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Planning Inquiries (Environmental Evaluation)

Volume 958: debated on Tuesday 21 November 1978

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asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if it is his policy to envisage that planning inquiries on major projects could be extended to evaluate the need for such projects; and if he will specify if this should be achieved by consensus in the preliminary meeting or by identifying the main issues in the terms of reference for the inquiry.

Questions of need may be admitted at planning inquiries into major projects where they are relevant to the determination of the proposal. For example, the examination of questions of need was an important element in the Windscale inquiry and will be in the forthcoming Vale of Belvoir inquiry. In such cases I would expect the issues involved to be identified at any pre-inquiry procedural meeting or, failing that, at the inquiry itself. The consideration of merits is proper to the inquiry and not to the pre-inquiry meeting.

Planning inquiries do not have terms of reference as such, but in the case of planning applications which I have called in for my own decision Rule 6(1) of the Town and Country Planning (Inquiries Procedure) Rules 1974 requires me to send to the parties a statement of any points which are likely to be relevant to my consideration of the application.