GOVERNMENT plans to fast-track planning decisions could have disastrous consequences on communities, according to one Wem group.

Wem Civic Society, which seeks to ensure high standards of planning in the town, is concerned about the government’s proposed ‘Planning for the Future’ legislation.

Currently under public consultation, the legislation proposes reforms of the UK’s planning system and processes.

In the view of the the government, the legislation will streamline and modernise the planning process, bring a new focus to design and sustainability, improve the system of developer contributions to infrastructure and ensure more land is available for development where it is needed.

The fear for Shelagh Richardson, chairman of Wem Civic Society, is that the proposed legislation will run roughshod over current local plans, putting more power in the hands of the developers and ignoring local needs and desires.

The proposed legislation takes issue with local plans, saying that only 50 per cent of local authorities have one in place, of which Shropshire is included, and that they take too long to formulate.

But in the views of Shelagh and the civic society as a whole, the issues the legislation seeks to rectify are not the fault of the communities that will be impacted.

“The major topic under discussion in the society is the government’s proposed legislation, ‘Planning for the Future’, which is undergoing public consultation at the moment.” said Shelagh.

“There is concern about these plans.

“The intention seems to be to shift the control of planning from communities and local government to developers and central government.

“There are major problems with the house building programme in this country and central government clearly hopes that the changes will mitigate these difficulties,” she added.

“However, in the main, the problems are not caused by communities or local government.”

Additionally to these concerns, there are fears that proposed reforms to the Community Infrastructure Levy will have negative consequences to towns such as Wem.

The proposals aim to have the current system of planning reformed as a nationally set, value- based flat rate charge.

Shelagh is concerned that this ‘flat-rate’ will be disproportionately skewed by more expensive house prices in the south east of England.

She added: “The idea of a national levy to support local infrastructure is also not ideal since it will be based on the market value of houses and will direct most funds to the south east of England.”