Hill issues warning on commission plan

Former Labour housing and planning minister Keith Hill will lobby against the infrastructure planning commission (IPC) proposed by the government, it has emerged.

Hill backed the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) view that decisions on major facilities such as nuclear power stations should be taken by elected ministers rather than the IPC, which will not be democratically accountable.

Speaking at the launch of the final report on the European Advocacy, Participation and Non-Governmental Organisations in Planning (APaNGO) project this week in Brussels, Hill said he will urge the government to consider its recommendations.

The report argues that rights for those who will be most affected by schemes should be maintained and agreements with communities should be legally recognised where possible.

The study, which was supported by the DCLG, is one of the first on community engagement at a European level. It covers seven member states including Belgium, the Republic of Ireland.

The TCPA was a leading participant in the APaNGO partnership. Chief executive Gideon Amos said: "I hope that the government will be very careful about safeguarding this important feature of our system."

Meanwhile, local government minister John Healey told a CBI conference this week that claims that the government is planning to remove people's right to be heard are "ill-informed, unhelpful and damaging".

"Whether you are from the Federation of Small Businesses or Friends of the Earth, the objectives for a modern planning system will be common," he added.

A planning reform bill is expected to be included in next week's Queen's speech. The new system will save around £300 million each year and end delays on critical schemes such as wind farms, railway lines and reservoirs, Healey claimed.

APaNGO Community Engagement in Planning is available at PlanningResource.co.uk/doc.


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