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Spinnaker Tower, Portsmouth

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when he will reach a decision on the order under the Transport and Works Act 1992 that has been requested in respect of the Spinnaker Tower at the Millennium site in Portsmouth; for what reason there has been a delay in the processing of this application; and if he will make a statement. [149563]

Mr. Hill: We expect to reach a decision very soon. A principal cause of delay has been that on two occasions, in September 1999 and in May 2000, the applicants revised their proposals. We had to ensure that interested parties were given a proper opportunity to make representations on those revisions, and on some further material that was submitted last August about radar impact.

Transport and Works Act

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will set out the procedures his Department follows in making orders under the Transport and Works Act 1992; what his Department's target time-scale is for the process of granting an order; and if he will make a statement. [149562]

Mr. Hill: Where an application is made for an order under the Transport and Works Act 1992, and objections are received, the Secretary of State may choose either to hold a public local inquiry or to conduct exchanges of written representations between the parties. The choice of procedure will depend upon the nature and extent of the objections made. Either way, the aim is to ensure that the views of interested parties are given a proper airing in the interests of natural justice and informed decision taking. Following receipt of the inspector's report in an inquiry case, or the conclusion of the written exchanges, the Secretary of State carefully considers all the views expressed before coming to a decision.

The Department's target time-scales for determining TWA applications depend upon the procedure followed. Where an inquiry is held, the target is to issue a decision

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within six months of receipt of the inspector's report. For cases subject to the written representations procedure, the target is to reach a decision within four months of the conclusion of that procedure.

Transport Act

Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what guidance he proposes to publish under section 268 of the Transport Act 2000; and on what date. [149561]

Mr. Hill: Later this year we intend to publish, for consultation, proposals for guidance under section 268(7) of the Act, and proposals for regulations under section 268(2), relating to use orders and speed orders, and 268(6), relating to procedures.

Planning

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will require councils to require detailed plans to be made available at outline stage in respect of areas which have been offered protection by being made conservation or guideline areas, and for approval to be tied to the specific proposals. [149646]

Ms Beverley Hughes: We have no plans to do so. Where an application is made for outline planning permission, the local planning authority may grant permission subject to a condition specifying reserved matters for the authority's subsequent approval. However, the Town and Country Planning (General Development Procedure) Order 1995 enables authorities to require within a month of receiving an outline planning application further details from applicants where they are of the opinion that the application ought not to be considered separately from all or any of the reserved matters.

It is for planning authorities to decide whether to accept changes to planning applications after they have been submitted, provided that they do not materially change the

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character of the development, or to require a fresh planning application. Where changes are accepted, it is for authorities to decide whether further publicity is desirable.

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) if he will require identified objectors to be notified when post- application discussions between planning officers and applicants is to take place; [149648]

Ms Beverley Hughes: We have no plans to do so. However, all discussions should be carried out within the guidelines set out in the Local Government Association's "Probity in Planning" and local authorities' own planning codes of practice.

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will establish a planning ombudsman. [149642]

Ms Beverley Hughes: We have no plans to do so. The local government ombudsman is the independent and impartial body charged by Parliament with investigating complaints about local authorities.

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what effect pre-application discussions between planning officers and applicants are designed to have on planning decisions. [149643]

Ms Beverley Hughes: We attach great importance to early consultation between developers and local planning authorities on development proposals. Pre-application discussions provide an opportunity for proposals to be revised and refined (for example, to reflect local planning policies) before planning applications are submitted and thus facilitate a speedier and more efficient processing of them.

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will require councils to make statements of planning authorities available to objectors at an earlier stage than at present, and before deadlines for submission of their statements. [149644]

Ms Beverley Hughes: Streamlined statutory procedures for handling planning appeals were introduced, following public consultation, in August last year. These require other parties to submit their comments or statements of case to the Secretary of State on the same time scale as local planning authorities and appellants submit their statements. The operation of the new procedures is being monitored, but we have no current plans to change them.

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many planning appeals were lodged with his Department in each

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of the last 10 years for which figures are available; and how many appeals were dismissed by his Department in each of the last 10 years for which figures are available. [149810]

Ms Beverley Hughes: The following is information provided by the planning inspectorate about planning appeals to the Secretary of State under section 78 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

YearAppeals received in yearAppeals refused in year
1990-9126,69217,522
1991-9222,12114,963
1992-9317,95911,853
1993-9414,9799,138
1994-9514,6518,098
1995-9614,6537,461
1996-9713,7677,819
1997-9814,1828,366
1998-9914,3818,354
1999-200014,7728,046

School Transport

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has to issue guidance to local education authorities on the age of vehicles used for the transportation of schoolchildren. [149807]

Mr. Hill: I have no plans to issue guidance to local education authorities about the age of vehicles used for the transportation of schoolchildren. All buses and coaches, irrespective of age, are required to meet the same maintenance and operational standards, which are enforced through the operators licensing scheme, annual testing and roadside spot checks.

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if the requirement for all coaches and minibuses that carry groups of children on organised trips to have seatbelts available applies to all types of school journeys. [149806]

Mr. Hill: Regulations require that every child must be provided with a seatbelt when a group of three or more children are travelling in a coach or minibus on an organised trip. School journeys where the key element is the transport of children would fall into the category of organised trip. However, seatbelts for children are not required in coaches and minibuses which are providing a transport service for the general public or which are being used to provide a registered local bus service.


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