Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20-39)|
QC, MR MIKE
TUESDAY 18 DECEMBER 2001
20. In an area like Sheffield, you are going
to have plans for the city centre because of a possible regeneration,
plans for the old industrial area, plans for a suburb where growth
may take place and on top of that a housing plan and maybe plans
for other particular policies because the sequential tests are
going to be performed. Is that really a simple system?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It will be a simplification
but it is up to Sheffield to decide where it thinks a plan would
be helpful. It would not be necessary for the whole of Sheffield.
It would be necessary for those bits where change will be required
or in order to specify where new housing within Sheffield is going
21. Do you have to predict change at the time
you are doing it or can you amend it as you go along? You never
have a fixed LDF?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) You have a plan that you
continuously update to make it consistent with other levels of
planning. Sheffield can decide when they want a new LDF and whether
or not they want a whole range of plans or just a few. It is up
22. So no one would ever be totally clear what
was going on at all.
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes they would because
they would have the local development framework.
23. You suggest in the report, paragraph 5.59,
page 45, "We propose that Best Value inspectors should take
the failure of local planning authorities to open up their meetings
to public participation into account when considering the performance
of local authorities." Some local authorities do open their
meetings now but they allow the public two minutes to express
a view. The public complain then that they do not have an opportunity.
Is there any guidance in your proposals as to how the public should
be accommodated in these open meetings?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) There is no guidance in
the Green Paper in relation to that but the purpose of making
the committees open is not just so that they can hear what is
said but also where appropriate either applicants or objectors
can make their voice heard. To be able to speak for two minutes
on a complicated application may well not be adequate, depending
on the nature of the application. We would think it appropriate
that in every significant application objectors and applicants
should have their voices heard before a committee.
24. If the planning authority says, "You
have two minutes to put your case", this means that we are
not benefiting the public a great deal because that is available
to them now. You are suggesting that you will make it simpler
and there will be more opportunities but without guidance I consider
there will be confusion and frustration because the public are
looking for improvements. What are you going to do about it?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) We may have to issue guidance
as to what the appropriate length of time for people to address
the committee is. I know there are often many complicated applications
where there are a lot of objectors to a particular application,
many of them with different interests. The committee, on that
basis, would quite frequently need to think of a structure whereby
each of the interests could be heard. They do not want to go on
for an unreasonable length of time but they need to make sure
that everybody's voice is heard. We will issue guidance, I am
sure, in relation to this but ultimately is it not for committees
to decide how is the best way to ensure that people's voices are
25. That is true and we would look forward to
some openness, transparency and democratic procedures, but this
document, as you present it now, does not offer that.
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) That is a slightly unfair
criticism of the document. It is not intended to go into that
sort of detail. What it is intending to do is to say, for example
in this area, that open committees are an important thing that
is required; let us hear views. "Do you think in principle
that is the right thing to do? If so, how best do we develop it?"
26. Views from whom?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The people who will read
this consultation document. That would include developers, local
authorities, people engaged on behalf of communities, pressure
groups with interests in planning like the CPRE or the Friends
of the Earthanybody who wishes to respond in relation to
the contents of the Green Paper.
27. Should not the lead come from the centre,
saying, "We propose" or, "We suggest that this
is the kind of approach that should be made to open committees"?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The approach that we are
proposing in 5.29 is that committees be genuinely open. As to
what that will involve in a particular case, let ideas come forward.
If guidance is necessary specifying how that should be achieved,
then no doubt we will issue that guidance.
28. You keep talking about local authorities
that have not got plans and saying there are not very many of
them. Would it not be easier, rather than changing the entire
system, to insist on those local authorities producing plans?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) We have been trying to
make them produce plans over the last ten years but in 40 cases
we have failed. You can demand it but ultimately a plan, to be
of any validity, needs to be properly consulted upon with the
community and proper thoughts have to go into it.
29. Who decides what the regional spatial strategies
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The proposal is that there
be a regional spatial strategy steering group. It should be wider
than simply local authorities. It should represent a wide range
of interests in the region. It should consult with the region
on drafts so that the community within the region expresses its
views. That regional spatial strategy then needs to be submitted
to the Secretary of State. The publication of the regional spatial
strategy is then formally done by the Secretary of State.
30. Who decides who is a member of the regional
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It will have to be a matter
for a regional spatial strategy steering group to be set up.
31. Who decides who will be on that group?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It will be the local authorities
in the area in consultation with the regional chamber. They will
probably consult with the Secretary of State as to what the steering
group should consist of.
32. So the Secretary of State ultimately decides?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) What the Secretary of
State and the relevant players would be seeking to establish would
be a representative group that adequately represents the region
and that representation has to be beyond simply local authorities.
33. So how is what Mrs Ellman is asking.
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Consultation with those
players, the local authorities, the Secretary of State and the
34. Who takes the decision?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Hopefully it will be reached
by agreement at the end of the day.
35. Who takes the decision?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) At the end of the day,
if the regional spatial strategy has been drawn up in a way that
the Secretary of State does not
36. I am not on the strategy yet; I am asking
you about the membership of the group which will put together
the regional strategy.
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Ultimately, since the
Secretary of State can say no to the RSS in particular if it does
not adequately represent the views of the region, the Secretary
of State could indicate at an early stage whether he thought the
steering group was not adequately representative.
37. How is the assessment made on what represents
the views of the region?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Obviously, we are consulting
on this as part of
38. Who will decide?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Hopefully it will be reached
by agreement but because the Secretary of State can say at the
end of the process, "That was not adequately representative",
the Secretary of State could ultimately say, "The group you
have put together is not adequately representative."
39. Would it not be better to have directly
elected regions if the regional strategy groups are going to have
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) We think not at the moment.
Obviously, there are separate issues about elected regional assemblies.
We think the appropriate course is to do it by consultation.