Friday, 19 February 2010

The Tories' planning paradox

Listening to Tory transport spokesperson Theresa Villiers trying to explain on the Today programme why she couldn't take up Andrew Adonis's generous offer to give her early sight of his transport white paper and why she couldn't back a high-speed link to Birmingham - apparently it would undermine her commitment to yah-boo politics - I was struck by one extraordinary paradox in the Tories' approach to planning. After years of frustration, Labour sensibly established a fast-track planning mechanism to support large projects. Now Ms Villiers plans to undermine any chance of a UK high speed rail network a mere 20 years after our major competitors by handing the decision back to interminable planning inquiries.

However, her saner colleague Michael Gove who has seen how such Nimbyism can impede the establishment of academies, has decided that planning decisions about new schools, including new primaries, will be taken centrally in his department should be become secretary of state. So major national infrastructure projects like high speed rail will be taken only after every parish council has had the chance to complain, but local councils will have no say on whether new primary schools should be established in their communities. That's localism in action, I suppose.

This posting has been picked up by Stumbling and Mumbling.

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