Miliband to pledge new commission 'to examine planning logjams'

Reports that Labour leader Ed Miliband is to pledge to set up a commission 'designed to curtail the planning logjams preventing houses being built in sufficient numbers' feature in today's newspaper round-up.

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The Guardian reports that Miliband will announce in a speech today that he is to commit the party to building 200,000 new homes a year by 2020. The paper says Miliband "will announce that Sir Michael Lyons, the respected local government finance expert and former BBC Trust chairman, will lead a review designed to ensure that an incoming government he leads will be able to swiftly draw up housing reform legislation".

The shale gas industry is "in crisis talks with the government" over concerns that opponents of shale gas extraction could use a "loophole" in the law to block it, the Times (subscription) reports. According to the paper, a High Court judge ruled three years ago that a company drilling for oil horizontally beneath a country estate from a neighbouring property had trespassed, setting a legal precedent. Now, the paper says, shale gas explorers "are bracing themselves for anti-fracking groups to launch copycat challenges by buying up ‘ransom strips’ of land around drilling sites, allowing them to seek an injunction to stop the operation". The industry wants legislation introduced to exempt them from securing landowners' consent, the paper reports.

The Guardian reports that the company facing the anti-fracking protests at Balcombe in West Sussex "has confirmed that its exploratory drilling outside the village had discovered the presence of hydrocarbons, which can be used for fuel, and said further testing would be needed to ascertain flow rates". The paper says that Cuadrilla said that it would be "clearing the site by the weekend and would be closing it off for the next few months while it applies for planning permission to measure flow rates".

The Independent reports
that town centre stores are shutting down at a rate of 18 a day across Britain, according to figures. The paper says that more shops are closing than opening "with clothes stores, video and photography retailers suffering the hardest, while charity shops, bookies and cheque cashing outlets continue to grow". The data from, accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers and research firm the Local Data Company, also reveals that the South East and East Midlands "suffered the hardest in the first six months of the year, with both seeing a net fall in stores over the period, while Yorkshire performed best with a slight increase".

Up to 200,000 jobs could be at risk in the Thames Valley if the government decides to build a hub airport somewhere other than Heathrow, the Financial Times (subscription) reports. According to a study by economic consultancy Regeneris, "one in every 20 jobs in the area was directly attributable to the economic activity generated by the west London airport".

Energy firm Centrica has "blamed the government as it abandoned plans to build two gas storage facilities that would have created hundreds of jobs and increased the security of energy supplies in the UK", the Guardian reports. According to the paper, the company said it "would not build a gas storage plant at Baird in the North Sea, and put on hold ‘indefinitely’ a project at Claythorpe in East Yorkshire". The decision was made after energy minister Michael Fallon "concluded this month that subsidies would not be offered to encourage companies to build more gas storage", the paper says.

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