The government has finally published its long-awaiting Bill toreform the planning system. The main aims of the legislation are tocut the time it takes to process planning applications, tostreamline the compulsory purchase of land and to simplifycompensation payments made as a result of these purchases.

Main provisions in the Bill include measures specificallydesigned to handle applications for major infrastructure projectsintended to avoid repeats of the ten-year long inquiry intobuilding a fifth terminal at Heathrow. The legislation also allowsfor the creation of simplified planning zones to be identified inthe strategic plan for a region or in Wales. An extra layer ofbureaucracy, the county structure plans, will be abolished andlocal development frameworks will replace unitary developmentplans.

The publication of the Bill follows two consultations on themain policy proposals, one on planning reform and one on compulsorypurchase, which attracted just under 15,500 responses. Theconsensus was that fundamental change is needed but the propertyindustry remains concerned that unless more resources are madeavailable to councils, little progress will be made despite the newlegislation.

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