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Anger at Prime Minister's crackdown on 'time wasting' challenges

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: November 20, 2012

David Cameron

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David Cameron has drawn criticism for promising a crackdown on “time-wasting” legal challenges halting controversial developments.

The Prime Minister argues slow decision-making is holding back the British economy, but critics warn that restricting the right to protest is undemocratic.

Housing schemes, wind farms and waste incinerators have been delayed across the Westcountry as a result of residents taking legal action against local authority decisions.

Among the most high-profile legal battles has been the campaign against the £117 million St Dennis incinerator in the heart of Cornwall, which appeared to end in July when protesters were refused leave to take the case to the Supreme Court.

Major changes to the planning process will mean residents opposed to big building projects will find their right to protest dramatically curtailed.

The cost of making a planning complaint will increase and critics will see the time limit for bringing a case reduced in an attempt to fast track infrastructure projects and kickstart the economy.

The number of appeals that can be brought over a project will be halved from four to two in an effort to dissuade people from resisting building plans.

In a keynote speech at the CBI annual conference, Mr Cameron said: “This is a massive growth industry in Britain today.

“Back in 1998 there were four-and-a-half thousand applications for review and that number almost tripled in a decade. Of course, some are well-founded – as we saw with the West Coast mainline decision. But let’s face it: so many are completely pointless.”

Shaun Spiers, chief executive of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: “The system is already stacked against local people trying to protect the areas they love.

“Judicial review is already very expensive and time-consuming. Putting this option further out of reach for many people will only make it even harder for local people to take a democratic role in planning decisions where they live.”

Stephen Gilbert, Liberal Democrat MP for St Austell and Newquay, whose constituency includes the proposed incinerator, said: “The Prime Minister is right to say that it’s important that decisions are taken in a timely way and that time-consuming challenges are reduced as far as possible.

“But it’s equally important that any decision making framework delivers the right choice for the long-term.

“When decisions are manifestly wrong, like in the case of the proposed incinerator in St Dennis, it’s vital that communities are still able to mount a challenge.

“It’s clearly a difficult balance to strike and we must be careful not to throw the baby out with the bath-water.”

Mike Hulme led the campaign that forced approved plans for nine 394ft turbines on the Den Brook Valley, near North Tawton in West Devon, to judicial review.

The turbines are still to be erected three years after being given planning permission as a result of noise pollution restrictions.

Mr Hulme said: “Judicial review allows the average person to challenge decisions – even then it is difficult. My first High Court case cost £80,000, which is beyond me and most people.”

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  • PaddyTrembath  |  November 21 2012, 3:15PM

    fancyabrew, the difference being that in Victorian times there were not the same amount of people in the UK, there was not the same understanding of environmental issues, nor was there the same level of concern for the quality of life that those around any development may loose. In Cornwall during Victorian times, life was carried out with the incessant thump thump of the stamps, running 24 hours a day, Sundays off. Mine waste was poured straight into the river system, or directly into the sea. I am sure that you would not think it right that we should return to such times.

  • josdave  |  November 21 2012, 1:13PM

    All the majority of these protests do is line the already full to overflowing pockets of the lawyers so they clearly want the present system of appeal after appeal to carry on.

  • fancyabrew  |  November 21 2012, 11:30AM

    I've often thought that if we had the same laws and attitudes that we do now back in the Victorian era we wouldn't have any infrastructure in this country at all! Both rail and road links in Cornwall (and a lot of Devon) are really dire. 2h on the train from Plymouth to Penzance, the A38 is a shambles places like Landrake and Tideford really need bypassing, the A38 needs dualing from Plymouth down to St Austell

  • youngcornwall  |  November 21 2012, 9:02AM

    A good motorway the length of Cornwall is much needed, lets get the unemployed employed and build it I say, sooner not later.

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  • Sinjis_Things  |  November 21 2012, 12:24AM

    How can anyone trust a man like Cameron who keeps such, dodgy, friends/associates as Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks?

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  • HannahJones  |  November 20 2012, 10:58PM

    The UK is not the same as England, and I used England in my post. I also said "Europe" not the world. There are huge swathes of Scotland and Wales which are are "undeveloped" as you call it, which gives the UK its actual figures of how much land is developed. If by "undeveloped" you mean "not built on", then what is wrong with that? It appears that Cameron and his ilk (and yours perhaps) think that space and land is worthless unless it is actually creating wealth and providing jobs.

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  • H_Trevorrow  |  November 20 2012, 9:39PM

    ...holland also thrives on its torism business based on guess what.....its rural economy...tulips and dairy produce....despite having double the density of uk population it is , and always will be, a model of rural tranquility...........

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  • H_Trevorrow  |  November 20 2012, 9:24PM

    Hannah you are VERY misinformed Netherlands is 24 th most densley poulated country in the world with 496 people per kilometer and UK IS 52 on the list with 256 ppkm. Nationally the undeveloped land in uk is roughly 90 %.

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  • youngcornwall  |  November 20 2012, 8:50PM

    The wealth of our country is in its growth, by building hospitals factories and houses etc, with the minimum of inconvenience from objectors, lets get this country moving again, there will always be the hold me back brigade, so good on you Cameron, lets give credit where due.

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  • HannahJones  |  November 20 2012, 8:18PM

    I don't see that there is anything in my post which is "hysteric non sense". And I wasn't merely talking about the south west - I'm not that parochial. With the Netherlands, England is the most densely population country in Europe. We need to look after it better.

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