Hinckley National Rail Freight Interchange

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:16 pm on 11th February 2020.

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Photo of Luke Hall Luke Hall Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Housing, Communities and Local Government) 4:16 pm, 11th February 2020

I am very happy to have that conversation and ensure that my hon. Friend receives the information and assurance that he has asked for.

The development consent order planning application is tightly bound by statutory timescales that Parliament has set. The application and examination in respect of a proposed development is undertaken by the Planning Inspectorate, on behalf of the Secretary of State for Transport. The inspectorate will decide whether the application meets the required standards before proceeding to an examination. I can assure my hon. Friend that the views of communities affected by interchanges are fully taken into account as part of the planning process.

In deciding whether the application can progress to examination, the inspectorate will consider whether the developer has fulfilled its statutory duty to consult local communities and local authorities affected by the scheme. Indeed, community engagement is fundamental to the nationally significant infrastructure projects regime’s operation. Developers are required to consult extensively before an application is submitted and considered; and where the consultation has not been carried out in line with the statutory requirements, the Planning Inspectorate can refuse to accept the application. Local authorities and communities also have the right to be involved during the examination of a project: they can set out their views in written representations, which can then be taken into account in decision making.

Local authorities also have a particular role to play in the development consent order application process. In addition to submitting written representations, relevant local authorities can submit a local impact report, which sets out details of the potential impacts of the proposed scheme on the authority’s area and how it envisages that those impacts could be mitigated. The examining authority and the Secretary of State must have regard to that under the 2008 Act. The Planning Inspectorate has six months to carry out the examination of the proposed development, which may include a public inquiry, where the views of the affected communities can be expressed.

A report of the findings and conclusions in respect of the proposed development, including a recommendation, is then issued by the Planning Inspectorate to the Secretary of State within three months. The Secretary of State then has three months to issue a decision on the proposal. If for any reason a decision cannot be issued in that time, a written ministerial statement setting out a new deadline will need to be laid in Parliament.

I assure my hon. Friend that in considering any proposed development, the Planning Inspectorate and the Secretary of State weigh its adverse impacts against the benefits. That includes the facilitation of economic development, including job creation, housing and environmental improvement, any long-term or wider benefit and any longer-term and cumulative adverse impacts, as well as any measure to avoid, reduce or compensate for those impacts.