Government to press ahead with planning reforms

The Government is determined to press ahead with planning reforms, according to two of its senior figures.

"No one should underestimate our determination to win this battle," Chancellor George Osborne and Communities Secretary Eric Pickles write in today's Financial Times.

The draft National Planning Policy Framework was published in July, with a presumption in favour of sustainable growth, but critics have raised concerns that it will lead to a return to damaging development.

Planning minister Greg Clark told The Times on Saturday that he was prepared to sit down and discuss the demands of the National Trust and other groups, saying he was ready to discuss opponents' views with them, though he warned there would be no backing down on the overall thrust of the proposals to simplify English planning laws in an attempt to trigger growth.

Any change would be to the "wording" of the document to express more clearly protections for the countryside.

Today Mr Osborne and Mr Pickles said that planning reform is key to economic recovery.

"Opponents claim, falsely, the government is putting the countryside in peril.

"We say that sticking with the old, failed planning system puts at risk young people's future prosperity and quality of life."

Planning delays cost the economy £3bn a year, and reform is imperative, they write.

"The house building slump was due to a range of factors, but a complex and adversarial planning system, which left many communities resentful, was part of the problem."

The new Policy Framework will pave the way for swifter, clearer decisions, and the presumption in favour of sustainable development means the answers to proposals for responsible, careful growth should be "yes", unless there are strong reasons to the contrary.

"The idea that presumption in favour means that growth will be able to take place wherever, whenever and however is false."

Protections for the green belt, national parks and areas of outstanding beauty would continue.

"The framework insists on high environmental standards and good design. Poorly-designed and poorly-located development is in no-one's interest."