Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 180-199)

LORD FALCONER OF THOROTON, QC, MR MIKE ASH, MR JEFF CHANNING AND MR CHRISTOPHER BOWDEN

TUESDAY 18 DECEMBER 2001

  180. So in the future I think it will be harder to track local authorities who are taking a few for selling land and departing from what would normally have been a good planning decision because there will not be any plan to judge it against?
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) They would still have to report where it was in breach of the principal policies. You will recall that the local development framework will set out what the criteria are. If it is about to grant planning permission in breach of those principles it would still have to report.

  181. That is going to be more general, it is going to be more open to interpretation than a departure from a land use plan.
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It will be more general than the local development plans at present, yes, unless there is an area of change as an action plan.

Chairman

  182. You are thinking of getting rid of some of the PPGs; which ones?
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) What we have said is we need to look at the PPGs and see whether they can be simplified.

  183. Yes, but there is not much point in looking at them unless you have got some idea which ones you are unhappy with at the moment.
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) We specify in the document which ones we are going to look at first. If somebody would help me to remind me where it is in the document. It is page 28. Paragraph 4.61 identifies which ones. PPG1 headline guidance for the planning system, PPG4, PPGs 6, 7, 15, 16 and 5. I am making it clear, if I may, that we are not looking at those to change the policies, simply to simplify the guidance given.

  184. So you are confident that historical, environment and archaeological remains are going to be as protected now as they were in the past?
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The policies will not change in relation to that but the expression of that policy may well become clearer and simpler. In PPG3, for example, that is a much shorter, more focused document than earlier PPGs. The direction that PPG3 has moved as a means of drafting is what we are after.

  185. I thought you were also after certainty?
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes.

  186. It takes you about fives years to revise one of these PPGs, or four and a half?
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It has taken a long time in the past but we would hope to do it quicker.

  187. How much quicker?
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I would hope that we would be able to deal with the particular ones that we have referred to in paragraph 4.61 within the next two years.

  188. Statutory consultees, how many are you getting rid of?
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) In 4.63 we propose to timetable these reviews over the next two years.

  189. Ah, so you are not going to do it within the next two years, you are only going to get a timetable published for the next two years?
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) No, I think we are going to do it, so our core policies will be fit for purpose when our new local development framework is introduced following legislation.

  190. Two years from today?
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It will be over the next two years.

  191. Which of the statutory consultees are you going to get rid of?
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) That is what we are consulting about at the moment as to which ones we should—

  192. Which ones do you want to get rid of?
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) We have indicated a principle which is we think one should leave those that have a health and safety role or those which have themselves a consent regime that is required to be gone through, for example English Heritage or English Nature or the Health and Safety Executive. Those are the ones one would envisage staying.

  193. Which ones would go then?
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) If one looks at the statutory consultees at the moment there are bodies such as the Garden History Society. I do not want to single them out for special mention.

  194. They are on the hit list to start with. Who else is on the hit list?
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I have indicated what the principle is, namely the health and safety or if you have got a consent regime of your own. I have got the list here: British Waterways Board, Civil Aviation Authority, Coal Authority, County Planning Authorities, Crown Estate Commissioners, DCMS, District Planning Authority, English Heritage, English Nature, Environment Agency, Forestry Commission, Garden History Society, Greater London Authority, Health and Safety Executive, Highways Agency, Local Highways Authority, Local Planning Authority, etc.

  195. What about a marking system then, A for those who are going to stay and D minus who are going to go. Can you give us a few more D minuses?
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) We have set out what we think the principle should be, health and safety or a regime stays, all the rest goes.

Dr Pugh

  196. Can I turn to a subject that causes more problems for planning authorities than anything else which is the subject of telephone masts and the interface between Government's advice and local authority advice. If the local authority puts in its core policies a statement that it does want to see masts more than 100 yards away from a domestic residence, which as I understand is not inconsistent with Government policy at the moment, does not contradict any Government policy, it adds to and supplements it, that would be okay, would it not, that would be a core policy which would be welcomed in the community and would work in the community?
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Could I not answer those questions?

  197. I would rather you did.
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The Planning Green Paper and the suite of documents that go with it are relevant to the system of planning. All the questions you are asking about masts are totally legitimate but they are about the policy that the Government has adopted towards mobile telephone masts. I want to be clear that what we are talking about here is not a particular policy should it be changed, what precisely—

  198. I am only suggesting that this kind of thing could easily become the basis for a core policy of a local development framework and could legitimately be so, and we can discuss later on exactly what format it might or might not take. It would not be exempt from the sort of thing that could feature in a local development framework.
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The reason why I am reluctant to answer is because I would need to look in detail at what the PPG says about mobile telephone masts before I go into the detail of those questions. If you do not mind—

  Dr Pugh: You do not want to answer it.

  Chairman: You will send us a note. Thank you very much.

Christine Russell

  199. Can I just ask you what major changes you propose to use classes. Is there any truth in this rumour that nice, traditional city centre pubs could be turned into nightclubs without any recourse to local planning authority at all and if that is the case does it not conflict with our desire to create urban renaissance and bring people back to living in the hearts of our towns and cities?
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) We are going to produce a document in the New Year that will effectively solicit views on what, if any, changes there should be. There was a document done by private consultants which dealt with the question of change to use classes which was trying to restrict it rather than increase it. The point you have made is people have mentioned to me that people are very anxious about the possibility of so constructing use classes that that which is a quiet, non-intrusive—


 
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