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Prescott's planning reforms: 'vague and lacking substance'

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Experts have hit out at deputy prime minister John Prescott's proposed reforms of the planning process, saying they lack substance.

Prescott, outlining the contents of his planning policy statement to the House of Commons, said the government will produce a step change in planning, 'as a way of ensuring growth and the future prosperity in this country'.

But members of the planning and housebuilding lobbies have attacked the statement, claiming there are simply not enough details to be able to judge whether it will succeed.

As predicted in the AJ (18.7.02), Prescott outlined four development zones where 200,000 new homes will be built. They are the Milton Keynes area, Ashford in Kent, Stansted in Essex, and the Thames Gateway area of east London.

He also highlighted plans to reduce application processing times and 'speed up' delivery of projects. Planning responsibility for new housing will be removed from the local authorities and handed to regional authorities. County councils have also been removed from the equation altogether, losing their strategy powers and planning authority.

The other major announcement was the decision to set up three new millennium communities in East Ketley near Telford, Milton Keynes and Hastings.

However, housebuilders and planners have slammed Prescott's speech, saying it lacks the substance required to make reform work.

House Builders' Federation officer Mark Rice welcomed the announcement, but said: 'You have to question the impact this document will have unless it is seriously filled out.

'We have been led to believe that Prescott will make another major statement with far more details sometime before Christmas. Then we will be able to decide whether it will make any difference, ' he added.

The Town and Country Planning Association's policy officer Rob Shaw agreed there was a problem with content. 'The whole statement was suitably vague and most of the serious content will have to wait for the next set of papers, ' he said.

And CABE's head of government affairs, Steven King, called on Prescott to 'get on with it'.

The major developments in Prescott's planning statement:

The abolition of the county structure plans

Planning departments to be under the jurisdiction of regional development agencies

The introduction of Business Planning Zones with lower planning restrictions l200,000 homes to be built in Milton Keynes, the Thames Gateway, Ashford and Stansted

The introduction of a minimum of 30 homes per hectare on all new housing developments

Three new millennium communities

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