Barker urges faster planning system

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The Independent Online

Proposals to speed up the planning system unveiled yesterday received a mixed response from business and outright opposition from environmental groups.

Kate Barker, a policymaker at the Bank of England, said the UK's system for granting planning permission for housing, energy and infrastructure projects, needed to be made more flexible and responsive to help business meets the challenges of globalisation.

Her interim report, commissioned by Gordon Brown in December, said local councils were taking longer to process planning applications, while the appeals system was too costly. "A world-class planning system needs to be flexible and deliver decisions efficiently and effectively," Ms Barker said. Her final report will appear ahead of the Chancellor's pre-Budget report expected in November.

The CBI, the UK's largest employers' group, said the report was a "welcome critique" of the failings of the system. Richard Lambert, its director general, said: "It is clear that the legislation dealing with big infrastructure needs special treatment and a radical reshape."

Green campaigners expressed concern. "This Treasury-commissioned report is an all-out attack on the regulations that safeguard our towns, villages and countryside," Tony Juniper, executive director of Friends of the Earth, said.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors said a further review was "misconceived" coming too soon after Ms Barker's inquiry into housebuilding.