To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the last 12 months, what proportion of non-commercial local authority planning applications where there have been no significant public objections were sent to appeal; and what proportion of those appeals were successful.
My Lords, the Government do not collect statistics on the volume of objections to planning applications which go to appeal. I can inform the House that, in the 12 months to the end of March 2010, some 190,000 planning applications, which could be considered non-commercial, were decided, with more than 80 per cent granted. In the same period, the Planning Inspectorate decided 7,066 householder planning appeals in England, with 35 per cent allowed.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply. Does he agree with me that, although planning regulations are absolutely necessary, the delays and expense which are often caused by individuals—not by big companies—making applications which are delayed for up to six months, cause a lot of extra expenditure and often cause them to lose their mortgages? Would it not be more helpful to everyone concerned if an informal advice process were set up in the early stages so that the time taken on applications would not be so long or so costly and so that very important advice could be taken on board?
My Lords, my noble friend is absolutely right. At the pre-application stage, an applicant should share his proposals with the local planning authority. That would provide an early indication to applicants of any potential reasons for refusal and would offer the opportunity to amend the proposal. Applicants should also speak to their neighbours and others who may be affected by the proposal before it is submitted to the local planning authority.
My Lords, following statements made in the election campaign, it appears that the Government’s policy is that local communities should have a major say about whether there should be significant new housing developments in their backyard. Does that means that this Conservative Government would, or would not, expect local authorities to be deflected from agreeing to planning applications for new housing simply because there are significant local public objections?
My Lords, where there are local objections to a planning proposal, the local planning authority will take them into consideration. If it chooses to refuse the application, the applicant has the opportunity to appeal to the Planning Inspectorate, which will take all matters into consideration.
My Lords, given that many families with children in this country experience extreme hardship, living in overcrowded, unsanitary conditions, will the Government reflect again on their changes to the spatial strategy which they introduced and think again about whether they might do more to streamline planning to make new homes available to such families who need them so much? I declare my interest as a landlord.
My Lords, the noble Earl makes an important point. During election campaigns, I am always struck by the condition of our housing. It is so variable. It distresses me to see the conditions in which some people have to live. We are well aware of the problems and we are addressing them.
My Lords, is the Minister aware of the problem that occurs when people go ahead and build contrary to planning permission? Very often local authorities give retrospective permission, which is very unsatisfactory for local people who would have opposed the project. Does he think that it is important to follow up on that and does he think that a proper appeals procedure to a decision is the right way, rather than having illegal building?