HC Deb 04 June 1980 vol 985 cc1421-2
27. Mr. Heddle

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the average time taken for the determination of a planning application.

Mr. Heseltine

In the period April-September 1979, 60 per cent. of planning applications were dealt with in the eight-week statutory period, and a further 26 per cent. were dealt with within 13 weeks. Statistics are not collected in such a way as to give an average.

Mr. Heddle

Does my right hon. Friend acknowledge that the delays in processing planning applications mean increased interest payments which manifest themselves in increased prices for the houses that are eventually built? What steps does my right hon. Friend propose to reduce the delay in processing planning applications, and will he publish a list of those local authorities which delay in these processes?

Mr. Heseltine

I am grateful to my hon. Friend because I strongly support what he said. I have made a number of proposals in the Local Government, Planning and Land (No. 2) Bill to eliminate duplication in the planning machinery between two tiers of authorities. I have agreed a 28-day time limit on consultations with local authorities and those—particularly statutory undertakers—that they have to consult. I am proposing increases in the levels of permitted development under the general development order, and I certainly intend—indeed, I have already started—to publish statistics showing the performance of my Department and local authorities in handling planning applications and appeals. The House will know that £8 billion of construction work goes through the planning machinery in a year, and any percentage decrease in the time taken to process that ought to flow straight through into the economy.

Mr. Cryer

Does not the process of charging for planning applications mean that, under the weird system which is proposed in the order, that the Minister has put before the House, it will take longer to determine the fee to be charged? Is it not true that in certain circumstances the fee is miscalculated? Is not the only decent and proper course open to the Minister for him to withdraw the order, stop the smokescreen about reviewing the position in six months' time, admit that his officials have agreed that the order is defective and stop—if the report in The Guardian yesterday is right—blackmailing local authorities into making charges?

Mr. Heseltine

The hon. Gentleman has made a number of interesting points. There is only one difficulty. We have put no such order about planning charges before the House.