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Barker aims for planning revolution with final report

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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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