HC Deb 08 December 1986 vol 107 cc7-9
5. Sir Anthony Meyer

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what are the general principles guiding his decisions on appeals against refusal of planning permission by local authorities in Wales.

Mr. Mark Robinson

It is a statutory requirement on local planning authorities, my right hon. Friend and his inspectors, to consider each case on its merits having regard to all material considerations and the provisions of the relevant development plans.

Sir Anthony Meyer

Is my hon. Friend aware that the apparently growing tendency by Welsh Office inspectors to overturn the decisions of planning authorities is making matters difficult for local authorities, which are trying, first, to limit the seemingly inexorable spread of retirement homes and, secondly, to stop amenity land of high value being encroached upon by speculative building?

Mr. Robinson

I assure my hon. Friend that there has been no change of policy on retirement homes. Planning proposals for residential homes for the elderly are considered against the background of national and local policies. The planning authority has to demonstrate the relevance of those policies in each case and show how interests of acknowledged importance would be harmed. I am confident that inspectors consider the issues thoroughly and fairly.

Mr. John

One such case in which the Secretary of State has overruled the local authority in respect of planning permission is the openair market at Talbot Green. Does the hon. Gentleman accept that that overruling has led to bitter and sustained local opposition? In particular, does he agree that traffic, which is already heavy, will become chaotic when the market is working? Does he agree that the matter was considered insufficiently carefully by the inspector at the appeal? Does the hon. Gentleman feel any responsibility for the dislocation caused to the lives of the inahbitants of that area by this shoddy inquiry?

Mr. Robinson

As I am sure the hon. Gentleman is aware, I cannot comment on individual planning applications. I am not aware of any shortcomings in the procedures which were followed in this case.

Sir Raymond Gower

Can my hon. Friend define any differences in the approaches of local councils and of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and his inspectors in respect of planning decisions which, when made by a local authority, tend to reflect social and other pressures which may not fall strictly within the definition of planning? Do the inspectors not have to work solely on the basis of a planning consideration?

Mr. Robinson

Our inspectors are obliged to take account of a variety of policy considerations and circulars when considering planning appeals.

Dr. Marek

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that there is general unease in the Principality about the number of planning permissions granted on appeal against the wishes of the planning authority originally concerned with the matter? This is not restricted to quality homes, but involves all sorts of developments by people who have no connection with the area that they seek to develop. With a view to bearing that point in mind, will the hon. Gentleman review the general principles involved and the instructions which he gives to inspectors on how they should decide appeals? Will he publish the results of any such review?

Mr. Robinson

Inspectors are asked to take into account all relevant considerations and material planning circulars. From time to time we review individual aspects of planning law, and we shall continue to do so.

Mr. Raffan

My question follows on from that of the hon. Member for Wrexham (Dr. Marek). Is my hon. Friend aware of the concern of many local authorities, including Delyn borough council, that the Welsh Office does not attach sufficient importance to adopted local and structure plans? Will my hon. Friend ensure in future that appeal decisions are founded on those local planning policies which represent the views of the areas that they cover?

Mr. Robinson

I assure my hon. Friend that structure plans are one of the material factors that inspectors are obliged to take into account.

Mr. Roy Hughes

Is it not usually better to leave the decision-making to local people in these matters? For example, in Newport there is concern about the Secretary of State's guidelines, which have been responsible for the vetoing of an enforcement order on a scrapyard near to the new leisure centre, which will have to be relocated. Why is the Welsh Office not assisting Newport borough council in its drive for tourism, especially as the royal national eisteddfod is coming to Newport in 1988?

Mr. Robinson

I welcome the fact that the eisteddfod is coming to Newport in 1988. However, the implication of the hon. Gentleman's question is that we should change the planning laws. We do not have any proposals to do that.

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