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Planning Procedure

Volume 977: debated on Wednesday 30 January 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what progress he has made with his proposals for streamlining planning procedures.

The Local Government, Planning and Land(No. 2) Bill will end the duplication of planning functions. There is to be a code of practice, with time limits, on consultations about planning applications. There will be proposals for amending the general development order and for improving the efficiency of the appeals system. We are considering publishing performance indicators both for handling planning applications and appeals.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that that news will be welcomed by the many people who have had to pay more than they otherwise would have done for their new houses as a result of planning delays in the existing system and particularly delays involved in the split between district and county councils over planning?

We are conscious, not merely of the cost involved in the slow operation of the planning system but of the loss of employment that may result from industrial projects being held up. We are taking a number of measures that we hope will collectively help significantly to improve the operation of the system.

:Will the Minister confirm that planning for trunk roads is not within the province of his Department but belongs to the Department of Transport? Does he agree that the Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Fox), has no right to make ex-cathedra pronouncements about the time that will elapse before a trunk road is built after the conclusion of the public inquiry? Will he confirm that that is a matter solely for the Department of Transport?

The planning of trunk roads is a matter for the Department of Transport. I have no knowledge of the other matter to which the hon. Gentleman refers.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the appeals procedure is cumbersome and costly for the appellant? Does he have any proposals to enable the inspectorate to give more immediate decisions?

We hope shortly to introduce—probably within the next two months—a system of almost immediate decision-making by inspectors in appropriate cases, where that has been agreed with the parties concerned. It will be a significant contribution to improving the speed and operation of the planning system.