The Government wants to introduce changes to Planning law that will restrict us from having a say in what happens in our communities. This will make it easier for big business to develop nuclear power stations, major roads, airport runways, out-of-town supermarkets, ports, reservoirs and waste incinerators.
It may be hard to believe, but Business and the Treasury seriously believe that their ‘rights’ are damaged by interfering local people, that planning is an invidious “intervention in the market” and that some types of development should simply be able to steamroller their way through the planning system unopposed. And you thought they did that already!
The Government has drafted a Planning White Paper that proposed a national planning commission to determine big infrastructure projects. This would benefit large developers by making it easier for them to sidestep local objections.  Anything considered in the national interest will have a much easier ride to get the go-ahead.  Most of the undesirable developments “in the national interest” are likely to be at odds with the Government’s claimed intentions about tackling climate change.
Whilst it may feel that we lose many planning battles already, it is still the case that many local groups and, when they are doing their job, councils, use the current planning system in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to influence local developments for the benefit of the community; a route no longer open to them under these proposals.
The consultation period on the Planning White Paper runs from 21st May to the start of August.
At the same time a review of the power of supermarkets is also being held by the Competition Commission (CC). There is a real threat that the CC will back proposals in the PWP that will make it even easier for supermarkets to be built by removing the ‘need’ test which was already inadequate protection as the residents of Shirley, Yardley, Hodge Hill and Quinton are aware. Instead the CC should recommend rules to allow real local competition to flourish, by reducing the dominance of supermarkets and promoting a diverse range of shops, including local independents.  This review is open for feedback until December.
Friends of the Earth nationally is one of several organisations leading a campaign to stop these changes and maintain community rights. There is a specific call to action between 30 June and 14 July, and hopefully Birmingham FOE will be able to take part in this as well as making its own responses to the consultations.
If you would like to get involved, call us here at FOE and we’ll let you know when and where to find the consultations and what actions or stalls we might be holding, OR go to the website to take a quick email action
Karen Leach