Flagship Planning Bill delayed for amending

The government’s Planning Bill has been delayed as ministers and civil servants work on amendments aimed at forestalling a rebellion by backbench Labour MPs.

The completion of the Bill’s Report Stage in the House of Commons was being held back by several weeks, until June 25. This means that the Bill is now unlikely to pass through the House of Lords, where there will be pressure for further changes, until after the summer recess.

The Bill is aimed primarily at speeding up decisions on major infrastructure projects including fossil-fuel, nuclear and renewable energy power stations and transport developments such as airport expansions and new roads. As such it has major environmental implications. As originally proposed, a final planning decision on whether individual projects should go ahead would be made by an expert, Government-appointed commission instead of by an elected Secretary of State (ENDS Report 395, pp 42-43 ).

A coalition of green NGOS have campaigned against this and other parts of the bill over the past year, and dozens of Labour MPs have now registered their concerns. The Government has already proposed numerous amendments to the Bill during its passage through the Commons. The Department for Communities, sponsoring the Bill, said the legislation remained "critical to meeting our long term objectives for the economy, to address climate and for our society." But important issues had been raised during debates and these had to be addressed.