Barker backspayments to sweeten build opponents
Economist Kate Barker has encouraged house builders to ‘bribe' people opposed to development and has outraged environmental campaigners by urging a national review of the green belt.
In her long-awaited review of the planning regime, she criticised existing government planning policy, calling for it to be streamlined and for local planning guidelines to be produced in half the time it currently takes.
Planners should review the green belt because much of the land is low quality and could be put to better use, she said. Building on greenfield land on the outskirts of towns with job opportunities could be more sustainable than creating new communities, which force residents to commute long distances, she said.
‘The land that may be developed with the least environmental or social impact will often be that near towns and cities,' Ms Barker said. Developers should be allowed to make ‘goodwill payments' to people who opposed development plans, she added.
Ms Barker's report also suggests that the government's planning policy should be pared down to make the system easier to understand. Development plans should concentrate on delivery rather than processes, she added.
‘In the consultation responses a large number of concerns were raised about the new processes,' she said.
She also recommended that the secretary of state should call in 50 per cent fewer schemes than at present.
Chancellor Gordon Brown welcomed the findings of the report in the pre-Budget statement on Wednesday and communities secretary Ruth Kelly said that the government agreed with Ms Barker's ‘overall analysis'.
Planning consultant Roger Humber, strategic policy advisor to the House Builders' Association, said Ms Barker's review was a clear criticism of existing laws. ‘I think that given that she has clearly been warned off making any major revisions to the 2004 [Town and Country Planning] Act she has nevertheless pointed the finger very firmly at the government for responsibility for a lot of the things still going wrong,' he said.
Robin Tetlow, managing director of Tetlow King Planning, said existing legislation and guidance was unwieldy and confusing. Mr Tetlow criticised the plans to allow developers to make payments to individuals.
'I think they are more like bribes,' he added.
Shaun Spiers, chief executive of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said it would demand any changes to green belt boundaries were strictly limited and fully justified.