Large Logistics Parks (Transport Infrastructure)

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 11:14 am on 7th December 2016.

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Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Minister of State (Department for Transport) 11:14 am, 7th December 2016

Barely a day goes by when I do not think about air quality. I was in an inter-ministerial meeting yesterday afternoon to discuss exactly that. It is important that we recognise that the effect on the environment of large developments can be significant and must always be taken into account when we consider them.

Overall responsibility for planning in England rests with the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, so we are straying on to his territory to some degree, which I am reluctant to do. As the hon. Lady and my hon. Friend the Member for South Leicestershire will both know, it is the Department for Communities and Local Government that issues national planning practice guidance on how the Government expects planning to help to deliver sustainable development, but the planning system has at its heart ensuring that the right development takes place in the right places. Not all places are suitable for particular kinds of development; that is the essence of what my hon. Friend has argued today.

The planning system has benefits to the community as well as to the wider economy. Local plans, prepared by local planning authorities in consultation with the community, are at the heart of that system. They must be prepared with a mind to contributing to sustainable development that is consistent with the principles and objectives set out in the national planning policy framework. A local plan should include the strategic policies to deliver homes and jobs, the provision of retail and commercial development, and the provision of infrastructure, including infrastructure for transport.

My hon. Friend the Member for South Leicestershire is concerned that local planning authorities will work in isolation and not address wider regional issues. I reassure him that the national planning policy framework expects local authorities to work with neighbouring authorities and transport providers to develop strategies for the provision of the viable infrastructure necessary to support sustainable development. Indeed, I will go further than that: further to his arguments today, I will discuss with my DCLG colleagues whether the framework is as effective as it might be in respect of transport. It may be that we can do more. I do not want to say anything definitive today—you would not expect me to do so, Mr Bone—but given my hon. Friend’s remarks today and with respect for the case that he has made, we may be able to do more.

It is very important, as my hon. Friend Mark Pawsey said, that we consider this in the round with the transport infrastructure that supports the development, so I want to explore the matter further. I shall come back to the A5 in a minute, but I want to make it clear that, as a general principle, transport infrastructure and these developments must be hand in glove.

The second core point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for South Leicestershire was that all developments that generate significant amounts of movement must be supported by a transport statement or assessment. Plans and decisions should take account of whether opportunities for sustainable transport modes have been taken up to reduce the need for major transport infrastructure changes. Such plans should also consider whether improvements within the transport network can be undertaken to limit the significant impacts of the development in a cost-effective way. Crucially, they should plan positively for the development and infrastructure required in the area. They are designed to take into account longer term trends and changes of the kind that my hon. Friend has set out.

Critically, the presumption built into the national planning policy framework is in favour not only of development but of sustainable development. How we define sustainability in respect of transport infrastructure is crucial, and I want to study that in greater detail, as I said a moment ago. Should my hon. Friend have further concerns about that or feel that additional clarity would be desirable, I will happily ask my colleagues in the Department for Communities and Local Government to meet him and discuss the matter. It is right that Ministers should always make ourselves available to Members, because by doing so we make ourselves available to the people we serve.

On development more generally, I recently waxed lyrical—at least I thought I was lyrical—on the subject of beauty. I add to what I said that all we build should be as good as it can be in its relationship with the local environment and in its aesthetic. That may sound odd in respect of what is essentially an industrial development of the kind that my hon. Friend spoke of, but actually we once took the view that everything we build should take into account its aesthetic relationship with everything around it. The idea that we should take a crude, crass reductionist view of industrial development and the landscaping that surrounds it is not acceptable to me. Given my responsibility for the built environment, which crosses all Department’s areas of responsibility, I will certainly take a look at that subject too in relation to what my hon. Friend said.

Let me say a few things about the work I have been doing on heavy goods vehicles. My hon. Friend Amanda Milling raised what is known as fly-parking—the parking of heavy vehicles in inappropriate places. I have looked closely at that and have recently held two round-table summits on HGVs with large numbers of people from the sector to explore what more can be done, because I am determined that more can be done. It is absolutely right that we work with local authorities to take further steps to make that kind of parking, which I know causes such concern to my hon. Friend, her constituents and many others, a thing of the past; I intend to say more about that soon.

I want to develop a national plan, as was recommended in this debate, for good and sufficient overnight lorry parking, to ensure that we provide lorry drivers with the facilities they need and that inconsiderately or illegally parked lorries do not blight local communities—and I want to do it quickly. On the back of our discussions and the overtures made to me by hon. Members, my ambition is to identify how all the significant gaps in overnight lorry parking provision in England can be filled and for private provision to be made available as soon as possible, certainly over the next three to five years.

Quality standards have also been raised with me, as hon. Members will know. I am not satisfied that they are as should be for overnight parking facilities; there are some very good facilities, but by no means could all facilities be so described. I want to set national standards to ensure that our HGV drivers can park safely, securely and in reasonable comfort, with the baseline facilities that anyone would expect from a parking area.

I am looking closely at the provision of lorry parking spaces nationally. There are significant gaps in capacity, particularly in the east of England and the midlands. I have commissioned a fresh survey, which will be taken this winter, to update the figures on that. The standards that I have described, the further work on illegal parking and the work I want to do in a number of places will make a sea change to the provision.