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


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 620-639)

SIR NEIL COSSONS, MR PHILIP DAVIES, MR JON ROUSE AND MR PAUL FINCH LORD FALCONER OF THOROTON, QC AND MR PETER ELLIS

TUESDAY 12 FEBRUARY 2002

Sir Paul Beresford

  620. There are two ways of looking at that. You can either look at it from a restrictive point of view or you can look at it from a more positive angle and do something about the transport. I am talking about in general.
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) That is obviously right. You can conclude, let us improve the transport infrastructure to a particular place for economic activity to take place so you can develop in a particular way. It would not necessarily involve tall buildings; it would involve any development that would bring jobs and economic activity. You are right.

Christine Russell

  621. I will not ask you about individual applications, but in general would you like to see more Section 106 contributions going towards increasing transport capacity?
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Where appropriate, yes, I would, particularly if the particular development—tall building or not—has a real impact on transport infrastructure. However, each (I am sorry to say it again) individual case must be looked at on its merits.

Chairman

  622. Without going into specific things, do you not find it a bit odd that Canary Wharf put up £90 million for the Jubilee Line (not much, really, considering the cost of that line) yet the proposals for the Heron are not putting up any money at all?
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I do not want to go there, if you do not mind, because it is impossible to answer that question without expressing a view on what offers have been made by the developers.

Mrs Dunwoody

  623. Let us put it another way, my Lord. If an application for a tall building was made, would you expect, routinely, that the contribution from that tall building should be towards improving the transport infrastructure?
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Depending on what pressures it put on the transport infrastructure.

  624. In an area where there is already considerable pressure on the transport infrastructure, would you expect a Section 106 to make a considerable contribution to the transport system, if the effect of the planning application was to bring in large numbers of people? I hope that is clear.
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) That is very clear, but that is a question designed to put the facts in relation to the Heron Tower to me without saying so.

  625. No. With the greatest respect, this is actually a point of principle. If there is to be an expansion, say around the City of London in all directions, of buildings that will bring in large numbers of extra people (and I am not talking about 20 extra people) to an area where the infrastructure is already not only creaking but close to collapse, would you then expect as part of that application that there should be a demand for funds for the transport infrastructure?
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The appropriate demand made by the local authority should be that which is necessary in relation to the transport infrastructure and appropriate. I am sorry to give such a general answer, but I am trying to avoid expressing a view.

Chairman

  626. I understand why you are trying to avoid that, and it would help if we could give you a different example to the Heron.
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The extent to which I am trying to go is to say that I can quite envisage circumstances where contributions to the transport infrastructure would be entirely appropriate as far as the developer is concerned.

  627. Am I right, totally hypothetically, that if you are considering a particular application you can demand extra 106 as part of the Secretary of State's approval of the scheme?
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The Secretary of State is entitled to say "I will not approve this because there is an insufficient 106 contribution."

  Mrs Dunwoody: So the answer is yes.

Christine Russell

  628. Whilst we are still on this issue of planning gain and 106s, based on transport infrastructure, what about affordable housing, because we have been given, by some of our expert witnesses, the reason that a number of firms may pull out of the City of London or central London is the lack of affordable housing. How do you weigh those together—transport and housing?
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It should be a judgment made by the relevant local authority as to what its priorities are.

  629. Should you not be giving them some guidance?
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) What is the priority for the City of London? What is the priority for Tower Hamlets? What is the priority for Liverpool? They will differ. It is not, I think, for central Government to say the priority everywhere is affordable housing or the priority everywhere is transport. Manifestly, that is not right. The problem of an absence of affordable housing in London and the South East and other parts of the country as well are not reflected in yet other parts of the country. There has to be an element, and a very significant element, of local choice in relation to what priorities are.

Chairman

  630. Does there not have to be some government interference in this area? The City of London pretty clearly told us they wanted the office jobs and they wanted the affordable housing in Tower Hamlets. Is it not legitimate for Tower Hamlets to say they want the office jobs and perhaps not have the affordable housing?
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes, and there would most certainly be scope for a national view in relation to that, but one would hope that at stage one there would be discussion between the City and the boroughs that surround it, as to what the appropriate mix was.

  631. Are you satisfied that those discussions have taken place?
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Not entirely, no.

Mrs Ellman

  632. What is the status of the Mayor's Interim Strategic Guidance on tall buildings?
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It is a document that has been published on behalf of the Mayor, it has not yet been consulted upon, therefore it is not a final document.

  633. Does it have any status?
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I think it is a document that could be referred to in planning applications. It would be something that, in considering the position, central Government would pay some regard to, but until it is a document that has been consulted upon its weight is obviously much less than it would otherwise be.

  634. The Mayor told us, when he gave evidence here, that people did not agree with tall buildings and they would deal with that by the way they vote at the next Mayoral election. Do you look forward to a Mayoral election fought on tall buildings?
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I do not know whether or not the next Mayoral election will be fought on tall buildings. That is really up to the Mayor, as to whether he makes it a big issue. Our position in relation to it is pretty clear: I think, ultimately, it is a matter for seeing is there is a case for the particular building?

  635. Will the Mayor's London Plan be able to override the policy on tall buildings of Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea and Islington?
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The London Boroughs' Unitary Development Plans should be consistent with the Mayor's Spatial Strategy, in relation to his policy. That should include his policy on tall buildings. We have not yet got to a point where—

Mrs Dunwoody

  636. Consistent with?
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Consistent with, yes[1]1.

Chairman

  637. Except if they are prepared before his plan came along.
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Indeed. Once his spatial strategy is adopted, pursuant to all the procedures that have got to be gone through, thereafter the boroughs' plans should become consistent with it.

Mrs Dunwoody

  638. So if they say "We don't want tall buildings" and he says "You do want tall buildings" how do the boroughs make their plans consistent?
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) They should, in effect, make changes to their plans which reflect the regional strategy of the Mayor in his spatial strategy.

  639. So his plans will override theirs?
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Normally that is correct, yes. That is the hierarchy of the plan.


1   1 Section 344 of the Greater London Act 1999, amended the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, to require that Unitary Development Plans in London should be in general conformity with the Mayor's Spatial Development Strategy (SDS). A more detailed explanation of the relationship between the SDS and London Unitary Development Plans is set out in Section 5 of Government Office for London Circular 1/2000-Strategic Planning in London. Back


 
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