HL Deb 10 March 1981 vol 418 cc101-2
Lord Beswick

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what percentage of appeals against decisions of local planning authorities have been upheld by the Department of the Environment in the most convenient period since the issue of Circular 22/80 on development control and whether they will give the percentage figure for the comparable period one year earlier.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment (Lord Bellwin)

My Lords, the proportion of planning appeals against decisions of local authorities upheld by the department for the two-month period December 1980 to January 1981 was 35 per cent. This compares with 31 per cent. for the same period a year ago.

Lord Beswick

My Lords, may I offer thanks to the noble Lord for those figures which to some extent suggest that the position is not quite so bad as one might have thought. But would the noble Lord still take into account the feeling that since the issue of Circular 22 to local planning authorities last November the balance of decision in planning applications has been tilted too far in favour of the developer as against the judgment of the local planning authority?

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, I should have thought that it was far, far too soon—after some two months—to come to a conclusion. The figures fluctuate on a month-by-month basis, as I know the noble Lord knows. We shall have to wait a little longer to see what are the real implications. Then perhaps we might have a better picture than we have now.

Baroness Birk

My Lords, will not the Minister agree that it is the responsibility of local planning authorities to counter the drab standardisation of many big developments by reflecting local building conditions or by being innovative? Will not being told not to be over-fastidious about the colour of bricks—paragraph 20 of the circular—discourage authorities, which should be encouraged to improve the quality of local life?

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, the noble Baroness has raised a very important point which I readily acknowledge. I would only refer to the circular itself. In the guidance which we give we say: This does not mean a lowering of the quality of decision but it does mean a greater awareness of the economic costs of planning control".

Lord Beswick

Nevertheless, my Lords, would not the noble Lord agree that if he reads further on, in addition to the quotation of my noble friend Circular 22 says that planning authorities should recognise that aesthetics is an extremely subjective matter and that they should not therefore impose their tastes on developers? Similarly, the control of external appearance should only be exercised when there is a fully justified reason for doing so. These and other parts of the circular seem to suggest that speed is of the essence, not the judgment of local people who know the local situation.

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, speed is certainly of the essence, but in my experience it is not likely that local people will make a decision against their local knowledge and their local aspirations as to aesthetics as well as to the other aspects we are discussing.

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