HC Deb 06 February 1985 vol 72 cc923-4
4. Mr. John Hunt

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he is satisfied with the enforcement procedures provided by the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 in respect of buildings constructed in contravention of the planning laws and subsequently occupied as a main or only residence; and if he will make a statement.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Neil Macfarlane)

My right hon. Friend is satisfied with the provisions of section 87 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971, as amended. If, however, my hon. Friend is aware of any special difficulties, my right hon. Friend will be glad to consider them.

Mr. Hunt

On tht very point, is my hon. Friend aware that a mobile prefabricated home was recently erected on green belt land in my constituency within a few days without any kind of planning permission and that Bromley council reckons that because of the cumbersome nature of the present planning laws it may take several years for this building to be removed? Is this not an affront to the law-abiding neighbours in that area? Can we not tighten up the law in order to deal more promptly and effectively with those who deliberately flout it in this way?

Mr. Macfarlane

I do not think that either my right hon. Friend The Secretary of State for the Environment or my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is anxious to return to the conditions that prevailed in the 1960s, which involved the use of magistrates' courts. They would lead to all kinds of problems. The vigilance of the local authority is absolutely critical and vital in all these circumstances, and Bromley has a good record. Its officers know what legal measures are appropriate. I am aware that there have been exceptional delays in some cases, in particular in the case to which my hon. Friend has referred. However, local authorities can take more effective action quickly by prosecuting for failure to obtain the site licence that is required under the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960. However, we must have a look at these problems, and I shall write to my hon. Friend.