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RTPI response to attack on Planning Bill by Hugh Ellis, planning campaigner, friends of the earth

05 November 2008

The lengthy attack by Hugh Ellis on the Planning Bill (Flawed plans, 29 October) makes the mistake of overly concentrating on the role of the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC), important though it will be. In order to ensure the success of the new way of handling major developments however, we must make certain there is full public engagement around the National Policy Statements. These documents will be absolutely vital in guiding the IPC. They must therefore meet certain requirements: be clear so as to give a long term steer on policy, be location specific, subject to genuine public debate and, we believe, a rigorous process of parliamentary scrutiny.

As the body representing 21,000 of Britain's planners, we do not believe the bill is perfect but the introduction of National Policy Statements and the proposed IPC, offers the most desirable mix of transparency, democratic accountability and efficiency. It is also the best means that we currently have of delivering low carbon infrastructure within a timescale that will help us to avoid the worst excesses of climate change. Organisations like Friends of the Earth can, of course, afford to defend to the death exhausting year long public inquiries to which they are able to send teams of experts but communities and individuals often do not have the resources to take a meaningful part in a time consuming and enormously expensive process.

Ministers have promised that under the new system public accountability and engagement will increase. We intend to ensure we continue to play a constructive role in ensuring the government keeps its promise to meaningfully involve the public not just at the application stages but when the National Policy statements are originally drawn up.

Letter from Robert Upton - RTPI Secretary General to Society Guardian, published 5 November 2008, in response to Hugh Ellis article 'Flawed Plans' published 29 October 2008.