Planning in the Media

The 14-year planning dispute over proposals for a supermarket in Sheringham finally drew to a close when North Norfolk District Council's development committee voted in favour of a Tesco store.

The dispute, noted The Guardian, has "lasted longer than the First and Second World Wars combined". Sheringham's resistance has become "a national test case over whether supermarket chains are throttling the business diversity of communities".

The Times quoted Tesco chief executive Sir Terry Leahy warning against the country "hankering for a return to village England" and cited supermarkets' ability to "improve consumers' lives by selling less expensive food even at the expense of diversity".

It noted that the town still features three greengrocers, two fishmongers and two butchers. The Financial Times quoted an unnamed source who said the decision would damage the area. "Tesco will kill the town centre," he told the paper.

The Independent on Sunday reported on proposals to make it easier for new schools to open in deserted buildings from shops and office blocks to churches and retail parks.

The British Council for School Environments called for planning laws to be overhauled so that schools can use "dead space". It said the government's axing of the £7.5 billion school rebuilding programme has exacerbated the need for a new approach. "Lots of buildings are going to waste," said chief executive Ty Goddard. "We're looking at the potential for them to be refurbished to provide more learning spaces."

The forthcoming localism bill and savage spending cuts prompted Anne Ashworth of The Times to urge readers to meet their councillors. "There remains a question mark over the effectiveness - and even the availability - of the incentives to be paid to councils that give the go-ahead for new homes.

"But it has emerged that councils that do not draw up a local plan for new housing will have a sustainable development plan imposed on them by Westminster. You may not like the idea of a local plan but you might like Westminster's version even less. Exercise your right to find out more now about what your councillors have in mind - that is after you have found out who they are."

Two million families will be on council house waiting lists by 2020, said the News of the World. "People struggling to get on the housing ladder could also have to wait 90 years to get an affordable shared ownership home," it added, blaming rocketing house prices and low building rates for the crisis.

The Sunday Times wondered whether the end of short-haul flights is near. "Large swathes of Europe will be quicker to reach by train than by plane within the next four years thanks to a boom in high-speed rail networks," it reported.

"Passengers will be able to travel from London to Amsterdam, Cologne, Geneva, the Alps and Marseilles in four hours or less by 2014." Airport delays, rising taxes and fuel costs as well as passengers' desire to be greener have boosted the appeal of rail travel, it added.

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