New Clause 10 — Local Development Plan

Part of Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill — [2nd Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 1:33 pm on 9th December 2003.

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Photo of Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government) 1:33 pm, 9th December 2003

I am very pleased to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, on this group of new clauses and amendments. For the convenience of the House, may I say straight away that new clause 10 has been supplemented by new clause 19? When I tabled new clause 10, I realised that it could be improved, so I shall speak to the revised version—new clause 19—but I do not say that new clause 19 could not be improved as well. I would very much welcome the Minister and his civil servants attempting to improve it, if he were minded to accept it. We shall come to that a little later, but although I suspect that he is not minded to accept it. Nevertheless, I have carefully studied the Minister's remarks in Committee during the previous Session, and I have redrafted my proposals in light of the criticisms that he made then, so I hope that new clause 19 will meet with his full approval and that he will accept it. [Interruption.] I live in hope. It is better to travel in hope than to arrive.

New clause 19 deals with the whole local plan-making procedure, and the success or failure of the Bill rests entirely on whether the regional and local plan-making processes actually work. I shall not say anything about the regional plan-making process because it is not relevant to new clause 19. Suffice it to say that the Opposition oppose the regional plan-making process. I want to deal with the local plan-making process, which is hideously complicated. Indeed, I have good reason to believe that even the Minister and his civil servants do not fully carry at the top of their heads exactly how it works.

New clause 19, which I have drafted, would combine eight or nine clauses, depending on which we include and which we exclude, so halving the number of pages. Moreover, this is not just a simple question of consolidation; new clause 19 would make it far easier for local authorities, businesses and, indeed, all those who get involved in the planning process to understand how the local plan-making process worked in one simple new clause. I shall state why I think that it is superior to the Government's eight or nine clauses.

The Government's stated wish is to produce a simpler, fairer and more transparent planning system. The local plan-making process contained in part 2—clauses 12 to 36—is highly complex. Instead of all the various categories contained in the Bill—the local development schemes, the local development documents, the local development frameworks, the local development plan documents and the joint development documents and schemes, and so on—all with their own provisions for commencement, revision, community involvement, appeals and independent inspections, I propose a simplification that uses just two categories: local plans and local documents. The Bill deals with those two categories. Again, instead of six different tiers and frameworks, I have two—much simpler than the Bill.

New clause 19 would provide county councils with a statutory role—something that the Government have consistently failed to do. Unfortunately, we will probably not reach new clause 23, which I also tabled. Nevertheless, a statutory role for county councils is important because we believe that county councils, in some cases centuries old, have built up a huge bank of knowledge that could be lost to the planning process if we are not careful. We cannot even consider an amendment that would make county councils statutory consultees in the new regional strategy documents.