Tories to reclaim power over planning decisions

Business leaders fear ministers' rulings will be influenced by politics

Ministers would decide whether major planning applications should go ahead if the Conservative Party wins the general election, despite David Cameron's pledge to reduce "big government".

A Tory policy paper, passed to The Independent, says that the relevant secretary of state would take the final decision on projects such as nuclear power stations, wind farms, airport extensions and major roads.

The Tories would abolish a new Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) set up by Labour to streamline the system after long-standing complaints from industry that decisions took several years.

Now some business leaders are worried that the Tory proposals will create delays as ministers agonise over sensitive applications. The Tory blueprint also opens Mr Cameron to criticism for facing both ways after he promised to curb big government and devolve power in his speech to his party's conference.

The Tory document, sent to some business leaders, seeks to allay their fears that a Cameron government would bring back a cumbersome decision-making process. It says: "We fully recognise the importance of a planning system which can make effective and timely decisions."

Charles Hendry, shadow Energy minister, says in the report that while the Tories accept the need to speed up the planning process, they are concerned that the IPC, "an unelected quango", will give the public no chance to express a view, so its decisions will lack legitimacy. The IPC's specialists would be transferred to the existing Planning Inspectorate and make recommendations to the Government. Mr Hendry says: "We are very mindful of concerns that the secretary of state might then sit on decisions, as has happened in the past, and we would therefore place a requirement on the secretary of state to make a decision within a given timescale – probably similar to that proposed for the IPC."

The commission aims to cut the average time for a public inquiry from 100 to 35 weeks to save £300m a year.

"We are concerned that the IPC will be quickly bogged down in legal challenges – from judicial reviews in the High Court to challenges in the European Court of Justice," it says.

Yesterday, the IPC said that nuclear plants at Hinkley Point in Somerset and Sizewell in Suffolk, five wind farms, a biomass plant and two National Grid programmes will be the first projects it will consider. It will formally receive applications for nationally significant projects from next March.

Green groups fear that the new system will allow projects to be railroaded through. Fiona Howie, head of planning and regions at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said the Government had already made clear its support for nuclear power: "A huge amount will depend on the national policy statement. If they say yes to nuclear, then it will be very, very difficult for the IPC to refuse them."

Sir Michael Pitt, the IPC's chairman, said: "The IPC will ensure that the public knows which projects are proposed for their areas as soon as these are confirmed to us. The projects we are highlighting raise important issues for the nation and for local communities and we want the public to have confidence that their views will be heard."

Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
tech
News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
books(and not a Buzzfeed article in sight)
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Mystery man: Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike in '‘Gone Girl'
films... by the director David Fincher
News
Kim Jong Un gives field guidance during his inspection of the Korean People's Army (KPA) Naval Unit 167
newsSouth Korean reports suggest rumours of a coup were unfounded
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Travel
Bruce Chatwin's novel 'On the Black Hill' was set at The Vision Farm
travelOne of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
Arts and Entertainment
Gay and OK: a scene from 'Pride'
filmsUS film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
News
people
Life and Style
Magic roundabouts: the gyratory system that has excited enthusiasts in Swindon
motoringJust who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Arts and Entertainment
You could be in the Glastonbury crowd next summer if you follow our tips for bagging tickets this week
music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Health & Social CareTeacher

£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: We are seeking a health an...

Maths Teacher

£21804 - £31868 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: We are urgently look...

Technology Teacher (Resistant Materials and Graphics)

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: We are urgently looking fo...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?