By Matthew Barrett
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We featured on our front page this morning two stories about the Coalition's national planning policy reforms. One, in the Daily Telegraph – which is campaigning hard against the reforms – notes that the Women's Institute "is joining the fight against the Government’s controversial changes to planning rules and is calling on its 208,000 members to write to their MPs and organise public meetings.".
The second story (£) concerns a letter to the Times (£), which is signed by business leaders including Simon Wolfson, the chief executive of Next, and Sir Stuart Rose, the former chairman of Marks & Spencer, and is supportive of the proposed policy changes.
The letter focuses on the current planning processes:
"But there is one British institution that actively deters investment: our creaking planning system is increasingly driving investors away and putting the brakes on UK businesses that want to expand. We have all seen worthwhile, job-creating projects killed off by a system where the presumption is “no”. Even when permission is granted it can take years to deliver a decision on vital pieces of infrastructure."
"As business owners and managers, in a personal capacity we welcome the government’s reforms. We know that delivering faster decisions at a lower cost will help us invest. Which means that anyone who wants to see more jobs and growth in this country should welcome these reforms too."
It is worth noting that this letter is unlikely to have appeared without a discreet nudge from the government – DCLG, the Treasury or Number 10. Ministers are marshalling their forces in support of the planning reforms in the hope of trying to avoid another u-turn like the forestry fiasco.
While this development is welcome, writing a letter to a national newspaper is a very tired way of campaigning. Tim Montgomerie, writing earlier this month, proposed an alternative.