Chancellor unveils reshuffle of planning system

Measures announced in the Budget include streamlining planning applications and scaling back section 106 regulations.

Industry bodies have welcomed help for small businesses but urged support for key sectors after chancellor George Osbourne's Budget announcement last week.

Key measures announced included a 1p per litre cut in fuel duty and an overhaul of the planning system with measures to streamline applications and promote sustainable development.

As part of the Government's Plan for Growth, section 106 agreements between planners and developers, which have funded green space projects in the past, will be made less demanding where they are considered to be an obstacle to new developments taking place.

Local authorities will be encouraged to adopt a default "yes" to development plans, however national targets controlling green belt land will be retained.

These plans were supported by communities secretary Eric Pickles, who said cutting red tape for councils and businesses would "get the house building industry building again".

He added: "The current planning system is bureaucratic and plagued by conflict and appeals - we will make it easier to navigate and establish a system where councils, communities and business work together.

"Instead of fighting against development imposed from Whitehall, people will have a far greater influence over what is built in their area."

But the Campaign to Protect Rural England said the plans posed "a massive threat to the environment" and warned that without national brownfield targets for housing the Government was putting "green fields in the path of the bulldozers".

Other key budget measures included an expanded university technical colleges programme and funding for up to 50,000 additional apprenticeships.

The Green Investment Bank will be given an extra £2bn, while a "carbon price floor" will drive investment in green infrastructure.

KEY TAXATION MEASURES

- Small companies' tax rate cut to 20 per cent.

- Corporation Tax will be cut next year to 27 per cent and by one per cent annually for the next three years until it reaches 24 per cent.

- Consultation launched into long-term plans to merge income tax and National Insurance.

- From April 2011, the threshold at which employers start to pay National Insurance will rise by the rate of inflation plus £21 per week.

- Public sector workers face a two-year pay freeze if they earn more than £21,000 - those earning less than £21,000 will get a flat pay rise worth £250 in both years.

INDUSTRY REACTION

- Peter Kendall, president, NFU

"We are encouraged by the chancellor's support for the prioritisation of growth and the presumption in favour of sustainable development in planning decisions. It is now vital that this is backed by an assurance that strategically vital industries, such as food production, will be recognised in planning priorities."

- David Gwyther, director-general, HTA

"It's far too early for the Government to consider taking the brakes off in any part of the economy. The promise of further help for small businesses in the future is encouraging. Both consumer and public sector spending are going to remain very tightly constrained for some time, so we will all need to proceed with great caution."

- Tony Leach, director, London parks & Green Spaces Forum

"It's too soon to tell what the impact will be on parks and green spaces. The changes to the section 106 agreements are going to be influenced by all the other things going on and they cannot be looked at in isolation. I suspect that there will be greater calls on the Community Infrastructure Levy."


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