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Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I hope the Minister can be more helpful on that point. My understanding is that the MoD is using the local planning system almost out of a sense of courtesy, and that there is not a requirement to do that because at Alconbury there is an existing use. I believe that the MoD should be required to submit at some later date an application for air freight activities. Is what has happened just a courtesy or a promise on the part of the developer; or is it genuinely a requirement under the law?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, they are not covered by the same planning permissions. There is not an existing planning authority permission for military movements. Therefore, one cannot transfer one to the other in that sense. In any case there are no military movements from Alconbury at the moment. I hope I have answered the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. In answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, as I understand it the original proposition included provision for air freight. That was withdrawn. The current application does not include air freight. If it were given the go-ahead, it would require a new application if air freight were to be reinstated. We are not at that point. As far as I understand the position, Huntingdon District
With regard to RAF Manston, the position there is different again in that civil air transport has existed at Manston since 1965 and both the Isle of Thanet and Kent planning authorities are in favour of that development. We are not dealing with a single situation. The position is different in all those three sites, and I suspect that it is different in regard to the other sites too.
A number of noble Lords have referred to intervention by the Secretary of State and indeed have called for intervention by the Secretary of State. I say in answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, that the policy has not changed in terms of intervention but we use the call-in power sparingly and exceptionally, as indeed did Secretaries of State under the previous government. The level of call-in is roughly the same as in the equivalent period before the election. But in this as in other areas we shall consider the role of the Secretary of State at the end of this process. The noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, also asked whether the Secretary of State would intervene in relation to noise levels. That is a complex area and I should be grateful if the noble Lord will allow me to write to him on that point.
I have gone over my allotted time, even allowing for the time spent on interventions. We believe that the planning process is essentially sound in that it allows local authorities--the democracy that the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, asked for--to operate in the first instance. However, we believe that some substantial streamlining should be considered, particularly in relation to projects such as Terminal 5 which are of national infrastructure importance. As noble Lords will know, my honourable friend Dick Caborn is engaged in substantial consultation on the future of planning procedures in that and other areas.
As regards the specific Question that has been asked, we believe that the local planning process is a sensible one. We believe it could be improved. We have to wait for the outcome of the Terminal 5 inquiry before we can finalise any overall national airports policy. I trust noble Lords will understand that position. I trust noble Lords will also understand that as regards the specific questions that were raised, my right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister will need to reserve his position in case he is called upon in a quasi-judicial role at the end of that process.
Lord Marlesford: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, are the Government prepared to contemplate the possibility that before state-owned land, particularly military land, is disposed of, the environmental implications of what it might be used for will be considered in a disposal so that there is not the risk that developers think they will get permission for something, which they subsequently do not obtain and that that thought adds to the pressure for inappropriate environmental development?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I have tried to indicate that as regards the MoD's approach to disposals--I trust this would apply to other state-owned land--while considering maximising its return on the land it should also engage with the local authority to indicate what the
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