HC Deb 22 May 1968 vol 765 cc692-6


Mr. Allason

I beg to move Amendment No. 33, in page 16, line 8, leave out from 'except' to 'as' in line 9.

Subsection (1) is divided into three parts. One part provides that the Minister may prescribe the classes of appeal which shall be determined by an inspector instead of, as at present, by the Minister. Secondly, the Minister may prescribe exceptions by classes of case for the time being. Having prescribed the classes, he then un-prescribes them. Thirdly, the Minister may give directions as regards exceptions. Again, these are exceptions by general cases, not by individual cases, because Clause 18 provides arrangements for the Minister to exempt individual cases from his general prescriptions.

We welcome the principle of this delegation of the power of decision on an appeal from the Minister to the inspector, but we would like to know rather more about the types of class than we have heard so far. In Committee the Parliamentary Secretary gave us no explanation; he merely said that the cases would be those falling under Section 23 of the 1962 Act. The cases he mentioned were appeals relating to single houses, residential conversions, and outline planning of residential development of under two acres. He went on to define that as little groups of three or four houses".— [OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee G, 21st March, 1968; c. 549.] It seems an amazingly low density if he is thinking of three or four houses on a site of up to two acres. He added that there would not yet be prescription for caravans, shops, offices and garages— that is, there would be prescription for these classes later. This still leaves the whole matter pretty vague. If the Minister could make a statement on this it would be a general help.

The effect of the Amendment would be to remove the power to exempt classes of case by prescription. It is intended that the Minister shall prescribe the classes of cases which shall be dealt with and then to prescribe out of them classes of cases which shall be exceptions to the classes he has already prescribed. That seems rather a muddled way of doing things. We know from the Minister that he intends to prescribe certain classes later. I hope that he will not prescribe a general class and then say, "The following are exceptions and shall not come into effect until I make a further prescription." It would be better to start gently, gain experience of how well the system will work and then extend the prescriptions. It seems peculiar to make the prescriptions and then un-prescribe them.

I hope that the Minister will explain what is really intended.

Mr. Skeffington

The hon. Gentleman referred to some of the broad categories of cases which it was hoped could be transferred at a very early stage to be decided in the way that the Clause provides, so that we would no longer have the appeals which I have sometimes described as cascading into Whitehall. As he said, this is an objective which is generally welcomed.

To some extent the hon. Gentleman inadvertently misquoted me. I referred to planning applications confined to small areas of about two acres and went on to talk about outline planning permission for small groups of housing, perhaps of three or four or up to 10—but not in relation to two acres. The question of density does not arise. What I was trying to give was the number of simple planning applications, the overwhelming number of which relate to single houses, additions to houses, garages, and things like that, in which it is absurd that appeals should come to Whitehall. I went a little further in describing some of the categories with which it was not intended at an early stage to deal under the procedure of the Clause —things like caravans, shops, offices and petrol stations. But I went on to say that we did not want to get a great volume of this work transferred because this is one of the ways in which we can make planning machinery more local, more democratic and faster, and, to use a word which I sometimes used to describe Amendments of hon. Members opposite, less "grandmotherly", with everything being referred to Whitehall. This has commanded general support. I said in Committee on another occasion that discussions about categories and classes are going on with various bodies, so that we hope that a very quick start will be made in the selected areas.

The hon. Gentleman went on to the need, having prescribed categories and classes of cases which could be decided in this way, for reserving power to recover the jurisdiction. Perhaps I can give one or two examples. We know that in planning matters applications in respect of a small physical development can sometimes have a very damaging effect or an effect of great consequence on traffic, or whatever it may be, and therefore become extremely significant. The examples which the Ministry has in mind are the sort of cases in which the Minister of Transport makes an Article 9 direction. This is the sort of case where development may be prohibited or allowed only with conditions where the development abuts on a trunk road. These are considerations which are not as simple as the categories it is suggested should be transferred in the first place. Or it may be that these are cases where development can be permitted as long as the access abuts on to a side road. These involve, in the earlier stages, matters which probably it would not be right to transfer, and therefore the Minister would, if he thought it suitable, recover the determination of these cases.

In another group of cases, the Minister of Agriculture may have strongly expressed the view that development should not take place because of the high agricultural value of the land. This is beyond the sort of case which, in the first stages, we would want decided in the way in which other cases might be decided. Such cases involve considerations which may be more complex and require rather more experienced treatment. While we should provide for the simple planning matters to be transferred—it is absurd that appeals should go through this long procedure, coming up to the capital—even small developments can sometimes involve planning consequences which may have considerable effects. Therefore, we must make provision for these matters to be recovered in the way suggested.

Sir J. Foster

In cases in which it is difficult to see whether the Minister of Agriculture has expressed a strong desire, is there not a great enough safeguard under Clause 18(1)?

Mr. Skeffington

There will be certain categories of case which come within the Minister's jurisdiction. Discussions about categories are going on with the interested bodies. We are asking them very largely to decide this themselves with guidance. Our desire is to make this a local operation. But these matters will be carefully specified in due course under the powers in the Bill.

Mr. Allason

We are very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his further dissertation on the intentions of the Government. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

12 m.

Mr. Skeffington

I beg to move Amendment No. 35, in page 16, line 16, at end insert: (b) appeals under section 14 of the Civic Amenities Act 1967.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this Amendment it would be convenient to take Amendments Nos. 36 and 37.

Mr. Skeffington

Amendments Nos. 35 and 36 add two categories to the enforcement appeals which are capable of being delegated to inspectors for determination. These are appeals against Tree Preservation Orders within the powers of the Civic Amenities Act, 1967, and advertisement enforcement appeals, which Amendment No. 36 is designed to cover.

This is an enabling power. In view of the explanations I gave on a previous Amendment in Committee, we do not intend that these matters should be subject to the procedure of transfer at the present time. But we must take the power in the Bill to enable this to be done at the appropriate time.

The necessary rearrangement of parts of the Schedule would follow and are provided for in Amendment No. 37.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: No. 36, in page 16, line 17, at end insert: 'as originally enacted or as applied by regulations under any provision of the principal Act'.

Amendment No. 37, in page 16, line 26, leave out subsection (5) and insert: (5) A person appointed under this section to determine an appeal shall have the like powers and duties in relation to the appeal as he Minister under whichever are relevant of the following provisions, that is to say—

  1. (a)in relation to appeals under section 23 of the principal Act, subsections (4) and (6) of that section;
  2. (b)in relation to appeals under section H of the Civic Amenities Act, section 14(4) and (5) above;
  3. (c)in relation to appeals under section 54 of this Act, subsections (4) to (6) of that section;
  4. (d)in relation to appeals under paragraph 1 3 of Schedule 3 to this Act, sub-paragraph (3) of that paragraph;
  5. (e)in relation to appeals under paragraph 12 of that Schedule, sub-paragraphs (4) and (5) of that paragraph;
and those relevant provisions and section 23(7) of the principal Act (finality of decisions), subsection (3) and, where relevant, subsection (7) of section 14 above or paragraph 3(5) or 12(6) of that Schedule, as the case may be, shall apply accordingly.

Amendment No. 38, in page 16, line 42, leave out ' may be referred to ' and insert ' falls to be determined by'.—[Mr. Skeffington.]

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