Communities and Local Government (CLG) has launched a planning policy which it hopes will set out a clear and integrated approach towards sustainable economic growth.

Housing and planning minister Margaret Beckett said that the new policy, published for consultation earlier today, would tackle “current economic uncertainty” and exploit the opportunities available through global competition for job and investment.

The proposed Planning Policy Statement 4: Planning for Prosperous Economies is claimed to streamline existing guidance to create a coherent and modern planning framework. The new policy also aims to enable communities to meet the economic challenges they are now facing.

It is hoped that the integrated approach of the new Planning Policy Statement will provide greater certainty to businesses looking to submit planning applications and assist local authorities take speedier decisions on applications.

Margaret Beckett said: “The planning system needs to do everything it can to support the economic aspirations of our communities in cities, towns and rural villages. We need a flexible and responsive system with local authorities and business working together to understand the economic challenges they face and to exploit the opportunities they identify. That’s why for the first time we have brought together all of our key planning policies relating to the economy in one place. “

Key policies in the new Planning for Prosperous Economies PPS include:

- From draft PPS4, considering planning applications for economic growth favourably unless there is good reason to believe the costs outweigh the benefits. Developing plans that take account of long term economic benefits, including for the wider regional and national economy such as job creation, and promoting opportunities to regenerate deprived areas and support business diversification in rural areas.

- From PPG5, encouraging local authorities to make full use of the planning tools available to them to simplify and speed up the planning process, such as creating simplified planning zones.

- From PPS6, promoting the vitality of town centres, consumer choice and retail diversity. Removing the “needs” test, which requires developers to show there is need for their proposal. Retaining the sequential test, which requires developers to seek the most central sites first, and a tougher 'impact test' which assesses proposals against economic, social and environmental criteria so that councils can assess its impact on the town centre in reaching their decision.

- From PPS7, provide for sustainable economic growth in keeping with the need to protect the countryside. This responds to a key recommendation from Matthew Taylor MP’s review of rural housing and economy.

The consultation on the draft PPS will close on 28 July 2009.