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Planning Policies

Volume 403: debated on Thursday 10 April 2003

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What the Government's policy is on balancing urban infill against new settlements. [107476]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister
(Mr. Tony McNulty)

Our policies in PPG3 set out a sequential approach that expects urban brownfield sites to be considered for housing before green fields in the countryside. Where development has to take place outside urban areas, we want to see the most sustainable option. Normally, that means urban extensions; urban extensions are likely to be more sustainable. We are working with local planning authorities very closely as they determine their plans.

What advice would the Minister give to authorities such as the London borough of Havering when it is considering planning applications for infill or back garden development that it feels under pressure to approve, perhaps in the face of many objections from local residents, partly because of the Government's high housebuilding targets in the south-east and partly because the council is in financial difficulties and does not want to risk facing the high appeal costs associated with refusal?

My advice to Havering and any other local planning authority considering a plan is, if it is in full accordance with the national planning policy framework, grant it. If it is not, do not. I speak as someone who was on a planning committee for 11 years. We do not have planning by plebiscite. One does not weigh petitions objecting to a plan. If it is within the framework go with it, and if it is not, refuse it.

The problem is that the council feels under pressure to approve applications that it would rather not allow because of the rules that are in place. That means that Government are imposing decisions rather than allowing them to be made by the local council in line with local circumstances.

With the best will in the world, as I said in one of the Committee sittings on the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill, I have no wish to design local plans for each and every local planning authority, and that is not the Government's position. We are not imposing any targets or plans on the London borough of Havering that are outwith our statutory planning policy guidance, or the unitary development plan that Havering is currently operating.

Another thing that the hon. Lady said troubled meā€”that Havering is making such decisions because it is financially constrained in some way. If it is looking to let through planning applications that should not be let through under the current planning policy framework purely to make a few bob, it should not be.