Boles raises spectre of 'neighbourhood planning-lite'

News that the government is investigating ways to make it 'quicker and easier' for communities to put together neighbourhood plans is included in today's newspaper round-up.

According to the Sunday Times (subscription only), planning minister Nick Boles is looking into ways to streamline the government's system of neighbourhood planning in recognition of concerns over the cost of current arrangements. He said that while the housing crisis made it "vital" that the power to block unwanted development should ony be wielded by communities that had taken responsibility for meeting their housing needs, the concept of "neighbourhood planning-lite" was being explored.

The Observer reported yesterday that the Houses of Parliament's World Heritage Site status is at risk because ministers "overrode" civil servants' advice on the acceptability of new skyscrapers near Westminster. The story centres around judicial review documents on communities secretary Eric Pickles and planning minister Nick Boles' decision not to consult more widely on the redevelopment of Elizabeth House office block in nearby Waterloo.

The Financial Times reports today that ministers are stalling on proposals to hand control of much of northern England's rail network over to local authorities as part of a plan to drive improvements in the transport infrastructure. It said that Department for Transport officials were sceptical about whether Rail North, set up by more than 50 councils, can handle the rail franchising process.

The Daily Telegraph has news that London is "in the midst of the greatest surge in residential redevelopments since the end of the First World War". It says estate agency Wetherell has sold more than 100 office buildings in exclusive Mayfair back into residential use over the past year.

According to The Times (subscription only) on Saturday, well-heeled residents of west London's Ladbrooke Grove area are fighting plans for the opening of an independent prepatory school over fears that it will prompt an invasion of "yummy mummies" from neighbouring Notting Hill. The newspaper says that residents fear Alpha Plus Group's plans will "shatter their peace with giggling schoolgirls".

The Guardian carried news on Saturday that property developer Ryan Corporation has bought a Canary Wharf office development and plans to construct a 74-storey residential tower on the site. It said the company had paid £100 million for the site and expected Hertsmere Tower to include 714 luxury apartments - if the scheme is approved by Tower Hamlets Council.


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