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The Minister for Housing and Planning (Keith Hill): I am announcing today the publication of a new minerals policy statement on "Controlling and Mitigating the Environmental Effects of Minerals Extraction in England". The new minerals policy statement 2 (MPS2), and its two annexes covering dust and noise, will replace and extend minerals policy guidance note 11 (MPG11), "The Control of Noise at Surface Mineral Workings", published in 1993.
Mineral planning authorities will need to have regard to the policies in MPS2 in preparing minerals and waste development schemes as part of local development frameworks. The policies will also be material to decisions on individual planning applications where environmental issues connected with minerals extraction arise or which concern minerals extraction. Planning authorities have an important role to play in facilitating an adequate supply of minerals to meet the need of society whilst ensuring that the environmental impacts caused by mineral operations and the transport of minerals are kept to an acceptable minimum.
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The Minister for Housing and Planning (Keith Hill): I have today published two consultation papers on proposed secondary legislation and guidance to implement some of the development control provisions in the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004. The papers take forward provisions to simplify and speed up the planning system and to facilitate greater community involvement.
We are preparing to implement the development control provisions in Part 4 of the Act in stages. Where the provisions in the Act require secondary legislation we are proposing changes to the General Development Procedure Order (GDPO), the listed building regulations and the advertisement regulations. We are considering responses to our first consultation paper entitled "Changes to the development control system" published on 30 November 2004. A further consultation paper "Planning Control of Mezzanine and Other Internal Floorspace Additions" was published on 3 March 2005, Official Report, columns 93 and 94WS.
"Changes to the Development Control System Second Consultation Paper" covers local development orders (LDO's). Local authorities will be able to grant permission for the type of development specified in the order. There will be no need for a planning application. It is envisaged that there will be reduced costs and greater certainty for developers, whether they be householders or businesses. Local authorities may benefit by dealing with fewer routine applications thereby freeing resources for the consideration of more major applications. LDOs might potentially prove a useful tool for local authorities seeking to deliver high quality housing developments more quickly.
The paper covers the interrelated subjects of outline planning permission, reserved matters and design and access statements. I announced in a written statement on 23 March 2004, Official Report, columns 4850WS during the passage of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill that applications for outline planning permission must provide a level of information to assess all the significant environmental impacts. The paper proposes that applications should include information on use, quantum of development, indicative layout, scale parameters and indicative access points. It also proposes some amendments to reserved matters requiring further detailed information. The amendments include information on layout and scale. The new Act contains a requirement for both design and access statements. The Government now proposefor simplicity and efficiencythat one statement would cover both design and access. The purpose of the statement is to explain and justify the design and access principles and concepts on which a development proposal is based. Most applications for planning permission and all applications for listed building consent will need to be accompanied by a design and access statement. The length of statements should be proportional to the complexity of the application.
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The paper covers procedures for determining major applications. We plan to change an outdated provision in the GDPO that allows applicants to appeal major applications for non-determination after only eight weeks. This is an unreasonable turnaround time for local authorities, not to mention being out of kilter with Government targets of 13 weeks. Our proposals would alter the period that an applicant must wait before appealing a major application to 13 weeks, harmonising Government best value targets and Government guidance with the relevant secondary legislation.
The best practice guidance on the validity of planning applications published on 7 March was the first stage in clarifying planning practice in this area. The second stage, outlined in the consultation paper, is to clarify the idea of a valid application. We want to specify in secondary legislation that a planning application is valid only when it contains all the information required by local authorities and when accompanied by the correct fee. This measure would cut down on the number of applications that go to the planning inspectorate on appeal without ever having been accepted as valid by a local authority and would generally increase the accessibility and transparency of the planning application process.
We also want to use this opportunity to establish in secondary legislation the exact period of determination: from the first full day after a valid planning application has been received until the day on which a decision notice is dispatched.
The other paper I am publishing today contains proposals for a standard application form for planning applications and related consent regimes. The paper refers to a prototype electronic application form called 1 APP which can be tested on the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's web-site. The prototype allows for householder applications, demolition in a conservation area and listed building consent. Our intention is to develop the electronic form to cover all related consent regimes including outline and full planning permission, trees, advertisements, minerals and waste. In finalising the form we will take account of work under the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's householder development consents review. When the electronic form goes live, probably next year, people will be able to apply either on-line or on paper.
The Minister for Local and Regional Government (Mr. Nick Raynsford): Today we are making a number of announcements relating to local government performance and the improvement of local services. We are publishing the fourth in a series of discussion documents taking forward the debate on the future of local government that we began last July with the publication of "The future of local government: Developing a 10 year vision".
"Securing better outcomes: Developing a new performance framework" is intended to stimulate debate around the key principles that the Government
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consider should make up a new performance framework to secure more effective and efficient delivery of local services. The document is jointly published with Treasury and, building on the devolving decision-making review last year, sets out a broad framework for developing a more devolved approach to delivery of local services, including increased personalisation of services. It emphasises:
a reduction in bureaucracythrough a more coherent approach to managing performance, with clear national priorities, but with local government having the freedom to take responsibility for securing outcomes that meet the needs of their citizens and for improving their own performance in the way that the best councils are doing
the potential for developing an increasingly area based approach between councils and their partnerswith greater focus on accountability between local partners in achieving common outcomes for the area
the importance of strategic, integrated relationship management through Government Offices to tailor negotiations, co-ordinate engagement and support, and challenge and respond to significant under-performance
The discussion paper also expands on the Chancellor's Budget announcement about a rationalised inspection landscape, including the creation of a single local services inspectorate by 2008. This inspectorate will bring together the functions of the Audit Commission and the benefit fraud inspectorate in relation to inspection of English local authorities. It will also have an important role as a gatekeeper and co-ordinator for all inspection of local authorities. The paper also looks at how inspection could be refocused in the longer term.
Copies of the document have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses and are available on the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's website at: www.odpm.gov.uk/localvision. I would urge those with an interest in local government to let us know their views on the issues discussed in this and the other discussion documents we have published.
The Government's aim is to give people the powers and resources to have a greater influence over the key decisions which affect their community. The new local area agreements, which were the subject of the first local vision discussion document, are one example of how we are enabling local authorities to work in partnership with other organisations in the public, private and voluntary sectors to target resources on local priorities.
The first 20 local area agreements (LAAs) will be signed today marking the successful completion of the negotiations on these pilots. The full, long-term agreements will be in place from 1 April 2005, enabling some £500 million of central government funding to be pooled or aligned locally to achieve better outcomes. The signing of these first LAAs means they can now be translated into better delivery of local public services, LAAs will simplify funding streams and help to join up public services. They will also enable local areas to have more freedom to work in innovative ways to benefit their communities.
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As well as celebrating the success of those involved in the first round of LAAs today we are also laying out future developments for LAAs. This includes publishing the application criteria for a further 40 LAAs to be in place by April 2006. As with the first phase of pilot LAAs, the aim will be to ensure that there is a good regional spread of areas, a mix of single tier authorities and counties and linkages with other pilot initiatives in the next phase. Areas wishing to be in the next phase will have until mid-May to express an interest and areas selected will be announced in June.
It will also be confirmed later today that responsibility for local public service agreement (LPSA) negotiations will be transferred from departmental teams to the Government Offices, also responsible for overseeing the negotiations for LAAs. LPSAs cover additional service targets agreed between central and local government, with the incentive of additional grant rewards if these targets are met. The second generation of LPSAs are increasingly focused on local priorities and are more rigorously outcome-based. Aligning LAAs and LPSAs will help make these initiatives mutually reinforcing, and maximise the potential benefits they offer.
Today's signing ceremony will also highlight the new LAA fourth block, which will focus on economic development. Where LAAs are in place the new Local Enterprise Growth Initiative (LEGI) will be channelled through this fourth block, as proposed in last week's budget. LAAs will allow local authorities to pool this fund and other economic and enterprise funding streams in one place and to use them in a flexible way.
I am also pleased to announce that as a result of the first round of the LPSA scheme fifteen local authorities will receive reward grants totalling £93 million over the next two years. The councils, from across the country, have earned the reward grants for improving performance across a range of services to levels above those previously agreed.
We have also launched a leaflet today bringing local government up to date with the joint Local Government Association Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Capacity Building Programme. The Capacity Building Programme aims to support improvement in local government, by enhancing and developing councils' confidence, leadership, and skills to drive forward improvement as well as developing their capacity to learn, innovate and share knowledge and expertise about what works and how. The leaflet provides details of who is eligible to participate and how the programme can be accessed as well as encouraging local authorities to form improvement partnerships.
Improvement partnerships are voluntary partnerships formed when a group of authorities and or fire and rescue authorities come together to improve their internal capacity either at regional or sub-regional level. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister will make £57 million available from the capacity building programme over the next three years to support these improvement partnerships.
Several regions have work underway to develop improvement partnerships, the furthest advanced of which is the North West Improvement Network (NWIN). We will provide NTWTN with £7.9 million over the next three years to support it in its work of
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creating a network of local authorities and other partners in the region committed to mutual improvement.
These announcements show the Government's continuing commitment to working with local government to improve the outcomes for all our citizens, by allowing local authorities and their local partners more flexibility to be able to make the decisions about the issues that affect their areas.
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