Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Supplementary memorandum by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (RT 31B)

LIGHT RAPID TRANSIT SYSTEMS: TRANSPORT AND WORKS ACT

  I am writing to amplify the statement I made to the Sub-committee on first March about our reviewing procedures under the Transport and Works Act (TWA).

  I should explain that I was referring to an ongoing exercise of reviewing the operation of the TWA process. With this in mind, I should like to mention a number of measures we have in hand, as part of this continuing process.

  Firstly, my officials are finalising a revised set of statutory procedure rules for TWA applications. These new Rules, which will set out the requirements for making applications and objections to them, are designed partly to implement an amending EC Directive on environmental impact assessment and partly to introduce other desirable procedural changes based on experience of operating the existing (1992) Rules. These changes will include the introduction of new model forms, the simplification and clarification of some existing procedural requirements, and the removal of some others that are considered unnecessary.

  Secondly, my officials are also preparing a new guide to TWA procedures, covering the whole authorisation process from the pre-application consultation stage through to the issuing of a decision on the Order and after. This will provide comprehensive and up-to-date guidance for the benefit of applicants and other participants in the TWA process, having regard to experience of operating the procedures since 1992 and taking account of the proposed changes to the procedure rules. We propose to consult on a draft once it is ready.

  Thirdly, we intend during the course of this year to prepare new inquiries procedure rules for TWA applications that go to a public inquiry, having regard to the changes that are in preparation to the inquiries rules for planning cases. Increasing numbers of TWA applications are now going to inquiry, due to their size and complexity and the numbers of objections raised.

  Fourthly, the Department's internal administrative procedures for processing TWA applications are being kept under regular review, with a view to ensuring that this casework is handled efficiently and effectively.A number of improvements have been put in place in recent months, including measures to reduce the amount of paperwork that is generated.

  I can therefore assure the Committee that we are making every effort to secure improvements to the procedures where these can be identified, especially in view of the increased numbers of TWA applications that are coming forward as a consequence of the greater level of investment that is now going into public transport schemes. Relevant here is the guidance we have recently issued for appraising major public transport projects, which advises promoters to submit an economic appraisal to the Department before applying for a TWA Order. This will enable the Department to give a provisional view on whether the project is likely to be funded. This should help to facilitate discussion at the TWA inquiry and avoid the expense of a TWA application if the scheme has little chance of being funded.

  At the same time, we have to be careful to strike a fair and reasonable balance between trying to keep the burdens placed on applicants to the necessary minimum whilst having proper regard to the interests of those affected by new schemes and to the need for the Secretary of State to have sufficient information to reach a properly informed decision. This includes, in particular, the need for a careful assessment of the environmental effects of projects and the need for compulsory purchase (where proposed) having particular regard to obligations under EU and Human Rights legislation.

Keith Hill

Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State

2 April 2000


 
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