Design panel 'to oversee HS2 works'

Reports that an independent design panel is to be set up to ensure that the proposed High Speed 2 rail link between London and Birmingham 'respects rural areas' feature in today's newspaper round-up.

The Financial Times (subscription) reports that transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin will announce the new panel tomorrow "as he tries to appease campaigners before a judicial review". According to the paper, the panel, "made up of experts in architecture, engineering, town planning and transport, will work with local people and environmental groups".

The Telegraph also reports that "pointless road signs that clutter the countryside and state the obvious should be banned, according to ministers". The paper says that the government is working on new guidance for councils and highways officials on cutting sign clutter, as well as revised signs regulations, to be issued by next autumn.

Elsewhere, the Telegraph reports that "village greens are in danger of being built on because of a change in the law being sneaked through by the government". The paper says measures in the Growth and Infrastructure Bill state that local people "will no longer be able to register a piece of land as a village green if any developers have applied for permission to build". The "trigger points" for blocking an application for village green status "include first publication of a planning application, or identification of the land for potential development in a local or neighbourhood plan", the newspaper reports.

The Guardian runs a piece
by architecture critic Oliver Wainwright on the increasing use of subterranean development in upmarket areas of London. The article quotes the architect behind one proposal, who says: "We were really taking the piss, we analysed the planning laws and realised that they cover everything about the surface of the ground, but nothing beneath it. There was nothing whatsoever that could stop us from drilling all the way down to the south pole. Of course, the council hated it, but we had a barrister, and the policy would not cover their reasons for refusal, so they had to grant permission – and it has triggered a whole avalanche of stuff ever since."

Britain’s parks are under threat as councils across the country cut back on staff, according to the Guardian. The paper reports on Downhills park in the London Borough of Haringey, which it says is suffering due to council cuts. "Like all councils, Haringey has no statutory duty to maintain its parks. Last year it slashed its spending by more than half. It now employs only three full-time gardeners across its 46 parks and [there is] no maintenance budget for 43 of them", the paper says.

The Prince of Wales has become embroiled in the row over Britain’s energy policy after his "corporate leaders group" warned Prime Minister David Cameron not to abandon green targets, according to the Telegraph. The paper says the group, which includes Peter Simpson, the managing director of Anglian Water; Colin Matthews, the chief executive of Heathrow Airport; and Vincent de Rivaz, the chief executive of EDF Energy, has written to chancellor George Osborne warning that the uncertainty is a cause of "concern". According to the paper the letter says: "We have long asserted that attempts to set a strong economy at odds with effective policies on climate change are self-defeating".

The Guardian reports that "vulnerable homeless families will be rehoused in the private rented sector, often many miles from where they live, to free up social homes for so-called ‘priority’ households". The paper says that according to a government document presented to councils last week, "working families, ex-servicemen and people who volunteer will get priority in council housing lists over those who are homeless or destitute".

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