§ 7.20 p.m.
§ Lord KIRKHILL rose to move, That the draft Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1972 (Commencement No. 4) Order 1976, laid before the House on 26th February, be approved. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move that the draft Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act, 1972 (Commencement No. 4) Order 1976, be approved. This Order brings into operation Schedule 7 to the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1972. The effect is that certain planning appeals may be decided by persons appointed by the Secretary of State for the purpose, instead of the decisions being given by the Secretary of State himself. Schedule 7 is the only part of the 1972 Act not already in effect. It re-enacted identical provisions made in the Town and Country Planning 103 (Scotland) Act 1969 (but never brought into operation) and is identical with provisions made in Section 21 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1968 and subsequent Statutes for England and Wales which have been operated successfully since 1969.
§ The wish to bring Schedule 7 into operation arises from the fact that the number of appeals lodged each year has been growing considerably. In 1969 the number of appeals lodged was running at about 200 a year. The level has now risen to around 700 a year and currently the number of cases at some stage in the decision process is just over 1,000. The purpose of Schedule 7 is to simplify and shorten the process of disposal of planning appeals in certain classes prescribed in regulations. The Scottish Office Inquiry Reporters Unit would have responsibility for deciding the delegated cases. The Reporter who conducts the inquiry, or deals with the written submissions, would decide whether or not the appeal should be allowed. He would dispose of the case by means of a reasoned decision letter: this would eliminate the process of drafting a detailed report and recommendations for submission to the Secretary of State, and the subsequent issue by the Scottish Development Department, after consideration of the Report, of a decision letter on behalf of the Secretary of State.
§ A Statutory Instrument, the Town and Country Planning (Determination of Appeals by Appointed Persons) (Prescribed Classes) (Scotland) Regulations 1976, prescribing the classes of appeals to be delegated, was laid concurrently with the present Order and is subject to Negative Resolution. The categories of appeals proposed to be covered by delegated decision-making powers rarely raise issues of major policy. Generally speaking, they relate to developments involving not more than 10 houses or the residential development of two acres of land. The classes prescribed initially will cover about a third of all Scottish appeals. Since they will normaly be dealt with by full-time officers of the Scottish Office Inquiry Reporters Unit, who are well aware of relevant policies and precedents, there is no danger of unfairness through inconsistent or capricious decisions. I commend this Order as a useful contribution 104 to the simplifying and speeding up of procedures for dealing with straight-forward planning appeals.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.