HC Deb 04 March 1997 vol 291 cc700-1
7. Mr. Gunnell

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many appeals against refusal by local authorities to approve opencast mining applications have been (a) heard and (b) successful since the changes to minerals planning guidance 3 in 1994. [17008]

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

Some 34 opencast coal appeals have been heard since MPG3 was revised in 1994 and, of those, nine have been successful.

Mr. Gunnell

Does the Minister accept that the present minerals planning guidance means that many local authorities are accepting applications, rather than going to appeal, often despite the wishes of local communities? Is he aware of the huge Windsor opencast site that threatens my constituents in Morley and people in the constituencies of Normanton, Batley and Dewsbury? Is it not true that the only way in which constituents can be sure that that application will not plague them for 15 years is for a Labour Government to be elected, so that our 10-point plan for opencasting can be implemented and local communities can resist developments that they do not want?

Mr. Jones

I note from that last remark that the hon. Gentleman is committing the Labour party to deciding planning issues before an application has even been submitted, much less determined by a local authority, considered at an independent inquiry by an inspector or reached the Secretary of State's desk. That goes to show that the Labour party cannot be trusted with any judicial or semi-judicial system. The hon. Gentleman ought to know that all those issues have to be considered on their merits by local authorities and by the Secretary of State and that a balance has to be drawn between environmental and economic considerations.

Mrs. Peacock

My hon. Friend will know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has visited the site and is well aware of local opposition in Batley and Spen. The hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Gunnell) is wrong to say that we need a Labour Government to refuse permission: it is up to Labour-controlled Kirklees council.

Mr. Jones

As my hon. Friend clearly says, the mineral plannings authority is a Labour-controlled authority.