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Planning Permission: Sustainable Development

Volume 491: debated on Thursday 30 April 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what recent steps she has taken to increase efficiency, effectiveness and transparency in the planning system; and what recent steps she has taken to ensure that the planning system facilitates sustainable development. (271573)

Since 1997 we have made significant progress in improving the planning system.

Through the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 and Planning Policy Statement 1 (PPS1) we have put the delivery of sustainable development at heart of the planning system. Alongside PPS1 we have introduced clear national policy on the role of planning in addressing climate change: tackling climate change is now firmly at the centre of what is expected from good planning.

More recently, the Planning Act 2008 provides for the creation of a more efficient, effective and transparent development consent regime for nationally significant infrastructure projects. It provides for ministers to set out the national need for infrastructure in National Policy Statements, a new single consent regime to replace the eight existing development consent regimes for nationally significant infrastructure projects, and the establishment of an independent Infrastructure Planning Commission to examine and (where a relevant National Policy Statement is in force) determine applications made under this new regime, at the same time locking more meaningful public involvement into each stage of the process. The aim is to reduce the time taken from application to decision to under a year in the majority of cases, saving up to an estimated £300 million a year. Under the Act, Ministers must, when preparing National Policy Statements, do so with the objective of contributing to the achievement of sustainable development, and all NPSs will be subject to an appraisal of sustainability, ensuring that sustainable development is at the heart of the new regime.

In late 2008, we introduced changes to permitted development for certain householder extensions and loft conversions, which is expected to remove about 80,000 applications a year from the system.

The process of planning reform is continuing. In March this year, the Government set out their response to the Killian Pretty review, which sets out an ambitious programme of further improvements to the efficiency and effectiveness of the planning application process.

In addition, the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Bill introduces a clear duty for responsible regional authorities, when preparing their new integrated regional strategies, to exercise their functions with the objective of contributing to the achievement of sustainable development. There is also a requirement for regional strategies to include policies designed to contribute to the mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change.