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That this House welcomes the UKs climate change programme which has already put the UK on course to exceed its Kyoto target of a 12.5 per cent. cut in 1990 levels of greenhouse gas emissions by 2008-12 and make further progress towards the Governments ambitious target to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 20 per cent. by 2010; recognises the vital contribution of the Climate Change Levy, which has already saved 28 million tonnes of carbon emissions and by 2010 will be reducing carbon emissions by over seven million tonnes per year; congratulates the Government on exceeding its recycling target supported by
the Landfill Tax and Landfill Allowance Trading Scheme and contributing to reductions in greenhouse gas emissions; commends introduction in the UK of the worlds first international emissions trading scheme capping emissions from power stations and energy-intensive industries; further welcomes the Governments proposals for the second phase of the scheme in the UK; further welcomes the Governments energy review, which proposes measures to save up to a further 25 million tonnes of carbon emissions per year by 2020 and to put the UK economy on a path to a 60 per cent. cut in carbon dioxide emissions by 2050; congratulates the Government on its commitment to delivering a strong economy based on high and stable levels of growth and employment as well as high standards of environmental care; and calls upon the Government to continue to put environmental protection, locally, nationally and globally at the heart of its policies.
That Gordon Banks and Meg Hillier be discharged from the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee and John Battle and Mr. Denis Murphy be added. [Rosemary McKenna, on behalf of the Committee of Selection.]
Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Con): Castle Point is becoming grotesquely over-developed. Worst of all is the proliferation of ugly blocks of flats with little or no space for amenities. They ruin the environment for neighbours and put terminal stress on our already overburdened infrastructure. The petition that I present tonight deals with just such a case. It was compiled by residents of Hadleigh, who live around the proposed site.
Declares that the petitioners are deeply concerned about planned development at Park Chase where it is proposed to knock down four buildings and replace them with 29 flats, which would put the local infrastructure and community under unacceptable strain, and leads to a number of substantial planning objections including the lack of provision of amenity space, insufficient parking or on site turning, is detrimental to the street scene and will be overbearing on neighbouring houses, not least because of the unacceptable four storey height of the development... the petitioners note the efforts of the local press and MP to fight overdevelopment and inappropriate back garden development and the imposition of flat land development which are damaging our community.
The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons call upon the Government to bring to Castle Point Borough Councillors attention the need to decide this application at full council and to reject the application on behalf of local residents and in respect for the quality of life of Hadleigh people.
And the Petitioners remain, etc.
Mr. Paul Truswell (Pudsey) (Lab): This debate is prompted by concerns arising from the interim report on the land use planning process produced by Kate Barker. My fear, and the fear of many of my constituents, is that it will effectively lead to calls for a reduction in opportunities for community involvement. In fact, I contend that there is too little community involvement in the planning process and that what we have should be made to work better and even enhanced. It should not be diluted or removed.
In my experience, and mine is no exception, there are few areas where there are not tensions between developmentsusually housing, but not alwaysand the local community. Without touching the heights of hyperbole, I submit that in my experience of 25 years as both councillor and MP, the planning process has been the single most significant vehicle for local people's engagement in the local democratic process.
Shortly after being granted this debate, I was contacted by a faith community in my constituency. Its comments and experience of the system demonstrate that, while the present approach has many potential components for community participation, those are very limited in practice. It is at this point that I regret not wearing my reading spectacles because my office has supplied me with a rather poor photocopy. Basically, my constituents point with some approbation to a number of Government documents. Those include the UK sustainable development strategy and the sustainable communities plan, the sentiments of which they welcome. They have also raised the issue of the contents of the Diversity and Equality in Planning document, which was produced by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister in January 2004.
is not well known by Planning Officers in our experience, for whom a one size fits all attitude is deeply entrenched, arising from complacency but effectively resulting in widespread discrimination against significant parts of society, especially hard to reach groups, including many faith communities.
We are therefore concerned that the current Regional Spatial Strategy reviews and Local Development Framework preparation are accompanied by effective and widespread community involvement. Statements of community involvement are required as an integral part of the new style LDF. Time will tell whether these SCIs will deliver more effective consultation both with policy and major planning applications. Much will depend on individual authorities' willingness to engage in genuine consultation and take note of responses from the community.
While those are the views of just one group in my constituency, I believe from experience that they are very representative of the concerns regarding involvement in the planning process, and that involvement is under threat.
Streamlining the planning process is a bit like trying to streamline democracy. As Winston Churchill once
saidit is not usually my habit to quote Conservative politicians in aid of my argumentsdemocracy is the worst form of government, apart from all the rest. In other words, you win some and you lose some. There is rough and smooth for all parties, and the planning process is no exception.
Communities in my constituency are in continual conflict with planners and developers over excessive and overbearing housing and office developments. We are not talking about nimbyism. It really disappoints me when civil servants and sometimes even Ministers caricature local opposition to planning applications as nimbyism. My constituents often recognise the case for development, especially on derelict and redundant industrial sites. They do not want to see decaying eyesores on their doorsteps, but they want to ensure that there is some semblance of sustainability and sensitivity to their needs and to the problems and character of their neighbourhood. Such key considerations often get lost in the pursuit of profit.
All too often, we see planning applications submitted at densities of up to 80 or 90 properties per hectare. In most cases, local opposition, in which I have been proud to be involved regularly, has reduced that to 50 or less.
If one asks businesses and developers, as Ms Barker did in her review, whether the planning process is an obstacle to enterprise, they are bound to say that it is. All regulations, whether health and safety measures, the minimum wage, anti-discrimination legislation or environmental protection requirements, to name but a few, are unpopular in certain quarters, but they need to be weighed in the balance. We certainly do not want community involvement in planning to be offered as a glib sacrifice to the cutting of red tape or even to globalisation. Businesses are answerable to their shareholders, and the bottom line of their balance sheet matters. There is nothing inherently wrong in that approach, but community involvement in the planning process, including resistance to demands for overbearing development or inappropriate planning permission is very much regarded as a debit on their balance sheets.
From a community point of view, however, the planning process is already skewed in favour of the developer. Applicants have a right of appeal against refusal, but communities do not. The argument is that the elected council that determines the planning application represents the community interest, but sometimes councils give themselves planning permission. Occasionally, they simply get it wrong, as the wool is pulled over their eyes. My hon. Friend the Minister may have heard of Silver Cross prams, whose factory was based in my constituency for most of the last century. Some years ago, consultants were appointed to rescue the company, and said that half the site had to be redesignated for housing to subsidise its recovery. Having held a gun at the councils head, they received planning permission, and departed with cash for the sale of the land, leaving the companys recovery to someone else. That was all legitimate, but quite wrong in the eyes of the local community. A third-party right of appeal would at least have allowed a challenge to that travesty, with which the community must now live in perpetuity.
The UDPunitary development planprocess demonstrates the way in which the community must
play catch-up. Only objectors can be represented at inquiries, but the UDP has been overridden on scores of industrial brownfield sites in my area that have been redesignated for housing. Given the omission of the community from the key inquiry stage, it is vital that it retain the right to challenge each departure from the UDP. At this point, it is appropriate to refer to the regional spatial strategy. Despite its importance, the RSS is regarded very much as a top-down, inaccessible part of the planning process. For example, housing targets set at that undemocratic level often result in the die being cast before planning applications are made at local level, which is when they can be challenged by communities.
Those planning issues affect my whole constituency. Applications for over-intensive and inappropriate development have been made, and continue to be made in Pudsey, Yeadon, Horsforth, Rodley and Farsley, but I wish to concentrate on the experience of the town of Guiseley. Planning permissions over the past six or seven years have given the go-ahead for about 1,200 extra homesa 30 per cent. increase, I estimate, in the size of the town, without a commensurate increase in local infrastructure to support it. In my area, developers, as I said, invariably submit plans for housing with a density of 70 to 90 properties per hectare on brownfield sites, which is well above the 30 to 50 properties per hectare indicated by PPG 3. They argue that the sites fulfil PPG requirements for greater density, because of transport links and other factors. In almost all cases, community involvement and pressure has led to the rejection of initial planning applications, and subsequent ones are reduced to about 50 properties per hectarein some cases, that is almost half the figure in the original application.
Developers or even planning officers point to a local station, for example, or the existence of a major road corridor with bus services, as evidence of good public transport links. The community, however, points to a station at which trains do not stop, because they are full as a result of lack of capacity and overcrowding at peak times. They point out that bus services have been reduced and become far less reliable in the 20 years since deregulation was introduced. Section 106 agreements can be used to derive a contribution from developers towards infrastructure, including crossings, road improvements, open space, public transport and school buildings.
However, it is often the cumulative effect of developments, rather than a single development, that creates the pressures and it is difficult, therefore, to apportion section 106 contributions to individual developments over time to address those cumulative effects. Many local authorities do not have a coherent strategic approach to the negotiation and use of 106 moneys. Certainly, in my experience, there is little community involvement in determining how it is used. All too often, it is used in a very ad hoc way.
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