Page last updated at 15:35 GMT, Thursday, 5 June 2008 16:35 UK

Rebels delay planning law debate

Cooling towers at Dumfries
The changes are aimed at speeding up large-scale projects

A House of Commons debate on government proposals to reform planning laws has been delayed, ahead of a possible rebellion by Labour MPs.

The Planning Bill would strip ministers of the final say over big projects like airports and nuclear plants - handing it to an independent commission.

Many Labour MPs say this will make the system less accountable, but the government argues it will cut delays.

A debate due for Monday has been put back to at least the following week.

The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats oppose the proposal to create an independent Infrastructure Planning Commission.

Sixty Labour backbenchers have also signed a motion criticising it - raising the prospect of a defeat for the government.

'Reflect'

This comes at a time when ministers are battling to get an extension of pre-charge detentions for terror suspects through Parliament.

The most recent debate on the Planning Bill was last week, while the next had been scheduled for next Monday.

But Commons leader Harriet Harman told MPs: "I think it is only right that if honourable members... raise questions about a bit of government legislation the appropriate thing to do is to reflect on what changes might need to be made."

She added: "I can tell the House that...it will probably come back to the House the week after next, probably Monday 23 [June]."

To Conservatives jeers, she said: "You can't have it both ways. Either they (MPs) raise issues and they want us to address them or they raise issues and criticise us if we plough ahead."

'Unelected quango'

The government says planning decisions - like that for Heathrow Terminal 5, which took seven years - are happening too slowly.

Opponents of the proposed commission say it will take decisions on major projects away from democratically accountable ministers, allowing "an unelected quango" to make them instead.

A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said the government was still "firmly committed to this important package of reforms to the planning system which are critical to meeting our long term objectives for the economy, to address climate, and for our society".

Friends of the Earth's planning campaigner Hugh Ellis said: "The Planning Bill is an environmental disaster.

"The government wants to fast-track major developments - such as airports, roads and power stations - through the planning system without considering their impact on climate change and with little regard for local opinion.

"Ministers must listen to the mounting concern, and put people and the planet at the heart of our planning system."


SEE ALSO
MPs attack planning law shake-up
02 Jun 08 |  UK Politics
Revolt grows over planning bill
29 May 08 |  UK Politics

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