HC Deb 27 June 1979 vol 969 cc431-3
18. Mr. Chapman

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he intends to introduce a general development (amendment) order to exclude more minor development proposals from the need to require a planning permission.

Mr. Fox

My right hon. Friend has said that we intend to simplify and speed up the planning system. We are looking at ways of doing so, and one possibility would certainly be to amend the town and country planning general development order.

Mr. Chapman

Will my hon. Friend agree that, if such a proposal were implemented, up to 20 per cent. of planning applications could be eliminated from the system and this would mean that more significant applications could be processed and dealt with equally thoroughly but more speedily? Will my hon. Friend agree further that there might be greater acceptance for his predecessor's proposals if minor developments in conservation areas were excluded?

Mr. Fox

My hon. Friend is very experienced in these matters—[HON. MEMBERS: "How?"]—as an architect he is extremely experienced—and I am glad to know that we have his support. We shall not, as the previous Government did, seek to amend these general development orders without the fullest consultation, giving careful attention to the views of environmentalists. My hon. Friend is right to suggest that our conservation areas and national parks are of great importance to us, but perhaps the most important factor of all is to get our planning system right, and this means to simplify it and speed it up.

Mr. Sever

When the Minister is taking advice on this matter, will he bear in mind that, although a number of the planning applications which we are now discussing are likely to be of a minor nature, in certain circumstances, especially in the inner areas of the big cities, they are often controversial? The businesses may be small but the inconvenience which may be caused by them to local communities is often the subject of a great deal of annoyance. Will the Minister bear that in mind?

Mr. Fox

The hon. Gentleman is right, and that is why it is not as simple as it might appear to come forward with amendments of this kind. Indeed, it is other people's interests as well as those of the person putting in the planning application, or perhaps seeking to extend his house without a planning application, which need just the same consideration.

Mr. Cormack

Although my hon. Friend's answer is reassuring in general terms, will he bear in mind that all historic buildings are not in conservation areas and this also must not be forgotten?

Mr. Fox

As a supporter of this Government, my hon. Friend will not be surprised to know that we have that very much in mind.