by Ray Fleming

Yesterday's Daily Telegraph front page was euphoric about the coalition government's revised proposals for planning and development reforms. They would be welcomed, said the paper, by everyone who wanted the British countryside protected from excessive or inappropriate industrial and housing development. The Telegraph mounted a strong campaign against the original proposals made last summer and it has every right to claim that it spoke for a great many people who thought the reforms misguided. But it was far from being alone and the pressure on the government for a rethink became irresistible when the phrase that there should be “a presumption in favour of sustainable development” was widely criticised. Questioned in an interview about what was meant by “sustainable development” David Cameron was unable to give a clear definition; yesterday's proposals still retain the phrase but qualify and define it in some detail.

Last year Chancellor George Osborne endorsed the government's proposals saying there were necessary to get rid of planning regulations that were “impeding growth and turning away investment.” Research showed, however, that 98 per cent of commercial planning applications were approved and 85 per cent of housing applications. Not for the first time complaints about red tape have been shown to be exaggerated. The revised regulations still need detailed study but the sense of relief at the government's second thoughts will be widespread.

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