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Barker aims for planning revolution with final report

Kate Barker has published her final report on the planning system in England and Wales.

The career economist, who is one of Chancellor Gordon Brown's favoured advisors, has recommended a widespread series of reforms that could lead to an almost unrecognisable land-use planning system.

The key points are the reduction of planning in domestic and small-business construction projects and the speeding up of the system in general.

The recommendations, which will be taken very seriously by Brown, would represent a vast overhaul of the planning system if enacted.

Barker said: 'The planning system has a profound impact on our quality of life, but the current system will come under increasing pressures in the coming decade.

'Building on recent reforms, the recommendations in my report provide a comprehensive set of measures to ensure we have a planning system that is timely, transparent, flexible and responsive enough to meet the challenges that lie ahead.

'Businesses, residents and others want a system that can continue to secure economic prosperity alongside vital social and environmental goals. I believe this reform package, if enacted, can help create this world-class planning system.'

Key recommendations include:

substantial rationalisation of national planning guidance to provide a clearer and more transparent national policy framework;

improving local plan-making processes so plans can be drawn up in 18-24 months, not the current 36-42;

a more risk-based and proportionate approach to regulation, with significant reduction in the paperwork required to support applications;

greater certainty of timescales with new, individually tailored delivery agreements between planning authorities and developers;

faster processing of appeals: from 2008/09 all appeals should take place within six months, and the use of a new Planning Mediation Service will resolve disputes outside of appeal proceedings;

a significant reduction in the number of cases suffering delays due to ministerial call-in, with a target of 50 per cent fewer call-ins from 2007;

allowing minor changes to commercial premises to proceed without requiring planning permission;

ensuring plans and decision-makers take better account of relevant price and market signals, such as land prices for different uses;

encouraging a high proportion of new development into towns and urban areas through support for the town-centre first policy;

greater mixed-use designations in plans and a more positive approach to applications for change of use to reflect the changing needs of the UK's economy; and

ensuring sufficient supply of land for the proportion of development that cannot take place in towns and cities.

by Ed Dorrell

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