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Heseltine calls for tighter planning deadlines in growth report

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Lord Heseltine has called for a six-month planning deadline on non-complex schemes and ‘localised’ funding to boost economic growth

The Downing Street-commissioned report, No Stone Unturned in the Pursuit of Growth, includes 89 recommendations to help boost industry and to provide a ‘strategy for growth and wealth creation’.

Planning decisions are still too often lengthy and bureaucratic

Speaking about the overly complex planning system and its impact on the ‘growth agenda’, Heseltine said: ‘Planning decisions are still too often lengthy and bureaucratic. There is simply no sense of urgency or any understanding of the economic cost of delays.’

He added: ‘For any application still undecided after three months, the planning authority should publish a clear and unbiased statement of what the issues are. This will help all parties to understand what is standing in the way of a decision. It will have the positive effect of galvanising both planning authorities and statutory consultees, to ensure that the issues are fully explained within three months.

‘Any application still undecided after six months should automatically go before the Planning Inspectorate.’

However in terms of cutting red tape on construction standards he added: ‘[Yet] left to their own devices a few private sector house builders would construct houses of unacceptable quality without the building regulation regime. I therefore strongly support the purpose of the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act to bring order to our planning system.’

Elsewhere the report calls for £49 billion of funds to be made available from central government for the regions to help local leaders and businesses. He argued that local authorities had been ‘relegated to service providers’ and that government had been too centrally focussed.

On the subject of future transport needs the Conservative politician also called for all the political parties to set out their plans for airport capacity in their election manifestos.

Heseltine also called for the Davies report into aviation capacity, which is due to announce its findings after the next elections in 2015, to be carried out within the next 12 months to avoid ‘three more years of inertia’. Doing that, he hoped, would inject more urgency and ’ therefore confidence for all those we want to invest in our economy’.

He said: ‘It will not be possible for the Government to claim credibly at the next election that it has not made a decision or reached a preference about a third runway at Heathrow.

‘Davies should be asked to analyse all of these options and provide his advice in the next year, at which point the government should set out its preference.

‘All political parties could set out their positions in their next manifestos’.

‘In the meantime preparatory work could commence, with a commitment that no construction contracts would be let until a mandate had been secured at the next general election.’

The report also highlights the importance of construction for growth and jobs, and investment in skills, infrastructure, capital equipment and R&D.

He said the current procurement process for public infrastructure is ‘time consuming and complex’, adding that ‘few pension funds, except for the largest, have the expertise or time to dedicate to it’.

The former head of the Department of Trade and Industry in the 1980s, said government should provide growth funds to new Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) in the coming years.

It follows a recent CBI report calling for a focus on regions outside the ‘usual suspects’ of London and the south east.

The CBI welcomed a focus on fostering better understanding and relationships between the public sector and its commercial partners, saying it highlights the need for powerful governance structures to support private sector growth throughout the UK.

Its report set out what needs to change to ensure that the structures in place, such as Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), ‘unlock the pockets of private sector potential which exist in all parts of the UK.’

John Cridland, CBI Director-General, said: “To successfully rebalance the economy towards private sector growth, every part of Britain needs to grow – we mustn’t just rely on the usual suspects of London and the South-East.”

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said: ‘I wanted Lord Heseltine to do what he does best: challenge received wisdom and give us ideas on how to bring Government and industry together. He has done exactly that. This is a report bursting with ideas and we will study it very carefully.’

Funding streams
4 year spending period (£m)
Skills £17,435
Local infra£14,821
Housing £6,800
Business support£2,939
Total £49,073

The report calls for:

  • a major devolution of funding
  • making a smaller and more skilled government machine
  • enhancing the standing of Local Economic Partnerships (LEPs) to bring together private and public sectors
  • more government leadership for major infrastructure projects
  • a role for employers in education
  • government to move faster on airport strategy
  • six month planning deadline

Heseltine calls for tighter planning deadlines in growth report

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