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Economic recovery in jeopardy from planning system, say leading retailers

Britain’s economic recovery is being put in jeopardy by a “creaking” planning system which is frustrating investment and excluding many businesses, a group of leading retailers said.

As part of a wider group of businesses urging for planning reform, retailers including Next chief executive Lord Simon Wolfson, former M&S executive chairman Sir Stuart Rose and LK Bennett executive chairman Robert Bensoussan have put their names to the letter in The Times.

They are calling on the government to press ahead with controversial plans to overhaul the way developers apply for consent to build new property.

The current system, the letter says, “actively deters investment” with too much red tape and costly planning procedures which hamper development and threaten to damage the UK’s ability to compete internationally.

The letter says that “if we wish this country to remain internationally competitive, if we want the jobs and prosperity that growth brings, we must tackle head on the sluggish pace and disproportionate costs of planning”.

The proposals by the coalition government include scrapping many of the rules and regulation it says are the cause of the delays.

Under the £500 million of reforms being discussed, the some 1000 pages of planning advice currently in place would be boiled down to 52 pages.

But environmental groups including the National Trust and the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) have been scathing of the proposals which they say will endanger some of the UK’s most important natural habitats.

A National Trust spokesperson said: “It’s obvious why these high-profile people, albeit in a personal capacity, have written the letter they have: they have a vested interest in freeing up planning so they can develop what they want.”

The letter was also signed by Kurt Geiger chief executive Neil Clifford, Alistair McGeorge, executive chairman of New Look, Charles Tyrwhitt chief executive Nick Wheeler and Westfield managing director Michael Gutman.

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