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Queen's speech spells end of county planning powers

The Queen was expected to outline plans in her speech for a radical overhaul of the UK's planning system, as the AJ went to press. The reforms - which will come in the form of a Planning Bill in the next session of Parliament - will see the end of county councils as a power in the planning process.

They are expected to become little more than a consultative body, with any real decision-making power either handed over to regional development agencies or devolved to local authorities.

The changes - designed to speed up the planning process to improve regeneration opportunities - will see all real influence removed from the councils and the end of county Structure Plans. The bill follows consultation on the Planning Green Paper.

England's nine Regional Development Agencies - and the regional assemblies, when the government eventually introduces them - will instead be charged with producing strategic development plans for their areas. They will only have to consult with the county councils where they have particular expertise.

The government has also decided to abandon the idea of tariffs on development. Speculation has been rife that the government would introduce a formal sliding scale to regulate developers' contribution, replacing the current ad hoc system of Section 106 agreements. But all indications suggest that the Queen was not set to propose any changes to the current arrangements.

The Town and Country Planning Association's Gideon Amos was disappointed to hear of the death of the county Structure Plans. 'The abolition of the current system and the time it will take to write the new plans will mean the delay of yet more planning applications, ' he warned.

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