HC Deb 04 February 1976 vol 904 cc1192-3
18. Mr. Molloy

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment how many appeals against decisions by local planning departments were heard in 1975.

Mr. John Silkin

11,486 planning appeals were decided during 1975, 3,078 following local inquiries and 8,408 by the written procedure.

Mr. Molloy

Will my right hon. Friend consider examining an awkward feature of planning procedures whereby planning officers recommend acceptance of a submission by developers, the submission is then rejected by the elected representatives of the people, the councilors, and there is then a public inquiry at which planning officers refuse to appear on behalf of the council and ratepayers who employ them and pay their salaries? This is creating bitterness in local government.

Mr. Silkin

I have not been made aware of this situation and it would require a great deal of thought. After all, if one is to give such authority and independence to local government—as my hon. Friends and I believe to be right—this must in most cases be a matter for local authorities to decide. If my hon. Friend cares to write to me about the matter, I shall certainly look at it.

Mr. Costain

What is the approximate time that it now takes from appeal to decision?

Mr. Silkin

I should need notice of that question. However, the period has shortened very considerably. In part this is because there have not been as many appeals. This improvement goes back to the number of appeals that used to be made in the 1960s—about 430,000—as compared with the bonanza years when they were well over the 600,000 mark, and the general increase in the planning inspectorate during the past few years. However, I shall certainly write to the hon. Gentleman and give him the facts.