Prescott hopes to grant permission to entire masterplans to speed up delivery of new communities.
Deputy Prime minister John Prescott plans to streamline planning on major developments such as the Thames Gateway to the east of London.

Under the proposals now being considered by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, developers would gain planning approval for an area, rather than outline permission followed by detailed planning permission for specific schemes.

The only drawback for developers is that they would have to meet strict environmental and design standards to get the go-ahead.

Prescott's aim is to speed up the delivery of the government's housebuilding programme, which aims to provide 200,000 homes in the South-east by 2016.

Prescott, speaking this week at the Better Buildings Summit in central London, said the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister was working on the details now.

He told Building: "Instead of saying you have got to apply every time for a planning permission you get a code or a masterplan for a bigger area. This will allow for quicker planning decisions and also a higher quality of design."

He said that he would say more about what was planned as soon as his officials had finalised the details.

Tony Burton, National Trust director of policy and strategy and a former member of the urban taskforce, said the idea had been considered for some time. He said: "The whole issue is linked to producing good enough masterplans, with a tight framework and lots of detail."

A source close to architectural watchdog CABE, however, raised concerns about the concept of a "masterplan". The source said: "There is no specific definition of what a masterplan is. It is OK if the parties working on the scheme are all in agreement but otherwise it can be quite a slippery concept."

The planning system is a two-stage operation at the moment: first developers must seek outline planning consent for land to be developed. If that is granted, detailed planning consent must be obtained for a specific scheme.

Prescott also revealed at the Better Building conference, sponsored by the DTI, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the ODPM, that the term "key worker" would be redefined to include all public sector workers.

  • The government has announced the creation of a high-profile group of builders, developers, planners and environmental advisers to improve the environmental quality of buildings. The Sustainable Buildings Task Group will report back to DEFRA in February.