Supplementary note by the Minister for
Housing, Planning and Regeneration (PGP 06B)
At the Select Committee on 8 May I offered to
write on a number of points to clarify further my responses to
your questions. I am sorry for the delay in my response.
Bill O'Brien asked which Green Paper proposals would
require primary legislation. As I indicated a number of the proposals
will require changes to primary legislation. Amongst them the
proposals to abolish structure plans, local plans and unitary
development plans and replace them with the new Local Development
Framework, and introducing statutory Regional Spatial Strategies
(RSS) to replace Regional Planning Guidance. Powers would need
to be introduced for Major Infrastructure Projects to be referred
to Parliament, and any changes to the current system of planning
obligations. A number of development control measures such as
putting funding for Planning Aid on a statutory basis and introducing
a planning checklist are also likely to require primary legislation,
as will many of the proposals for changes to the compulsory purchase
powers and processes set out in the Compulsory Purchase and Compensation
consultation paper. Some legislative amendment may be required
for the introduction of Business Planning Zones.
I offered to provide more detail on targets
for government performance on call-ins and recovered appeals in
response to Oona King's questions. In the Planning Green Paper
we set ourselves the target of cutting in half the average time
taken from the close of a public inquiry into a called in planning
application or a recovered appeal. As Oona mentioned we have set
up a new planning central casework division (PCCD) in DTLR to
deal with the decision-making process, following receipt of an
Inspector's report. We have also identified targets for improvement
by March 2004.
Our measure for judging improvement in Government
performance will be how many cases are processed within a given
number of weeks.
The benchmark for improvement is performance
at October 2001, when 80 per cent of cases were decided in 32
weeks from close of inquiry to decision, with:
PINS dealing with 80 per cent of
cases within 14 weeks.
Government Office dealing with 80
per cent of cases within 18 weeks.
Our target is, by March 2004, for 80 per cent
of cases to be decided in 16 weeks from close of inquiry to decision
PINS dealing with 80 per cent of
cases within 7 weeks.
PCCD dealing with 80 per cent of
cases within 9 weeks.
The objective is for both PINS and PCCD to secure
half the necessary improvement in the first year. This will be
a particular challenge for PCCD, which is being formed largely
from staff new to this work. We will therefore be keeping the
PCCD target for the first year under review. In addition, we may
set some individual targets for larger cases, although this will
be very much the exception rather than the rule.
I will report to the Committee on performance
against casework targets in October 2002, in the light of progress
over the first 6 months of the new arrangements, and at 6-monthly
Louise Ellman questioned me about a research
report into Transport and Works Act (TWA) Orders undertaken by
MVA and associates, which she believed had been published and
subsequently withdrawn. This is not the case. I understand that
the report was put on the MVA website in error, but has now been
The main aim of the MVA study was to review
the efficiency and effectiveness of the present TWA Order-making
system and to make recommendations for improving and speeding
up the process. The report includes some valuable research and
contains many sound ideas for improving the process. However,
many recommendations would require changes to the legislation
which could not be delivered quickly. I am keen to identify measures
to deliver more radical improvements in the speed of dealing with
TWA applications over a shorter time frame. The Department has
therefore appointed consultants to build on MVA's work by looking
more specifically at handling processes with a view to delivering
faster decisions. Because of this, I considered it premature to
publish MVA's report until both reviews have been completed and
I could announce how we intended to take forward the combined
recommendations. There is no question of suppressing MVA's report.
It will be published in due course.
At the end of Wednesday's evidence session you
requested sight of the reports of the cross-cutting review on
improving the public space. I have sought the advice of officials
and I am afraid that I cannot agree to your request. Reports of
cross-cutting reviews are advice to ministers and consequently
not public documents. I understand that other Select Committees
have requested sight of such documents and have also had to be
turned down. However I have provided the Committee with a memorandum
covering the issues raised by the cross-cutting review. In addition,
the Committee may wish to be aware that information from the cross-cutting
reviews will be included as part of the SR2002 publication.
Finally I attach a copy of the timetable for
the review of National Planning Policy Guidance (PPGs).
24 May 2002