HC Deb 15 February 1995 vol 254 cc981-2
2. Miss Emma Nicholson

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what assessment he has made of how planning policies can be used more effectively to meet the objectives of sustainable development.

The Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. John Gummer)

We have revised our planning policy guidance so that sustainable development is at its centre.

Miss Nicholson

In my constituency planners are under external pressure to develop green-field sites, which is unpopular with local people. Will Government guidelines be applied fiercely to ensure that infill and derelict sites are used first, and that guidelines are strictly enforced in green-field areas?

Mr. Gummer

My hon. Friend is right to point out that it is often easier to develop a green-field site than to reuse previously developed land. Every effort is made to ensure that the balance is firmly in favour of the reuse of old sites and the redevelopment and regeneration of city and town centres. There will be occasions when a green-field site is most appropriate, but the case for that would have to be extremely well made out.

Mr. Bennett

The Government's revision of planning policy guidelines 6 and 16 is welcome, but will the right hon. Gentleman consider regional guidance? Is he aware that there is still pressure on local authorities in north-west England in particular to identify green-field sites for the development of business parks and similar projects? Is not it high time that all the emphasis was placed on regenerating inner-city derelict land and that local authorities were discouraged from making planning proposals for green-field developments?

Mr. Gummer

I am a little worried when I am asked to put all the emphasis on particular areas. Planning should not be about insisting on a prescriptive answer in every circumstance, irrespective of the position. The hon. Gentleman may agree that there are many instances in which business parks have brought jobs to the north-west and elsewhere in the UK. A proper decision should be made in each case, but we should be clear that the bias is towards the redevelopment of old land and the regeneration of city and town centres. The hon. Gentleman has my support in putting pressure on local authorities which sometimes do not exhibit as much urgent concern as we do.

Sir Kenneth Carlisle

Does my right hon. Friend accept that those of us who represent city constituencies are very concerned that their centre should retain their vitality, and that we very much welcome the change of emphasis-to restore them? Will he ensure that the policy that he has proposed is carried through to effective action?

Mr. Gummer

There is no doubt that there is a very good example of partnership in the city of Lincoln between the private and the public sector. That is the way forward for regeneration generally. We are putting into place the planning environment to help that. I wish that some local authorities, which still prefer to provide car parking as a means of raising money rather than invigorating the town centre, would take up the challenge, because car parking is much better provided by private enterprise—it tends to be rather less smelly apart from anything else.

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