New Clause 10 — Local Development Plan

Part of Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill — [2nd Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 2:00 pm on 9th December 2003.

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Photo of Mr Matthew Green Mr Matthew Green Liberal Democrat, Ludlow 2:00 pm, 9th December 2003

The extra time, perhaps unintentionally on the part of the Government back in January, has been valuable for a huge number of reasons. The hon. Gentleman may have touched on one of them.

A consensus is building around the idea of a flexible scheme. Before the Minister claims the phrase as his own, I think I originally referred to a filing cabinet or box file comprising a series of folders. He pinched my words and used them around the country, and I am delighted to have given him such assistance. After our deliberations in Committee, the hon. Member for Cotswold has moved on to similar ground. There is an understanding that we need a flexible scheme.

A local example highlights why such a scheme is needed. It concerns an application for an eco-business park on the edge of Ludlow, currently before the Under-Secretary of State, Yvette Cooper, who is the planning Minister for the west midlands. South Shropshire district council realised that it was running out of business development land. It is revising its local plan, but its implementation is probably about 18 months to two years away. The council will run out of business development land before the plan is likely to come into force.

Almost two years ago, the council entered into a process of considering where future business development land might be. It is a controversial process, because no one wants to be next to such land. The council held an inquiry in public, although it cannot be called a public inquiry, over two days. All sorts of organisations were able to give evidence, and possible sites became clear. The council committee made a decision on them and adopted their development as part of council policy. They are included in the new draft local plan but are obviously not in the current plan.

An application has been made, which the council accepted, but it has been called in because it is not in the current plan. The difficulty is that the process has been gone into in great detail locally. In fact, the Audit Commission holds it up as an excellent example of open local government. A more flexible scheme would have allowed South Shropshire district council to make changes to the local development document. The application would not have encountered the same difficulties and Government officials would not be clawing all over it. So greater flexibility is important.

As the hon. Member for Cotswold said, new clause 19 is the key clause. However, it is deficient. He is trying hard to produce something so that he does not have to agree with the Government's scheme, although his proposals are close to it.