HC Deb 30 April 1996 vol 276 cc889-90
5. Mr. Robathan

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what plans he has to revise the Government's planning policy guidance for the countryside. [25675]

The Minister for Construction, Planning and Energy Efficiency(Mr. Robert B. Jones)

Following our well-received White Paper entitled "Rural England", we expect to consult on a draft revision of planning policy guidance note 7 and on a possible rural business use class before the summer recess.

Mr. Robathan

I congratulate my hon. Friend and his Department on the excellent White Paper entitled "Rural England". Is he aware—perhaps he will take account of this in his consultations—of the unhappiness in some rural areas, particularly in my district of Blaby and Harborough in Leicestershire, because district councils are being compelled to provide for a large number of new homes on green-field sites? Will he, in his consultation, look to encourage the regeneration and rebuilding of inner cities on derelict land rather than building new homes on green-field sites?

Mr. Jones

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his comments about the White Paper. It is precisely because we want sustainable development in housing, as elsewhere, that, for the very first time, we have set a target for the percentage of housing to be built on existing developed land. I have said to the Environment Committee that, if experience allows us, we will raise that target in time.

Mr. Vaz

Does the Minister accept that current planning policy guidance is a jungle of anomalies and inconsistencies? For example, why has he refused to publish the results of the review into planning policy guidance note 6 until after the local elections on Thursday? Does he realise that the delay is causing massive confusion? When will we have planning policy guidance that is clear, consistent and strategic, rather than the mess that we have at the moment?

Mr. Jones

Let me help the hon. Gentleman. He knows that there is a convention that announcements such as that are not made in the run-up to local elections. We shall make the announcement immediately after the local elections, in accordance with the right practices in government.

While the hon. Gentleman is posing a question on the subject, let me ask him about reports in the weekend's press that the Labour party was poised to reverse our policy on out-of-town shopping. I am sure that any squalid deals cooked up by the Labour party, along with the squalid deals that it cooked up with BT and with Rupert Murdoch, will show it for what it is.