27/03/12

Commenting on the government’s decision to move ahead with crucial reforms to planning laws, John Longworth, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:

“This country’s impossible planning regime has for too long prevented our development and growth. We have said that without reform, businesses will shelve development projects, and our economy will lose out on crucial inward investment from overseas.

“Business will warmly welcome the government’s decision to push ahead with planning reform. If implemented properly, the new National Planning Policy Framework could give companies greater clarity and certainty when looking to expand. It will also allow planning to be restored to a positive tool, rather than a weapon used to fight reactionary battles against change, growth and jobs. Ministers must ensure that the new system works for companies of all sizes, whether in urban centers or rural idylls, North and South.

“The opponents of planning reform have been voluble in recent months. They have said there’s no need to change the planning system – but the evidence from good businesses trying to expand proves them wrong. The BCC’s own research shows that the complexity, cost and inconsistency of the current system discourage demand from companies that want to grow. That in turn limits economic growth. So a failure to reform the planning system would not just be a blow to business’s bottom line. It would also undermine Britain’s ability to pay for the public services we all want to see.

“No one in business wants to concrete over the countryside, damage the environment, or allow reckless and poor development. Businesses understand the need for planning to promote sustainable and responsible growth. But in its current form, that system limits even the most modest expansion, tying companies up in red tape, heaping costs upon owners and discouraging firms from applying in the first place.”

 On the ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’: 

 “We welcome the government’s decision to maintain a presumption in favour of sustainable development at the heart of the new system. This presumption will encourage growth while retaining the environmental safeguards that have long been part of the British planning system. It will also provide a powerful incentive for local authorities to complete their local plans to guide growth if they do not already have one in place.”

 On the use of brownfield land first: 

“The reinstatement of a ‘brownfield-first’ approach clarifies the government’s original intention in the draft. While we broadly support this change, local authorities must work to ensure this supports future business growth. An adequate supply of commercial land must be maintained.”

 On the greenbelt:

“Local authorities must be careful not to score an own goal by putting too much protection around greenbelt land, some of which has little amenity value and could be better used to provide jobs and homes. Our cities require an adequate supply of land for commercial development, and in some cases this may require making the tough choice to use close-by greenbelt areas, rather than see environmentally-unsustainable development many miles away.”

 On implementing the policy:

 “We welcome the additional detail on how the changes will be implemented. But government and local authorities must work hard to provide certainty and consistency for businesses looking to expand over the 12-month transition period.”

BCC research shows:

  • 70% of applicants had to pay for planning support during the application process, demonstrating the system’s complexity and cost
  • 21% of businesses that needed planning permission but did not submit an application said it was because of negative perceptions of the planning process, demonstrating discouraged demand
  • Of those that considered applying but did not, 44% said their decision damaged their plans for growth or constrained output, demonstrating negative economic impact
  • 65% of those who had applied for planning permission in different parts of the country said that they received different advice across local authorities, demonstrating inconsistency and complexity
  • Over half (53%) of applicants said that when a decision on an application is finally reached, it runs contrary to the advice of expert planning officers. This shows that under the current system politics too often trumps the need for growth. 

 Ends

Notes to editors:

*The BCC, together with Research by Design Ltd, surveyed 5,342 member businesses during July and August 2011. To view the research in full, click here.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) is the national voice of local business.

The BCC sits at the heart of a powerful nationwide network of Accredited Chambers of Commerce, serving over 100,000 businesses across the UK, which employ over five million people. For more information visit: www.britishchambers.org.uk

Media Contacts:

Liz Larvin
Tel: 020 7654 5813 / 07825746812
Email: l.larvin@britishchambers.org.uk

Lisa Morrison
Tel: 020 7654 5812 / 07717682221
Email: l.morrison@britishchambers.org.uk