Lord Rogers told Building: "We certainly need to remove the uncertainty in the (planning) process. In Belgium, you can get a planning decision in three weeks; here, it can take years, and that needs to change." The taskforce, which answers directly to deputy prime minister John Prescott, will publish an interim report next week. Its full report will not be available until the summer.
The DETR refused to discuss the details of the group's recommendations for changes to the planning system. However, a taskforce spokesman said: "Planning should be viewed as a proactive tool for positive change rather than simply a reactive mechanism." The House Builders' Federation, which has accused the taskforce of overlooking what it sees as major obstacles to urban development, gave a cautious welcome to the news. An HBF spokesman said: "We would be delighted if the planning process was speeded up but we would need to see concrete details." Ian Roxburgh, managing director of group planning at housebuilder Wimpey, said he is encouraged by Rogers' comments.
But he added that more reforms are needed to enable the government to reach its target of 4.4 million new homes by 2016.
"Anything that improves the efficiency of the planning process is good. But it isn't enough to develop new technical controls; you have to overcome the ethos among local authorities that development is a bad thing." He said: "Quite often, planning officers will find in favour of a development only to have it overturned by the planning committee for political reasons. That is what the taskforce needs to address." Guy Fordham, managing director of Bryant Homes East Midlands, said: "This is what we've been after, a speedier application process. If it happens, it will be good news." The taskforce's interim report will provide a summary of the various recommendations it has received from interested parties, as well as an outline of Lord Rogers' vision for urban development in the 21st century.
Rogers' comments coincide with the publication of an interim report by the DETR that calls for a more efficient use of compulsory purchase orders. The report says the legal framework for CPOs is adequate but that their operation and implementation need to be more efficient.
- In Building on 11 December, a quote was wrongly attributed to Prince of Wales's Foundation chief executive David Lunts. We apologise for any confusion caused.