The Church’s Environment Commission has expressed concern at changes proposed in two government documents issued for public consultation - “For an Efficient Planning System, a Consultation Document” and “Towards high standards for Environment Protection and Resource Management”.

The commission listed seven points which it said raised particular concern, including the reintroduction of outline development permits and the removal of a schedule listing development that cannot be sanctioned.

With the introduction of warning notices before the issuance stop and enforcement notices, matters would regress, the commission said.

It added that in the context of the proposed changes, it was concerned that "when we look back in 20 years, we shall find that this is not the direction we wanted to go".

This was because it seemed the proposals being made gave a lot of consideration to the expectations of developers but less attention to longer-term issues that really safeguarded the environment.

The commission suggested that documents of national importance should include the names of people offering consultancy in the preparation and finalisation of such documents. This should be done for the sake of transparency and for the public to be able to decide whether or not there was a hidden agenda.

All consultation exercises were positive, especially on important matters.

But, at the same time, the commission said, it was difficult to understand how certain sensitive policy documents, which required serious scrutiny because of their impact, had a short consultation period and released at a time when other matters competed for attention.

The commission’s reaction can be read in the pdf link below.

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