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PR 38 - Planning Bill concessions endorse RTPI advice

24 June 2008

The Government has taken the advice of the RTPI and promised to amend the Planning Bill to deliver more robust National Policy Statements and subject the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) to greater parliamentary scrutiny, in a move the institute has described as eminently sensible and entirely necessary.

Following a meeting with Ministers this morning, rebel MP Clive Betts claimed on BBC Radio 4 that the Government has agreed to make concessions on the Bill, including making key National Policy Statements on airports and nuclear power stations locationally specific. In other reports he is also quoted as claiming that as a result of the concessions the chair and vice chair of the IPC will be subject to pre-appointment scrutiny and that the Commission will be called upon to make regular reports to a parliamentary select committee. These amendments were called for last week by the RTPI.

It has also been claimed that a further concession will require the IPC to take account of a report by the relevant local authority before making a decision.

RTPI Policy Director Rynd Smith said: \"We are delighted that the Government has listened to our advice and made some eminently sensible and entirely necessary concessions. There is no doubt that the major infrastructure planning system is in need of streamlining. The IPC can play a significant role in making the system clearer and quicker, provided that decisions are governed by robust National Policy Statements that involve communities in the process and are accountable to Parliament.

\"National Policy Statements will be the cornerstones of the new decision making process so it's vital that they are as representative of the public good as possible. Developing locationally specific guidelines on nuclear power stations and airports is a positive step towards ensuring that the decision making process is both democratic as well as efficient.

\"We are also pleased the Government plans to subject the Infrastructure Planning Commission and its members to greater parliamentary scrutiny. It is important that the decision making process is transparent and the reasons behind decisions are properly explained to the public.\"

Last week the RTPI called 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 Infrastructure 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.

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

Notes to Editors:

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

The RTPI and CBI have written to MPs outlining the case for major infrastructure planning reform. A copy of that letter 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: 41 Botolph Lane, London, EC3R 8DL, charity no. 262865. Charity registered in Scotland: SC 037841