Orders of the Day — Long Ashton (Green Belt)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:04 am on 10th November 1999.

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Photo of Beverley Hughes Beverley Hughes Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Transport and the Regions) 12:04 am, 10th November 1999

I congratulate the hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) on securing this Adjournment debate. I think it is important for hon. Members to come to the House to raise issues that concern their constituents, and I commend the hon. Gentleman for doing so.

I shall try to deal with the points that the hon. Gentleman raised, but I shall first reiterate for him the purpose of the planning system. It is fundamentally to try to reconcile and balance the interests of all those concerned with the development and use of land in an area. The system recognises that there are often strong conflicts of interest in the making of final decisions. It tries to operate openly and fairly both in controlling land use and in promoting sustainable development.

Of course, not everyone is always satisfied with the outcome of a particular decision on land use, and we have heard today, rightly, some of the hon. Gentleman's concerns about his local area. I assure him that the planning system operates to try to balance interests. It has never been the case that there is a right of veto on development in a particular area, and I am surprised by his comments about the inspectors. Their role is designed so that they are independent of all those strongly held interests precisely so that they can try to reach a balanced judgment in decisions that are often difficult. If the hon. Gentleman is querying the independence of the inspector's role, he is challenging a fundamental characteristic of the planning system.