New planning laws will speed up inquiries

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Controversial new rules for "faster and fairer" planning inquiries into projects such as airports were laid before Parliament yesterday.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton, the Planning minister, declared that the changes, which will come into force on 7 June, would save time and money by ending the current "adversarial" system. Among the changes are more round-table discussions, independent technical advisers, mediation, limits to cross-examination and a clear date for the delivery of the inspector's report to the Secretary of State. The new procedures would increase communication between parties, aiming for swift, amicable resolution of some issues before and during the inquiry, Lord Falconer said.

"No one benefits from an adversarial system. Only by parties getting together and talking in a reasonable way will issues get resolved," he said. "Inquiries can take years and years. Look at Terminal 5 [Heathrow]. That took over six years from appointment of the planning inspector to delivery of the final report."

The Government has consulted on new procedures to enable Parliament to make a decision in principle on applications for important projects before the detail is considered at a public inquiry.