HC Deb 17 December 1986 vol 107 cc591-2W
Sir Hugh Rossi

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he is ready to respond to the Fifth report of the Select Committee on the Environment of Session 1985–86, relating to appeals, call-in and major public inquiries; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Ridley

The Government are responding today to the Select Committee's Fifth Report, on "Planning: Appeals, Call-in and Major Public Inquiries", in the form of a command paper. They welcome the Committee's report and set out in detail the measures the Government are taking to improve the operation of these aspects of the planning system.

The Government's policy is to simplify the planning system and to improve its efficiency without reducing the quality of decision or the ability of those who may be affected to make representations which are relevant to the decision. It remains the Government's objective to strike the right balance between the needs of development and the interests of conservation, and I believe that the measures described in the Government's response will ease the burden on all those involved in disputed planning cases while still ensuring that the interests of conservation remain fully protected.

The Select Committee's report recorded the initiatives which the Government are taking towards these objectives—in the Housing and Planning Act 1986, through changes to secondary legislation", and in other ways. The Government are grateful that many of its measures have the support of the Select Committee.

The response explains that procedural changes are being introduced which will cut out unnecessary delays in the handling of planning appeals, particularly those requiring public local inquiries. The changes include the setting of strict target timetables for the procedural stages, and proposals for streamlining inquiry procedures through a revision of the inquiries procedure rules supported by a code a practice on preparing for major inquiries. A special study to identify ways of speeding up long-running inquiries has also been put in hand.

The Government's objective for major inquiries is that the system should be as efficient and effective as possible, while not impairing in any way the fairness and impartiality of the procedures. A consultation paper with the proposals for revision of the inquiries procedure rules and a revised draft of the code of practice is being issued today. The texts are appended to the command paper.