New planning quango will fuel public disillusionment with politics

As Gordon Brown’s controversial planning quango, the Infrastructure Planning Commission, opens its doors this month, Colin Bloom, the Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Erith & Thamesmead, has warned it will fuel public disillusionment with politics. It could mean that even more unwanted developments like the Belvedere Incinerator, Belmarsh Prison and the Crossness Sewage Works could be dumped onto the area as a result. There are concerns that the locally unpopular Thames Gateway Bridge could get planning permission, even though local people have said that they don’t want it.

  • The new unelected body is to take control of determining planning applications on large projects including airports, motorways, railways, dams/reservoirs, overhead electric lines, gas pipelines, gas storage, power stations, waste water treatment plants and hazardous waste facilities. It will base its decisions on National Policy Statements issued by Ministers as diktats with no substantive vote in Parliament.
  • Despite Gordon Brown’s recent TUC speech promising to “cut costs”, the new quango will cost £10 million a year, and its Chairman will be paid £184,000 a year for a four day week. The Commissioners will be appointed on a minimum fixed term of five years and cannot be removed short of criminal misconduct – making them the most unaccountable quangocrats in Britain.
  • At a stroke, local residents, local authorities like Bexley & Greenwich and elected representatives will be stripped of any say on the most controversial planning decisions that will affect the lives of tens of thousands of people. This contradicts Gordon Brown’s promise when he became Prime Minister to stop politics being “a spectator sport.” Conservatives are warning that the new planning regime will also lead to a flood of legal challenges in the High Court and the European Court of Justice.
  • Under Conservative plans, the Infrastructure Planning Commission will be abolished. National Policy Statements would remain – but each one would have to be ratified by both Houses of Parliament to ensure democratic legitimacy, and to reduce the scope for legal challenges.

Colin Bloom said:

“Trust in politics is at an all time low, and Gordon Brown’s response is to put democracy on the scrapheap. Erith & Thamesmead’s residents and their elected representatives are being disenfranchised on a massive scale by the most unaccountable quangocrats ever created.”