The Government's policy is to use permitted development rights to streamline the planning system, thereby assisting householders and local authorities alike, and to encourage sustainability.
Does the Minister agree that one of the significant factors behind the concreting of gardens, which has become a highly emotive issue in suburban constituencies, is the gradual encroachment of permitted development? Does he think that it would be useful to take a fresh look at the balance to be struck between the understandable wish of people to improve their property and the wider environmental impact?
The hon. Gentleman makes a good point. I know that his constituency was affected by last year's floods, and I pay tribute to the emergency services, local authorities and others in pulling together to address them. He rightly raises the point about balance: there is a balance to be struck in making sure that householders are able to improve their homes without bureaucracy. That frees up a lot of bureaucracy within the local authority system, and it helps encourage, as much as possible, sustainability. Those are the principles behind the permitted development rights we have introduced for impermeable surfaces for front gardens, and I am keen to look at their application to rear gardens as well.
I congratulate the Government on introducing measures to include microgeneration in general permitted development order arrangements. Does my hon. Friend intend to bring all microgeneration under that order, and thereby end the current anomaly whereby some are included while others await inclusion?
Yes, and I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for his work on environmental improvements. On
Is the Minister aware that many local authorities and their planning committees are deeply concerned about these permitted development rights, and that many villages—such as Mottram St. Andrew and Prestbury in my constituency—are having their environment gravely damaged by the concreting over of gardens, the cutting down of mature trees and the building of massive mansions by footballers and cricketers? Is he not aware that if we are to protect our environment, the permitted development rights need to be strictly regulated? I hope he will respond positively to that observation.
Local authorities are very much in the driving seat. They are able to put measures in place, such as through planning policy statement 3 on housing development that is available in their area. My feeling from speaking to councils is that local authorities want to see this; it will stop the clogging of the planning system and it will remove about a quarter of all planning applications, most of which are non-contentious. Local authorities decide the rule. If they want to extend permitted development rights, they can do so through a local development order. Conversely, if they want to restrict them, they have an article 4 direction to allow revision.