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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Baker Review of Planning laws issued

A report, commissioned by the Treasury, calling for more building on green belt land in England has been criticised by environmental groups. Friends of the Earth said proposals in the Barker Review would have "a devastating impact on the environment and local democracy". The study also calls for an independent planning body to judge on major proposals like airport extensions. It says England's planning system must be made quicker and simpler and that the appeals process needs speeding up. Central to the report's key authors approach is a belief that any building project that has little or no impact on others should be given the go-ahead, whether it is a private extension, the restoration of an empty building in a town, or even in some cases the development of low-value farmland within green belt areas. Economist Kate Barker, points out that contrary to public perception just under 13.5% of England is actually developed, while the green belt surrounding cities covers almost 13% of the country. "The land that can be developed with the least likely environmental or wider social impact is low-value agricultural land with little landscape quality and limited public access," says the report. "Regional and local planning bodies should review their green belt boundaries to ensure they remain relevant and appropriate."
In particular the review has assessed:
ways of further improving the efficiency and speed of the system;
ways of increasing the flexibility, transparency and predictability that enterprise requires;
the relationship between planning and productivity, and how the outcomes of the planning system can better deliver its sustainable economic objectives; and
the relationship between economic and other sustainable development goals in the delivery of sustainable communities

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