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Sunday, 28 October, 2001, 00:47 GMT 01:47 UK
Planning inquiries to be curbed
Planes at Heathrow
The public inquiry into Heathrow Airport's Terminal 5 prompted review of the system
The use of public planning inquiries is to be curbed under proposals to be announced by the government.

Planning Minister Lord Falconer has said applications for major developments including ports, airports and power stations will be fast-tracked under the new system.

Public inquiries into proposed large projects would only be held to thrash out the details of decisions already made by MPs in parliament.

But conservationists have criticised the proposals, in a Green Paper to be published in the next two months.

Gill Hatcher, of the Council for the Protection of Rural England, called them "unacceptable".

There is no debate and an automatic yes is said irrespective of the merits of the case

Paul de Zylva
Friends of the Earth
"We are looking at the development of a two-tier system where the really important major developments, which obviously have the greatest environmental impact, do not receive the kind of detailed scrutiny from people in the area as, for example, a neighbour's housing extension."

A review of the planning system was prompted by pressure from major companies following the five-year public inquiry into Heathrow Airport's proposed Terminal 5.

Opponents to the scheme said it would increase aircraft noise and attract even more traffic to the airport.

Friends of the Earth Campaign Co-ordinator Paul de Zylva - who was involved in the inquiry - told BBC News said they had feared the government was listening too much to businesses.

"It is just going to allow the planning system as it currently stands to be steamrollered so developers get what they want when they want it.

"There is no debate and an automatic yes is said irrespective of the merits of the case."

Lord Falconer told BBC's Countryfile programme the current system was "much too bureaucratic and takes much too long".

"The public's voice will continue to be heard but in a much more effective way," he said.

Countryfile is broadcast on BBC One at 1130GMT on Sunday.

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