HC Deb 04 June 1980 vol 985 cc1399-400
5. Mr. Bob Dunn

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment how many structure plans are still to be submitted to his Department.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Marcus Fox)

Six, Sir.

Mr. Dunn

Will my hon. Friend take steps to ensure that the updating of structure plans is less wasteful and time consuming than their initial preparation?

Mr. Fox

I can certainly give my hon. Friend that assurance. Our purpose in bringing forward as many plans as possible for approval is to have available for planning decisions something that we consider to be essential. In no sense do we believe that the preparation should be followed by changes such as my hon. Friend has mentioned.

Mr. Chapman

Is my hon. Friend satisfied that the whole structure plan concept, which replaced the old development plans 12 years ago, is a sufficiently flexible instrument to deal with the rapidly changing demands and trends of local populations and land use? Will he look into the matter, because many believe that structure plans are far too bureaucratic an instrument nowadays?

Mr. Fox

It is because we accept that weakness that our purpose is to get the structure plans accepted as quickly as possible. We shall then look carefully at the whole system. Where necessary, local plans will obviously fulfil an important need.

Mr. Hill

Is my hon. Friend aware that the Southampton structure plan, which was commenced in the late 1960s, was out of date before the conclusions were made known to the public? Is that not a colossal waste of public money?

Mr. Fox

This is a matter for local authorities, particularly county councils. I am sure that it is a source of distress to the whole House that plans have taken so long and involved so much expense. My hon. Friend is right to say that by the time many of them have been approved they are out of date.