Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Memoranda

Memorandum by Surrey Local Government Association (PGP 16)


  Your Committee invited submissions on the Planning Green Paper by 18 March, and you asked that we should not simply repeat the response we gave to the consultation, as you would receive it in any event.

  We have really nothing significant to add to our response to Government, which was fairly full. However, I would like to draw the attention of the members of your Committee to our very strong and fundamental concerns of principle which run through the whole Green Paper.

  We set these out in section two of our response as follows:

    "(a)  We understand the Government's desire to simplify and clarify the planning process. However we have to ask whether this Green Paper is in part a response to some specific problems with major national projects. We question whether the complete overhaul proposed in the Green Paper is in fact necessary and whether the end might not be achieved by refocusing and sharpening the existing structures and processes. The structures in the Green Paper do not seem to be any simpler than those which already exist—on closer examination for example, there will in practice be at least as many tiers of plans as at present.

    (b)  We are greatly concerned by the erosion of local democratic accountability which (despite a declared intention to increase community involvement) runs like a thread through the Paper—from the process for preparing regional and subregional plans, to the binding inspectors' decisions, to the proposals that 90 per cent of planning decisions should be made by officers under delegated powers.

    (c)  The Green Paper makes a fundamental error in not recognising that it is simply not possible to have both greater speed in the planning process and greater public involvement in it. Furthermore any attempt to speed up the process at the expense of community involvement will simply lead to erosion of confidence in the system. This in turn will inevitably lengthen processes through legal challenge or other forms of direct action. In addition this quest for speed seems to us to be in danger of compromising quality.

    (d)  The proposals do not appear to us sufficiently to recognize the difficulties of handling such issues as housing allocations, economic development, airports, road and rail provision and sustainability issues such as waste and green belt provision in a region as large and as complex as the South East. It is essential for all the main tiers of local Government to work together and share responsibility for the policy making process within the local development frameworks."

  I do hope your Committee will be able to consider these points as we believe them to be of such fundamental importance.

Councillor David Davis


15 March 2002

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