New Clause 10 — Local Development Plan

Part of Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill — [2nd Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 3:58 pm on 9th December 2003.

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Photo of Mr Matthew Green Mr Matthew Green Liberal Democrat, Ludlow 3:58 pm, 9th December 2003

Had the right hon. Gentleman deigned to participate in any of the Bill's stages before Third Reading, he would have anticipated that I would address some of the Bill's problems, including the regional elements, and explain why we shall vote against it.

There are other aspects of the Bill that we like. It contains a provision on sustainable development, although we would have liked it to include a definition of that. We hope that the regulations will be effective. At least there is now the intention for sustainability to form part of the planning process. Although the clauses that concern Wales have not found universal approval, no one can find any reason to object to them and the Welsh seem happy with them, so that is good enough for me. The local development orders represent a step forward and the Bill's provisions on Crown immunity are long overdue. Although I am worried that the section 106 reforms might have perverse consequences for affordable housing—I am sure that the Minister will work to try to prevent that—the changes are broadly welcome, as are the Bill's compulsory purchase provisions.

We have some worries about the Bill, though. We did not discuss the simplified planning zones—or "Gordon's planning zones", as I call them—at length in Committee. I think that the provisions are in the Bill only because the zones were mentioned in last year's Budget. If the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister were honest, I am sure that it would rather that the provisions were not in the Bill because broadly similar provisions exist, although no one—including developers—uses them or is enthusiastic about them. Developers and businesses often prefer a structured process to a simplified one. When development takes place, people want to ensure that there is some control on what happens next door. I suspect that the Bill's provisions on such zones will not be used.

We are also worried about the introduction of statements of development principles. The Government rightly had to row back from abolishing outline planning permission because of the question of land banks and their value. There is a danger that the statements of development principles will become rapidly discredited because they will be relatively worthless. It would be good if the shift from outline planning permission to statements of development principles could be achieved, because the statements would allow planners to detail what they would like to see on a site, rather than using a reactive system in which they must wait for applications to come forward. However, it will be difficult to make that transition and given that the Government are rightly allowing outline planning permission to continue, the statements of development principles will be fairly worthless.