Significant changes to Britain's planning laws will make it easier and faster for businesses to build new houses and develop commercial premises. Under proposals set out in documents released by the Treasury, local authorities will be ordered to "prioritise growth and jobs" when making planning decisions. But the new central diktat runs counter to the Government's stated localism agenda, which pledged to devolve more power and responsibility to local communities. "Residents need to have a say on plans which will change the shape of their towns, cities and villages," said Gary Porter of the Local Government Association. "Democratically-elected councillors need to be able to make decisions that reflect the aspirations and needs of the people and businesses in their areas." Ministers claim they have been forced to act because the cost of getting planning approval in the UK can be up to 10 times more than elsewhere in Europe and is now a significant concern to overseas investors. To address this, they plan to force local authorities to deal with all planning applications and appeals within 12 months. They also intend to fast-track planning for major infrastructure projects and legislate to impose a duty on local authorities to "co-operate" on planning. The proposals have already led to concerns that local objections will be overruled and inappropriate developments given the go-ahead "on the nod".
"The Chancellor has announced a weakening in the protection for the countryside and green space with changes to the planning system, putting precious landscapes and habitats in even greater risk," said the Green Party leader Caroline Lucas.