§ Mr. Newton
By amending the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 and the Local Government Act 1985, clause 14 would require planning authorities in the development plan process to do three things: first, to give special consideration to the needs of disabled people; secondly, to take appropriate measures to improve the physical environment for disabled people; and, thirdly, to provide disabled people with adequate information and opportunities to make representations about local and structure plans. Planning authorities would also be required to have regard to the relevant provisions of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act and of building regulations about access for disabled people when considering applications for certain types of development.
The Government accept that planning authorities should have regard to the needs of disabled people in carrying out their duties, but clause 14 seeks to introduce an inappropriate level of detail into the legislation, especially given that the existing legislation already provides, in more general terms, for local planning authorities to have regard to the needs of disabled people where appropriate, to give adequate publicity to their 536 proposals for structure and local plans, and not least to have regard to the relevant provisions of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act. It would be inappropriate to require local planning authorities when considering planning applications to have regard to building regulations, which are a separate procedure.
Amendment No. 14 would omit clause 14 from the Bill. Amendment No. 18 is consequential to amendment No. 14. If it transpires that the attention of planning authorities needs to be directed more closely to the needs of disabled people, that could be done in the form of guidance from the Department of the Environment. I understand that my colleagues there are considering whether such guidance might be helpful.
§ Mr. Wigley
Can the Minister give me an undertaking that he and his colleagues will consider seriously the possibility of guidelines drawing to the attention of local authorities the benefits that have been provided in areas that have tried that approach? There have been positive benefits for disabled people. It does not matter how it is done, provided that the objectives are achieved and the needs of disabled people are taken into account at all opportunities in the work of the authorities within the confines of structure planning.
§ Mr. Newton
I have the greatest sympathy with the hon. Gentleman's comments and I shall draw them to the attention of my colleagues at the Department of the Environment, who have more than shown their good faith in this connection during the past year or 18 months with the important changes that have been made to building regulations to improve the extent to which new buildings, especially those to which the public have access, take better account of the needs for access of disabled people. They have made some important progress in that area in the past year, and I have no doubt that my colleagues will be more than happy to do anything that they believe will genuinely help.
§ Amendment agreed to.