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Think tank calls for simplification of planning regulation

The Government should enact a new consolidated Act to rationalise the 118 existing Acts that have an impact on planning and development, a new report (62-page / 275KB PDF) by the Centre for Policy Studies has recommended.08 May 2013

The report said that, although the Government has often expressed an intention to reduce the number of regulations governing business activity, only "modest gains" have been achieved. It found that, in the first half of 2011, 278 new regulations were introduced. This compared to 150 regulations in the first six months of the previous Government.

The report found that although the absolute number of new Acts and Statutory Instruments fell to its lowest level in nine years in 2011, there were still 1,727 new laws passed in that year.

The regulations which control the planning system, including 118 Acts, are "notoriously complex", the report said. It said that this has resulted in an "unnecessarily lengthy and costly planning procedure which enables vested interests to prosper, creates commercial uncertainty and restricts new development".

"This damaging complexity in part explains the high house prices in the UK, the low level of construction of new houses and the significant delays to new infrastructure projects," the report said.

The report recommended that the Government's first step should be to simplify all current planning regulation. It said that a new Consolidated Act should be enacted to rationalise the 118 statutes that currently impact on planning and development and to reduce the "unacceptable delays inherent in today’s planning system".

The report welcomed the Government's "renewed interest" in Garden Cities. However it said that, for more Garden Cities to come forward, the private sector "must be free to design, fund and build such developments in an attractive and sustainable manner".

“The Coalition is right to have identified the complexity of the current planning system as a major obstacle to growth," said Centre for Policy Studies director Tim Knox in a statement.

"It should learn from the historic success of Milton Keynes and the plans for a new Garden City at Old Hatfield to see how implementing real reform can free up the planning process to the great benefit of both would-be homeowners and the wider economy,” he said.