Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40
TUESDAY 20 NOVEMBER 2001
QC, MIKE GAHAGAN,
40. Can you give us a worst case scenario? (Lord
Falconer of Thoroton) No, I think it would be unhelpful for
me to start speculating about time.
41. So the Dome could still be unsold in 12
months' time? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) As I say,
I think it would be unhelpful for me to give an estimate of time.
42. How confident are you that you are going
to secure the aim of a sale consistent with all the other things
you have talked about? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton)
We are working as hard as we can towards it and I think we will
just have to wait and see how the negotiations go on.
43. I am ever so glad that we have this new
clarity! (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) As I said at the
outset to Mr Grayling's questions, I am not keen to, in a sense,
throw light on the detail of the negotiations because I think
it is unhelpful to the negotiations.
44. That we appreciate. It is merely that the
Committee is seeking your reassurance that, after a goodly period
when not an awful lot has happened and with the number of false
starts in the disposal, there is some light at the end of the
tunnel because otherwise the cost of maintaining the Dome is taken
out of the public purse. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton)
I think the right course is just to get on with the negotiations.
These are complicated and difficult negotiations. It is quite
a wide-ranging series of aspects to deal with and I think the
right course is just to get on with those and not to, as it were,
seek to give indications of how they are going at a particular
45. It was a very contaminated site, was it
not? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It was.
46. It was decontaminated and fit for the purpose;
do you envisage that there might have to be any further work on
decontamination if it was put to other use? (Lord Falconer
of Thoroton) I do not think that there will need to be further
decontamination but the precise answer to that will depend upon
the particular uses in particular places in the North Greenwich
47. Do you envisage English Partnerships being
wound up now? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) No, I do
not envisage English Partnerships being wound up. I envisage a
long-term future for English Partnerships.
48. They have fought off any possibility that
they would be merged into regional development agencies. (Lord
Falconer of Thoroton) When the land and property portfolios
were given to the various regional development agencies, it was
always recognised that there was a place for a national regeneration
agency, English Partnerships. I think there is still such a place
for a national regeneration agency and that is why we have started
a review of what English Partnerships' role should be, as you
49. Can I bring you back into the planning issue.
You were saying very firmly that you did not want a great deal
of detail in the local plans. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton)
50. If you took your PPG25 which this Committee
rather approved of, development in the flood risk, that has 60
pages of small type. That is in fair detail in its proposals. (Lord
Falconer of Thoroton) Yes. It is incredibly difficult in relation
to particular areas to identify precisely what level of detail
there should be. PPG25 may well have been appropriate for there
to be that level of detail. The principle that I am seeking to
enunciate in relation to local development plans is that they
should have a much lesser level of detail than they have at the
moment and, in particular, picking up Clive Betts's point, they
should not be as site specific as they are at the present time.
Precisely what the right level of detail in a particular place
is will have to be worked out in the particular place, it seems
51. The Committee have been informed that you
complained repeatedly that some local authorities have failed
to implement the mandatory requirement to introduce the authority-wide
local plans and this is some 10 years after legislation was passed. (Lord
Falconer of Thoroton) I think there are something like 40
local authorities that do not have a local development plan when
the requirement came into effect on them in about 1992. When you
say "complain", my complaint is very frequently not
against the local authority but just that the system is such that
it can take that long.
52. Will the major legislative changes that
you propose not take a considerable amount of time to implement? (Lord
Falconer of Thoroton) They will and one cannot be sure as
to when one would be able to implement primary legislation because
I do not know when we will get a slot in relation to it, but that
does not mean that one should not have as one's goal a much simpler
process which is shorter and less complicated in producing local
development plans because if you do not seek to change the system
which has led to 10 years going by and 40 local authorities still
not having a local development plan, you just go on forever with
53. How would you avoid significant transitional
problems? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) We have to be
clear, once the consultation on the Green Paper has taken place,
as to what
54. Will you be clear? (Lord Falconer
of Thoroton) We will be clear as to what we want local authorities
to do in the transitional period. For example, would we want local
authorities to continue to try to update the old style local development
plan or would we wish them to start to try to put in place a new
style simpler development plan which is less complicated and which
is likely to be more helpful because there will not be all those
questions about whether it contradicts national or regional policy
55. Can we be clear on the timetable for this.
You are publishing a paper before Christmas, you want consultation
in May/June? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) What we want
to do is to be in a position to make announcements about what
conclusions we reach on reform of the planning system at such
a date that we would be able, if we got a slot in the legislative
programme, to legislate in the legislative session that starts
in about November 2002. That means that we need to be reaching
conclusions in late spring/early summer of 2002, so it is quite
a short consultation period.
56. So you would hope for legislation in 2002you
only hope, I understand thatand that would then mean that
the earliest you could bring in the new system would be 12 months
later. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Absolutely right.
57. Is that what you want to do? (Lord
Falconer of Thoroton) That is what I would like to do if it
were possible and whether it were possible would depend upon the
time of the legislation and also advice that we would need to
get on precisely when you could implement it. John Cummings's
point was, "What do you do in the meantime?" and "We
need detailed arrangements about what you do in the meantime."
You can do quite a lot in the meantime by guidance about, for
example, what sort of development plans should local authorities
produce if, for example, there is legislation going through the
House which makes it quite clear that a different sort of local
development plan is required.
58. But actual individual applications would
be dealt with under the old system if they started, so they might
be running on for about three years after the date that the new
legislation came into operation. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton)
Most of the changes that we are talking about are systems changes,
not policy changes. So if, for example, what you are trying to
do is speed up the process, have consultation by developers with
communities before they actually make applications, improve the
quality or introduce some sort of timetable, that sort of thing,
there is no reason why those sorts of system changes should not
be taking place before legislation takes place.
59. Those are almost good practice ... (Lord
Falconer of Thoroton) They are.