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Planning Bill in the House of Lords: press comment

2 July 2008
This afternoon, Stephen Joseph, Campaign for Better Transport’s executive director, will be speaking at a briefing of peers on the Planning Bill.

He will express some concerns about the bill:

"We are not opposed to some aspects of the bill - we support the principle of National Policy Statements, for example. But the bill as now drafted gives us major concern on quite fundamental issues of democracy and accountability.

“First, national policy must have real democratic legitimacy. The Air Transport White Paper can't be said to have this - it is Government policy agreed after a few weeks of public consultation (the result of which was ignored anyway). NPSs should be subject to a vote in both houses of Parliament.

“Second, the proposed Commission should not take decisions on projects. Decisions should rest with Ministers, who are accountable to Parliament. The commission should be an investigative body making recommendations to Ministers.

“Third, inquiry procedures should protect people's right to be heard and to cross-examine experts. As the bill stands, property owners could have their land compulsorily purchased for the Heathrow third runway, say, without having a chance to put their case or to test the arguments of those promoting the runway.

“The Government says the bill is about speeding up decisions. None of us want to be stuck in lengthy lawyer-dominated inquiries, but unless these fundamental issues are addressed, the bill will result in longer not shorter planning because projects will be subject to lengthy judicial review and - if the processes do not have public confidence - in direct action. “