Economist Kate Barker calls for a centralised planning committee to fast-track major projects in her report published today

Economist Kate Barker today called for an overhaul of the planning system, including a centralised planning committee to fast-track major projects, relaxing of planning rules for smaller projects and a faster appeals system.

In her final report on the planning system, Barker, a member of the Bank of England's monetary policy committee, also said that there would be 50% fewer ministerial call-ins from 2007.

One of the main aims of the review is to ensure better delivery of large-scale projects. The report recommends that decisions on individual major projects, such as airports, nuclear power stations or waste incinerators, should be made by an independent planning committee. This would prevent significant projects from being held up in the system for many years.

At the other end of the scale, Barker also recommends that minor changes to premises, such as installation of wind turbines or solar panels, should not require planning permission.

Other recommendations include:

  • Substantial rationalisation of national planning guidance to provide a clearer and more transparent national policy framework
  • Greater certainty of timescales with new, individually tailored delivery agreements between planning authorities and developers
  • Significant reduction in the paperwork required to support applications. This will reduce private sector planning fees (over £200m a year) and consultancy fees (over £300m a year)
  • Faster processing of appeals: from 2008/09 all appeals should take place within six months, and the use of a new Planning Mediation Service to resolve disputes outside of appeal proceedings
  • Improving local plan-making processes so plans can be drawn up in 18-24 months not the current 36-42. This could save local authorities more than £100m over a three-year period
Barker’s review also says that officials should examine whether too much land is protected from development. It points out that as little as 8.3%-13.5% of land in England is classified as developed, compared with 47% that is protected.