Examination of Witnesses (Questions 740-749)
SIR JEREMY BEECHAM AND MR LEE SEARLES
WEDNESDAY 1 MAY 2002
740. How do you deal with that?
(Sir Jeremy Beecham) If you are talking about having a regional plan and a local plan you also need a national development framework for major infrastructure projects so that you can get a balanced view. That is missing from the Government's proposals.
741. You are in favour of a national spatial straegy for most of the big developments?
(Sir Jeremy Beecham) Yes.
742. In your submission you say that the range of projects that will fall under the scopeof the major infrastructure proposals is wide. Do you think it is almost too wide?
(Sir Jeremy Beecham) That is the gist of the submission. However, when I looked at the list myself this morning on the train down I found myself a little stretched to identify matters which really should not fall within that list. It might be that some of the transport issues should not. For example, there is something about tramways and so on and there is a question as to whether that counts as a major infrastructure project, although people from Sheffield might disagree.
743. And Blackpool and Manchester and one or two other small places like that.
(Sir Jeremy Beecham) I am not sure they would regard them as national projects whereas some of the other things obviously arenuclear power stations, ports and airports. We may have slightly overstated the case in terms of this.
(Mr Searles) In thinking about what is national and what is local we need to have a view on what really should be within the competence of a regional layer and a local layer to decide upon. Is a road of national importance or is a tramway of national importance? Clearly, Dibden Bay and Heathrow Terminal Five are things which it would not really be fair to require a locality to decide on because it is about the national direction of certain major facilities. We are trying to argue here for a clearer framework of competencies where the Government says it thinks there is greater freedom for integration at regional level and more independence at local level and within that we need to take responsibility for some of those things that are perhaps currently considered to be national.
744. Surely the current ethos of national regulations is that it is best to take a decision locally? What do you think has changed?
(Sir Jeremy Beecham) There are major national concerns which are not adequately reflected in the present system. A huge project like Terminal Five is one case of that. However, there may be other issues which require more than a very local decision. If one thinks of the problem of affordable housing, the temptation to resist any incursion into suburban or more rural areas is understandable on the part of authorities in those areas. On the other hand, it can have a significant effect on town planning and problems that are so evident in London and some of the other major connurbations. There needs to be, at the very least, a regional view about those matters because otherwise you can conceive of conflicts and difficulties around very crucial social issues like that.
745. You say that you think a committee within Parliament is the best way forward. Do you not see the scope for Parliament being able to delay by simply taking volumes of evidence on one particular proposal so that it could be just as possible to delay live pylons going through North Yorkshire or Terminal Five in the same way the public inquiry has in the past?
(Sir Jeremy Beecham) Assuming that you have got a select committee procedure to deal with it, operating inquisitorially, as suggested by previous witnesses, working to a timetable (whether that be eight weeks or whatever it is) I would have thought it would be manageable. It is up to those who are in Parliament to run it effectively.
746. Can I ask you finally, if you were marking the Planning Green Paper out of ten, would you give it a lot of marks?
(Sir Jeremy Beecham) I think probably about seven. Seven?
(Mr Searles) Yes.
747. Is that because you are a generous marker?
(Sir Jeremy Beecham) No, I think it is reasonably balanced. We like some of the ancillary proposals like those on compulsory purchase.
748. Are you totally clear that you know exactly what it is that is being proposed?
(Sir Jeremy Beecham) No, but then it is a Green Paper!
749. Would you like to see it legislated for by a big piece of legislation or do you think it does not require organic change?
(Sir Jeremy Beecham) You would need legislation for some of it and for some of it you would not need legislation.
Chairman: On that note, can I thank you very much for your evidence.