Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100-119)|
QC, MR MIKE
TUESDAY 18 DECEMBER 2001
100. They will not know what might be built
on that land as a result of those policies.
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) They know what the basic
policies are. Because we are not changing the basic policies the
degree of security provided by the planning system will not materially
101. They will not know how it applies to them.
We all know what the general principles of Christendom are but
we do not know how they apply to our church until we go through
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) There is a sufficient
degree of clarity about how our principles apply at the moment
to provide people with adequate security about whether, for example,
the green belt will continue to be protected in their area.
102. Green belt is not the same as open space.
Open space may be currently preserved for limited use and people
may know that but if an application comes in under your system
to build industry on there or whatever, there may be general principles
involved but people cannot be certain that is going to be turned
down, can they?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) That is a very good example
of why I think your fears are exaggerated. In relation to open
space, there is a draft, substantive document which this Committee
is looking at, PPG17, which in effect proposes that local authorities
should analyse what the requirement for inter alia open
space is and have a policy indicating what they are going to do
about the open space in the area.
103. That is a policy point for the whole area.
It is not going to reassure someone who lives next door to a particular
site about what happens there. This is taking power away from
many of the communities, is it not?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) No, it is not, not remotely
away from the communities. Far from it. It makes the process simpler.
PPG17 would involve a system where the community has a much better
idea what is going to happen to the open space in its area.
104. You are turning the clock back to pre-1991
when we did not necessarily have to have full coverage of plans
for a whole area. It was on a patchwork basis. That is what we
are going back to, is it not?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) We are not going back
to pre-1991. We are recognising what has happened since 1991.
A plan led system is only of value where you either have plans
-and 40 authorities do not, as I have indicated, or you have plans
that you can rely on.
105. Who are the 40 councils that you have indicated?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I can give you a list.
106. Are they getting government grants for
the planning system?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) They are getting revenue
107. You have a certain amount of muscle that
you could apply and, quite frankly, it has been applied by government
departments before, if you will forgive my being vulgar in mentioning
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) We have been wanting these
local authorities to producenot just this government but
previous governments as well
108. You have not thought of insisting?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) In relation to planning,
the way that you can get the planning department to operate is
by using the Best Value techniques and eventually getting to a
point whereby, after a series of interventions, you take away
the planning function from the local authority.
109. The problem that we have as a Committee
is you are proposing a very large change which appears to some
of us to go backwards rather than forwards and which will have
a direct effect on the rights of individuals in relation to their
own planning areas.
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes, but it is a practical,
sensible change that addresses the fact that the plan-led system
at the moment has led to complicated, complex, local plans. That
is why some local authorities do not have them. Yes, you can put
pressure on the local authorities but the reason why 40 do not
have local development plans is because the system is difficult.
It does require a very substantial effort before such a plan is
Sir Paul Beresford
110. Will these 40 authorities have their local
development frameworks and their action plans? What will you do
if they do not?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) We believe it will be
much easier for local authorities to comply with the sorts of
proposals we are making in the Green Paper than the complex local
development plans that very many local authorities seek to produce.
If they do not produce them, there are measures that can ultimately
be taken but ultimately surely we want a system where the vast
majority of the local authorities concerned do produce relevant
Sir Paul Beresford: Which is current. The vast
majority currently have done that with UDPs.
111. Would another way forward not have been
to threaten to withhold payment of revenue support grants until
those 40 councils produced plans?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) You are not allowed to
withhold un-ring fenced grant in part. Secondly, there is a fundamental
problem which has led to why there are not these 40 local authority
plans and that is because it is a very complex, very long, drawn
out period that has to be gone through before you produce a local
112. Can I take you back to Mr Betts's question
on the whipping? As I understood your answer to his question,
what you appeared to be saying was if there was national policy
it would be okay to whip over a national planning decision. If
there are with a local development framework core policies or
consequences of core policies are identified by the administration
about particular local authorities, would they be justified in
whipping to because that seems a logical consequence of the line
you were taking.
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I sought to not comment
on what the appropriateness or otherwise was of whipping. If it
is government policy, no doubt it will be a proposal which the
113. You are resisting saying it would be wrong
for an administration to whip a planning committee where they
feel their core policies are on the line, as it were.
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Are you talking about
Parliament or local authorities?
114. I am talking about local authorities. The
issue is whether local authorities can behave exactly as the national
government would in this case. What you said in answer to Mr Betts
was that if it was a national policy whipping in the House of
Commons would be okay on a national planning decision. If it is
a local, core policy or the consequence of a core policy, the
administration is advising their planning members and surely they
should then have the right to whip those members, on your line
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) In relation to the local
authority planning application, they do not whip and I do not
think it is appropriate that they should whip. The reason for
that is because they are the planning authority. What is happening
in the infrastructure project proposal is that the principle of
the proposal should be debated and either approved or not by Parliament.
Ultimately, the planning decision finally is taken by the Secretary
of State but only after Parliament has approved the principle.
115. You do not regard the in principle decision
by Parliament on a major infrastructure project as a planning
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It is part of the process,
but it is not
116. It is a planning decision.
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It is highly relevant
to the planning decision but it is approving in principle whether
or not the project should go ahead. There then needs to be a process
whereby the local inquiry looks at the how and it is then for
the Secretary of State to decide whether or not the project should
117. Can I return to local development frameworks,
core policies and plans replacing the UDP? We know what the UDP
is. We have not got a list of core policies for every local authority
in the same format. Are you going to be very specific about what
may or may not be included in core policies? If I can give an
example, supposing a local authority were to produce a core policy
about the location of mobile telephone masts. Would that be a
permissible core policy?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) To put them in or to not
put them in?
118. To say where they should go in, where they
might go in and where they may not go in.
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) There is a PPG in relation
to that already.
119. Could it be incorporated within core policies?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) If it is already incorporated
in core policy, that is something that we as a matter of principle
think should be dealt with at national level. All you would be
doing would be repeating what is already in the national policy