Background

The Government announced in the 2005 Pre-Budget Report that Kate Barker would lead an independent review of land use planning, focusing on the link between planning and economic growth.

The final report for the review was published on 5 December 2006 and is available below from the following link:

http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/independent_reviews/barker_review_land_use_planning/barkerreview_land_use_planning_index.cfm

The recommendations in the Final Report aim to create planning policy and processes in England that give appropriate weight to economic benefits, are more responsive to changing circumstances (including environmental pressures), and deliverer decisions in a more transparent and timely manner.

The Barker report has sought a wide-ranging package and addresses three key issues:

Flexibility and responsiveness

Efficiency of process

More efficient use of land

Key Recommendations

Streamlining policy and processes through reducing policy guidance, unifying consent regimes and reforming plan-making at the local level so that future development plan documents can be delivered in 18-24 months rather than three or more years;

Updating national policy on planning for economic development (PPS4), to ensure that the benefits of development are fully taken into account in plan-making and decision-taking, with a more explicit role for market and price signals;

Introducing a new system for dealing with major infrastructure projects, based around national Statements of Strategic Objectives and an independent Planning Commission to determine applications;

Promoting a positive planning culture within the plan-led system so that when the plan is indeterminate, applications should be approved unless there is good reason to believe that the environmental, social and economic costs will exceed the respective benefits;

In the context of the Lyons Inquiry into Local Government to consider enhancing fiscal incentives to ensure an efficient use of urban land, in particular reforming business rate relief for empty property, exploring the options for a charge on vacant and derelict previously developed land, and, separately consulting on reforms to Land Remediation Relief;

Ensuring that new development beyond towns and cities occurs in the most sustainable

way, by encouraging planning bodies to review their green belt boundaries and take a more positive approach to applications that will enhance the quality of their green belts;

A more risk-based and proportionate approach to regulation, with a reduction in formfilling, including the introduction of new proportionality thresholds, to reduce the transaction costs for business and to increase the speed of decision-making;

Removing the need for minor commercial developments that have little wider impact to require planning permission (including commercial microgeneration);

Supporting the ‘town-centre first’ policy, but removing the requirement to demonstrate the need for development;

In the context of the findings of the Lyons Inquiry into Local Government, to consider how fiscal incentives can be better aligned so that local authorities are in a position to share the benefits of local economic growth;

Ensuring that Secretary of State decisions focus on important, strategic issues, with a reduction by around 50 per cent in the volume of Secretary of State call-ins;

Ensuring sufficient resources for planning, linked to improved performance, including consulting on raising the £50,000 fee cap and allowing firms to pay for additional resources;

Enhancing efficiencies in processing applications via greater use of partnership working with the private sector, joint-working with other local authorities to achieve efficiencies of scale and scope, and an expanded role of the central support function ATLAS;

Speeding up the appeals system, through the introduction of a Planning Mediation Service, better resourcing, and allowing Inspectors to determine the appeal route. From 2008-09 appeals should be completed in 6 months; and

Improving skills, including through raising the status of the Chief Planner, training for members and officers, and wider use of business process reviews.