Pickles: We'll cut drag anchor planning system down to size

Communities secretary Eric Pickles has said the planning system is a 'drag anchor to growth' and pledged to 'cut it down to size' in a speech to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) last night.

Pickles: 'Millions of pounds are wasted' as a result of the planning system
Pickles: 'Millions of pounds are wasted' as a result of the planning system
Speaking ahead of tomorrow’s budget, Pickles said his department had a "huge role to play" in securing economic growth and confirmed that as part of this he would be relaxing planning rules to enable more disused commercial property to be turned into homes.

"It’s in everyone’s interests to make it easier to turn run-down old eyesores into much-needed new homes. Let the market decide what’s best so far as housing is concerned", he said.

He also hinted that targets requiring councils to assess planning applications by a set deadline could be removed, saying this "encouraged them to refuse complex applications just to meet that deadline". He said laws such as the 2004 Planning Act, and its requirement to provide "volumes of Local Development Documents", had "made the planning system slower rather than faster".

The communities secretary went on to say the planning system was "one of the biggest sources of friction between councils and business" and berated the "900,000 words in planning guidance".

He said: "Just think, if Kirsty Young ever invites me on to Desert Island Discs, I’d be able to say give me the 'complete planner'. I am confident that with each page turn I would increase my desire to be rescued."

And he picked up on the recent criticisms against the planning system made by business secretary Vince Cable and prime minister David Cameron saying: "The planning system should act as a driver for growth. But if I am being completely frank with you, it’s the drag anchor to growth.

"How many proposals disappear into the planning system, never to be seen again? Millions of pounds are wasted. Many months and years are lost to delays. We need a system which supports growth: not shuts it down."

Pickles said planning "shouldn’t need an army of experts to navigate it" adding that he was "absolutely determined to cut the planning system down to size. Less the length of a Shakespearian tragedy, more the brevity of the Gettysburg address".

The full speech can be read here.

michael.donnelly@haymarket.com


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