"Planning laws are set for their biggest change for 50 years," said Prime Minister Tony Blair at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) National Conference last week.
Announcing a green paper on planning to be published in December, he said: "We cannot continue with a system that takes over eight years to decide Terminal 5, and where major decisions in the interests of the country are delayed." Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown echoed this in his speech: "We'll strike the right balance in a radically different economy, which puts an ever-higher premium on speed, efficiency and flexibility - especially to reflect the widely differing needs of all our regions." These new measures were announced in response to complaints from businesses about the current system, which is seen as slow, costly and complicated. Lord Falconer, Minister for Housing, Planning and Regeneration, promised the following: -A green paper on reforming the planning system. -A consultation document on new parliamentary procedures for major infrastructure projects. -A consultation document about compulsory purchase and compensation. -New proposals for agreeing planning obligations. Consultation on use classes.
Falconer said: "The demand is that, first, the system decides applications within a reasonable time, having regard to the nature of the application; and second, that what that reasonable time is should be predictable. Delays in planning decisions will frequently have an effect on the viability of a proposal. Uncertainty about both result and time deters a sensible business from basing plans around an issue whose result cannot be predicted."