George Osborne To Re-Write Planning Rules For Building, Green Belt Land Could Come Under Threat

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The government is to re-write the planning rules to speed up development and inject new life into the flagging economy as David Cameron attempts to seize back the political initiative following a bruising summer.

George Osborne warned on Sunday that the the country could not afford to wait years for new development at a time when the economy was struggling, telling the BBC's Andrew Marr show "this government means business."

The Chancellor said that the government would be introducing legislation when Parliament returns this week following the summer recess to speed up planning decisions, and to enable it Government to use its low interest rates to help underwrite construction projects.

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Osborne has promised to speed up the economy by relaxing planning rules

He said that ministers would also be encouraging local authorities to use existing powers enabling them to build on Green Belt land if an equivalent area of land elsewhere is brought into the Green Belt.

"I think we can speed up planning. It is absolutely ludicrous that it takes years to get planning decisions in this country. This country, in the current economic environment, cannot afford to wait years for development," he said.

He said that while the economy was "healing", there was no easy route to a "magical recovery".

"We have to do more and we have to do it faster," he told BBC1's The Andrew Marr Show.

"They are difficult times for the British economy, difficult times for the world but our economy is healing, jobs are being created, it is taking time, but there is no easy route to a magical recovery."

Speaking later business secretary Vince Cable agreed planning rules "have got to be modernised".

Osborne insisted that he was "110% focused on the economy" and he made clear that he was sticking to his strategy.

"It is a hard road to recovery, but there is no alternative," he said in an echo of Margaret Thatcher's famous phrase.

In a near echo of the phrase, business secretary Cable told the BBC on Sunday afternoon: "There is no plan A, B, C, V or whatever. There is no simple alternative."

The Chancellor hit back at critics on the Tory right - who have been calling on him to cut taxes and slash regulation - urging them to get behind the Government.

"I want to make it easier to build, I want to make it easier to hire people, I want to do all of those things and I look forward to the support of Conservative MPs in doing all of those things," he said.

"Of course, I read all these people coming up with different proposals for what we should do. Quite often they are mutually contradictory.

"I would say this to all the critics - on the Labour side and indeed even in the coalition - I would say get behind the government in making it easier to develop things, to get things built, to support infrastructure development. That is deregulation."

With Transport Secretary Justine Greening set to launch a consultation on future airport provision, Mr Osborne emphasised his support for businesses who have been pressing for more capacity in the South East of England.

"I am firmly in the camp of we need more airport capacity in the South East of England, we need more runway capacity in the South East of England. Then there is a question of where it should go," he said.

"What I would say is let's examine all the options. Let's make sure we can try and create a political consensus."

Osborne said that the success of the London Olympics showed that the country was capable of taking on major projects.

"We can deliver, when we have the energy and the effort, big infrastructure of the kind you think these days only the Chinese can deliver," he said.

"I think we have demonstrated this summer that we are a competent and a strong nation."

However shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna said that investment in new infrastructure was being held back.

"One of the problems that we have is that at the moment is that major infrastructure investment projects are falling backwards," he told The Andrew Marr Show.

"There has been delay and indecision all along the way."

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Umunna: 'Now we are going to see them throwing all the chips up in the air'

He said that the decision to re-write the planning rules, just six months after it introduced a new planning framework, would simply create more uncertainty which would deter new investment.

"This is a classic example of where the Government creates huge policy uncertainty," he said.

"The problem was they published a whole new national planning policy framework back in March which local authorities have been working to ensure they comply with by April. Now we are going to see them throwing all the chips up in the air again.

"That makes it impossible to plan when you want to make investment decisions."

Foreign Secretary William Hague told the Sky News Murnaghan programme the Government had a sense of urgency from day one but that there were further reforms the Government now needed to deliver.

He said: "This is what the Prime Minister is saying. It is frustrating, often, in Government at the amount of rules and regulations that have to be confronted for people to get things going in the economy.

"So, is there more to be done on that? Yes there is but I think we have already done a lot over the last two years."

Hague said the whole western world had continued serious economic troubles as a legacy from the 2008 financial crisis.

The Foreign Secretary added: "I think the world has changed permanently. We have got new competition from emerging economies as well."

Shadow treasury spokesman Chris Leslie claimed "George Osborne has no new ideas."

"The Chancellor seems desperate to cling on to his failing plan, regardless of the long term damage the IMF has warned it risks doing to our economy.

"We will look closely at the details of any further changes to the planning system, including what happens to protections for the green belt. But this will not address the real reasons why construction has contracted in the last year, such as slashed public investment in housing and the lack of confidence and demand in the economy.

"What we need is a change of course and real action now to boost jobs and growth, including genuinely bringing forward infrastructure projects, a temporary cut in VAT and tax breaks for small firms taking on extra workers."

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