Examination of Witness (Questions 460-479)|
QC AND MS
WEDNESDAY 14 NOVEMBER 2001
460. So that is one of these 800 pages of national
guidance on planning that you are complaining about?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The 800 pages of guidance
includes PPG3 but does not include the help that goes with it.
Really what you want local authorities to do is to focus on the
basic principles, give the help in relation to how they do it
by guides like that which goes with PPG3.
Sir Paul Beresford
461. I was just a touch concerned. I understand
why you are looking at PPG17 to maintain leisure facilities. You
are wanting planning to take some recognition of the strategies
and the aims of the council. However, that can cut both ways.
I have felt that it was of great importance that we maintain that
separateness of the planning and we both recognise them in the
way the Committee has maintained. If I give you a very small example,
which partly relates to this, I am looking at my local authority,
Surrey County Council, who are looking very shortly at three plans
for three incinerators. Those three incinerators are to be put
up by two different firms. One of the firms is contracted to Surrey
County Council. Of the two sites that firm has chosen, one is
greenfield and one is green belt. If you did not have that separation
there is going to be a distinct feeling that the planning committee
is going to be guided by the fact that they are linked to the
contractor and we could have for our community some really quite
disastrous decisions of having two incinerators dumped on greenfield
sites, so they have got to be kept totally separate.
(Ms Keeble) Do you want me to
462. Help them with the decision? Yes, I do.
(Ms Keeble)deal with some of the waste management
issues? You have got two systems there. One is about local authorities
having a plan for their waste management in which they might say
they want particular types of waste management; they might say
they want a certain percentage landfill, a certain percentage
incineration and a certain percentage recycling, and that is their
plan. You are quite right that the planning committee has got
to be seen to be scrupulously independent of that in terms of
when it makes the decision on an individual application, but there
is exactly the same type of thing here where the local authority
will have, say, a strategy for sports development (or will not
have, as the case may be) or they might have a cultural strategy,
which would include sport, open spaces and leisure, and things
like that. They talk about the type of facilities they want and
the type of standards they want and what they hope to achieve
through their policy. The local authority will then have a development
plan in which it will set out how it wants its land to be used.
We are sayingand that is what Chapter 6 of the PPG is aboutthat
is the approach that you want. I think that is what we have been
talking about, the approach that they will want about where they
want the land to be identified for sites. The individual planning
decisions have obviously got to be made on a case-by-case basis
and have got to be seen to be independent. However, if you do
not have any plan for the type of provision you want, then you
will just be at the mercy of what development proposals come in.
Sir Paul Beresford: I think there is a bit of
recycling going on, but if you look back at Hansard I think you
will see that Lord Falconer was being drawn into bringing in a
closeness that some of us would be a little bit nervous about.
Chairman: I do not want to spend too much time
463. If I can deal with the point in a slightly
different way, if there is scope for closeness between local authority
general policies and strategies and what they are trying to achieve
through their plans, and, also, connected to that you indicated
some additional guidance which did not have the same status, how
is that going to be reflectedboth those two issueswhen
it comes to appeals and where the inspector fits in?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) In terms of appeal the
material consideration would principally be the PPG 17 itself
rather than the accompanying guidance.
464. Do you mean to say that lawyers would give
up, in a planning appeal, the chance to refer to the extra guidance?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I am quite sure they would
not give up
465. Your Lordship is in danger of becoming
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Can I go back to the point
Sir Paul was making, which is that what you are trying to join
up is the local development plan with other non-planning strategies
of a local authority. When it comes to particular applications,
there has got to be complete propriety about that planning application
being considered in accordance with all the appropriate planning
laws by the planning committee. The fact that you have got a local
Development Plan which is consistent with your other wider policy
strategy does not mean that planning law goes out of the window;
far from it, it simply means that in using the land use system
you may reflect what you wish to achieve in other areas.
466. Can I just pursue this very important point.
If you refused an applicationand it may be a marginal matter
which could go either wayand the deciding factor is that
it is not within the plan (I am not referring to the UDP but the
local authority's Development Plan for sport and recreation, which
has low status now, at the moment) what would be the legal ramifications
of it? Would an appeal necessarily be won on planning grounds?
Or are you suggesting that could be a decisive factor in determining
a planning application? I must admit, on some aspects I would
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) After PPG 17 becomes final,
if you have a needs assessment which reflects what facilities
you wish to preserve and what new facilities you want, that would
then become a material factor in determining whether or not to
grant planning permission for, for example, development on an
existing facility or development of a new facility.
467. In the document of refusal that the developer
gets, with the grounds for refusal spelled out, it would also
say "Inconsistency with Council's development strategy for
sports and recreation"?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes, that would be a reason.
Indeed, what PPG 17 is saying, for example, is that once it becomes
a final rather than a draft, if you, as a local authority, have
not done your assessment then no application which involves developing
on existing recreational facilities shall be allowed, and that
would be a material factor for refusing it. That is what it is
saying, because it is saying "If you have not shown what
the needs in the particular area are and, therefore, you cannot
show that the particular recreational facility is surplus to those
requirements then you should not, as a developer, be allowed to
develop on that, because you cannot tell it is surplus to requirements."
468. That is quite a strong statement. Is it
not a temptation to local authorities never to put this strategy
into place because that means they can always defend every piece
of space that they have got?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) There would certainly
be a temptation to that effect. In 1991 there was a similar document
whichand these are not the exact wordssaid it would
be helpful if local authorities produced strategies in relation
to sports, recreational and open space facilities. This is now
saying, in effect, they have got to do it, they should do it.
It is turning up the volume because it is intending that this
now becomes a requirement for local authorities. I cannot guarantee
that every local authority will do it. There is a requirement
in earlier legislation for local authorities to produce local
development plans and 40 of them still have not, ten years later.
469. To continue that very quickly, in a way
a local authority, by not having a development plan, weakens its
position as a planning authority as well. Does it not?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It is exactly the point
the Chairman is making, which is if you do not do it nothing happens
in relation to existing space and you never get any new ones,
because the developer does not know whether it is worth applying.
470. You make reference to the hope of the Planning
Green Paper bringing a more joined-up approach. Does it make sense
to have PPG 17 before the Planning Green Paper?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Obviously, I cannot say
what the detail of the Planning Green Paper is going to be, but
some of the things that the Planning Green Paper will require
will need primary legislation, subject to consultation. Obviously,
we would have to consider that issue but it is probably wrong
not to produce further guidance after we have consulted on PPG
17 because to wait for wholesale reform would be to wait too long.
This has been cooking for some time. Basically, delaying it for
a long time because of a more wide-scale reform would not strike
me as sensible, if what you are trying to achieve is basically
better recreational, sports, green space facility issues.
471. What work has the department done on defining
different types of open space?
(Ms Keeble) That is one of the things which the Green
Spaces Task Force has done. We have got the interim report coming
out, in fact, tomorrow and that will include some of the work
so far. It includes urban open space, a mixture of public and
private, formal and informal landscape and that is dealing with
all the hard surface areasthe issues we were talking about
earlierand the urban green spaces including the wider range
of types of spaces. So that should be published tomorrow. The
final report will only be next April.
472. If that is coming next April and yet you
are going to have the revised PPG before the final report?
(Ms Keeble) No, the PPG is going to be also after
the final report.
473. So that is a change from what the officials
(Ms Keeble) Yes.
474. Will the content of the report be the basis
of the guidance for local authorities on open space?
(Ms Keeble) The Green Space Task Force?
(Ms Keeble) That report officially goes to government
and then, obviously, there has got to be a policy statement coming
out of that. The one that comes out tomorrow will be interim work
looking at particular subject areas. The final report will have
recommendations on a whole range of issues about protecting green
spaces, and it is urban green space.
476. Will you be giving guidance to local authorities
on producing open space strategies?
(Ms Keeble) Formally, that should come out of the
department after we have got the Task Force report.
(Ms Keeble) It will be after next April.
478. But a whole lot of local authorities are
devising their Unitary Development Plans at the moment, are they
not? So they have to wait for this part of it until after that
(Ms Keeble) I have to say I think the Task Force has
done its work quite remarkably quickly, given the scale of the
job there is to do. I think that it is quite right, given that
there is something of a need for some good policies in this area,
to look carefully at what the range of people on the Task Force
have to sayit is a wide range of people with a wide range
of expertiseand take the best advice on what is the best
practice and come up with some good policies.
479. Lord Falconer, you are quoted in the 9
November issue of Planning as saying "There are more
than 800 pages of national guidance on planning. We can make a
start by reducing that burden almost immediately." How will
the forthcoming Planning Green Paper achieve this and, also, change
the role and scope of PPGs?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) What we have heard in
the process of preparing for the Green Paper is people saying
that a lot of time goes into producing development plans at local
authority level, it takes so long to do that, by the time it is
done it is often inconsistent with either regional planning guidance
or national planning guidance that has been produced, leading
to great confusion as to what the detail of the planning requirement
in a particular area is. One way of seeking to deal with that
is to try to reduce, as much as it is reasonably possible to do,
the quantum of guidance there is from the centre on national planning
policies. That is a task that does not require legislation and
is a task that can be, in effect, embarked upon as much as possible.
If you look at a lot of the national policy guidance, quite a
lot of it is unclear as to whether it is just best practice or
whether it is basic principles which should be applied. What we
are going to try and do is shorten it to focus, as much as possible,
on the basic principles and as little as possible on the best
practice. So you know where you stand.