Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 200-215)



  200. Inoffensive.
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton)—use of a property in some commercial way could suddenly be turned into a nightclub. We are very alive to the fact that many, many communities would find that both disruptive and detrimental to the way that—


  201. It would be good for business, would it not?
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I do not know about that. Whether it would be good for business or not it is something that people have mentioned to me that they are concerned about. It is not in the proposal that you are referring to but there was one proposal, I do not know where it came from, saying that any shop could be used for a nightclub and that would really horrify people as a possibility.

Christine Russell

  202. That is the urban area. The same point can be made about planning in the rural area where at the moment the quality of life of a lot of rural dwellers is ruined by noisy motorised activities that get away with it because they do it for less than 28 days a year. Are you looking at that issue?
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) When you refer to a noisy motorised activity, is that a car boot sale?

  Christine Russell: Quad bikes.


  203. A car boot sale is an issue but that is nothing like as difficult to live with on a Sunday morning as motorbike scrambling or four wheel drive off-road vehicles.
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The car boot sale and the go karting and motorbike scrambling point has also been raised with me and I think that is something we need to consult about. It will be a moderately open-textured consultation because use classes are something that people are very, very sensitive about because of the situation where very, very intrusive things could potentially happen without the need for an application either to a local authority or to change existing planning permission. It is something that we are very conscious of as being very sensitive.

  204. Can I take you on. You have talked a lot about these 40 authorities who have not produced their plans.
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes.

  205. They are off the hook now presumably, with the new proposals they can just forget about it?
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) No. This is a consultation document. I would like to make it clear that the existing planning regime continues. As I say, this is only a Green Paper.

  Mr Betts: Or not.


  206. By the time we get to this new legislation coming into force, how many of those 40 do you expect to have produced plans?
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I do not know is the answer to that because they have managed to hold out for the last ten years.

  207. How many would you like to achieve their plans by that time?
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I would like to see every single one of those produce their plans but I do not know whether that is realistic.

  208. So you are still pleading that they get on with these plans?
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes, because without a local development plan there is not remotely the certainty that comes from a plan their—

  209. I know you told this Committee before when you were here on the estimates your timetable for implementing this, can you just repeat that for us so we are clear about it?
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The Green Paper specifies 18 March for the conclusion of responses. We would hope to make a policy statement in the light of the responses by the middle of next year. Some of the changes if they go ahead would require legislation. The earliest possible time that legislation could be introduced would be November 2002 but whether or not legislation is introduced in that session which starts in November 2002 will depend upon whether or not there is a legislative slot and I have got no way of telling whether there will be or whether there will not. If, and it is a big if, legislation were introduced in the session which commenced in November 2002 the statutory changes would be very, very unlikely to come into force before 2004.

  210. So between now and 2004 we are actually going to have greater uncertainty in the planning system, are we not?
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) And we need to be clear once the consultation process is over precisely what the arrangement will be. It is impossible to embark upon significant changes of the planning system which we think are worthwhile without there being need for transitional arrangements in the meantime.

Mr Betts

  211. So an authority, say Sheffield, they have just started the revision process for the UDP, they should continue with that, should they?
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) They should most certainly continue with that. I would like to make it absolutely clear that the existing system prevails. This is a consultation document. We believe that changes will come out of it but at the moment it is a consultation document so the existing system continues.
  (Mr Ash) As I said to Sir Paul earlier, there are elements of the present system which you can see could be applied to the new approach that we are setting out. It is possible at the moment for a local authority, for example, to do an update of its plan for a particular area as opposed to the whole of its area. The transitional issues that we will look at will be to see to what degree work which is being done now in terms of reviewing plans would be applicable in the new circumstance in which it could be carried forward into the new plans.


  212. These projects that are going to be subject to the new parliamentary procedure, would a nuclear power station be that sort of thing?
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It plainly could be, but whether it would be or not will depend upon the circumstances at the particular time. What the document says is that it would have to be a major national infrastructure project and it is a matter for the Secretary of State at the time to determine whether or not he or she designates a particular project.

Dr Pugh

  213. It is not possible for a nuclear power station not to be a major infrastructure project, a dinky little nuclear power station? It almost necessarily is, is it not?
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It would be possible for the Secretary of State not to designate. That may be a more accurate way of putting it.

Mr Betts

  214. It is possible the Secretary of State will be wrong.
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) He might take the view that the best process to deal with a particular project is that.


  215. I think there are quite a lot of issues that the Committee would want to pursue and I suspect that we will be doing a full inquiry into this in the spring, which would seem logical. Can I, at this point, thank you very much indeed for your evidence this morning.
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Thank you very much indeed, Mr Bennett.

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