Examination of Witnesses (Questions 140-159)|
QC, MR MIKE
TUESDAY 18 DECEMBER 2001
140. That is being done already though.
(Mr Ash) Yes, well, they are sometimes a bit like
that at the moment and we are seeking to build on that approach
which does not seek to cover every square inch of an area with
specific designations. In the suburbs most local authorities can
put in place a set of local control policies to deal with house
extensions and all the other generality of planning applications
that are made without having to go into the detail of putting
area allocations en masse. That is a set of core criteria-based
policies which will act as the framework for development control
procedures in those areas. Where there are development prospects,
where there are areas of change, those are the areas that you
would designate for action planning and do that on a more flexible
basis because it is specific to a particular area and would be
done just for that area when it is needed to be done. It does
not have to be done as part of the monolithic process at the moment
which produces a development plan with 300 or 400 policies in
141. Can we move on to housing. At the moment
the County Structure Plan determines the number of houses needed
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) In two-tier authorities
142.in two-tier authorities.
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The County Structure Plan
will only in fact distribute housing among 46 per cent of the
population because 54 per cent of the population live in unitaries,
so the county is not distributing to them.
143. So how exactly in future in those areas
are the housing numbers going to be determined?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) In the same way as they
are currently determined to the unitaries, which is that the Regional
Planning Guidance presently distributes them to the unitaries
and in future if the proposals set out in the consultation paper
are brought into effect, then the distribution will be done from
region to all district councils.
144. Can I just ask you, sticking with the county
councils, they are going to retain the overall responsibility
for waste and minerals?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Correct.
145. Is that it?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) That is it.
146. Will their planning departments have any
other residual responsibilities?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) They will obviously have
a role to play in relation to drawing up the Regional Spatial
Strategies because, as Sir Paul indicated rightly, obviously the
local authorities, including county councils, will be very keen
to be involved in the drawing up of those.
147. As they are still responsible for transport
matters in their areas and as they are still responsible for education,
for instance, will they not still argue that they need to have
their own County Plan?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Well, what we are saying
is that that County Plan is an additional and complicating layer
under the planning system at present. If you are serious, as we
are, about making the system simpler and reducing the number of
layers, that, we believe, is the layer that can most easily go.
148. I note you are leaving minerals and waste
with the county councils.
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Because they decide the
development control applications in relation to that.
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Because those are areas
we think which are dealt with in a self-contained way and dealt
with sensibly and there is no reason at all to interfere with
that particular area.
150. Could I draw attention to Business Planning
Zones. What you are saying is that Business Planning Zones will
need to be identified in regional strategies and "planned
by local authorities in partnership with universities, RDAs and
leading edge companies, but any of the partners should be able
to initiate proposals for a Business Zone". How does that
fit in with the Regional Planning Guidance, particularly in Yorkshire
as we have heard recently, because it does conflict, what is being
advised in the Regional Planning Guidance with what you are advising
in this document?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) There would be no reason
why a Business Planning Zone should not be only agreed to when
it is consistent with what the Regional Spatial Strategy or the
Regional Economic Strategy of the Regional Development Agency
151. The only difference in that is that in
this document, it does say
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Which document are you
152. I am referring to the Regional Planning
Guidance for Yorkshire and Humber to 2016, received a few days
ago. It is dated October 2001. What it says is this: "It
will take time for the RPG policies to affect the underlying economic
and social processes discussed in this chapter. However, individuals,
companies and public and private infrastructure and service providers
make location decisions at all times about where to live, where
to invest and what services to offer and what areas to serve".
Now, that is what the Regional Planning Guidance is saying which
implies that individuals and business will at all times have the
right to decide where businesses should be, where to live and
all the rest of it, but what you are suggesting now is that new
Planning Zones will be introduced where planning permission will
not be required. There is a conflict. Which do we believe?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I do not see any conflict
between saying in the Regional Planning Guidance that it is for
individual businesses or persons to decide where they want to
locate. Obviously they need to get planning permission, but equally
there is nothing wrong with saying in certain places where we
want to encourage a particular type of business that a Business
Planning Zone should be set up.
153. But that is abolishing planning, is it
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) No, because in certain
specified places, you say subject to certain criteria being met,
and the sort of criteria referred to in paragraph 5.36 and following
in the consultation document, then you should be able to treat
yourself as having planning permission.
154. In here it says that the decisions taken
will be subject at all times by these individuals, businesses
and all the rest of it, but what you are saying now is that when
Planning Zones are introduced, that goes out.
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) What the bit you read
to me says or seems to be saying is that it is for each individual
business to decide where it wants to locate its business.
155. No, it says that the policies included
in this, "it will take time for RPG policies to affect the
underlying economic and social processes discussed in this chapter.
However, individuals, companies and public and private infrastructure
and service providers make location decisions at all times about
where to live, where to invest, what services to offer and what
areas to serve". Now, I read that as saying that when a planning
application is submitted under this procedure, there will be an
opportunity for people to make observations upon it, but what
we are reading today is that when a Business Planning Zone is
introduced and identified, then the question of people having
the opportunity to make an observation as to where they want to
live, where their business should be and all the rest of it goes
out because of the fact that you have introduced a Planning Zone
and planning applications are not required. It is going back to
what we have at the present time with the telecommunications aerials,
where a decision has been made and immediately something controversial
comes up our constituents are told, "Well, we can't do anything
about it because of the fact that the Government has made a decision".
Now, I can see that we are running into the same situation. This
gave us hope, but this takes all that away from us.
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I think that is not a
fair analysis of the two documents. What this is saying is that
a local authority
156. A county council?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The relevant local authority,
the district authority, can determine where it would be sensible
to lay down particular parameters in a particular place where,
if those parameters are met, planning permission is not required.
157. So whereas it was assured a few days ago
by the Regional Planning Guidance that decisions on these matters
will be taken at all times, that is, by the people involved, including
council tax payers, however with this, when the decision is made
for the Planning Action Zone and there is no length of time that
these Planning Action Zones can be in being, they can go on for
years, other circumstances will change, but the individuals and
people will have no opportunity to change anything in their Action
Zone. I consider that that is a step backwards.
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Well, it would be done
in areas which were tightly defined and the parameters would be
tightly defined. The sorts of business that we envisage would
be ones that would be low-impact in the area, hi-tech, for example.
They would not significantly add
158. What about out-of-town shopping, supermarkets?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) They would not be included
in this sort of Business Planning Zone. It is much more limited,
but they would only be agreed to once the local authority had
gone through all the proper consultation processes.
159. Well, we have the Simplified Planning Zones.
How many of those have actually operated?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Very, very, very few indeed.