A Liberal Party Policy Statement
Planning is unique in being the only subject for which every level of
government - from Parish Council to Parliament - has a statutory role.
At whatever level they are taken, planning decisions can directly affect
peoples lives and are often of major concern. Yet despite its wide-ranging
importance, planning is very often a low priority subject for most politicians.
Liberals see the present system as bureaucratic, unresponsive to public
opinion, ineffective and too little concerned with the long-term well
being of the environment.
In order to
ensure local democracy, Liberals propose radical changes in the structure
of local government which would have a direct bearing on planning procedures.
Liberals believe that the planning system should be reorganized to meet
today's needs and that a proper structure for regional planning is essential.
In all cases, decision making should be devolved to the most local tier
of government practicable, with central government being confined to matters
of national impact only. Economic and social issues must be considered
alongside physical factors, and the system must be flexible enough to
cope with regional diversities.
To be fair,
any planning system must apply equally to all applicants. Therefore, planning
authorities should be prohibited from granting themselves planning permission,
except where it is subject to a major inquiry procedure.
to planning applications, Liberals believe that the present emphasis on
rapid decision-making is misplaced. In order to facilitate proper and
sensitive planning decisions, Liberals call for:
- an increase in the length of time for decision-making on major
- improvements in public notification and information;
- all substantial applications to be accompanied by an “Environmental
Impact Statement”, identifying possible risks of pollution, or harmful
effects on the habitat or amenities of the surrounding area;
- the appointment of specialist advisory groups, such as Disabled
Advisory Committees, where appropriate.
system of appeals is difficult to justify on grounds of either logic or
equality. Applicants and objectors should have equal rights of appeal
- against the granting of planning permission as well as refusal - and
should also be able to ask the Ombudsman to investigate. Appeals should
be dealt with by next tier of authority, not by the Secretary of State.
that the present system of major planning enquiries has degenerated into
a nightmare, and occasioned severe disruptions by frustrated, disadvantaged
objectors, who see the system as little more than an expensive, lengthy
and largely meaningless exercise in public relations. Liberals believe
that such inquiries should be fair and accessible to anyone with an interest
irrespective of their resources.
believe that major planning inquiries should be split into two stages.
The first stage to examine the need for the proposed development, including
alternatives; the second stage to proceed only after the need had been
established. Inspectors and their staff should adopt a generally more
investigative role, and public funds be made available to ensure that
a lack of resources does not prevent proper research and presentation
of essential facts and opinions by objectors. The recommendations of inspectors
should be decided after democratic debate and by a vote of the relevant
elected body and not by the executive decision of one Secretary of State.
the special difficulties faced by many people with disabilities, especially
with regards to access to public buildings and the adaption of dwellings
to meet special needs. We therefore call for measures to ensure that disabled
people have full and proper access to all buildings to which the public
emphasis placed on public participation in planning matters, the present
system has failed to create a genuinely participative democratic process
of the sort Liberals wish to see. This failure is especially significant
for Liberals who want to see genuine participation in many other areas
of policy making and who, therefore, have a vested interest in ensuring
that public participation in planning is effective.
Crucially, we want to emphasise the creative role that the public can
play in planning. Rarely, at present, is the public involved in any real
way at the beginning of the plan making process, such as determining the
various objectives. For example, bodies such as schools, civic societies
and tenants’ associations, might take on specific areas of study. Opinion
polling techniques might on occasion be used to assess public attitudes.
We believe in the long term importance of introducing people to planning
issues as part of the general education process. Such work at school would
bring together in a relevant and cohesive way skills as varied as measurement,
information research, sociology, design and politics, and is therefore
educational in the fullest sense.
that the mechanism for controlling and guiding private enterprise in serving
the public interest must be strengthened. We also believe that the replacement
of the rating/Council Tax system with the long-term Liberal proposal for
a tax on land values would have important planning implications for future
that plans for large new housing developments must contain adequate sports
and recreational facilities. These to be constructed concurrently, rather
than years later as so often happens. We would also seek to ensure that
all public or private housing developments exceeding ten dwellings contain
a percentage of dwellings that are adapted for use by disabled people.
Planning plays a pivotal role in conservation and in the creation of
an improved quality of life for everyone. That quality cannot be measured
simply in economic “Gross National Product” terms and the present imperative
of development at almost any cost has inflicted immeasurable social and
environmental damage. Liberals believe that planning controls are vital
in ensuring that Britain's rural environment is protected and we condemn
governemnt proposals for deregulation.
that conservation is essential to preserve the freedom of choice for future
generations, in terms both of natural material resources and the environment.
The balance between the development of green fields and the rehabilitation
of existing buildings and derelict sites, must be far more weighted in
favour of conservation. This must be accompanied by measures to improve
the existing built environment. Agricultural land, valuable wildlife habitats,
and the landscape must be fully protected. Planning controls should be
extended to certain aspects of agriculture and forestry, and better measures
are required to alleviate the problems and damage caused by mineral extractions.