New Clause 10 — Local Development Plan

Part of Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill — [2nd Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 4:08 pm on 9th December 2003.

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Photo of Sir Sydney Chapman Sir Sydney Chapman Conservative, Chipping Barnet 4:08 pm, 9th December 2003

I shall deal with the hon. Gentleman's point in my own time, because I wish to raise that specific matter.

The purpose of the Bill is to speed up the planning system—that is the summary in the explanatory notes. I accept that the Government would say that they want to "speed up the planning system while ensuring that it becomes fairer or remains as fair, and is as simple as possible."

Of course I welcome parts of the Bill, as Mr. Clifton-Brown. If we could speed up the handling of major infrastructure projects, that would be a good thing. The devil is in the detail, and we must look into that. There is a good case for simplified planning zones, except perhaps for people who live in the affected areas, who may not think that a simplified system is necessarily the best way forward.

On reforms relating to the handling of planning applications, I do not think that the process will become quicker and more efficient, except possibly in the simplified planning zones. The regulations have been made more and unnecessarily complicated.

I am sorry that the Minister resisted the timetable proposals for drawing up development plans and for the inspector examining them and publishing the reports. Like the hon. Member for Ludlow, I feel strongly that there should be no question of transferring any powers from county councils to regional assemblies unless and until those assemblies are directly elected. That is not an unreasonable point to make. Even at this late stage, I ask the Minister to think again. I am against the strategy of regional assemblies. In the whole planning system, I think that outline planning applications serve a useful purpose and in many instances save time and money.

Let me deal with the remarks of David Wright. The Government introduced the first Bill, if I may call it that. We had a Second Reading almost a year ago and the Bill was rushed through Committee in January. The Government said that they rushed it through because they needed to get it on to the statute book quickly—those are their words, not mine. We then waited expectantly for no fewer than six months before the Government decided to recommit the Bill. That was unique in my experience in this place. The Government then added substantial new clauses.

The Bill now returns to the Chamber, having gone through a special procedure and having been carried forward into a new Session, and the Government have added more new clauses to the revised Bill.