HC Deb 27 January 1971 vol 810 cc544-5
28. Mr. Evelyn King

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment why in the matter of the Clara Lawrence Trust Planning Appeal it took from 2nd April to 5th November before a decision was given; and why the decision then given was contrary to the advice given by the Department's own inspector.

Mr. Graham Page

The Inspector's recommendation would have involved two breaches of policy—Green Belt policy and flood area policy—and the period between submission of his report and the decision letter was extended by a necessary reconsideration of the policies themselves as applicable to this area. The proposed development would have been an undue intensification of existing development in a proposed Green Belt area and would have been a significant breach of the local planning authority's policy of strict control over development in areas liable to flood.

Mr. King

Despite that, would not my hon. Friend agree that, in circumstances in which an applicant has had to wait 10 months from the moment of his application to get a decision, and when that decision, given in his favour by an inspector who saw the site and heard the evidence, is reversed by a Minister who did not see the site or hear the evidence, it is almost impossible to persuade my constituent that he has been treated either with efficiency or with justice?

Mr. Page

We are reluctant to turn down an inspector's recommendation and do not do so lightly. Indeed, only 2 per cent. or 3 per cent. of recommendations by our inspectors are turned down each year. But when they deal with matters of considerable policy, such as the Green Belt and flood policy, they must be considered very carefully. I regret the delay in this matter.