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New Planning Bill unveiled

A planning Bill which aims to speed up major infrastructure projects such as roads and airports was launched by the Government today.

The Planning Reform Bill published today will introduce measures to streamline the planning regime, including an infrastructure planning commission to take decisions on applications.

The aim is to cut lengthy planning decision delays down to less than a year, saving £300 million a year, or £5 billion by 2030, the Government said.

Communities Secretary Hazel Blears said the Bill would help meet the UK's needs on housing and infrastructure and address the challenges of climate change, energy supplies and quality of life.

Decisions on applications will be made by the independent commission "consisting of leading experts from a range of fields within a clear framework of legal duties set by Parliament and policy set by Government", officials said.

The new system will replace eight different planning regimes, covering electricity generation, power lines, gas supplies, airports, harbours, roads, railways, waste and reservoirs.

At a local level, the Bill and other reforms being published today will allow people to install small-scale renewable power sources such as solar panels and wind turbines without planning permission if they do not affect their neighbours.

Similar measures will cut red tape for building loft conversions and conservatories.