HC Deb 24 May 1989 vol 153 c938
4. Mr. Redmond

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he has any intention to strengthen the powers of planning authorities to deal with unauthorised development; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Howard

Yes, Sir. My right hon. Friend invited comments by 31 May on Mr. Robert Carnwath's report on this subject entitled "Enforcing Planning Control". When the response has been considered my right hon. Friend will seek an early legislative opportunity to strengthen the enforcement regime at present contained in the Town and Country Planning Act 1971.

Mr. Redmond

I am grateful for the Minister's reply, but will he tell us whether the Government intend to ad opt the recommendations in the Carnwath report? If so, what are his views on the 10-year immunity for unauthorised use?

Mr. Howard

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman really expects me this afternoon to pre-empt the entire consultation exercise on which we are engaged. The Government take consultation seriously, and I want to study carefully the views expressed in response to the consultation before I make up my mind about an} of the proposals.

Mr. Andrew MacKay

I welcome my hon. and learned Friend's announcement that there will be legislation, but he will be aware from representations that he has received from many local authorities, including my own, that they consider their present statutory position quite inadequate. There is now insufficient provision to deter a developer who wishes to break all the rules. Can my hon. and learned Friend give a guarantee that that deterrent will be there in the future?

Mr. Howard

I agree that the enforcement powers now available to local authorities are inadequate. That is why my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State asked Mr. Robert Carnwath to report on the matter, and why we are consulting on the report and hope to proceed to action.

Mr. O'Brien

Can the Minister give us any idea of the timetable for the introduction of legislation, and when the consultation process will end? In the past 10 years of Tory rule, little has been done to prevent the abuse of planning laws. The appeal procedure is a costly and lengthy one for local authorities, and they must also suffer uncertainty about the outcome. It is therefore important that action be taken as soon as possible. Will the Minister also take on board the issue of third parties who may be aggrieved? Will they receive protection so that they can make representations in the event of abuse of planning laws?

Mr. Howard

There will certainly be opportunities for all interested parties to make representations. As I said in my original answer, my right hon. Friend will wish to legislate on the matter at the earliest opportunity.