Members present:

Mrs Gwyneth Dunwoody, in the Chair
Andrew Bennett
Sir Paul Beresford
Mr Clive Betts
Mrs Louise Ellman
Ms Oona King
Miss Anne McIntosh
Mr Bill O'Brien
Dr John Pugh
Christine Russell


LORD FALCONER OF THOROTON, QC, a Member of the House, Minister for Housing, Planning and Regeneration, MR MIKE ASH, Acting Director, MR JEFF CHANNING, Divisional Manager, and MR CHRISTOPHER BOWDEN, Divisional Manager, Planning Directorate, examined.


  1. Good morning, my Lord. I wonder if you would be kind enough to introduce your team?
  2. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) On the far left is Christopher Bowden, who is responsible for drafting the major infrastructure projects document that was produced on Monday. Mr Mike Ash is the head of the planning department in the DTLR and Mr Jeff Channing is the principal draftsman of the main Green Paper produced in the course of last week.

  3. And you are?
  4. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I am Lord Falconer.

  5. Did your Lordship wish to give us a small homily before we begin on the discussion of this highly focused document?
  6. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) No, I do not wish to make any opening remarks.

  7. The power for residents to ask questions of the local authority at a local plan inquiry is central to giving legitimacy to the final plan. It is also a more powerful mechanism of community engagement than anything offered in the Green Paper. Why do you want to abolish it?
  8. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Could you repeat the question? I apologise.

  9. Residents absolutely rely on their ability to ask questions about a local plan.
  10. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) We are not for one moment in the local development plan framework that the Green Paper suggests seeking to reduce community involvement. Far from it. We are seeking to increase community involvement. We are seeking to ensure that the community has a proper voice in the development of those frameworks. We seek to do that in a number of ways. For example, the plan itself has to indicate how the community will be involved. We want to beef up measures by which they can get proper representation but above all we make the process less complicated and more accessible.

  11. Why do you think it is less complicated?
  12. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Because what you aim to do is produce a plan on a regular basis. Currently in some cases it has been so complicated a process that no plan has been produced at all by 40 local authority areas.

  13. Why do you think they are going to support something they cannot see very clearly reflects their views?
  14. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It may or may not reflect their views. What they have to see is a process whereby their voice can be heard and it will reflect to some extent what is said in that process.

  15. Paragraph 4.26 says: "Under the present system everyone has the right to make objections to draft local plans and for these to be heard ... Unfortunately this approach often proves time consuming and adversarial." Does it not occur to you that the reason it gives that impression is that people have different views and like to express them?
  16. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Indeed they do and we are not for one moment seeking to prevent those views being expressed. One aspect of local plans at the moment, for example, is large, commercial interests taking part in the development of the local development plan because they either wish to promote or object to a particular use of a particular site. What the resident is then confronted with is therefore a quite strongly legal driven process. That in many cases is not conducive to the views of the community actually being heard. What we would try to do is to reduce the legal driven nature of the process and increase the accessibility of the community to affecting what goes in the local development plan.

  17. Why do you need such a major change to deliver your objectives? People thought the objectives were already there.
  18. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) This is one aspect of a whole series of changes. The essential problem with the planning system at the moment is it is very complicated. There are huge numbers of things you have to look at before you know whether or not, for example, planning permission would be given. That comes from a many layered system which has lots and lots of guidance at each layer. The essential, underlying purpose of many of the changes is to reduce the amount of guidance at each level and reduce the number of layers because you make it simple.

  19. Who are you basically trying to assist, because you speak frequently in the document of businesses and the complicated system that they face. There is very little emphasis on the rights of individual people.
  20. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I do not think that is fair. We are trying to assist the community which includes business. What we seek to do is to make the system responsive to the community. That will include developers, including commercial developers. They, just like the rest of the community, are entitled to their applications being heard, being dealt with within a reasonable time and being dealt with on a consistent and clear basis.

  21. Where is your evidence that they have suffered so disastrously from the existing system. Does it not seem to you that they are better equipped to deal with it than the ordinary householder?
  22. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) In many cases, the interests of business do make it hard for communities to express their views. For example, the example I gave earlier on in the conversation about where you are having a public inquiry into a local development plan under the existing system. That very frequently gets quite dominated by commercial interests.

    Mr Betts

  23. You have already said that you do not want to change the principle of a plan led system.
  24. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Correct.

  25. How do you have a plan led system where there is no overall plan at local level?
  26. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) You will have an overall plan at local level. You will have the local development framework. We have a plan led system at the moment. That in principle is a good thing but a plan led system does not work if first of all there is not a plan at all, which is the position in relation to 13 per cent of local authority areas, and secondly it does not work well when you cannot rely on the plan either to be up to date or consistent with other layers of planning guidance. In order to address those two problems -- namely, there are a number of areas where there is no plan at all because the local plan process has not produced one and the out of date aspect -- we say simplify the plan. Make it easier to keep up to date; reduce the number of layers.

  27. The whole emphasis is on simplification?
  28. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Simplification is a very important emphasis, yes.

  29. Some people have said that by simplifying in that way what you may do is create a developers' charter because instead of applying for permission where there is clearly designated use for land in future developers will be applying for planning permission where there is no designated use and it will be up to that application to be determined in a vacuum.
  30. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) First of all, you have the local development framework.

  31. If the framework is going to give an indication as to what the land is going to be used for, you are back to a UDP.
  32. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The local development framework will set out the principles. They will apply right across the district. Where there is expected to be an area of change, the local authority as the Green Paper makes clear can have a detailed action plan. In the drawing up of that action plan, it can if it is appropriate be site specific. The difference between the new system and the old system would be, under the new system, you would only need to address the site specific issues where it really mattered. You would not have to address them in areas where simple principles would be sufficient.

  33. There are going to be some areas therefore where planning applications go in with this new, simple framework and where developers will be making an application with no predetermined idea as to what that land can be used for. The decision will be taken purely on that application.
  34. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It will be made on the basis of the principles which will be not site specific. It will not be as detailed as the existing local authority development plan. There will be these principles and the planning application made subsequently will be decided on the basis of those principles.

  35. How will you manage to perform the sequential test on housing where much of an area will not be designated for one thing or another?
  36. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The document makes clear that in relation to the local district area there will have to be a distribution of housing. There will have to be a plan that says where in the area housing will take place. That is just one aspect of what we are doing. Housing is very important.

  37. You will have to have a similar document therefore for shopping because a sequential test for out of town shopping centres will apply too.
  38. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) If there is to be an application in relation to an out of town shopping centre, a sequential test would have to be performed by the developer, which happens at the moment. The local authority will have to look at it. The difference between the future and now is what you do not have to do in the future is go through every part of the district and make a decision as to how each part of the district is going to be developed. It is that, among other things, which causes great delay and causes a process whereby not only you do not have plans for certain areas but you do not have up to date ones in very many areas where you do have plans.

  39. In an area like Sheffield, you are going to have plans for the city centre because of a possible regeneration, plans for the old industrial area, plans for a suburb where growth may take place and on top of that a housing plan and maybe plans for other particular policies because the sequential tests are going to be performed. Is that really a simple system?
  40. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It will be a simplification but it is up to Sheffield to decide where it thinks it can most decide where a plan would be helpful. It would not be necessary for the whole of Sheffield. It would be necessary for those bits where change will be required or in order to specify where new housing within Sheffield is going to go.

  41. Do you have to predict change at the time you are doing it or can you amend it as you go along? You never have a fixed LDF?
  42. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) You have a plan that you continuously update to make it consistent with other levels of planning. Sheffield can decide when they want a new LDF and whether or not they want a whole range of plans or just a few. It is up to Sheffield.


  43. So no one would ever be totally clear what was going on at all.
  44. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes they would because they would have the local development framework.

    Mr O'Brien

  45. You suggest in the report, paragraph 5.59, page 45, "We propose that Best Value inspectors should take the failure of local planning authorities to open up their meetings to public participation into account when considering the performance of local authorities." Some local authorities do open their meetings now but they allow the public two minutes to express a view. The public complain then that they do not have an opportunity. Is there any guidance in your proposals as to how the public should be accommodated in these open meetings?
  46. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) There is not guidance in the Green Paper in relation to that but the purpose of making the committees open is not just so that they can hear what is said but also where appropriate either applicants or objectors can make their voice heard. To be able to speak for two minutes on a complicated application may well not be adequate, depending on the nature of the application. We would think it appropriate that in every significant application objectors and applicants should have their voices heard before a committee.

  47. If the planning authority says, "You have two minutes to put your case", this means that we are not benefiting the public a great deal because that is available to them now. You are suggesting that you will make it simpler and there will be more opportunities but without guidance I consider there will be confusion and frustration because the public are looking for improvements. What are you going to do about it?
  48. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) We may have to issue guidance as to what the appropriate length of time for people to address the committee is. I know there are often many complicated applications where there are a lot of objectors to a particular application, many of them with different interests. The committee, on that basis, would quite frequently need to think of a structure whereby each of the interests could be heard. They do not want to go on for an unreasonable length of time but they need to make sure that everybody's voice is heard. We will issue guidance, I am sure, in relation to this but ultimately is it not for committees to decide how is the best way to ensure that people's voices are heard?

  49. That is true and we would look forward to some openness, transparency and democratic procedures, but this document, as you present it now, does not offer that.
  50. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) That is a slightly unfair criticism of the document. It is not intended to go into that sort of detail. What it is intending to do is to say, for example in this area, that open committees are an important thing that is required; let us hear views. "Do you think in principle that is the right thing to do? If so, how best do we develop it?"

  51. Views from whom?
  52. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The people who will read this consultation document. That would include developers, local authorities, people engaged on behalf of communities, pressure groups with interests in planning like the CPRE or the Friends of the Earth -- anybody who wishes to respond in relation to the contents of the Green Paper.

  53. Should not the lead come from the centre, saying, "We propose" or, "We suggest that this is the kind of approach that should be made to open committees"?
  54. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The approach that we are proposing in 5.29 is that committees be genuinely open. As to what that will involve in a particular case, let ideas come forward. If guidance is necessary specifying how that should be achieved, then no doubt we will issue that guidance.


  55. You keep talking about local authorities that have not got plans and saying there are not very many of them. Would it not be easier, rather than changing the entire system, to insist on those local authorities producing plans?
  56. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) We have been trying to make them produce plans over the last ten years but in 40 cases we have failed. You can demand it but ultimately a plan to be of any validity needs to be properly consulted upon with the community and proper thoughts have to go into it.

    Mrs Ellman

  57. Who decides what the regional spatial strategies are?
  58. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The proposal is that there be a regional spatial strategy steering group. It should be wider than simply local authorities. It should represent a wide range of interests in the region. It should consult with the region on drafts so that the community within the region expresses its views. That regional spatial strategy then needs to be submitted to the Secretary of State. The publication of the regional spatial strategy is then formally done by the Secretary of State.

  59. Who decides who is a member of the regional strategy group?
  60. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It will have to be a matter for a regional spatial strategy steering group to be set up.

  61. Who decides who will be on that group?
  62. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It will be the local authorities in the area in consultation with the regional chamber. They will probably consult with the Secretary of State as to what the steering group should consist of.


  63. So the Secretary of State ultimately decides?
  64. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) What the Secretary of State and the relevant players would be seeking to establish would be a representative group that adequately represents the region and that representation has to be beyond simply local authorities.

  65. So how is what Mrs Ellman is asking.
  66. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Consultation with those players, the local authorities, the Secretary of State and the regional chamber.

    Mrs Ellman

  67. Who takes the decision?
  68. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Hopefully it will be reached by agreement at the end of the day.

  69. Who takes the decision?
  70. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) At the end of the day, if the regional spatial strategy has been drawn up in a way that the Secretary of State does not ----

  71. I am not on the strategy yet; I am asking you about the membership of the group which will put together the regional strategy.
  72. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Ultimately, since the Secretary of State can say no to the RSS in particular if it does not adequately represent the views of the region, the Secretary of State could indicate at an early stage whether he thought the steering group was not adequately representative.

  73. How is the assessment made on what represents the views of the region?
  74. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Obviously, we are consulting on this as part of ----

  75. Who will decide?
  76. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Hopefully it will be reached by agreement but because the Secretary of State can say at the end of the process, "That was not adequately representative", the Secretary of State could ultimately say, "The group you have put together is not adequately representative."

  77. Would it not be better to have directly elected regions if the regional strategy groups are going to have such importance?
  78. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) We think not at the moment. Obviously, there are separate issues about elected regional assemblies. We think the appropriate course is to do it by consultation.

  79. Where is the accountability?
  80. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The accountability comes ultimately from the Secretary of State producing the regional spatial strategy. He is part of an elected government. That is where the accountability comes from.

  81. The accountability is not to be in the region; it is to be with the Secretary of State.
  82. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) What the Secretary of State is seeking to do is to ensure that the document which is produced is one produced by a representative body within the region.

  83. As decided by the Secretary of State?
  84. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Ultimately, yes.

    Ms King

  85. Can the Secretary of State just add people on or can he take people off?
  86. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It would be a consultative process. It would not be a formal selection of people. What the Secretary of State would do in effect would be to leave the regional players to produce the steering group. Only in the very exceptional case that it did not appear to be representative for a reason would he wish to intervene.

    Sir Paul Beresford

  87. What sort of size will the steering group be?
  88. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It would vary from region to region. Let us hear views in relation to that during the course of the consultation.

  89. Every local authority or district authority is going to want a representative on it so we already running up to 60.
  90. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes. It will be a quite significance size in order for it to be adequately representative.

  91. It is going to make a decision that is going to be unanimous?
  92. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It is going to produce a regional spatial strategy. At the moment, the way that regional planning guidance is produced is either by a regional chamber or by a coming together of all the local authorities with planning responsibility in the area.

  93. There is a whittling down system that moves in towards the centre to get that decision?
  94. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It is a process by which currently they can come together and produce regional planning guidance. I have absolutely no doubt that it will be possible to put together a group at regional level that would be able to produce regional spatial strategies.

    Mrs Ellman

  95. In this process, are you not removing the elected decisions of elected county councils as part of this proposal and not replacing them by an elected region?
  96. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It is no different in terms of democratic accountability to the present system. Everybody agreed that when one spoke about how to reform the planning system you do need a regional planning level.


  97. I do not think they wanted a series of tzars or tzarinas.
  98. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Nobody is offering tzars or tzarinas. That is not part of the proposal.

  99. Acolytes? What word would you say should be applied to a group of people chosen by the Secretary of State, decided to be representative or unrepresentative by the Secretary of State and ultimately handing to him the right to decide whether they have come up with the right answers?
  100. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I have not said that they would be chosen by the Secretary of State. What I have said is it is for the region to come together and decide what is the most representative body that can produce a regional spatial strategy. As Sir Paul says, that will include representatives of all the relevant local authorities but it will include other representatives as well.

    Chairman: Unspecified.

    Mrs Ellman

  101. What would be the balance between the elected representatives and the non-elected representatives?
  102. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) That is a matter for each region to decide. Let us hear about it in the consultation. In regional chambers, I think it is 70/30 at the moment. That seems a perfectly reasonable breakdown but if people have different views let us hear them in the consultation. You need a regional level of planning. You need a process whereby you can get a representative view from the region in order to produce that document because the document has to have legitimacy within the region. What we are proposing is we think the best way to get that legitimacy, not by the Secretary of State appointing the body but the Secretary of State simply having a fall back power if the body that emerges from the region does not adequately represent the views of the region. If there is an alternative, we would be willing to hear it and take it into account in the consultation.

  103. I think the issue is about accountability at regional level, not whether there is a regional level. Can I turn to the question of major infrastructure projects? It is proposed that the decisions on the principle and location of major infrastructure projects would be taken by Parliament. How tightly would you define location in that context?
  104. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Pretty precisely. For example, in relation to terminal five, what would be envisaged is that the actual site would be designated on a plan which Parliament would have before it, before it made the decision. It would not be simply: should there be a fifth terminal at London Heathrow Airport. Let the local planning decision decide where that might be. It would be identified on a plan where the particular project was going to go. Plainly, if it was a big, complicated project like a port, obviously there would be room for changes to be made about the precise size and diameter of things but in many cases the position of the project would be delineated by map before Parliament.

  105. If an issue of that detail went to Parliament, do you feel it would get proper scrutiny or do you feel that the whips by formal or informal means would impose the wishes of the government?
  106. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The proposals made for parliamentary scrutiny of the process involve a process quite similar to that used in relation to orders under the regulatory reform process. That involves a number of time limits, a process by which written representations are put in and a process by which parliamentary committees can scrutinise the detail of the particular proposals that are made, making such decisions as they, the committee, feel appropriate about hearing evidence. I do not think people think that the regulatory reform order process is one where Parliament does not adequately scrutinise the detail of those orders. I believe that Parliament would be able to give proper scrutiny to the sorts of proposals we have referred to but again the consultation document allowed for everybody's views in relation to that and in particular Parliament's.

  107. Would Parliament be permitted to amend the proposal or would it be a matter of accept or reject?
  108. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Under the regulatory reform proposals, what you have is a two stage process and after views have been expressed the promoter of the order can come back with an amended order. I am not sure that the same process could apply in relation to these sorts of things because if there is a promoter -- for example, the BAA -- promoting terminal five at London Heathrow it is really a question for the promoter of the proposals to decide whether or not he would want to go ahead if Parliament said, "We only want to do it if it is amended in a particular way." You are dealing with a slightly different process.

  109. You are making Parliament a planning body?
  110. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) In relation to national infrastructure projects, you are saying Parliament must decide whether that project should be allowed in principle to go ahead.

  111. No, you are not; you going much beyond that. You are suggesting that Parliament has to agree on the specific location which you suggest should be fairly tightly drawn.
  112. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It could be in relation to things like terminal five. Yes, I am saying Parliament should decide that. In very many cases, Parliament could not make the decision without knowing with some degree of precision where the particular project was going.


  113. The answer to the question, "Are you making it a planning authority?" is yes.
  114. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) No, because Parliament decides the principles; then there is the public inquiry on the detail.

  115. Does it decide in principle or does it decide on the specific site, because you have now said within the space of ten minutes both of those things are true. We are getting a little bit into Alice in Wonderland territory here.
  116. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It is my fault for not being clear. It decides in principle whether or not T5 should be built there.

    Mrs Ellman

  117. On a specific site?
  118. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It will be on a specific site.


  119. So it is site specific.
  120. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It decides in principle that the project should go ahead. There is then the public inquiry in which the detail is looked at by the public inquiry, the how, and after that the Secretary of State decides whether to give planning permission.

    Miss McIntosh

  121. How are parliamentarians qualified to take this decision for a locally elected planning authority?
  122. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Because this is an issue of national importance in the hypothesis advanced.

  123. If I live in the north of England, why should my constituents benefit from T5?
  124. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It is a national issue as to whether or not there should be T5. The current arrangement in relation to major infrastructure projects is that every single one of them has been called in, in the last decades, by the relevant Secretary of State and the Secretary of State has decided after a public inquiry whether to agree or not to the major infrastructure project. What we are saying in these proposals is that where you are dealing with a major infrastructure project Parliament has a role to play in deciding whether such a major infrastructure project should go ahead.

    Andrew Bennett

  125. On these major schemes, Parliament had the old private business way of doing it. It was somewhat cumbersome and not very efficient but one of the key traditions then was that it was not whipped business. What you are really saying is this is going to be whipped business because the government minister is going to say that he wants to get it through. How far is Parliament going to have any discretion? Are you saying that you are not going to have it as whipped business or is it really going to be the minister decides and the payroll and all the other pressures that the whips can apply get it through?
  126. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Parliament will scrutinise the application. It cannot be said that in every case it will necessarily be a government proposal but in many cases it will because one of the other aspects of the major infrastructure proposal was that there should be a policy statement in advance about things like aviation policy or whatever. In many cases it will be something that is done with the support of the government.

  127. It will be whipped business?
  128. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I would imagine in some cases it will be whipped business, yes, but Parliament is still able to scrutinise it.


  129. They cannot affect it but they can look at it.
  130. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) They can affect it; they can express views in relation to it. Why is that process not a means by which a public debate goes on properly scrutinising the detail of the proposal?

  131. On the whole if you say to people, "I have taken the decision. Now you can tell me what you think about it", that is not regarded as being a debate.
  132. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I do not think that is a fair assessment.

  133. Forgive me. I am being unfair this morning.
  134. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Not at all. I do not think it was an accurate description of what we have in mind. What we have in mind is a policy statement, for example, in relation to aviation or railways, followed by a proposal which would normally be by a body like the BAA, then a process by which Parliament scrutinises the proposal.

    Chairman: A policy like the BAA, a public corporation which is now privatised.

    Andrew Bennett

  135. Parliament scrutinising really means that you either have to upset the whips or you have to follow the whips' line. Most members are in because they represent a political party and they want to sustain that political party so it is not all that easy to upset the whips, is it?
  136. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The process by which the individual project is looked at will throw up a debate in detail about the project.

    Sir Paul Beresford

  137. I thought you were saying that Parliament was going to look at the principles. The problem I have is where do you draw the line? You used T5 as an example but it is not just T5; there are potentially rail-road connections and infrastructure connections in general.
  138. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It is for Parliament in determining the principle to look at those issues that they think are relevant to the principle. Should there be, for example, a fifth terminal at Heathrow? That is a debate that has certain parameters. Those engaged in the debate can determine what they think the sensible parameters of that are. It will involve, for example, looking at things like the economic benefits of terminal five or the consequences in general terms of there being a terminal five, but I do not think there is difficulty about such a debate taking place.

  139. Can I give you one other possible example? Suppose we had an application for a railway to go from the Channel Tunnel, up through the southern counties, to loop round the base of London and off up to Liverpool. What sort of stage do we get to? How does that go through?
  140. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) There was a central railways project to that effect.

    Chairman: I am sure Sir Paul is posing an entirely hypothetical question.

    Sir Paul Beresford

  141. Yes. Mr Ash was involved as an adviser on the Channel Tunnel link.
  142. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) What the proposal in the major infrastructure project document suggests is that one uses something akin to the Transport and Works Act in order for the debate of principle to take place. The very proposal that you have suggested was dealt with under the Transport and Works Act and was defeated.


  143. I thought there was a lot of complaint about the Transport and Works Act.
  144. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It does not apply to enough areas of major infrastructure. It only applies to transport.

    Mrs Ellman

  145. Lord Falconer, I want to take you back to the comment you made on whipping. You said a few minutes ago that, yes, some projects may be whipped or would be whipped; and yet local authority planning committees are instructed they must not whip their members. Are you asking for different rules for Parliament than you are imposing on local authorities?
  146. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) No. I am responding to Mr Bennett's question, will these issues be whipped. The answer to that is, in many cases, the particular project will be as a result of a national policy statement issued by government. It will represent, in effect, government policy.

  147. So it will be whipped.
  148. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Whether it will or whether it will not I do not know is the answer in relation to that. It will be a matter for Parliament and the government of the day to decide how each individual project would be dealt with.

    Mr Betts

  149. Surely at local level, where the local planning committee takes the decision, they will also have policy statements. Are the roles going to change? Can the local planning committee now be whipped as to whether it takes the decision?
  150. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The way that local authorities work is that the local planning committee has to make its own decision on the basis of the local development framework. I do not want to interfere in the way that local planning authorities make their minds up in relation to those sorts of issues.

  151. In future it will be okay for them to be whipped?
  152. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I do not want to make a suggestion that that should be changed in any way. The major infrastructure project is a completely different sort of issue. We are in effect proposing a wholly new and different sort of process to apply to that.

    Miss McIntosh

  153. It is not different. I have shares in BAA. I am totally against the procedure that is proposed. I am probably the only person in the room who has served on the Joint Special Procedures Committee. Are you familiar with that committee?
  154. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I am not familiar with the detail. Mike Ash knows about the two particular cases.

  155. I am on the Northern Tunstall Bypass Joint Special Procedures Committee which sat in the autumn of 1997. Three Members of the Commons and three Members of the Lords were elected to this committee in those cases where the Secretary of State, under present parliamentary procedures, is unable to take a decision. I understand that in that capacity we were asked as parliamentarians to sit in a semi-judicial capacity. We were asked to state that we had no vested interests and I understand that a time share along the route of the proposed bypass would have posed a vested interest.
  156. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) A time share?

  157. For example, if we had an allotment. Is that the sort of procedure that you are suggesting?
  158. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) No. I do not know enough about the North Tunstall Bypass to know what procedure you are referring to. Was it a hybrid bill or a private bill?

  159. Under Erskine May, when the Secretary of State is unable to take a decision for whatever reason there is a special joint committee set up.
  160. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Under the Highways Act?

  161. Under any Act. This particular case refers to a bypass scheme in Stoke on Trent. The difficulty I have had is that there appears to be a conflict in the two documents before us and the evidence you have given this morning. The first document is "Planning: Delivering a Fundamental Change" where you say that there will be a new parliamentary procedure for approving projects in principle before detailed aspects are considered at a public inquiry. You also say that there will be robust arrangements for prior public consultation. In the major infrastructure projects at paragraph 19 the terms of reference are that Parliament will consider the principle of the need for and location of a project. What type of parliamentary procedure do you envisage because that was a fairly straightforward case. It took us three and a half weeks including one site visit. Why do you think a parliamentary committee on a particularly complicated project is going to spend any less time looking at it than a public inquiry? What type of parliamentary committee? Is it that type or is it going to be a different type of parliamentary committee that you are looking at?
  162. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) In relation to the procedure to be used, what the document proposes as a basis for consultation, though it is a matter for Parliament to decide, is the sort of process used in regulatory reform orders. I am not clear what the statute or process you are referring to is. It is the one used on regular reform type orders which would involve a parliamentary committee having received a series of documents setting out the proposal and the objections to it, there being a timetable for that. It would then consider it in such a way as it thought was appropriate. We believe that would be a very much quicker process than a public inquiry process because it would focus on the principles, the location and the need for the particular development.

  163. You are overturning a fundamental principle of planning law that planning authorities should take a local decision to affect the local people living near that project. Parliamentarians by definition have to declare that they have no vested interests. They will not be familiar with the area and they will therefore not be bureaucratically accountable for where that location is.
  164. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) No, I am not. The current situation in relation to every single major infrastructure project over the last decades was that the Secretary of State called in from the local authority, so the decision currently is made by the Secretary of State after a public inquiry. These proposals will involve the decision in principle being made in effect by Parliament.


  165. The difficulty the Committee is in is that major infrastructure projects in both paragraphs 29 and 30 seem not to lay down very precise rules and yet you seem to be saying that they would absolutely be necessary. Perhaps you would like to go away and give us a very detailed explanation of what it is you think you have told us today.
  166. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I accept the point you are making. It is not detailed in the major infrastructure project document. It sets out a possible way because we took the view that ultimately the precise procedure to be used is a matter for Parliament.

  167. You do not think uncertainty causes very great difficulty in planning?
  168. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Uncertainty in the result, at the end of the day, as to what the procedure ----

  169. How you get to a result. You do not think uncertainty in that confuses applicants?
  170. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Indeed I think it would. What we have done is put down one particular proposal as to how it should be done.

  171. Perhaps you would like to give the Committee a detailed note on the various alternatives because you must have thought about it in very great detail.
  172. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) We have. I would be more than happy to do that.

    Miss McIntosh

  173. Could you answer my question? Why are parliamentarians better qualified than a planning authority to take these decisions?
  174. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Currently, planning authorities do not take major infrastructure decisions. They are taken by the Secretary of State. Where it is a major infrastructure project, we think it appropriate that Parliament and the Secretary of State be involved in the decision.

  175. You do not think NIMBY will be a factor?
  176. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) We have taken the view that Parliament should decide or assist in the process of making the decision about whether major infrastructure projects are.

    Ms King

  177. I want to go back to what local residents will decide and what Parliament will decide. Could you explain why local residents would get more involved with what you have set out than they currently do with the UDP, because although I think we should simplify things the UDP is quite a powerful mechanism for community involvement and I do not see anything that powerful in the Green Paper.
  178. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The local development framework would have to specify the statement of community engagement -- i.e., one of the issues which would have to be addressed in the local development framework was how you would engage the community both in updating or changing the local development framework and in relation to individual applications for planning control. It would be one of the things that had to be set out. Secondly, there would be a positive benefit to any developer in consulting the community before any planning application was made. Thirdly, we would wish to increase the resources available to bodies like Planning Aid so that the community in the appropriate case would have the benefit of expert assistance. Fourthly, by simplifying the process, you make it much more accessible to the community as a whole.

  179. How will people see that their views have been taken into account?
  180. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) In relation to individual applications for planning control, the earlier they get engaged in the process the more likely they are to influence what actually happens. The easier the process by which the local authority consults the community again at an earlier stage, the more likely an individual's voice will be to affect what is said. One of the problems at the moment is because it takes so long to produce a local development plan, once it is produced, the process by which it is changed is very complicated and very long. Local authorities are quite unkeen for understandable reasons to get engaged in it. If you have a process that is simpler, it will be much easier for those necessary changes to occur. Where you are dealing with action plans, which is what this document also refers to -- for example, in an area that needs regeneration -- the process for producing the action plan will not be a process that is necessarily district wide; it will only be neighbourhood wide if it is for a particular neighbourhood so you would have a much more focused, closer to the community process by which you produce that action plan.

  181. Would not the ease of updating the local development framework increase the power of local authorities over communities?
  182. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) No, I do not think so. Remember, the local development framework has to include a statement of community engagement. The process by which it is updated can only take place once the local authority has gone through all the right processes for engaging the community. We would also very much want to involve local strategic partnerships in the process by which the plan is drawn up so that you engage the community that way as well.

    Mr Betts

  183. At present when an application comes in for a particular development, the UDP has defined what the land can be used for and therefore most of the argument, if it is a development in keeping with the UDP, will be about the nature of the development and the community will be consulted. Under your proposals, if there is no land use laid down for a particular area, the proposed application comes in and the arguments will be about whether the development should go on at all and it will take a lot longer, will it not?
  184. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) If there is no action plan, that is right. If you have a system whereby the local development framework does not have a site specific use for that particular site and you have not got an action plan it will take however long it takes.

  185. There will be an argument about where as well as the nature of the development?
  186. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes.


  187. You move back one step rather than forward.
  188. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) In certain cases, I suspect the control application would not necessarily take longer but you would have a clearer plan because the plan will have been produced much quicker.

    Christine Russell

  189. I would like to know what evidence you have based this utopian vision on because at the moment local communities only tend to get involved in the planning process when there is a planning application that has been submitted that will affect their neighbourhood. Why have you this confidence that local residents, local communities, local tenants' groups or whatever will get more engaged and more involved proactively in preparing these community plans and frameworks than they are at the moment in the formal process of developing local plans?
  190. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I agree with your first proposition. The time at which neighbourhoods most get involved is when there is a particular application for a particular use. We hope that people will become more engaged in the development of the local development framework because the people drawing it up have to focus on the issue how do we engage the community for this process. Secondly, it will be simpler. Therefore, the process will be one which it will be easier for people to engage in. Thirdly, where an action plan is involved, it will involve an issue about what happens to the neighbourhood at neighbourhood level, so it will be closer to the community than many development plans currently are.

  191. Do you not accept that at the moment someone buying a property in a certain area has a sense of security knowing that the nice meadows in front of them will remain as meadows?
  192. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes.

  193. You are developing a system that gives rise to a lot more insecurity than there is at the moment.
  194. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I do not think that is right. The system that we are proposing is about how the process works. It is not, for example, threatening the green belt. It is not, for example, threatening the environment. It is all about how the process works, not about the basic policies.

    Sir Paul Beresford

  195. I think what she is getting at is you have told us about a system that is quicker and you have the plan. If an application comes in that does not fit the plan, you can very quickly go through the procedures and go back a step to change it. Hence the insecurity that Christine Russell has mentioned.
  196. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) What is the point of a system that goes through every single site in order to get a development plan which leads to years and years of delay? Surely the right balance to strike in relation to that is to have a development plan that deals with the critical issues -- namely the principles -- deals with those areas where there is likely to be applications or issues about land use. You then have a plan that is usable, simple and that deals with the main issues, rather than the current system where sometimes you do not have a plan at all and if you do have a plan it is quite frequently so large and complicated that it is inconsistent with other layers of the process.

    Mr Betts

  197. If someone buys a house, they have a pretty good idea, if there is an area of vacant land next to it, what could potentially be built on there. Under your system, there is no area plan and people would have no idea whatsoever.
  198. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) People will know what the basic policies are.

  199. They will not know what might be built on that land as a result of those policies.
  200. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) They know what the basic policies are. Because we are not changing the basic policies the degree of security provided by the planning system will not materially change.


  201. They will not know how it applies to them. We all know what the general principles of Christendom are but we do not know how they apply to our church until we go through the doors.
  202. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) There is a sufficient degree of clarity about how our principles apply at the moment to provide people with adequate security about whether, for example, the green belt will continue to be protected in their area.

    Mr Betts

  203. Green belt is not the same as open space. Open space may be currently preserved for limited use and people may know that but if an application comes in under your system to build industry on there or whatever, there may be general principles involved but people cannot be certain that is going to be turned down, can they?
  204. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) That is a very good example of why I think your fears are exaggerated. In relation to open space, there is a draft, substantive document which this Committee is looking at, PPG17, which in effect proposes that local authorities should analyse what the requirement for inter alia open space is and have a policy indicating what they are going to do about the open space in the area.

  205. That is a policy point for the whole area. It is not going to reassure someone who lives next door to a particular site about what happens there. This is taking power away from many of the communities, is it not?
  206. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) No, it is not, not remotely away from the communities. Far from it. It makes the process simpler. PPG17 would involve a system where the community has a much better idea what is going to happen to the open space in its area.

  207. You are turning the clock back to pre-1991 when we did not necessarily have to have full coverage of plans for a whole area. It was on a patchwork basis. That is what we are going back to, is it not?
  208. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) We are not going back to pre-1991. We are recognising what has happened since 1991. A plan led system is only of value where you either have plans, which you do not have in the 40 cases I have indicated, or you have plans that you can rely on.

    Miss McIntosh

  209. Who are the 40 councils that you have indicated?
  210. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I can give you a list.

    Mr Betts

  211. Are they getting government grants for the planning system?
  212. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) They are getting revenue support grant.


  213. You have a certain amount of muscle that you could apply and, quite frankly, it has been applied by government departments before, if you will forgive my being vulgar in mentioning it.
  214. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) We have been wanting these local authorities to produce -- not just this government but previous governments as well ----

  215. You have not thought of insisting?
  216. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) In relation to planning, the way that you can get the planning department to operate is by using the best value techniques and eventually getting to a point whereby, after a series of interventions, you take away the planning function from the local authority.

  217. The problem that we have as a Committee is you are proposing a very large change which appears to some of us to go backwards rather than forwards and which will have a direct effect on the rights of individuals in relation to their own planning areas.
  218. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes, but it is a practical, sensible change that addresses the fact that the plan led system at the moment has led to two complicated, complex, local plans. That is why some local authorities do not have them. Yes, you can put pressure on the local authorities but the reason why 40 do not have local development plans is because the system is difficult. It does require a very substantial effort before such a plan is produced.

    Sir Paul Beresford

  219. Will these 40 authorities have their local development frameworks and their action plans? What will you do if they do not?
  220. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) We believe it will be much easier for local authorities to comply with the sorts of proposals we are making in the Green Paper than the complex local development plans that very many local authorities seek to produce. If they do not produce them, there are measures that can ultimately be taken but ultimately surely we want a system where the vast majority of the local authorities concerned do produce relevant plans.

    Sir Paul Beresford: Which is current. The vast majority currently have done that with UDPs.

    Miss McIntosh

  221. Would another way forward not have been to threaten to withhold payment of revenue support grants until those 40 councils produced plans?
  222. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) You are not allowed to withhold un-ring fenced grant in part. Secondly, there is a fundamental problem which has led to why there are not these 40 local authority plans and that is because it is a very complex, very long, drawn out period that has to be gone through before you produce a local development plan.

    Dr Pugh

  223. Can I take you back to Mr Betts's question on the whipping? As I understood your answer to his question, what you appeared to be saying was if there was national policy it would be okay to whip over a national planning decision. If there are with a local development framework core policies or consequences of core policies are identified by the administration about particular local authorities, would they be justified in whipping to because that seems a logical consequence of the line you were taking.
  224. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I sought to not comment on what the appropriateness or otherwise was of whipping. If it is government policy, no doubt it will be a proposal which the government supports.

  225. You are resisting saying it would be wrong for an administration to whip a planning committee where they feel their core policies are on the line, as it were.
  226. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Are you talking about Parliament or local authorities?

  227. I am talking about local authorities. The issue is whether local authorities can behave exactly as the national government would in this case. What you said in answer to Mr Betts was that if it was a national policy whipping in the House of Commons would be okay on a national planning decision. If it is a local, core policy or the consequence of a core policy, the administration is advising their planning members and surely they should then have the right to whip those members, on your line of argument?
  228. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) In relation to the local authority planning application, they do not whip and I do not think it is appropriate that they should whip. The reason for that is because they are the planning authority. What is happening in the infrastructure project proposal is that the principle of the proposal should be debated and either approved or not by Parliament. Ultimately, the planning decision finally is taken by the Secretary of State but only after Parliament has approved the principle.

  229. You do not regard the in principle decision by Parliament on a major infrastructure project as a planning decision?
  230. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It is part of the process, but it is not ----

  231. It is a planning decision.
  232. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It is highly relevant to the planning decision but it is approving in principle whether or not the project should go ahead. There then needs to be a process whereby the local inquiry looks at the how and it is then for the Secretary of State to decide whether or not the project should be approved.

  233. Can I return to local development frameworks, core policies and plans replacing the UDP? We know what the UDP is. We have not got a list of core policies for every local authority in the same format. Are you going to be very specific about what may or may not be included in core policies? If I can give an example, supposing a local authority were to produce a core policy about the location of mobile telephone masts. Would that be a permissible core policy?
  234. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) To put them in or to not put them in?

  235. To say where they should go in, where they might go in and where they may not go in.
  236. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) There is a PPG in relation to that already.

  237. Could it be incorporated within core policies?
  238. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) If it is already incorporated in core policy, that is something that we as a matter of principle think should be dealt with at national level. All you would be doing would be repeating what is already in the national policy guidance.

  239. The core policy has to subscribe entirely to that. Okay. Community strategies are the new element you have brought into the planning paper and they are linked in some way to core policies and planning decisions. There may be real benefit but would you accept that this will lead to planning refusals occurring for a wider variety of reasons than hitherto because people will indicate within their community strategies reasons why the planning development cannot go ahead?
  240. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The reference to community strategies is to try to ensure that what you do with land use reflects better other policies that you may have. That is not ultimately to change what the land use policies are but to ensure that they better connect with what goes on in other areas of policy. I do not think that would lead to more refusals or grants than previously.

  241. I was not thinking of more; I was thinking that the range of reasons people may cite, the material considerations they may bring in, may be broader than hitherto.
  242. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I do not think that is necessarily the case. The position is that in preparing your land use development plan you should have more regard than you do at the present time to community strategies. That will not mean that there is a wider range of reasons for refusal because, in considering a particular planning application, you will still have to have regard to the local plan or the local development framework. That local development framework will have been brought into existence after consideration of such things as community strategy.

    Mrs Dunwoody withdrew and Mr Bennett took the Chair

    Miss McIntosh

  243. Could I ask why you have placed an obsession almost on the speed with which a planning decision on a major construction project should be taken?
  244. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) What we have always said is that the decision should be made, whether it be in relation to a major infrastructure project or in relation to an individual application, within a reasonable time, and the reasonable time will vary from project to project and application to application. I would not regard it as an obsession, but I regard it as one thing which has been said very frequently by people engaged in the planning system, that the planning system does take too long to reach conclusions both in relation to what the Local Plan should contain and also whether or not particular applications, whether they be for major infrastructure projects or whether they be, as it were, more common applications, do.

  245. Is there not a very good reason for that, being the lack of space in this country for development?
  246. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Why should that lead to a delay in making a decision?

  247. Because if you take my own constituency as an example, we have virtually no brownfield sites which are not on flood planes, even on the presumption under your policy that we should build on a brownfield site even if it is on a flood plane, which I do not necessarily agree with, but also we do not wish to take the greenfield sites, so we are effectively running out of space. I believe that the starting point in the Department was looking at the speed with which decisions are taken on similar projects in France and Germany and the reason that they can decide quickly is that if one site is deemed to be appropriate for a number of very good reasons, notably the residents, and I am thinking of Strasbourg Airport, one of the reasons why the fast-speed rail service was not agreed and the track was not laid was because Air France felt that they would lose market share on Paris to London, one of their key routes. Was that the starting point, that you looked at the speed of some of the Continental decision-making?
  248. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) No. We obviously took account of what other countries did, but that was not our starting point. We think it should take a reasonable time, ie, the time it takes for there to be a proper examination of a major infrastructure project, for example, and long, long delays in relation to that are bad for the community just as much as they are bad for business, for the national interest because it blights premises for years and years and years if you cannot take a decision. You rightly identified many problems that the planning system faces, like, for example, in certain cases a shortage of brownfield land, but those problems, whilst they require proper and adequate investigation and proper and adequate opportunity needs to be given for the community and the applicant to express their views, it does not mean that the system needs to take many, many, many years to resolve those problems, thereby blighting the community just as much as preventing what may in some cases be sensible development. Do we not need a system that is able robustly and within a reasonable time to say no just as well as to say yes?

  249. How would the motorway status being agreed for the A1 from Bramley(?) to Barton be speeded up under your proposals?
  250. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Well, I do not know whether that would be a major infrastructure project or not.

  251. It has certainly been hugely delayed. Perhaps you could do a note separately on that.
  252. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes.

  253. In your Planning: Delivering a Fundamental Change, the Government is minded to take away completely the strategic role of county councils in County Structure Plans. Is this the first move to abolishing county councils?
  254. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) No, it is not. That proposal is made exclusively on the basis of what leads to a more effective planning system and if we are serious about making it simpler, then one of the steps that needs to be taken, and there was widespread agreement on this, was you need to remove some of the layers or one of the layers, and the county council Structure Plan layer was one that it was possible and sensible, we believed, to remove. That does not mean that counties will not have an important role to play when, for example, the Regional Spatial Strategy is being drawn up.

    Mr Betts

  255. Coming back to the planning system, the process is quite clear that, say, for any industrial use, certain areas of a local authority will be reserved for that purpose and people generally know that is where that purpose is going to go. In addition, is it not the developer in putting in an application who is going to determine where development goes because they will judge their site in respect of that with particular leave for anything in his path?
  256. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) If in a particular area, you want heavy industrial or industrial or manufacturing development to take place, there is absolutely no reason why the relevant local authority should not identify such an area as an Action Plan area where that sort of development is specified.

  257. And it would not happen outside that area?
  258. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The implication of it being put there would be that it would happen inside that area and if the local authority wish to specify, after going through the appropriate procedures, that as a matter of principle that sort of development should not apply, except in that particular area, that would be a conclusion they can put as one of their statements of principle in the Local Development Framework.

  259. Where there is no area Plan, then there will be simply the situation where the developer decides what happens or takes a lead in what happens by putting an application in so there will be nothing before that? The application will simply go in and then be looked at according to the applicant's relevance to the site, so in principle yes, but there is no particular Plan?
  260. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The application made when there is no Action Plan will be determined in accordance with the principles laid out in the Local Development Framework. If in the example that you posit the particular area wanted only manufacturing development in one particular place, which was covered by an Action Plan, then, as I say, that could be specified in the principles.

  261. Then we can talk about certainty in terms of, say, local residents not being certain of what is going to get built on the site next door to their homes, which is invaluable, but for developers as well as for businesses, is this not going to be a more uncertain system because then they put in an application on sites when they have no idea in principle whether the local authority might be minded to grant permission, but you as the local authority decide whether it is relevant and proper for that area.
  262. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) They will know in principle because the Local Development Framework will set out the principles, but there is a fundamental disagreement between us.

  263. But for that application for that site?
  264. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) There is a fundamental disagreement between us which, if I may say so, as it were, is the undercurrent of all of your questions which is that unless you have a system which is site-specific for every single site in the country, you are going backwards because then you will not know what is happening when you make an application and you will not know what is going to happen next door to you. That approach, we believe, has not been successful because the effect of that approach has been you have got a long, drawn out and complicated process which has led to considerable delay in Local Development Plans being produced, the numbers of Local Development Plans not being produced at all and the very many Local Development Plans that are being produced being out of date. I have got a note here from Jeff on my right which says that 214 Plans are now going out of date out of 362 authorities, so the approach that is implicit in your questions simply leads us back to the problems that we have got at the moment, so you need to address the problems and that is what we are seeking to do in relation to this proposal.

  265. I agree with that, but it is whether this is the right way. Is not the difference that currently, however long-winded it is, decisions on uses for particular sites are taken in the context of the overall Plan, whereas decisions on uses of sites will be taken in the future on the basis of an individual application in isolation of anything else?
  266. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) No, they will be taken in the context of the principles set out in the Local Development Framework and, where there is an Action Plan, in the context of the Action Plan which is much better than being taken in the context either of no Plan at all or in the context of a Plan that may very well be out of date.

  267. Can they not just choose to refer to the Action Plan for the whole of the area?
  268. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes, they could if they wanted, but then you would be going back to the position where you have got the problems that you have got at the moment.

    Sir Paul Beresford

  269. Is it not like in places like London where they have all got their UDPs, so they just put a new title on it and call it an Action Plan and what is the difference?
  270. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I do not think it will happen like that.


  271. How will you stop them doing that?
  272. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Well, the process is intended to lead to a much quicker time-frame for Local Development Plans to be produced.

  273. Are you just praying that it will happen? There will not be a mechanism that will make it happen?
  274. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Well, the mechanism that will prevent it happening, the ultimate fall-back is the Secretary of State can intervene at the end of the day.

    Sir Paul Beresford

  275. Which applies now.
  276. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Which applies now, but he cannot intervene when there is nothing to intervene in, so when there is no Plan.

  277. In London they all have their Plans. Let's use a specific example. Everybody knows a heap of bricks called Battersea Power Station, so take us through the procedure where, say, a new application went in for some reason. What would happen in your plan that is different from now?
  278. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Can I answer that in a moment, but Mike would like to respond to the previous question.

    (Mr Ash) Well, I will refer to that as well. The point we want to get across here is that if you look at, say, UDPs in London, what you tend to see is within those Plans there will be policies that apply throughout the area to provide a framework for development control and there are specific areas where there is change happening, where there are new developments being concentrated and Battersea Power Station is clearly a change area. Nothing is happening at the moment, but it has got the potential for development, so on that basis, then the local authority would designate that area as for an Action Plan and draw up an Action Plan setting out the proposals for the use of that site.

  279. That is being done already though.
  280. (Mr Ash) Yes, well, they are sometimes a bit like that at the moment and we are seeking to build on that approach which does not seek to cover every square inch of an area with specific designations. In the suburbs most local authorities can put in place a set of local control policies to deal with house extensions and all the other generality of planning applications that are made without having to go into the detail of putting area allocations en masse. That is a set of core criteria-based policies which will act as the framework for development control procedures in those areas. Where there are development prospects, where there are areas of change, those are the areas that you would designate for action planning and do that on a more flexible basis because it is specific to a particular area and would be done just for that area when it is needed to be done. It does not have to be done as part of the monolithic process at the moment which produces a development plan with 300 or 400 policies in it.

    Christine Russell

  281. Can we move on to housing. At the moment the County Structure Plan determines the number of houses needed -----
  282. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) In two-tier authorities only.

  283. ---- in two-tier authorities.
  284. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The County Structure Plan will only in fact distribute housing among 46 per cent of the population because 54 per cent of the population live in unitaries, so the county is not distributing to them.

  285. So how exactly in future in those areas are the housing numbers going to be determined?
  286. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) In the same way as they are currently determined to the unitaries, which is that the Regional Planning Guidance presently distributes them to the unitaries and in future if the proposals set out in the consultation paper are brought into effect, then the distribution will be done from region to all district councils.

  287. Can I just ask you, sticking with the county councils, they are going to retain the overall responsibility for waste and minerals?
  288. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Correct.

  289. Is that it?
  290. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) That is it.

  291. Will their planning departments have any other residual responsibilities?
  292. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) They will obviously have a role to play in relation to drawing up the Regional Spatial Strategies because, as Sir Paul indicated rightly, obviously the local authorities, including county councils, will be very keen to be involved in the drawing up of those.

  293. As they are still responsible for transport matters in their areas and as they are still responsible for education, for instance, will they not still argue that they need to have their own County Plan?
  294. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Well, what we are saying is that that County Plan is an additional and complicating layer under the planning system at present. If you are serious, as we are, about making the system simpler and reducing the number of layers, that, we believe, is the layer that can most easily go.

    Miss McIntosh

  295. I note you are leaving minerals and waste with the county councils.
  296. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Because they decide the development control applications in relation to that.

  297. Why?
  298. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Because those are areas we think which are dealt with in a self-contained way and dealt with sensibly and there is no reason at all to interfere with that particular area.

    Mr O'Brien

  299. Could I draw attention to Business Planning Zones. What you are saying is that Business Planning Zones will need to be identified in regional strategies and "planned by local authorities in partnership with universities, RDAs and leading edge companies, but any of the partners should be able to initiate proposals for a Business Zone". How does that fit in with the Regional Planning Guidance, particularly in Yorkshire as we have heard recently, because it does conflict, what is being advised in the Regional Planning Guidance with what you are advising in this document?
  300. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) There would be no reason why a Business Planning Zone should not be only agreed to when it is consistent with what the Regional Spatial Strategy or the Regional Economic Strategy of the Regional Development Agency proposes.

  301. The only difference in that is that in this document, it does say----
  302. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Which document are you referring to?

  303. I am referring to the Regional Planning Guidance for Yorkshire and Humber to 2016, received a few days ago. It is dated October 2001. What it says is this: "It will take time for the RPG policies to affect the underlying economic and social processes discussed in this chapter. However, individuals, companies and public and private infrastructure and service providers make location decisions at all times about where to live, where to invest and what services to offer and what areas to serve". Now, that is what the Regional Planning Guidance is saying which implies that individuals and business will at all times have the right to decide where businesses should be, where to live and all the rest of it, but what you are suggesting now is that new Planning Zones will be introduced where planning permission will not be required. There is a conflict. Which do we believe?
  304. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I do not see any conflict between saying in the Regional Planning Guidance that it is for individual businesses or persons to decide where they want to locate. Obviously they need to get planning permission, but equally there is nothing wrong with saying in certain places where we want to encourage a particular type of business that a Business Planning Zone should be set up.


  305. But that is abolishing planning, is it not?
  306. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) No, because in certain specified places, you say subject to certain criteria being met, and the sort of criteria referred to in 536 and following in the document, then you should be able to treat yourself as having planning permission.

    Mr O'Brien

  307. In here it says that the decisions taken will be subject at all times by these individuals, businesses and all the rest of it, but what you are saying now is that when Planning Zones are introduced, that goes out.
  308. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) What the bit you read to me says or seems to be saying is that it is for each individual business to decide where he wants to locate his business.

  309. No, it says that the policies included in this, "it will take time for RPG policies to affect the underlying economic and social processes discussed in this chapter. However, individuals, companies and public and private infrastructure and service providers make location decisions at all times about where to live, where to invest, what services to offer and what areas to serve". Now, I read that as saying that when a planning application is submitted under this procedure, there will be an opportunity for people to make observations upon it, but what we are reading today is that when a Business Planning Zone is introduced and identified, then the question of people having the opportunity to make an observation as to where they want to live, where their business should be and all the rest of it goes out because of the fact that you have introduced a Planning Zone and planning applications are not required. It is going back to what we have at the present time with the telecommunications aerials, where a decision has been made and immediately something controversial comes up our constituents are told, "Well, we can't do anything about it because of the fact that the Government has made a decision". Now, I can see that we are running into the same situation. This gave us hope, but this takes all that away from us.
  310. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I think that is not a fair analysis of the two documents. What this is saying is that a local authority ----

    Miss McIntosh

  311. A county council?
  312. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The relevant local authority, the district authority, can determine where it would be sensible to lay down particular parameters in a particular place where, if those parameters are met, planning permission is not required.

    Mr O'Brien

  313. So whereas it was assured a few days ago by the Regional Planning Guidance that decisions on these matters will be taken at all times, that is, by the people involved, including council tax payers, however with this, when the decision is made for the Planning Action Zone and there is no length of time that these Planning Action Zones can be in being, they can go on for years, other circumstances will change, but the individuals and people will have no opportunity to change anything in their Action Zone. I consider that that is a step backwards.
  314. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Well, it would be done in areas which were tightly defined and the parameters would be tightly defined. The sorts of business that we envisage would be ones that would be low-impact in the area, hi-tech, for example. They would not significantly add ----

  315. What about out-of-town shopping, supermarkets?
  316. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) They would not be included in this sort of Business Planning Zone. It is much more limited, but they would only be agreed to once the local authority had gone through all the proper consultation processes.


  317. Well, we have the Simplified Planning Zones. How many of those have actually operated?
  318. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Very, very, very few indeed.

  319. Why not?
  320. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I do not know why not. Local authorities have been very 'unkeen' to use them. I have been told that in the few cases where they have used Simplified Planning Zones, the development of the Simplified Planning Zone has not been particularly sustainable, but the difference between a Simplified Planning Zone on the one hand and the Business Planning Zone on the other is the Business Planning Zone, unlike the Simplified Planning Zone, will have tight criteria about such things as quality, nature of development, precise location and development, et cetera.

  321. So who decides whether those criteria are met?
  322. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The local authority.

  323. So actually they are back there, are they not, because they are planning by the back door because when you come along and say, "Am I to do this?", you actually have to say, "Yes, but is it within the criteria that the local authority has laid down?"
  324. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The way it will work is that if the criteria are satisfied, the development can go ahead. There would have to be some notification procedure, but instead of having to wait for a yes, the local authority only intervenes when they think the criteria are not satisfied.

  325. Why do you want these Business Planning Zones? Your own paper tells us that in fact there is not the evidence from the case studies that business has been hampered by the planning system.
  326. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Well, when you speak to business, they say that they have been considerably hampered in many cases by the process slowing things down.

  327. Yes, they talk about it, but your case studies do not show it, do they?
  328. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Which particular case studies are you referring to?

  329. The ones that you referred to on page ES4.4, the Report on Planning for Clusters(?), I am now told.
  330. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I am sorry, I have not got that one.

  331. Anyway, it is your document, so you collected the evidence. I continually hear complaints on behalf of industry saying, "Yes, the system is cumbersome", but you actually did some case studies and you did not find that evidence from them.
  332. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I cannot say that I have read the particular document you are referring to.

  333. Where is your evidence other than hearsay from industry?
  334. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It is a widespread perception.

  335. Which may well be untrue, may it not?
  336. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Well, it is repeated so often.

  337. Well, why not look for some evidence for it?
  338. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Well, as far as the particular issue about, "Do people think the planning system takes too long to come to conclusions?", there is a widespread view that people do think that. If one simply looks and sees how long decisions take, they do take a long time.

  339. If we look at this problem, in fact I think it was in 1991, about 5.1 per cent of planning applications ended up going to appeal. We are now down to 2.7. Is that not really quite a substantial achievement because there is much more certainty in the planning system so that on the whole people know where they stand. It is not a really large number that are going to appeal, is it?
  340. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) No. I am not sure the extent to which the number of appeals indicates the extent to which the planning system is producing results within a reasonable time and with a reasonable degree of certainty.

  341. How long does a planning application now take if it is not contested?
  342. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It will vary from local authority to local authority. I cannot tell you how long it takes. It is a very, very variable figure. You will know, because the figures are published in the Green Paper, about how many meet the eight week target and how many do not.

  343. Yes. It has been improving, the figure, you have been pressing best value to make it better.
  344. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) That is correct and it has been improving to some extent but it is still remorselessly not meeting the targets. We have changed the targets now to draw a distinction between domestic applications and commercial or industrial ones.

    Ms King

  345. Unfortunately I speak from experience of the very long delays I have personally had of the planning system. If we abolish the current planning system and replace it with an emphasis on co-ordination with the local community strategy, how is the Government going to be able to enforce its own planning policies? So, if you take PPG3 on housing, for example.
  346. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes?

  347. How would that actually be enforced by the Government?
  348. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Like it is at the present time, by call ins and recovering appeals so in effect ministers at national level taking decisions where they believe that a local authority is about to take a decision that is inconsistent with the national planning policy. The problem about that is though the delays which infect the local authority end of the application system also infect the national end of the planning system. As well as improving the process by which decisions are based at local authority level, we need, also, to improve the system at central Government level as well. That is what we have said in the paper.

  349. Given that response, I wondered what you thought of the experiment in Wales in the 1990s when they cut back on the national level planning virtually to the bone. They are now in the process of reinstating that. There has been a lot of criticism of that policy. Is that essentially what is going to be repeated in England?
  350. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) No. I do not think the number of cases that are called in is remotely at fault and I think you do need it to be clear that national government will intervene where appropriate to ensure that which is dealt with at national level is actually enforced. So, for example, if you did not have the ability to call in, taking your example, PPG3, I do not think we would be able, as effectively, to enforce the brown field policy in relation to the development of housing. No, I do not envisage us cutting back on the number of cases we call in, because we will continue to call in to enforce national policy but what I do envisage is us dealing with the cases that we do call in more efficiently.

    Mr O'Brien

  351. In the report, paragraph 6.19 to 6.22, it refers to the third party right of appeal.
  352. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes.

  353. If you reject the third party right of appeal how do you plan to address the present abuse where local authorities grant planning permission for itself? How are you going to address that kind of problem?
  354. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) If you look at the document, we have considered very carefully whether or not we should give a third party right of appeal in those cases where a local authority grants planning permission to itself. We look to that in detail. There are about 5,000 cases in a year where they have got an interest in land. Many of those applications are of a community nature, regeneration projects or such. If we gave a right of appeal in those cases, what you would end up with would be community applications very frequently subject to a much slower track planning process than you would have for everybody else, for the private developer. How do you deal with the problem? Well, if and in so far as it is a departure from the local plan, where the local authority is giving itself planning permission, that is something which would have to be reported in any event under ordinary existing rules to the Secretary of State and he could decide whether or not to call in. It is those cases where the local authority is giving itself planning permission departing from the local plan. Those are the cases where perhaps, as a minister, one would be particularly vigilant to see whether or not that is one which should be called in.

  355. Who refers it to the Secretary of State?
  356. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) A permission a local authority is about to grant, which is a departure from a local plan, has to be referred to the Secretary of State so he can decide whether or not he should call in.

    Mr Betts

  357. In future there will be lots of areas where there is not a local action plan to depart from?
  358. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It is the departure cases where there are difficulties.

  359. 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?
  360. (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.

  361. That is going to be more general, it is going to be more open to interpretation than a departure from a land use plan.
  362. (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.


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

  365. 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.
  366. (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.

  367. So you are confident that historical, environment and archaeological remains are going to be as protected now as they were in the past?
  368. (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.

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

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

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

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

  377. 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?
  378. (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.

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

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

  383. Which ones do you want to get rid of?
  384. (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 at Work Executive. Those are the ones one would envisage staying.

  385. Which ones would go then?
  386. (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.

  387. They are on the hit list to start with. Who else is on the hit list?
  388. (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.

  389. 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?
  390. (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

  391. 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?
  392. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Could I not answer those questions?

  393. I would rather you did.
  394. (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 ----

  395. 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.
  396. (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

  397. Can I just ask you what major changes you propose to use of 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?
  398. (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 of class 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 of classes that that which is a quiet, non-intrusive ----

  399. Inoffensive.
  400. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) ---- use of a property in some commercial way could suddenly be turned into a nightclub. We are very alive to the fact that many, many communities would find that both disruptive and detrimental to the way that ----


  401. It would be good for business, would it not?
  402. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I do not know about that. Whether it would be good for business or not it is something that people have mentioned to me that they are concerned about. It is not in the proposal that you are referring to but there was one proposal, I do not know where it came from, saying that any shop could be used for a nightclub and that would really horrify people as a possibility.

    Christine Russell

  403. That is the urban area. The same point can be made about planning in the rural area where at the moment the quality of life of a lot of rural dwellers is ruined by noisy motorised activities that get away with it because they do it for less than 28 days a year. Are you looking at that issue?
  404. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) When you refer to a noisy motorised activity, is that a car boot sale?

    Christine Russell: Quad bikes.


  405. A car boot sale is an issue but that is nothing like as difficult to live with on a Sunday morning as motorbike scrambling or four wheel drive off-road vehicles.
  406. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The car boot sale and the go karting and motorbike scrambling point has also raised been with me and I think that is something we need to consult about. It will be a moderately open, textured consultation because use of classes are something that people are very, very sensitive about because of the situation where very, very intrusive things could potentially happen without the need for an application either to a local authority or to change existing planning permission. It is something that we are very conscious of as being very sensitive.

  407. Can I take you on. You have talked a lot about these 40 authorities who have not produced their plans.
  408. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes.

  409. They are off the hook now presumably, with the new proposals they can just forget about it?
  410. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) No. This is a consultation document. I would like to make it clear that the existing planning regime continues. As I say, this is only a Green Paper.

    Mr Betts: Or not.


  411. By the time we get to this new legislation coming into force, how many of those 40 do you expect to have produced plans?
  412. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I do not know is the answer to that because they have managed to hold out for the last ten years.

  413. How many would you like to achieve their plans by that time?
  414. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I would like to see every single one of those produce their plans but I do not know whether that is realistic.

  415. So you are still pleading that they get on with these plans?
  416. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes, because without a local development plan there is not remotely the certainty that comes from a plan their ----

  417. I know you told this Committee before when you were here on the estimates your timetable for implementing this, can you just repeat that for us so we are clear about it?
  418. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The Green Paper specifies 18 March for the conclusion of responses. We would hope to make a policy statement in the light of the responses by the middle of next year. Some of the changes if they go ahead would require legislation. The earliest possible time that legislation could be introduced would be November 2002 but whether or not legislation is introduced in that session which starts in November 2002 will depend upon whether or not there is a legislative slot and I have got no way of telling whether there will be or whether there will not. If, and it is a big if, legislation were introduced in the session which commenced in November 2002 the statutory changes would be very, very unlikely to come into force before 2004.

  419. So between now and 2004 we are actually going to have greater uncertainty in the planning system, are we not?
  420. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) And we need to be clear once the consultation process is over precisely what the arrangement will be. It is impossible to embark upon significant changes of the planning system which we think are worthwhile without there being need for transitional arrangements in the meantime.

    Mr Betts

  421. So an authority, say Sheffield, they have just started the revision process for the UDP, they should continue with that, should they?
  422. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) They should most certainly continue with that. I would like to make it absolutely clear that the existing system prevails. This is a consultation document. We believe that changes will come out of it but at the moment it is a consultation document so the existing system continues.

    (Mr Ash) As I said to Sir Paul earlier, there are elements of the present system which you can see could be applied to the new approach that we are setting out. It is possible at the moment for a local authority, for example, to do an update of its plan for a particular area as opposed to the whole of its area. The transitional issues that we will look at will be to see to what degree work which is being done now in terms of reviewing plans would be applicable in the new circumstance in which it could be carried forward into the new plans.


  423. These projects that are going to be subject to the new parliamentary procedure, would a nuclear power station be that sort of thing?
  424. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It plainly could be, but whether it would be or not will depend upon the circumstances at the particular time. What the document says is that it would have to be a major national infrastructure project and it is a matter for the Secretary of State at the time to determine whether or not he or she designates a particular project.

    Dr Pugh

  425. It is not possible for a nuclear power station not to be a major infrastructure project, a dinky little nuclear power station? It almost necessarily is, is it not?
  426. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It would be possible for the Secretary of State not to designate. That may be a more accurate way of putting it.

    Mr Betts

  427. It is possible the Secretary of State will be wrong.
  428. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) He might take the view that the best process to deal with a particular project is that.


  429. I think there are quite a lot of issues that the Committee would want to pursue and I suspect that we will be doing a full inquiry into this in the spring, which would seem logical. Can I, at this point, thank you very much indeed for your evidence this morning.

(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Thank you very much indeed, Mr Bennett.