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Volume 598: debated on Monday 13 July 2015


Monday 13 July 2015


Communities and Local Government

Development of Middleton St George

The Petition of residents of the Sedgefield constituency,

Declares that the Petitioners object to the over-development of the village of Middleton St George and further declares that the Petitioners believe that the current planning applications are not sustainable and will have a catastrophic impact on the infrastructure of the village.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to reassess the planning applications for the development of Middleton St George.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Phil Wilson, Official Report, 4 March 2015; Vol. 593, c. 1045.]


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

The Government consider that local plans and neighbourhood plans are at the heart of the planning system. They are the primary basis for identifying what development is needed in an area, deciding where it should go and dealing with planning applications. By identifying sites in its local plan, following consultation with local communities, Council’s can guide development to the most suitable locations, supported by the right infrastructure. This will ensure that local communities get the right development, in the right place, at the right time, reflecting the principles of sustainable development. The National Planning Policy Framework is clear that these plans should, as far as possible, represent a collective vision for the area.

Local plans involve communities in determining what and where development is appropriate. They must be subject to at least two opportunities for public comment and neighbourhood planning gives communities direct power to develop a shared vision for their neighbourhood and shape the development and growth of their local area.

Middleton St George lies within the area of Darlington Core Strategy which was adopted on the 6 May 2011.The Making and Growing Places Development Plan Document (expected to be published later in 2015) contains detailed development plan policies and site allocations for the area.

The Localism Act gave communities a new right to undertake neighbourhood planning, in addition to existing opportunities for involvement in planning. Middleton St George Parish Council is using these powers to prepare a neighbourhood plan. A neighbourhood plan that is successful at examination and supported by the community at local referendum can then be adopted as part of the development plan for the area. Under our plan-led system this gives people real influence over the shape and quality of development in their neighbourhood.


Car Insurance Costs

The Petition of residents of Brierfield and Nelson,

Declares that the Petitioners believe that the price of car insurance has risen rapidly within the BB9 post code area making it unaffordable for many, as a result of a minority of drivers making fraudulent insurance claims.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government and the insurance industry to work together to reduce insurance costs for car drivers living in the BB9 post code area so that owning a car can be made more affordable.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Andrew Stephenson, Official Report, 15 June 2015; Vol. 597, c. 153.]


Observations from the Secretary of State for Transport:

Motor insurers are responsible for setting the terms and conditions of the insurance policies they offer based on their assessment of the risk posed by an applicant. This includes the applicant’s postcode, but also factors such as their age, driving experience and driving record along with the type of vehicle. In assessing the area where a person lives the number of claims made by people living in that area will be taken into account. It is always advisable that a driver shops around for a policy that represents the best value for money.

My Department does not have a breakdown of the price of motor insurance by postcode and has not made an assessment of geographical inequalities in the cost of motor insurance. However, nationwide the price of car insurance has fallen by more than 10% since 2012. Here is a link to the ABI’s premium index tracker of premiums paid by policyholders which shows the recent trend.

The Government are concerned about the cost of motor insurance. My Department works closely with others on this, including HM Treasury, Ministry of Justice (MOJ) and Department of Health. On 14 February 2012 the Prime Minister chaired a Cross Whitehall summit with major motor insurers which was followed by further summits chaired by Ministers in my Department. The Government have worked with motor insurers to address adverse behaviours by some of those involved in personal injury claims and on tackling fraud, such as whiplash reform and changes to the justice system to reduce the legal costs associated with claims. As a result the Government have developed a suite of effective reforms over the past few years which has helped to reduce the cost of motor insurance.

I appreciate that insurance premiums can be high, especially for young drivers because they are a high risk group. The insurance industry has developed technology such as telematics or ‘black box’ recorders which can be fitted in vehicles. These monitor a driver’s driving behaviour which can then lead to reduced premiums based on that driver’s actual risk. The Government welcome such developments.