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Standing Committee Debates

Draft Planning Reform (Northern Ireland) Order 2006

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairman: Mr. David Wilshire
Afriyie, Adam (Windsor) (Con)
Bacon, Mr. Richard (South Norfolk) (Con)
Coaker, Mr. Vernon (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury)
Dobbin, Jim (Heywood and Middleton) (Lab/Co-op)
Irranca-Davies, Huw (Ogmore) (Lab)
Jones, Mr. David (Clwyd, West) (Con)
Jones, Mr. Kevan (North Durham) (Lab)
Lepper, David (Brighton, Pavilion) (Lab/Co-op)
Morgan, Julie (Cardiff, North) (Lab)
Reid, Mr. Alan (Argyll and Bute) (LD)
Robertson, Mr. Laurence (Tewkesbury) (Con)
Rosindell, Andrew (Romford) (Con)
Smith, Angela E. (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland)
Southworth, Helen (Warrington, South) (Lab)
Waltho, Lynda (Stourbridge) (Lab)
Wilson, Sammy (East Antrim) (DUP)
Wright, Mr. Anthony (Great Yarmouth) (Lab)
Emily Commander, Committee Clerk
† attended the Committee

First Standing Committee on Delegated Legislation

Tuesday 2 May 2006

[Mr. David Wilshire in the Chair]

Draft Planning Reform (Northern Ireland) Order 2006

4.30 pm
The Chairman: I welcome hon. Members to our sitting, but draw their attention to the fact that we only just have a quorum. Although I am sure that we shall make up for in quality what we lack in quantity, even calls of nature will have to be resisted if we are to finish the business before us.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Angela E. Smith): I beg to move,
That the Committee has considered the draft Planning Reform (Northern Ireland) Order 2006.
I hope that I can live up to your expectations about quality rather than quantity, Mr. Wilshire, and I promise not to answer any calls of nature until our consideration is completed.
A draft of the order was laid before the House on8 March. Its main purpose is to amend the provisions of the Planning (Northern Ireland) Order 1991 and extend planning powers relating to development control, enforcement and development plan preparation functions. It also fulfils a long-standing Government commitment to end the Crown’s immunity from planning control. Many of the provisions reflect the recent changes enacted in Great Britain by the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004. It might help the Committee if I outline the main provisions in the order.
The main provisions include measures to increase communities’ involvement in issues relating to developments in their areas; to confirm in law the importance of a development plan in determining planning applications; to introduce more flexible procedures for considering objections to development plans; to promote sustainable development; to regulate the expansion of large retail outlets, with new controls on the addition of internal floor space, including mezzanine floors; to underline the importance of design quality; to make disabled access a primary consideration at the start of the development process; to remove the ability to renew a planning permission by varying the time within which development must be started or to submit repeat or twin-tracked planning applications; to remove the discretion to extend the time for bringing an appeal; to introduce new powers to protect buildings in candidate conservation areas from demolition while the Department consults on the proposed designation; to enable faster action to respond to breaches in planning control through the introduction of temporary stop notices; to increase fines for unauthorised advertisements by more than double; to allow changes to the processing of planning appeals by introducing legislation to an individual commissioner in certain cases; to widen powers to charge planning fees to allow the recovery of the costs of key consultees in processing planning applications; and to introduce new powers to correct minor errors in decision documents and notices.
The order will also end the Crown’s immunity from planning control. Crown bodies, including Departments, operate under a parallel version of the planning system. Under the proposed changes, they will have to apply for planning permission like any other developer, but with safeguards to ensure that national security is not compromised. Finally, the order will review old mineral permissions to ensure that they operate under modern environmental standards.
On 28 October 2005, the Department published a consultation paper to seek views on the order. The closing date for comments was 23 December 2005, and the response was encouraging. We received 57 responses, covering a wide range of planning interests, and most supported the proposed legislation.
The new provisions can achieve a better planning system for Northern Ireland. They will enable us to tackle delaying factors in the planning process, strengthen enforcement powers, enhance community involvement in development proposals and promote the achievement of sustainable development. I am confident that those changes will lead to a much improved planning system, which will benefit all those involved in it.
4.33 pm
Mr. Laurence Robertson (Tewkesbury) (Con): I welcome you to the Committee, Mr. Wilshire. As you will be aware, it is not my practice to drag out Committee proceedings when there is no need to do so, and I have no intention of doing so now. I have just one question for the Minister. We have considered the review of public administration and the transfer of powers to councils a lot recently, but how will the order tie in with those arrangements? Other than that, I have no questions and no objections.
4.34 pm
Angela E. Smith: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his broad welcome for the order.
The order contains provisions that improve and modernise the planning process, and we will want to take them forward irrespective of the RPA—the review of public administration—because they are needed straight away. However, they will be constantly reviewed to ensure that they operate appropriately in the post-RPA planning authorities. The operation of planning functions by local authorities under the RPA is not just an issue of the distribution of functions, but changes how the planning system operates. There will be new roles, responsibilities and relationships for everyone involved, but we will want to take key elements of the order, such as ensuring community involvement, forward under the RPA. The Planning Appeals Commission will also remain under the RPA.
The issue has been taken into account in formulating the order. As we take the RPA forward, it will be helpful to look at how the new functions bed in and operate, and the issue will be kept under review to ensure that those parts of the planning process that we have had to speed up and improve are fully reflected under the RPA.
Question put and agreed to.
Committee rose at twenty-five minutes to Five o’clock.

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