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Written Ministerial Statements

Monday 15 December 2003


Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill

The Minister for Housing and Planning (Keith Hill): Someone wishing to see whether development is acceptable in principle may apply for outline planning permission. This has the advantage that detailed drawings are not needed. A local planning authority can grant permission subject to approval of the details (known as reserved matters) within a set timescale. Development may not commence until reserved matters have been approved.

We believe that outline planning permission has significant faults. At its worst it allows redlining on a map of an area or site for development for a particular use or uses of land with no detail shown. This is not an acceptable state of affairs. Local communities should have early opportunities to engage in discussion of proposed developments.

The Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill therefore seeks to introduce an alternative method whereby a developer can gain an indication as to whether a proposed development would be acceptable. A statement of development principles is a statement of whether or not a local planning authority agrees with the principle of all or part of a proposed development. It does not grant permission, but must be taken into account by an authority determining a subsequent application for planning permission.

The Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill also contains a clause to remove outline planning permission. We have been clear that we will not abolish outline planning permission until statements of development principles have been shown to be an effective alternative. Until then the two systems will work in parallel. We have said that we would review the take up and success of statements of development principles two years after they come into effect and at that time we would also consider what the consequences would be of removing outline planning permission.

I have received significant representations from organisations representing housebuilders and other major developers indicating their concerns about the potential removal of outline planning permission and its effect on proposed developments.

On the basis of these representations I am content to indicate that I will consider further the removal of the provision from the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill that abolishes outline planning permission.

However, if outline planning permission were to be retained this could only be on the basis that it provided the opportunity for greater community involvement and a level of information which will enable local authorities to assess all the significant environmental impacts. To achieve that, developers would need to provide more

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information than is often the case at present. I am prepared to consider proposals on the scope and extent of that further information and the form that it should take. I shall need to be satisfied that such proposals go far enough to meet our objectives and that they are likely to command a wide consensus among interested parties. At the very least this would need to cover the key design principles, density, the mix and distribution of uses, accessibility and the timescale for the development. I shall therefore be seeking the views of the development industry and local government before deciding whether to retain outline planning permission.

If we were to pursue this approach the new system of development control could include both statements of development principles and outline planning permission. Statements of development principles would provide developers and local planning authorities with an additional tool for building up an agreed development "prospectus" for a site. Outline planning permission could be used either after or instead of a statement of development principles. This would be for the applicant to decide. Full planning permission, requiring the submission of all details of the proposed development, would not change. It would therefore remain the case that development could not commence until reserved matters had been approved.

National Domestic Violence Help-line

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Yvette Cooper): The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has today announced a new service providing a single freephone help-line for people seeking help with domestic violence. The help-line service was part of a package of funding announced in December 2002 providing a total of £2 million over three years to support the development of the help-line and 'ukrefugesonline' to provide more effective help in finding domestic violence services. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is working in partnership with Comic Relief, with each contributing £l million to the initiative, and with Refuge and Women's Aid who will be running the helpline.

PPS6—Planning for Town Centres

The Minister for Housing and Planning (Keith Hill): I am today announcing the start of the 13-week public consultation period for Planning Policy Statement 6, which sets out the Government's planning policy for town centres.

Vital and viable town centres have a key role in the delivery of sustainable communities—a vision set out in the Communities Plan. This new draft planning policy statement carries forward the "town centres first" approach established in PPG6 (1996), and clearly sets out positive planning policies, which will encourage investment and growth in city, town and other centres.

This statement makes clear that development should be focused in existing centres in order to strengthen and, where appropriate, regenerate them, and that local planning authorities should:

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Due to the need for clearer and more concise statements of Government Policy this PPS does not include technical advice or good practice guidance. The intention is to publish separately a number of companion guides addressing the implementation of the policy. These will include advice on:

The companion guides will be published alongside the final version of PPS6.


London Underground PPP Consultancy Costs

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Tony McNulty): London Transport's (LT) expenditure on external consultancy in relation to the Public Private Partnership (PPP) for the modernisation of London Underground (LU) has been regularly reported to the House since January 1999. The final cost is £103.5 million since the Government announced the PPP on 20 March 1998. As LT's liabilities transferred to Transport for London (TfL) on 15 July 2003, some of the residual final costs were met by London Underground (LU) under TfL's ownership.

Review of the Commission for Integrated Transport

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Alistair Darling): On 11 April this year I announced a review of the Commission for Integrated Transport (CfIT) and the Motorists Forum to be undertaken by Charles Rice. Mr Rice has now reported and I have considered his recommendations.

The Government are grateful to Charles Rice for carrying out an objective, thorough and fair review. I have accepted his recommendations in full, which will be implemented immediately.

CfIT will retain its responsibility for advising the Government on future transport policy options, the potential for new technology, the identification of best practice in transport and on transport issues which cross departmental boundaries. The Commission will also retain responsibility for refreshing and informing the transport debate through its published reports and other work.

Charles Rice also recommended that CfIT should no longer have the role of monitoring and reviewing of the achievement of the 10 Year Plan for Transport, a recommendation I accept.

Both my Department and CfIT are looking forward to developing a close and fruitful working relationship under the refreshed remit now agreed.

I am pleased to be able to announce that the Motorists Forum will continue with its current remit and structure.

A copy of the report of the review and CflT's revised terms of reference have been placed in the House Library.

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London Tube Emergency Exercise

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Alistair Darling): I have today published the key lessons from the emergency exercise held at Bank Underground Station on 7 September 2003. The exercise confirmed that a great deal of work has been done to improve London's capability to respond to major emergencies but identified further areas for action.

The exercise was designed to enable London's frontline services, fire, police and ambulance, to practise their response to a chemical attack on the Tube.

This was an extremely valuable exercise, which allowed us to test the capability and constraints of our emergency services under difficult circumstances. Exercises such as this are also an opportunity to learn and we have identified areas that need further development.

While some of the conclusions need to remain confidential for reasons of security we are today fulfilling our commitment to make public the key findings that the emergency services and others have identified.

The exercise found that:

The Government, the Mayor of London and London's emergency services will continue to work together, through the London Resilience Forum, to ensure these lessons are learnt to improve the capital's preparedness, now and for years to come.

The exercise held at Bank Underground station on 7 September was designed to test specific elements of the emergency services' response to a chemical attack on the Tube.

The exercise was organised by the London Resilience Forum, the pan-London emergency planning body chaired by London Resilience Minister, Nick Raynsford, with Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London, as deputy chair.

It was one of an extensive programme of exercises that continues to be held to test and help improve our resilience to a major terrorist attack. Further exercises are planned over the next two years, including a joint UK-US exercise planned for 2005.

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