Since 2005, the government has published an enormous 3,254 pages of planning guidance and yet the system still lacks a clear framework for decision-making, according to a new report released today by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC).
The BCC report, Planning for Recovery, argues that in the current economic climate the existing levels of uncertainty, risk and delay within the planning system, and its inability to deliver on our infrastructure needs, are holding businesses back and damaging UK competitiveness as a result.
While recent government reforms have the potential to improve the situation, the business group believes further strategic changes are needed. The report makes a series of recommendations on how to improve the system, which include:
· The creation of Enterprise Zones to encourage development in specific areas through a simplified planning and tax regime.
· Strong and clear National Policy Statements and an Infrastructure Planning Commission which will speed up decision-making.
· The abolition of unnecessary regional planning processes. All Local Authorities should have complete local planning frameworks in place.
· A target set on limiting the extent of national planning guidance with parliamentary scrutiny of the progress.
· More joined-up infrastructure funding and a simplification of the planning obligations system to ensure they cannot be layered on top of each other. How and where they are spent should be made public.
Commenting, David Frost, Director General of the BCC, said: “If we do not have a world-class infrastructure base on which companies can do business, we run the risk that our competitors will. Critical to the delivery of these projects, which are so important for our economy, is having a planning process that works. “Unfortunately the reality of the current system is too much uncertainty, risk and delay. This is a source of frustration for companies up and down the country. Bad experiences are all too common, and now that we are facing a recession and a collapsed property market, this situation is no longer acceptable.”