Lawyers flag policy flaws

The planning white paper is legally unworkable, barristers claim in a legal opinion for Friends of the Earth (FoE) published this week.

Matthew Horton QC and Richard Harwood from 39 Essex Street state that the paper would breach UK, European and international law in several areas. The government could face a legal challenge if it does not revise its proposals, FoE warned.

The white paper states that the infrastructure planning commission can only consider national policy statements on facilities such as roads and airports but not regional or local policy, the barristers noted.

This would mean that policies on issues such as design, green belt and transport would have to be ignored unless they are written into the relevant policy statement. Such a task would be "lengthy and difficult", the barristers maintained.

The removal of the right to be heard would breach UK common law and the European Convention on Human Rights, the lawyers added. The authors of this part of the white paper seem to be "wholly unaware of inquiry legislation, guidance and practice", they said.

Friends of the Earth planning adviser Naomi Luhde-Thompson said: "This legal assessment highlights how ill thought through the government's proposals are."

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