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PR 36 - Three steps to put democracy in the planning bill

17 June 2008

The Government must make three amendments to the Planning Bill to make sure that decisions on major infrastructure like power stations and airports are subjected to robust parliamentary scrutiny in a way that doesn't slow the system down, according to the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI).

The RTPI is calling for the introduction of the following three amendments to the Planning Bill:

1)      All National Policy Statements (the documents which set out national infrastructure priorities and describe where and under which circumstances development should take place) must be subjected to parliamentary scrutiny and approved by both MPs and the House of Lords before being adopted. In order for a National Policy Statement to gain parliamentary approval it must also satisfy the following criteria:

a.      It must be drawn up on a firm base of rigorously tested evidence

b.      It must consider all options and implications

c.      It must take as its guiding and integrating principle the promotion of sustainable development

d.      It must be as location-specific as possible

e.      It must be thoroughly tested through open and transparent public engagement and debate

2)      The Independent Planning Commission (IPC) must be required to produce an annual report to Parliament on the adequacy of the National Policy Statements as a basis for decision taking.

3)      The IPC Commissioner must be vetted by Parliament before being appointed and must be required to appear before a parliamentary committee annually to describe the activities of the IPC and explain the decisions it has made.

RTPI Secretary General Robert Upton said: \"Who signs off on a major infrastructure decision is not as important as the basis on which the final decision is made. For that reason it is vital that the government gets National Policy Statements completely right. In order to make sure decisions are both sound and democratically legitimate each Statement must satisfy six criteria. It must be drawn up on a firm base of rigorously tested evidence. It must consider all options and implications. It must take as its guiding and integrating principle the promotion of sustainable development. It must be as location-specific as possible. It must be thoroughly tested through open and transparent public engagement and debate. And finally it must be presented to Parliament for scrutiny and approval.

\"So far the debate over who should take the final decision on major infrastructure has missed the point. The basis on which the decision is made is of primary importance, not the individual or body who makes the judgement. The effort and energy of this debate should go into how to make sure all the voices in the community are heard in the decision making process through the National Policy Statements.\"

The Planning Bill is due to be debated in the House of Commons on the 25th of June.    

For further information or to arrange an interview please contact:

Dale Atkinson, RTPI Communications Manager, 0207 929 9479 dale.atkinson@rtpi.org.uk

Notes to Editors:

A copy of the RTPI's briefing document on the Planning Bill is available from here.

The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) is a dynamic organisation leading the way in the creation of places that work now and in the future. We understand that just as people develop places, so places develop people.  We are committed to the enhancement of our natural and human environment, using spatial planning to manage competing pressures on our built environments and the very real effects on our space.  Through our 20,000 members, we constantly seek to create areas and places in which people want to live and work.

For further general information, visit the RTPI website at: www.rtpi.org.uk 41 Botolph Lane, London, EC3R 8DL, charity no. 262865. Charity registered in Scotland: SC 037841