August 30, 2008

Fears Over Planning Bill

By Bruce Sinclair

Carmarthenshire residents' right to complain about major construction projects could be ended under new planning proposals.

The planned rules, set out in the 2008 Planning Bill, currently going through the House of Lords, could mean local councils would be powerless to intervene on the public's behalf.

The UK-wide bill is an attempt to streamline decisions on large- scale infrastructure work through a proposed new body called the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC).

In Wales it will be concerned with applications not devolved to the Assembly, such as power stations, pipelines, reservoirs, airports, rail links, and trunk roads.

Clause 151 of the bill states that once any developments have been given the go-ahead, councils will be unable to act on any complaints from local people regarding nuisance caused by noise, odour, light or any other type of pollution resulting from development work.

Carmarthenshire Council's head of public protection, Philip Davies, said: "It is not so much about residents being unable to make representations or objections about the proposed development at the planning stage (as those would be dealt with through the consultation process and controlled by planning conditions if necessary), but more about them being unable to complain and seek abatement of nuisance during construction and after completion.

"If Clause 151 is enacted, it would mean that people would be totally unprotected from the unwanted environmental effects of these very large capital projects and the local authority would be powerless to intervene on their behalf."

He warned: "Clause 151 seeks to undermine the fundamental principles of the abatement of statutory nuisances and the protection of public health, which have been in existence for 160 years and are the very foundation of local government services."

Mid and West Wales AM Nick Bourne described the clause as very alarming, adding: "It wouldn't have been out of place in the totalitarian regimes that were in place in eastern Europe and are still in place in North Korea."

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