The green lobby has blasted the government's proposed planning reforms claiming that they will prove detrimental to the environment.
The White Paper, announced yesterday, will speed up planning permission decisions on major infrastructure developments such as nuclear power plants and airports, and has attracted furious criticism from organisations such as Friends of the Earth (FoE).
FoE planning coordinator Hugh Ellis said: 'The UK has one of the most deregulated planning systems in Western Europe. And expanding roads and airports will increase carbon dioxide emissions. Today's White Paper is bad for the environment, bad for local communities and bad for democracy.'
According to Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly, the minister behind the reforms, decisions made under the new laws will be subject to 'community consultation' mediated by 'industry experts' such as 'planners, lawyers, and environmentalists' at every stage - and could save the UK more than £1 billion within 10 years.
Further changes will see red tape slashed for small-scale householder planning applications, and planning permission will be scrapped altogether on minor developments such as conservatories, small extensions and microgeneration devices such as solar panels.
Housing Minister Yvette Cooper will head up a new 'green office' task force to set up an action plan for reducing carbon emissions from commercial buildings over the next 10 years.
The new planning system will also ensure that vibrant town centres are supported, enabling councils to give priority to town centres over 'out-of-town shopping and block developments'.
Kelly said: 'There are parts of the current system which can be costly, confusing and inaccessible for local people.
'We need a simpler system that is quicker but which locks in community consultation at every stage of the process,' she added.by Richard Vaughan