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FAST-TRACK PLANS MAY SILENCE PUBLIC VOICE

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The new fast-track planning inquiry process for major infrastructure projects comes into force on 7 June. ...
The new fast-track planning inquiry process for major infrastructure projects comes into force on 7 June.

Ministers and business leaders claim the new procedures will avoid lengthy and expensive inquiries such as that into Heathrow Airport's terminal 5.

But opponents say the new process will deny objectors an opportunity to voice their opinions on developments that could affect communities and the environment.

MPs will now have the final decision on major infrastructure projects after a speeded-up application process.

In a recent interview, Lord Falconer promised the whip would not be used to push through government's show-piece schemes (LGC, 12 April).

The government said there will now be a round-table discussion of projects.

Lord Falconer said: 'These new rules will mean public inquiries into major projects are fairer but also quicker. They will save time and money.'

But Elaine Gilligan, planning specialist at Friends of the Earth, said: 'Lord Falconer is trying to con the public into believing he wants to improve public participation in the planning system.

'The reality is the government wants to restrict the public's right to say no to projects that will damage both the environment and the local community.

'If proposals go ahead, public inquiries will only deal with issues such as what colour fence the new nuclear power station should be.'

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