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Friday, January 26, 2007

Brown to face planning blitz

THOUSANDS of countryside lovers are being asked to email would-be Prime Minister Gordon Brown to protest against plans for wholesale changes to the planning system which, they say, takes democracy out of the hands of local people and concentrates it in the hands of ministers and Whitehall civil servants.
The proposals, which could see the end of many local planning enquiries, has already been under attack for many months - but yesterday, a vast new alliance of protesters was created with the aim of subjecting Brown to an email blitz as he strives to take over from Tony Blair.
The coalition of organisations includes the Campaign to Protect Rural England, The Civic Trust, Friends of the Earth, The Ramblers Association, RSPB, Transport 2000, The Wildlife Trusts and the Woodland Trust. They have set up a new website at where people can register their fears on environmental and social change by emailing Chancellor Gordon Brown MP, to highlight their concerns. Brown has recently presided over the publication of two major reports - The Barker Review, and the Eddington Study on Transport - which put forward a series of planning reform proposals including changes to the way major infrastructure projects such as motorways and power plants are decided, and a presumption in favour of development. The Government has already committed to a new White Paper on planning in spring this year that will take forward the Barker Review and Eddington Study recommendations.
Key concerns include:
The reduction of public involvement in inquiries in order to speed up major projects
Increased domination of supermarkets in town centres at the expense of local shops
The reduction of people's right to have a say in planning proposals for in their area
That wildlife, habitats and green belts are under threat from development
The coalition believes that the Chancellor should instead:
Ensure major projects such as roads or nuclear power stations are decided with local input, democratic accountability, and in the framework of sustainable development;
Support local shops and town centres by retaining and strengthening the needs assessment requirement;
Ensure sustainable development principles guide development so that wildlife, habitats and greenbelt are protected, regeneration is encouraged and town centres remain vibrant;
Safeguard people's right to have a say in local plans by retaining and strengthening the issues and options discussion at the beginning of local plans, and funding greater positive participation in planning.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England's Head of Planning, Marina Pacheco, said: "The English countryside will be much more open to development if the Barker review is implemented. We must not allow economics to be the main driver of how England will develop. Environmental sustainability and quality of life should be given equal consideration."
The Civic Trust's Hannah Mummery said: "If implemented, proposals to remove the "Needs test", as part of the planning process for retail development would lead to the domination of supermarkets at the expense of local shops and could put the clock back to the days of unsustainable out-of-town developments."