Thames estuary airport fears as full National Planning Policy Framework to be published next week,
In his Budget, George Osborne said: ”Next week my right hon. Friend the Communities Secretary and the Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government, my right hon. Friend the Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark), the Minister with responsibility for planning, will publish the results of our overhaul of planning regulation. We are replacing 1,000 pages of guidance with just 50 pages. We are introducing a presumption in favour of sustainable development, while protecting our most precious environments. The new policy comes into effect when the national planning policy framework is published next Tuesday. This is the biggest reduction in business red tape ever undertaken.” This does not bode well for the Thames estuary.
What does the budget mean for the prospects of an airport in the Thames Estuary.
In his Budget today Mr Osborne chancellor of the Exchequer announced today ”I believe that this country must confront the lack of airport capacity in the south-east of England. We cannot cut ourselves off from the fastest growing cities in the world, and my right hon. Friend the Transport Secretary will set out Government thinking later this summer.” With expansion ruled out at Heathrow Gatwick and Stansted and the political focus firmly and uniquely on the Thames Estuary the future does not look bright.
In the last consultation in 2002 when Government looked at proposals for an airport at Cliffe or in the run up to the current consultation to be announced shortly, this or previous Governments have never acknowledged the environmental value of the Thames Estuary despite its European and Ramsar recognition.
Mr Darling the then Secretary of State for Transport came close when giving his reasons for dismissing Cliffe as an option when he said that birdstrike would make the site dangerous.
Today Mr Osborne went on to say ”Next week my right hon. Friend the Communities Secretary and the Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government, my right hon. Friend the Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark), the Minister with responsibility for planning, will publish the results of our overhaul of planning regulation. We are replacing 1,000 pages of guidance with just 50 pages. We are introducing a presumption in favour of sustainable development, while protecting our most precious environments. The new policy comes into effect when the national planning policy framework is published next Tuesday. This is the biggest reduction in business red tape ever undertaken.”
Saving our most precious places may just be a reference to our nine national parks that we all love and indeed consider precious or if we are optimistic it could be a reference to the recognition we all want to hear … that the Thames Estuary, recently put forward for consideration as one of the new Marine Conservation Zones is to be given its rightful place in the hearts and minds of the nation.
[See below news on the publication of the Government review of its interpretation of the Habitats Directive – the very legislation that forms the foundation of protection of all such sites.]
BUDGET 2012: Boris island airport could get lift off as Osborne rips up 60 years of planning law to drive economy forward’
- Move signals support for airport in the Thames Estuary
- Northern England to see investment in ‘neglected’ transport infrastructure
21 March 2012 (Mail)
The potential of a new airport in the Thames estuary a step closer after Mr Osborne warned that Britain needed to ‘confront the lack of airport capacity’ in the South East of England.
The Government aviation review is currently looking at the project – dubbed ‘Boris island’ after London Mayor Boris Johnson.
The £50billion airport would be capable of handling 150 million passengers annually.
Mr Osborne’s comments are also set to anger environmentalists and fuel concerns that the Government is softening on its opposition to the expansion of Heathrow airport.
Mr Osborne said: ‘We’re the first British government to set out in a National Infrastructure Plan the projects we are going to prioritise in the coming decade.
‘The roads, railways, clean energy and water, and broadband networks we need are all identified.
‘I also believe this country must confront the lack of airport capacity in the South East of England – we cannot cut ourselves off from the fastest growing cities in the world.
‘The Transport Secretary will set out Government thinking later this summer.
Further investment is expected in London’s transport system on top of what has already been done such as Crossrail
‘We want to look at the opportunities for increasing the role of private investment in the road network, learning lessons from the water industry.
‘I confirm today that Network Rail will extend the Northern Hub, adding to the electrification of the Transpennine rail route, by upgrading the Hope Valley line between Manchester and Sheffield – and improving the Manchester to Preston and Blackpool, and Manchester to Bradford lines.
‘For years, transport investment in the north of England was neglected. Not under this Coalition Government.
‘We are working with our great cities to devolve decision-making powers – and we are striking a ground-breaking deal with Manchester to support £1.2 billion in growth-enhancing infrastructure.
Speaking about changes in planning law, the Chancellor said: ‘Of course, those projects succeeded because they were not killed off by the planning system.
‘You can’t earn your future if you can’t get planning permission.
Global businesses have diverted specific investments that would have created hundreds of jobs in some of the most deprived communities in Britain to countries like Germany and the Netherlands, because they couldn’t get planning permission here.
‘That is unacceptable.
‘Next week my Right Honourable Friends the Communities Secretary and the Planning Minister will publish the results of our overhaul of planning regulation.
‘We’re replacing 1,000 pages of guidance with just 50 pages. We’re introducing a presumption in favour of sustainable development;
‘While protecting our most precious environments. The new policy comes into effect when the National Planning Policy Framework is published next Tuesday.
‘This is the biggest reduction in business red tape ever undertaken. As a country, we also want to make the most of the Olympic and Paralympics Games.
‘Some of the biggest events will be on a Sunday. When millions of visitors come to Britain to see them, we don’t want to hang up a ‘Closed for Business’ sign.
David Cameron vowed to protect the most precious parts of the UK’s countryside which could include areas such as the Ribble Valley Area of outstanding Natural Beauty
‘So we will introduce legislation limited to relaxing the Sunday trading laws for eight Sundays only, starting on July 22.’
Adam Royle, spokesman for the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said Mr Osborne’s reference to protecting ‘the most precious environments’ could spell bad news for the wider countryside.
‘From the Chancellor’s words we fear the long-standing protection for the wider countryside will be abandoned.
‘That would mean that 55per cent of English countryside, including many locally loved green spaces, could be placed at the mercy of developers.
‘Also extremely worrying is the suggestion that communities may not be given any time to ensure their local plans conform to the new framework.
‘This could leave more then one third of areas that don’t currently have a plan exposed to a crude ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’.’
Friends of the Earth’s executive director Andy Atkins said: ‘Osborne says new planning rules will protect our most precious environments but unless they address the environmental challenges we all face, ministers will pave the way for a development free-for-all that will cost us all a fortune in the long run.
‘Bringing in the changes will put local plans at risk and allow developers to ride roughshod over local communities.
Determined: The PM shrugged off opposition to the planning overhaul, saying he wants a Victorian-style blitz on new infrastructure building to boost growth
Accepting there would be ‘costs and protests’, Mr Cameron shrugged off opposition to the planning overhaul, saying he wants a Victorian-style blitz on new infrastructure building to boost growth.
He warned that failure to act would condemn Britain to being a second-rate nation.
But his plans were quickly condemned by rural groups and green campaigners as a blueprint for ‘disfiguring’ the countryside that would damage the fabric of Britain.
In a speech at the Institute of Civil Engineering in London, the Prime Minister vowed to overcome what he called a ‘failure of nerve’ on planning.
Mr Cameron rejected calls by groups such as the National Trust to tear up its new National Planning Policy Framework, due shortly, saying it would provide ‘the biggest simplification of our bureaucratic, top-down planning laws in 60 years’.
He said the Government would protect green belts and national parks, but added: ‘We also urgently need to find places where we are prepared to allow significant new growth to happen.’
Vowing to recreate a ‘visionary plan’ from 1944 to build new towns across the South East, Mr Cameron said: ‘The growth of our towns and cities has been held back by a planning system which has encouraged development of the wrong sort in the wrong places.’
He said places such as Hampstead Garden Suburb, Letchworth and Welwyn Garden City were ‘not perfect but popular’ and the coalition would seek to build more towns that were ‘green, planned, secure, with gardens, places to play and characterful houses, not just car-dominated concrete grids’.
Mr Cameron said the Government would begin consulting later this year ‘on how to apply the principles of garden cities to areas with high potential growth, in places people want to live’.
He added: ‘We must get our planning system fit for purpose. It needs to be quick. It needs to be easier to use. And it needs to better support growth, jobs and homes.’
The Prime Minister said the Government needed to be similarly ‘bold’ about air transport too.
Risking a fresh row with the Liberal Democrats, who oppose all airport expansion in the South East, he said: ‘I’m not blind to the need to increase airport capacity, particularly in the South East.
‘We need to retain our status as a key global hub for air travel, not just a feeder route to bigger airports elsewhere, in Frankfurt, Amsterdam or Dubai.’
The Tories have ruled out a third runway at Heathrow but Mr Cameron made warm noises about building a new international hub airport East of London.
‘Yes, this will be controversial. We will be bringing forward options in our aviation strategy which will include an examination of the pros and cons of a new airport in the Thames estuary.’
He praised Boris Johnson, saying he had ‘done very well in driving forward this agenda’.
Mr Cameron also unveiled £150million of new investment in ‘shovel ready’ building projects that already have planning permission but are stalled by lack of investment.
Chancellor George Osborne will also be announcing ten ‘super-connected’ cities that are to have universal access to super-fast broadband as part of the drive to improve telecommunications.
Neil Sinden, Director of Policy for the Campaign to Protect Rural England, attacked the plans for building in the countryside.
He said: ‘If the Government’s planning reforms remain unchanged from the draft published last year, pressure for sprawling development is precisely what we can expect.
‘Unless the final planning framework recognises the intrinsic value of our countryside as a whole, we fear a rash of sporadic and inappropriate development across the country, disfiguring the rural landscape which is so valued by local communities.’
But Mr Cameron vowed to stand up to the critics.
‘There will be costs and protests. And I am certainly not doing it in the hope of immediate political advantage,’ he said.
‘I can see the furious objections – the banner headlines – already.’
But he added: ‘We will take difficult decisions, we will risk short-term unpopularity.
‘We will hold fast to our vision in the face of vested interests, because our motivation and our duty is to protect and champion the national interest.’
DEFRA review of Habitats Regulations confirms environmental standards are not a brake on development
Date added: March 22, 2012
DEFRA has published its review of the Habitats Regulations. These are the most important mechanisms the UK has for protecting our internationally important wildlife sites, such as estuary and marsh habitat for birds. The DEFRA review restates the Government’s support for the Birds and Habitats Directives, and demonstrates that these vital environmental safeguards do not act as a brake on economic development. The review found no evidence to back up the suggestion made by the Chancellor, George Osborne, in his Autumn Budget Statement that the regulations are “a ridiculous cost on British business”. The Government’s own review has shown that these comments were misleading rhetoric, with no factual basis. The RSPB gave a cautious welcome to the proposed creation of a Major Infrastructure and Environment Unit. NGOs such as the RSPB will continue to persuade the Government that there is no contradiction between environmental protection and economic growth.