HC Deb 04 March 1981 vol 1000 cc265-6
8. Mr. Chapman

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he is satisfied with the way that local planning authorities are operating section 52 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 agreements relating to regulating the development of land.

Mr. King

I have already asked the Property Advisory Group to examine this question. I expect it to report by the middle of the year and I shall then consider whether any action is needed.

Mr. Chapman

As my right hon. Friend's Property Advisor}' Group identified this problem and brought it to his attention in a report as long ago as February 1980, will he deplore the increasing tendency of many local authorities to insist that a potential developer should provide council facilities and, in one case, a substantial amount of money, precedent to the granting of planning permission? Will my right hon. Friend reiterate that planning determinations should be based on planning considerations only and not on the size of an applicant's pocket?

Mr. King

I can understand my hon Friend's concern about this matter. It raises issues that are of great concern to the House, including whether this is a proper use of planning power. The report, which I expect in June, will be very helpful on this matter, which—as my hon. Friend knows as well as anyone else—is complicated. I would rather not comment further at this stage.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

When my right hon. Friend considers the subject will he bear in mind the fact that there is considerable disquiet in parts of the Lake District, where the planning authority is the Lake District special planning board? That board uses section 52 to grant planning permission on condition that the dwelling in question is inhabited by someone who is employed locally."Employed locally" has been defined on some occasions as meaning within the parish. Does my right hon. Friend agree that such conditions may not be legally enforceable? Will he further agree that they are, in any event, wholly unreasonable?

Mr. King

I should like to consider the points that my hon. Friend has raised. I was not aware that the provision was being used in such a restrictive way. Its use does not seem to be in line with the original intentions of section 52. If my hon. Friend writes to me, I shall have the matter considered.

Mr. Cant

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that some developments involve local authorities in massive costs in terms of infrastructure and that there is bound to be considerable hard bargaining between developers and local authorities, particularly where highway development is concerned? Does he agree that his new capital expenditure control system, which severely limits capital expenditure even further, makes the possibility of reaching section 52 agreements even more difficult?

Mr. King

The hon. Gentleman's question merely underlines the wisdom of my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Chapman).