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Planning: Rural Areas

Volume 560: debated on Monday 18 March 2013

10. What recent representations he has received on the implementation of the national planning policy framework in rural areas; and if he will make a statement. (148146)

I receive representations from all sorts of people, and most of them—I am glad to say—recognise that local authorities are making excellent progress preparing local plans, and that the framework is helping those deciding planning applications to strike a balance between the protection of our environment and support for sustainable development.

Will my hon. Friend clarify advice that he recently made public about building wind farms in inappropriate areas where there will be blight on the countryside, and on building on flood plains which may also be inappropriate?

My hon. Friend will be aware that the Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change, our hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr Hayes), has issued a call for evidence on the role of communities in helping decide applications for wind farms. That evidence is now being considered and the Minister and I will meet soon to discuss what implications it should have for local plans. The national planning policy framework is clear about the importance of taking flood plains into account when preparing local plans and making decisions on appropriate development.

Last year while considering the national planning policy framework, the then Planning Minister failed to listen to Labour Members and the many campaign groups who said that, with no assistance, 12 months would not be long enough to get all areas covered by local plans. We now learn that 52% of local authorities do not have a local plan in place. Will the current Minister learn from his predecessor’s mistakes and act now to ensure that those areas unprotected by a new local plan are not inundated with inappropriate development when transitional arrangements end in nine days’ time, or is that part of his scheme to replace planning with chaos?

The hon. Lady would be arguing on stronger ground if she admitted that, under the previous Government, by May 2010 only 17% of local authorities had a local plan adopted, and 32% had one published. Now, 48% of local authorities have plans adopted and 71% have plans published. Progress has been excellent and we will keep the pressure on local authorities to produce those plans.

Is the Minister concerned about urban creep into rural areas destroying the open countryside within urban fringe fields and between towns and adjoining villages?

I normally think the hon. Gentleman is waiting behind the curve but he is ahead of the curve and we are grateful to him for that. After 30 years in the House his enthusiasm is undiminished.