New Clause 10 — Local Development Plan

Part of Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill — [2nd Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 3:00 pm on 9th December 2003.

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Photo of Keith Hill Keith Hill Minister of State (Housing and Planning), Office of the Deputy Prime Minister 3:00 pm, 9th December 2003

The hon. Gentleman made exactly the same recommendation in favour of a consolidated planning Act in the Standing Committee, and at the time I said, as I expect he recalls, that I wholeheartedly agreed with him—so long as I was not the planning Minister who had to take it through.

This has been a good and amiable debate, which has gone to the heart of the Government's new planning framework. I assure the House that I have listened carefully to all the arguments that have been made, although I do not suppose that I shall be able to respond wholeheartedly to them all. As usual, the debate has been sustained by what I have come to describe as the planning Bill repertory company—in which I can now include my hon. Friend David Wright, who has sat through two days of our proceedings on the Floor of the House. There was also a fleeting but welcome appearance by Mr. Francois, and we have listened to an interesting contribution by a distinguished former Secretary of State for the Environment, Mr. Gummer. I assure him that I listened to him as carefully as I avidly read his column in Estates Gazette, and as avidly as I visit his delightful constituency, which contains the nation's premier serious music venue.

I am grateful to Matthew Green for his growing enthusiasm for our local development framework. He was absolutely right to attach such importance to the statement of community involvement and its implications. I fully acknowledge that he invented the filing cabinet metaphor. He will remember that as I am a somewhat old-fashioned chap myself, my metaphor of preference was the concertina file—but the filing cabinet image seems to have taken hold.

Sir Sydney Chapman will have to forgive me if I do not follow them down the path of talking about the role of county councils now. It goes without saying that that matter has been well ventilated already in our proceedings, and I am reasonably confident that it will be reverted to elsewhere.

I shall focus on the new clauses tabled by Mr. Clifton-Brown. He promised that he would return to the subject of how local planning should work and how we should legislate for it, and as always, he has been as good as his word—or perhaps I should say twice as good, because we have not one but two new clauses to look at, and they are not even the same.

The hon. Gentleman starts from the view that the system that we are putting in place is too complicated. Secondly, he believes that attempting to cover local planning arrangements in a single clause, however long, will make the system better and easier to understand. Thirdly, he believes that the arrangements in his new clauses—or at least, those in one of them—would lead to a better local planning system than would part 2 of the Bill. I have to reveal to him that I disagree on all three counts.

It is the Government's contention that our new arrangements, although precise, are not complicated. The hon. Member for Chipping Barnet was right to say that we believe that they will deliver simpler, clearer local planning that is faster and more flexible, and with which the community can more easily become involved.

Describing the component parts of the system in sufficient detail means that people can be certain how it operates. Each element of our new system is there for a reason—to address the problems in the present system and to contribute to the goals of our planning reforms. The proposals of the hon. Member for Cotswold not only fail to address some of those problems, but would create some entirely new problems.

Our proposals are perfectly straightforward. Each authority must have a core strategy, covering 10 or more years. There will be a proposals map, showing which land is to be developed and which is to be conserved. Authorities may choose to have one or more area action plans showing in more detail what will happen in areas where there will be a lot of change, or in areas that will be kept as they are.

Those documents will be subject to independent examination. They will be known as development plan documents and, with the regional spatial strategy for the area, will form the development plan. What could be simpler than that?