HC Deb 02 July 1973 vol 859 cc8-9
9. Mr. John Morris

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what delays are being experienced in the setting of dates for appeals on planning matters.

Mr. Gibson-Watt

At present the average time between lodging a planning appeal and inquiry is about 40 weeks.

Mr. Morris

Is the Minister aware that appellants are able to persuade his office that the dates fixed for hearing are unsuitable and that while this practice is repeated they are able to get extra time to carry out the activities which are objected to? Without expecting the Minister to comment on a particular case, may I ask him whether he is aware that in one case in the Port Talbot area there are allegations of serious traffic implications where the enforcement notice was authorised and served on 19th January 1972, the first date of hearing was 2nd January 1973, this was put off until 3rd April 1973 and there is still no date? Does not this make nonsense of effective planning machinery? Do we have to wait for a serious accident before this matter is determined?

Mr. Gibson-Watt

I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for bringing this particular case to my attention. If he will let me have details, I shall look into it immediately.

Mr. Elysian Morgan

What is the average period of time between the hearing of an oral appeal and the publication of the Minister's decision? Is not the continuous delay in these matters directly attributable to the fact that there is in the Welsh Office no third Minister to whom it was formerly traditional to delegate such day-to-day matters?

Mr. Gibson-Watt

No. We find it possible to do more work in the Welsh Office with two Ministers than the Labour Party did with three.

The answer to the hon. Gentleman's first question is 14 weeks. I think that the reason for the delay is well known. It is that the number of appeals has grown from 651 in 1971 to 891 in 1972, and in 1973 appeals are coming in at the rate of 1,000 a year.

Mr. Morgan

That proves my case.

Mr. Cledwyn Hughes

Does not the Minister of State agree that 14 weeks is an unconscionably long time? Would not the situation be eased by the appointment of additional inspectors? Does not the Minister's right hon. and learned Friend agree that that is the step we should now be taking?

Mr. Gibson-Watt

Yes, I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. The time lag is about the same in England. We are trying to increase the number of inspectors, and we are doing so. This is the bottleneck and not the one to which the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Elystan Morgan) referred.