‘Slash red tape to build new garden cities’ call

MINISTERS should sweep away red tape to allow the building of major new “garden city” developments like Milton Keynes, a think-tank says.

The coalition came into office pledging to drastically streamline government regulations but a report today by the Centre for Policy Studies claims only “modest gains” have been achieved.

It said in the first half of 2011, 278 new regulations were introduced compared to 150 in the first six months of Tony Blair’s administration.

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The centre-right think-tank, which has strong links to the Conservative Party and is credited with moulding party policy, said the number of new laws fell by eight per cent in 2011 to the lowest level since 2002 – but there were still 1,727 new laws passed during the year.

In a report, it said the One In/One Out programme, designed to ensure for every new regulation, one is removed, had failed to have the impact desired.

It claimed planning regulations remained “notoriously complex”, with 118 Acts – including the Artisans and Labourers Dwelling Act 1868, the Landlord and Tenant (War Damage) Act, the Nuisance Removal Act 1855, the Sanitary Act 1866 and the Sunday Entertainments Act 1932 – still on the statute books, creating what it describes as a “lawyers banquet” of complexity.

It welcomed the Government’s renewed interest in garden-city style developments, citing the example of Milton Keynes.

Applying the lessons of its success could lead to a “new era” of privately-financed garden cities which would ease the housing shortage and spur economic growth, it claimed

Thinktank director Tim Knox said: “The coalition is right to have identified the complexity of the current planning system as a major obstacle to growth.

“It should learn from the historic success of Milton Keynes and the plans for a new garden city at Old Hatfield to see how implementing real reform can free up the planning process to the great benefit of both would-be homeowners and the wider economy.”

It calls for an extension of compulsory purchase orders to assemble land for new construction and a new “market-orientated” approach to planning regulation to meet the urgent demand for housing, leading to the simplification of all planning regulation to reduce “unacceptable” delays.

Private firms should be given the freedom to “design, fund and build” garden city developments in an “attractive and sustainable” manner, with neighbouring councils coming together to identify sites for the developments.

Business and Energy Minister Michael Fallon claimed costs to business of red tape had been slashed by nearly £1bn since 2010, while the One In/One Out policy was being replaced by a One In/Two Out rule.

He said: “The UK Government is doing more than any other to get red tape out of the way of hard-working businesses.

“Bureaucracy stifles enterprise and entrepreneurship and the UK Government is determined to do all it can to free businesses to create jobs and grow.”

A Department of Communities and Local Government spokesman said: “We have already taken a series of steps to cut unnecessary red tape, such as reducing 1,000 pages of planning policy to less than 50 with the national planning policy framework, revoking top-down regional strategies and increasing permitted development rights to make it easier to get empty and under-used buildings back into public use.”