Memorandum by the CBI (PGP 43)
THE PLANNING GREEN PAPER
1. The CBI represents companies of all sizes
and from all sectors of the economy. With a direct membership
accounting for four million employees and a trade association
membership accounting for six million employees it speaks for
companies that account for 40 per cent of the private sector workforce.
2. The CBI believes that reforming the land
use planning system is one of the key challenges to be faced in
attempting to improve the UK's productivity and competitiveness.
Planning is core to achieving a wide range of objectives for business
and society, and for achieving sustainable development. But flaws
in the planning system affect not just those businesses applying
for planning permission, but damage the economy and prosperity
as a whole.
3. In July 2001 the CBI published its 10
Point Plan for tackling these flaws. If focused on the need to
get the system working quickly, efficiently, effectively and fairly.
We strongly commend the Government for recognising the need for
reform, and for bringing forward a Green Paper, which makes proposals
for change. Planning has been a neglected yet crucial issue, and
the Green Paper is an important opportunity to help create a planning
system that better serves the needs of the economy and society.
4. Our overall view of the Government's
consultation papers is that there are many very welcome proposals
for improving the process, that need to be strengthened by providing
enough resources, changing the culture, and providing the right
incentives and penalties. However business is very strongly opposed
to the proposed tariffa development tax which would be
costly to business and damaging to development and regeneration.
We also have some serious reservations about the detail of the
proposed Local Development Frameworks, which risk complicating
rather than simplifying the system.
5. We believe that the Government should
give first priority to implementing the Green Paper's welcome
proposals for improving development control. Much can be done
relatively quickly and without the need for legislation and we
suggest the Government should concentrate on these areas first,
rather than on securing a Planning Act.
6. Many of the detailed proposals reflect
ideas put forward by the CBI and others. For example:
Internet planning portal.
Nominated planning portal.
Bringing different local authority
consent regimes together.
Separate targets for commercial applications.
Emphasis on the important of pre-application
Business Planning Zones and relaxations
of permitted development.
7. To ensure effective implementation of
these welcome ideas, further work is needed to improve the penalties
and incentives in the system. Current targets are too often missed
by councils and sharper teeth would help deliver the full benefit
of the new regime.
8. The Green paper proposal to ban five-year
planning consent is, however, potentially very damaging and should
be dropped. Major or complex schemes, particularly in urban areas,
can need several years' preparation.
9. The CBI believes that the Government
is right to want to reduce the number of layers in the planning
system. And we support the aim of having local plans that are
shorter, more strategic and more up-to-date.
10. To achieve this we believe that the
detail of how Local Development Frameworks work in practice will
need to be developed substantially:
Ensuring they are concise and coherenta
single strategy not multiple plans.
Making sure the preparation and consultation
process is streamlined and effective.
Avoiding loading heavy consultation
burdens onto applicants.
Getting regional plans working properly
before abolishing structure plans.
In particular we are concerned that the proposed
increase in community involvement, combined with the multi-layered
nature of the proposed LDF, and the new consultation obligations
on applicants, risk making the system more complex, slower and
more likely to discourage development.
It will be important for the Government to avoid
letting fundamental reform of the development plan system detracting
from the even more urgent need to get the development control
system working more effectively.
11. Implementation of the Green Paper could
be strengthened considerably if it were to be backed up by further
measures to tackle the problems of resources and culture of the
12. There are simply to few planners to
run the system effectively, and those that remain are too often
underpaid, underskilled, poorly managed and demotivated. Business
is to contribute through a 14 per cent increase in fees, and some
may be prepared to contribute further through delivery contracts
that guarantee a higher level of service. But the public sector
too must be prepared to play its part in funding what is a vital
public service, and this should be reflected in the forthcoming
13. The CBI welcomes the proposals to improve
the operation of planning obligations through using standard terms,
improved accounting and dispute resolution. Greater clarity in
local plans of council policies on planning obligations is also
14. However the fundamental link between
planning obligations and the impacts of a development must be
retained, and we are strongly of the view that no generalised
tariff should be introduced. The tariff would be harmful to business
and seriously damaging to the objectives of urban renewal.
15. The concept behind Business Planning
Zones is strongly supported by the CBI. The notion of BPZs is
of course experimental, but the principle is sound and it should
be trailed as soon as possible.
16. Planning has been particularly poor
at dealing with fast-moving, globally mobile, highly demanding,
high tech companies. There is great potential to make science
or business parks more attractive to such companies by ensuring
investment there is not held back by planning. Greater freedom
for the site owner will enable them to be far more responsive
to the needs of their customers.
17. Previous attempts to create "Simplified
Planning Areas" foundered partly because they were too often
designated in regeneration areas which were not attractive to
investment even without planning restrictions. For Business Planning
Zones to succeed they must be allocated sites that are attractive,
prestigious and suitable for development in order to encourage
the high-quality investment needed to attract international firms
who might otherwise go elsewhere.
18. The CBI is still consulting members
on this, but we welcome the proposals to streamline and clarify
the arrangements for making compulsory purchase orders.
19. Our main concern is the reverse notice
to treat, enabling property owner subject to a CPO to force that
order to be exercised. This could leave scheme promoters (whether
in the public or private sector) in a catch-22 position whereby
they cannot seek CPO powers until they have finance in place to
cover the liability (of being served reverse notices to treat),
and yet they may find it very difficult to secure finance without
CPO powers in the first place.
20. The Government should therefore rethink
this part of the proposals, and consider, for example, improving
the existing provisions for blight notices instead.
21. The Green Paper aims to create "better,
simpler, faster, more accessible" planning system. Achieving
this is vital to urban renaissance and regeneration and it is
strongly supported by the CBI.
22. Many of the Green Paper proposals for
improving the operation of development control will help contribute
towards this, but to be fully effective they will need increased
resources in the planning system.
23. A smaller number of specific proposals
have potential to do significant damage to the aim of urban renaissance.
24. One of the most significant of these
is the plan to cut planning consents from five years to three
years, and the proposed tariff. Shorter planning consents will
impact most severely on the complex developments on brownfield
(often contaminated) land that are central to many regeneration
25. Likewise the tariff is particularly
damaging to urban renaissance. While it may simply come off land
values in some Greenfield development, it urban developments this
is unlikely to be possible and it will add significant new costs.
26. The CBI is currently consulting members
on this paper. We believe it is right to review the Use Classes
Order, and that one of the principles that should be applied to
this review is to consider ways in which the planning system could
be simplified and the burden on local authorities and business
27. The CBI is currently consulting members
on this paper. The Government's commitment to streamline the planning
process for major projects is a vitally important step in ensuring
that our changing infrastructure needs are delivered.
28. The CBI supports the Government's objectives.
The principle of greater central decision-making for major national
projects should help provide focus and strategic direction. National
policy statements, together with improved regional decision-making
are important contributions to this. Improved procedures for CPOs
and for public inquiries are also useful contributions.
29. More detail is needed on the proposed
new parliamentary procedure, but it is essential that:
Sufficient parliamentary time will
be granted to consider each application.
Decisions in principle can be processed
quickly by Parliament.
Decisions taken to approve projects
in principle are not just re-opened at public inquiries.
30. To complete the reform of major project
planning, it is also essential that the Government provides not
only strategic leadership through the national policy statements,
but also quickly ensures secure funding arrangements for such
schemeswhether from public or private sources.
Head of Infrastructure Group
Business Environment Directorate