Growth and Infrastructure Bill (2nd reading today) – Government plans in a pickle, says BCU expert

The Growth and Infrastructure Bill to fast-track the planning process will receive its second reading today (Monday, November 5) – but the Bill is a missed opportunity to help develop planning as a core component of the growth agenda, says expert Professor Alister Scott.

Professor Scott, from Birmingham City University, said many political interventions have sought to fast-track planning decisions – and all have failed.

It is important to recognise, added Professor Scott, that planning decisions are complex and require scrutiny and public consultation to ensure that the business case is valid and that opposition is based on sound planning arguments. Ill-thought out development creates a legacy that will undermine the economy as much as an over restrictive planning system – and there are legal safeguards to consider.

Professor Scott said: “This ill- thought out Bill fails to connect the key issues facing economic growth within one coherent strategy – uncertainty, high business rates, lack of financial support and investment are the key barriers to growth. Perversely, in this Bill, business rates revaluations are actually delayed.

The lack of appreciation of the environment and community as assets for development reflects a one-dimensional view of economic growth.

The Bill is presented at a time when public confidence in politicians is at its lowest and ministers should not forget their populist mantra of ‘localism, localism, localism’.

Now, amidst concerns that the wrong sort of localism might result, the Government have seen fit to change the agenda in favour of ‘centralism, centralism, centralism’.

Never has the planning system been in such a pickle.

There is an opportunity out there but someone needs to tell the Government to stop putting too much fertiliser on otherwise they will kill the seedling that is the new economy.”

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