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Tuesday, 20 November, 2001, 18:03 GMT
Death knell for planning law 'banquet'
A plane flies over houses near Heathrow
Heathrow was the longest ever planning inquiry
The four-year 83m inquiry into a fifth terminal at London's Heathrow Airport has sounded the death knell for Britain's tortuous planning laws.

Labelling the current system a "banquet for barristers," Transport Secretary Stephen Byers said he wanted a "comprehensive and radical" review of how planning decisions are taken in the UK.

The bureaucracy had to be stripped away to make the process "far more open and transparent" and local people had to be given more of a say, Mr Byers told the Commons.

What people want is a planning system in which they can have confidence

Theresa May
Shadow local govt spokesman

The final decision on terminal five came 14 years after BAA first applied for planning permission.

"If you look at major planning inquiries at the present time, what they have become is a banquet for barristers, it is a lawyers' free lunch," Mr Byers said.

Planning had now become "highly technical" and no longer achieved the political objectives of social renewal and economic regeneration identified by the 1945 Atlee government, he added.

'Confidence'

Shadow transport secretary Eric Pickles called the terminal five inquiry the "last hurrah" of the current system.

But shadow local government secretary Theresa May, said government plans, yet to be published, would mean local communities would no longer have a voice on major planning decisions.

She said: "What people want is a planning system in which they can have confidence."

She pointed to concerns about a planned development in Ipswich, where a by-election is held next week, arguing that the public were looking for homes in a "decent environment" where greenfields were not "concreted over".
Transport Secretary Stephen Byers
Byers says the planning process will be overhauled

Ms May suggested the government was planning to remove an entire tier of local decision making on planning issues.

Mr Byers said the reforms would offer a "straightforward, common sense" approach which balanced the needs of communities with those of development.

A spokeswoman for the department of transport, local government and the regions said a consultation paper on changing the process would be published later this year.

However, Labour's Andrew Mackinlay warned Mr Byers not to sacrifice traditional Labour principles by overlooking the interests of ordinary people in favour of profit.

He said: "One of the enduring legacies of the 1945 government wasn't just the National Health Service, it was also the town and country planning legislation which ensured there was a balance between the national interest and the interests of ordinary people."

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Sean Curran
"Stephen Byers has been transformed into a old fashioned class warrior"
See also:

28 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Planning inquiries to be curbed
20 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Planning shake-up unveiled
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