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Mr. Stinchcombe: I shall come to that point in due course.

In its published form, PPG3 has fulfilled each of the expectations that its precursor documents created. Even the most cursory reading of it demonstrates that. Paragraph 2 tells us that local planning authorities should

converting them into homes, that is--

    in preference to the development of greenfield sites.

Paragraph 21 states the Government's commitment to those ends--a commitment to

    concentrating most additional housing development within urban areas;

a commitment to

    making more efficient use of land

and to

    maximising the re-use of previously developed land and the conversion and re-use of existing buildings.

It speaks of

    assessing the capacity of urban areas to accommodate more housing; adopting a sequential approach to the allocation of land for housing development; managing the release of . . . land

and reviewing not only all local planning policies, but

    planning permissions when they come up for renewal.

Paragraph 23 sets the formal target about which we have been speaking for so many months--the building of 60 per cent. of additional housing on previously developed land. PPG3 goes on to tell us exactly how that target can be achieved: through the sequential approach. In so doing, PPG3 pre-empts much of the Bill. The elements that it does not pre-empt are in any event not very good, as I hope to show.

Mr. Gray: I am listening carefully to what the hon. Gentleman has to say, most of which is good sense and has cross-party support--with two exceptions. First, he ignores the seamless continuation of the policies of the previous Government, at least since 1992, when my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) came to the Department of the Environment, through until now. PPG3 is merely a revision of a previous PPG. The hon. Gentleman is wrong to suggest that something new happened in this context on 1 May 1997.

Secondly, the hon. Gentleman's point about PPG3 being fantastic may be true, but it has no statutory power. The Bill proposes that the principles in PPG3 should be put into law.

Mr. Stinchcombe: I absolve the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) of much of the blame that

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I attached to his predecessor, Nicholas Ridley. Even when the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal was Secretary of State, however, he did not introduce a sequential test for housing. He may have done so for retail property, but not for housing. That is a significant change. Indeed, it is so significant that it is the very purpose of the Bill. When the right hon. Gentleman was Secretary of State, he did not do it, whereas PPG3 does. Thank goodness a Government have been elected who will put into practice what the hon. Gentleman says is common sense and on which both our political parties agree.

Mr. Steen: I just want to correct the hon. Gentleman on one point. The ballot for private Members' Bills was in late October or early November. I am glad that the Government have finalised PPG3 having seen my Bill in draft.

Mr. Stinchcombe: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that illuminating intervention.

I shall take the House briefly through the Bill, clause by clause, to show either that we have already delivered its intentions or that they are unworkable or impractical. Clause 1 requires urban capacity studies to be carried out. Paragraphs 24 and 27 of PPG3 already require such studies. Clause 2 requires land use audits; we have already started work on the national land use database.

Mr. Blunt: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Stinchcombe: I have given way several times, and I want to make progress because many other hon. Members want to speak in the debate.

Clause 3 requires local planning authorities to take into account such studies and audits when preparing their plans. In paragraphs 29 to 34 and others, PPG3 already requires local planning authorities to undertake just such a systematic approach to plan making, and gives us detailed advice on how to do so and how to achieve the 60 per cent. target.

Clause 4 requires the Secretary of State to publish guidance to all local planning authorities. PPG3 is exactly that guidance. Clause 5 imposes on all public bodies a duty to maximise the use of previously developed land. In paragraphs 21 and 22, PPG3 uses the words

and gives advice to local planning authorities on how to do so. The hon. Member for North Wiltshire (Mr. Gray) said that PPG3 does not have statutory force. It does, through section 54A of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. Under that section, anyone who makes or determines a planning application has to take into account PPG3 and all the national guidance applicable to that proposal. Therefore, it has appropriate statutory force in a plan-led system.

Paragraphs 57 and 58 of PPG3 provide new density standards which are higher, and so they should be. Gone are the days when we considered that all dense developments must be the product of cynical or greedy developers engaging in urban cramming. We now recognise, as a result of Lord Rogers's report, that dense developments can be vibrant places in which to live. We have learned the lesson that other cities across the globe learned many years ago--that, when properly designed, even high-rise buildings, can be nice places to live.

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The failures of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s should not prevent us from developing well-designed, high-density developments in appropriate places for the next millennium. We have learned that the common parts do not have to be on the outside of council blocks--they can be put on the inside, and balconies with views can be put on the outside instead of passageways and stairs. We should go that far but no further, unlike the Bill.

The Bill would impose on all public authorities the statutory duty to maximise land use when making planning applications. That would be unworkable for the reason that the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome explained. It would freeze up the planning process and ensure that public authorities would not be dealing with other matters to fulfil their legitimate public functions, because they would be doing their land use audits instead.

Clause 6 is also misguided. It requires the assessment of alternative sites for development whenever a planning application is made to it for five or more houses on undeveloped land. I have a certain sympathy for that clause, but I do not think that it could possibly work. What about the greenfield sites that have already properly been allocated for residential development through the local planning process, and in respect of which we want proper, comprehensive development? Four million homes will have to be built not just on brownfield but on greenfield land as well. Some of the allocations will be, and should be, on greenfield land.

I have to declare an indirect interest because my father-in-law owns some such land. In Wellingborough, 4,000 homes will have to be built. The question was asked where they should go. Following the intervention of environmentalists, it was decided to put them next to the railway station, which is the most sustainable location. Not all the sites were brownfield--some were greenfield--but they were rightly allocated for development because they were in the best possible environmental location. Having made that decision, it would be absurd for every planning application to build on that allocated land to have to go through the statutory procedure required in the Bill. It would be prejudicial to the proper and comprehensive development of those sites, and would fly in the face of section 54A of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, which requires us to decide in accordance with the plan, unless material considerations indicate otherwise.

The hon. Member for Totnes focused greatly on clause 7, the infrastructure clause. He said that PPG3 is silent on infrastructure, but it is not. Paragraph 31 requires local authorities to consider the capacity of existing and potential infrastructure, and mentions exactly those factors that the hon. Gentleman mentioned: public transport, water, sewerage, other utilities and social infrastructure such as schools and hospitals. Infrastructure considerations are not only in PPG3, but in every local or unitary development plan that I have ever seen. I cannot conceive of a planning application for which those factors are not proper material considerations always to be taken into account. Clause 7 therefore also misses the target.

Clause 8 requires local planning authorities to make available for inspection by the public all the relevant documentation. As far as I can remember, ever since the

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access to information provisions were inserted in the Local Government Act 1972, the public have had the right to see the documents that the local authority holds.

Sir Nicholas Lyell: The hon. Gentleman has reached the point at which he could answer my previous question. The Bill anticipates a proper register. If that is provided under PPG3, will there be a nice clear register that people can see?

Mr. Stinchcombe: It is a good moment for me to deal with that point. Notwithstanding some of my criticisms, I still have warm feelings about the Bill. The urban capacity studies that all local authorities are required to undertake as a result of PPG3, as well as the information gathered for the national land use database, will enable us to achieve exactly that. It will not be directly through PPG3. Other action will have to be taken to assemble all the information and then to use it wisely. By raising that issue in the Bill, we can tell the Minister that that is what we want. If we have studies nationally and in all local planning authorities areas, we must ensure that the information that we gather is assembled, assimilated and used wisely. I appreciate the right hon. and learned Gentleman's intervention.

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