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Petitions

Volume 580: debated on Thursday 8 May 2014

Petitions

Thursday 8 May 2014

Observations

Communities and Local Government

Planning Inspectors and the National Planning Policy Framework

The Petition of residents of North East Somerset,

Declares that the Petitioners believe that while the principles of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) are worthy, its implementation has led to negative consequences that were not anticipated; further that the Petitioners believe that when the Planning Committee of a local authority, which has a draft Core Strategy, refuses a planning application on strategic grounds, the application is often allowed on appeal by the Planning Inspector on the basis of non-strategic, site-by-site considerations; and further that the Petitioners believe that as a result, unsustainable development in the Somer Valley is being approved on sites often remote from employment and transport infrastructure, in accordance with the priorities and interests of developers rather than the carefully researched and democratically agreed plans of the Local Authority.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to take the necessary steps to allow Planning Inspectors at appeal hearings to take into account and give great material weight to the cumulative effect of proposed developments; further that the House requests that the Government allows Planning Inspectors to interpret the sustainability principle in the NPPF on an area rather than merely on a site specific basis and further that the House requests the Government to take the necessary steps to allow Planning Inspectors at appeal hearings to give weight to the strategic proposals of a draft Core Strategy while it is going through the lengthy approval process.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Jacob Rees-Mogg, Official Report, 31 March 2014; Vol. 578, c. 696.]

[P001340]

Observations from the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government:

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government is aware of the development proposals in North East Somerset. The petition raises a number of points on which the following comments are offered:

Sustainable development and cumulative impacts: The petition raises the concern that Inspectors should consider the cumulative impact of developments in applying the principles of sustainable development.

The presumption in favour of sustainable development included in the National Planning Policy Framework does not mean development at any cost. The presumption is clear that applications should not be approved if the adverse impacts would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits; or if specific policies in the Framework indicate that development should be restricted. This ensures that important safeguards are respected. The National Planning Policy Framework places great importance on the provision of adequate transport infrastructure and indicates that refusal on transport grounds may be acceptable where the residual cumulative impacts of development are severe. Our new Planning Guidance also places clear emphasis on ensuring that adequate infrastructure is in place.

It is also worth noting that some two-thirds of appeals are refused, so the decision of the local authority is upheld in the majority of cases. Furthermore, the number of planning appeals received and allowed has fallen in the first year of the National Planning Policy Framework, refuting the suggestion of “planning by appeal”. It is not the case that appeals favour the concerns and interests of developers over and above any plans of the Local Authority, be they emerging or fully adopted.

Weight to be given to emerging plans: Where there is an emerging Local Plan, such as is the case in Bath and North East Somerset at the moment, the absence of an up-to-date plan does not mean a vacuum for making decisions. Existing and emerging plan policies can be taken into account as a material consideration when making planning decisions. The weight which the decision maker gives to emerging plans will depend on the stage the plan has reached and the level of consultation which has been undertaken.

The Planning Guidance, published on 6 March, is clear that planning permission may be refused on the grounds of prematurity where both a) the development proposed is so substantial, or its cumulative effect would be so significant, that to grant permission would undermine the plan-making process and b) the emerging plan is at an advanced stage, usually submitted for examination, but is not yet formally part of the development plan for the area. This means that an advanced plan may have weight and additionally, that the cumulative effect of development of proposals may be considered in this context. The full guidance is available at: http:// planningguidance.planningportal.gov.uk/

Finally, even in the absence of an up-to-date plan, our policy promotes local-level decision making. The 2011 Localism Act abolished the regional planning framework, preventing any new regional strategies being created, and strengthened the role of Local Plans. The Government have encouraged local councils to get up-to-date Local Plans in place as this is the most effective way to manage development such that local communities get the right development, in the right place, at the right time, and reflecting the principles of sustainable development.

All residents of North East Somerset, have opportunities to express views and influence decisions on proposals for future developments. Upon the submission of any planning application for development the council must advertise the application by site notice and on their web-site. At such a time local residents may object to the proposal, and the council must take these views into account in reaching a decision.

Culture, Media and Sport

Fixed Odds Betting Machines on High Streets

The Petition of residents of Haslingden and Hyndburn,

Declares that the Petitioners believe that there are many gambling machines available on the high street and further declares that the Petitioners believe that the gambling industry is making money from people who cannot afford it through these gambling machines.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to reduce the amount that can be staked on fixed odds betting machines from £100 to £2, in line with other gaming machines on the high street.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Graham Jones, Official Report, 5 March 2014; Vol. 576, c. 993.]

[P001328]

Observations from the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport:

As my hon. Friend, the Minister with responsibility for sports, tourism and equalities, the Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Mrs Grant) made clear in her statement to Parliament on the 30 April 2014, many local communities have expressed concerns about the clustering of betting shops on high streets. These shops contain highly sophisticated gaming machines that now make up a greater proportion of revenue than over the counter betting.

The Government want to give local communities a proper voice so their views are taken into account when plans for a new betting shop are submitted. My right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, is therefore proposing a re-emphasis within the current planning classes. A smaller planning use class containing betting shops will mean that in future where it is proposed to convert a bank, building society or estate agents into a betting shop it would require a planning application. In addition, the Government will remove the ability for other premises such as restaurants and pubs to change use without being obliged to seek planning permission. The Department for Communities and Local Government will consult on the detail of proposals as part of a wider consultation on change of use in summer 2014.

Furthermore, given the growth in marketing and promotion of virtual and electronic gambling, which present fewer opportunities for face-to-face interaction, I believe new measures are necessary to ensure that vulnerable players are protected. I want players who use gaming machines to be in control of the choices they make. This is particularly important for users of category B2 gaming machines.

I have therefore decided that Government should adopt a precautionary approach and take targeted and proportionate action to protect players further when using high-stake gaming machines on the high street.

I intend to require customers accessing stakes over £50 to use account-based play or load cash over the counter. Requiring better interaction between customer and operator for those engaged in high-stake play improves opportunities for more effective provision of information and interventions. This measure will put an end to unsupervised cash staking above £50, which can rapidly result in significant losses. This is a sensible and balanced approach which allows players continued use of these machines on the high street, while ensuring greater opportunities for supervision and player protection.

In addition, the Gambling Commission is undertaking a review of its licence conditions and codes of practice with a view to strengthening their measures to protect players. In particular, the Gambling Commission intends to consult on requiring gaming machines in betting shops to present players with a choice to set limits on the maximum amount of time or money they want to spend before commencing play.

The Gambling Commission is also looking at how additional measures to protect players of gaming machines, such as pauses in play and messaging, should be toughened and made mandatory.

The Government are now preparing the necessary impact assessments and regulatory measures to implement these proposed changes. I expect these changes to be implemented from October 2014.