there should be a presumption in favour of development, and proposed the creation of an independent Planning Commission to take decisions on major infrastructure projects, such as major roads, nuclear power stations, waste incinerators or airports. The Eddington Transport study made similar proposals for streamlining these contentious planning decisions. Where in the past, at planning inquiries, it was possible to challenge the economic justification for an airport development, this would no longer be the case, if the Planning Disaster is streamlined.

The Government wants to fast track new major developments – whether people want them or not. The Planning White Paper will effectively silence local opposition to big polluting projects. The White Paper proposes new National Policy Statements, and an Infrastructure Planning Commission, in order to process MIPs.

Contained in the White Paper are proposals to:

  • Streamline major projects like nuclear power stations, airports, major roads and large incinerators
  • Stop you from having a say by removing your right to be heard in Public Inquiries and local plans.

Communities throughout the UK will be faced with new power stations, nuclear waste sites and other major energy projects. Plans for airports, major roads and large waste incinerators will affect England only. These proposals will lead to a major increase in CO2 emissions – at odds with the Government’s aim to tackle climate change.

Action and more information

For more details of the consultation, see the website of the Department for Communities and Local Government, at http://www.communities.gov.uk/index.asp?id=1510731

To see the whole White Paper (it is over 200 pages long) see White Paper -“Planning for a Sustainable Future” http://www.communities.gov.uk/pub/669/PlanningforaSustainableFutureWhitePaper_id1510669.pdf

A coalition to fight the proposals has been set up called ‘Planning Disaster’ and web site launched: http://www.planningdisaster.co.uk/

The Coalition want as many people as possible to send in comments, to the Dept for Communities and Local Government, by the deadline (17th August). See web references for details.