§ 7. Mr. Lennox-Boyd
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what criteria an inspector is required to follow when hearing an appeal against a council decision based upon a development plan determined by that council.
§ Mr. Giles Shaw
In determining an appeal under section 36 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 an inspector is required by section 29 to have regard to the provisions of the development plan, so far as they are material to the application, and to any other material considerations. When a local plan has been adopted by the planning authority it becomes part of the development plan for that area and an inspector must therefore have regard to the relevant policies and proposals in that plan.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
Does my hon. Friend agree that where a council has adopted a reasoned development plan to restrict certain activities to a particular area—for example, Morecambe's decision to restrict amusement arcades to one area of the town—it is understandably 338 frustrated when an inspector grants an appeal that is inconsistent with the reasoned development plan, unless he gives reasons to show that the plan was unreasonable in the first place? Will my hon. Friend reconsider this matter to ascertain whether the criteria need strengthening to take that into account?
§ Mr. Shaw
I am prepared generally to consider the issue that my hon. Friend raises. He was right to raise it in respect of an individual matter. When a local plan is prepared and published, in most instances it will have priority over, for example, a county structure plan if that is also prepared and published.
§ Mr. McNamara
What is the delay within the Department in coming to a decision on the applications that are sent to it? When can the Humberside county council expect replies from the Department on four or five applications that it has been sitting on for varying periods of up to one year?
§ Mr. Shaw
It follows that any matter requiring adjudication on appeal is extremely complex and goes outside the normal run of planning appeals. Therefore, it is likely that the time taken by the Department will be that much longer. The average time is about 47 weeks as opposed to 17 weeks for determining appeals through inspectors by the written representation method.
§ Mr. Durant
Will my hon. Friend consider what steps he can take to persuade councils to take more decisions on planning applications and not always pass them on to public inquiries so that they may get rid of the responsibility to take decisions?
§ Mr. Shaw
I agree with my hon. Friend. It is essential that local authorities recognise that the changes made from the 1980 Act onwards mean that they have more power to determine their own planning decisions within the eight-week period. I hope that they will continue to operate this system. My hon. Friend knows that we are publishing tables showing the performance of authorities in determining planning applications.