Planning in the media

Every now and then one planning story receives almost blanket coverage.

One such example is the Competition Commission's revised test to prevent supermarkets with a strong presence in a particular area keeping out rivals by building more stores or extending existing outlets. Commission chairman Peter Freeman told The Times that the test will help bring in competition "where it is lacking and stop individual retailers consolidating strong positions to the detriment of customers". However, in The Daily Telegraph Tesco executive director of corporate and legal affairs Lucy Neville-Rolfe claimed that the test "would block investment and create delay and unpredictability in the planning system, depriving customers of the benefits of new and updated stores". The Guardian quoted the Association of Convenience Stores, which represents more than 30,000 small retailers, saying the proposal is "not a panacea for the competition failings of a market dominated by a handful of major supermarkets" but urged the government to accept the commission's recommendation. Planet Retail global research director Bryan Roberts told The Independent: "Some locations would benefit from increased competition." However he added: "It is at least 15 years too late."

The launch of the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) drew a mixed response. Times Online cited critics who fear that local people and councils will be sidelined and that the IPC will face political interference. Campaign to Protect Rural England policy director Neil Sinden said he had deep concerns: "We will be looking closely at how it works to see whether it can meet our tests." The paper also quoted energy and climate change secretary Ed Miliband, who branded the planning system "not fit for purpose". The Daily Telegraph reported the CBI's comment that the UK "urgently" needs nuclear power stations and wind farms to "bolster energy security and cut emissions" and the IPC should encourage infrastructure investment.

David MacKay, the government's chief scientific adviser on climate change, has proposed a quadrupling of the UK's nuclear power generation to cut greenhouse gas emissions, according to The Sunday Times. MacKay argued that soaring demand will never be met by renewables such as wind and tidal power. He suggested that since modern nuclear power stations are likely to be more efficient, fewer than 15 reactors supplying 40 to 50GW would be needed. The UK currently has ten ageing nuclear stations providing 12GW.

The Guardian reported that the government will try to flush out Conservative plans for spending cuts by setting out detailed departmental budgets covering the years 2011-12 to 2013-14. Transport secretary Lord Adonis has already ruled out selling off roads or reintroducing congestion charging but may look at savings on delayed private finance initiative projects. His plans for a high-speed rail network would not start to affect capital spending until after 2015.

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