Major changes to planning process revealed

Proposals to save businesses and councils £300m a year by cutting red tape in the planning application process will be set out today in a review published alongside the Pre-Budget Report.

The Killian Pretty review calls for almost 40 per cent of minor applications by businesses to be removed from the planning system altogether, allowing small-scale alterations and extensions to go ahead more quickly.

And it recommends improvements to the pre-application phase to iron out potential problems early and avoid lengthy delays later in the process.

Planning minister Margaret Beckett said that, where possible, the Government will take forward the report's proposals "as a matter of urgency".

"We believe this is a thorough analysis that pinpoints where the application process can free up resources and be much less bureaucratic," she said.

"I am determined that we do everything we can to tackle today's economic challenges head on. It is vital that when the economy begins to recover that people find a re-invigorated and leaner planning system."

A recent World Bank assessment found that while the UK is rated the sixth most attractive economy to invest in worldwide, its planning and licensing regulations are placed 61st - behind countries like Kenya, South Korea and Colombia.

The review of planning regulations by Essex County Council chief executive Joanna Killian and former Barratt Developments chief executive David Pretty was commissioned in March by the Communities and Business Secretaries.

Its recommendations include a "significant" reduction in the paperwork required from applicants, a reduction in the number of conditions imposed on projects, the improvement of administrative processing of applications and clear and faster planning obligation agreements.

Communities Secretary Hazel Blears welcomed today's report: "People often tell me they are confused and exasperated by the planning system. The system must keep the safeguards that ensure the right decisions are made, but unnecessary bureaucracy and a lack of clarity aren't just annoying, they're costly too.

"We urgently need to unburden our economy, business and stretched council resources by creating a more proportionate and efficient planning application service.

"The Killian Pretty plan can save £300m a year and prevent the unnecessary planning red tape hurting our economy. People need a re-invigorated and leaner system in place."

Business Secretary Lord Mandelson added: "Business is facing tough challenges and we need bold new thinking and approaches to help us tackle the current global downturn.

"Freeing up the system, taking out up to 40 per cent of minor commercial planning applications, would give a much needed boost to business, saving time and money, generating more investment and delivering estimated savings of £300m to the UK economy."