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Barker wants to see 'less planning'

Kate Barker has hinted heavily at the conclusions of her report into planning reform - and has said she would like to see 'less planning' in some areas.

The Bank of England economist, commissioned by Chancellor Gordon Brown and Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, has revealed that she will propose an overhaul of much of the planning system.

Unlike the authors of many government reports, Barker is known to have the ear of the Chancellor, and whatever her Review of Land Use Planning concludes could have serious repercussions in Labour policy in the years to come.

Speaking at the AJ100 Breakfast Club on Tuesday (17 October), the member of the Monetary Policy Committee said she would like 'less planning' in small domestic schemes.

Among the areas her report - expected at the end of the year - will focus on will be planning department targets for processing large applications.

The author of the Barker Report into the Delivery of New Housing, published in 2004, said she was unconvinced by the effectiveness of the current 13-week objectives.

Barker's comments come at a time that architects are increasingly of the opinion that the targets dumped on local authorities for the processing of applications are resulting in a slower system.

Up until now these targets have been key government policy for improving efficiency in planning departments.

Barker said: 'This is more about outcomes and less about process. I wouldn't want to get rid of targets for minor applications, but we can ask whether they help others.

'Also, appeals have got slower as a result.'

In addition, Barker said there was a greater need for more strategic planners. 'I would certainly rather have two excellent special planners than three average ones,' she said.

Barker went as far as to suggest that local authorities should club together to employ teams of 'spatial planners' to work on major planning applications.

Barker - who has admitted she knows nothing about architecture - also questioned the prevailing orthodoxy on density of new housing.

'With global warming there will be the need for more green space, as cities become hotter,' she said.

Barker has also revealed that figures in her forthcoming review show that only 24 per cent of people would oppose the building of new homes near them ( Nimbyism 'not so common after all').

by Ed Dorrell

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