HC Deb 26 July 1990 vol 177 cc392-3W
Mr. Madel

To ask the secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement about decisions by county councils on minerals and waste disposal planning applications.

Mr. Atkins

Following a study which the Department undertook jointly in 1988 with the Association of County Councils, statistics have been collected quarterly on the decisions taken by county planning authorities on minerals and waste disposal applications. In future, these statistics will be published alongside those reporting decisions taken by district councils, to provide a comprehensive picture on local authorities' development control performance. County matter decisions will also be published annually with other development control statistics.

I am concerned that there are increasing delays in giving decisions on county matter planning applications. My Department will consult on possible improvements to the system, notably the introduction of a standard planning application form for minerals proposals, and possible legislation to enable county matter applications to be made direct to county councils rather than via district councils. It will also commission research into the use made of section 52 agreements generally, including ways in which the conclusion of such agreements might be speeded up.

Both industry and county planning authorities can help in a number of ways. Industry should ensure that applications are accompanied at the outset by sufficient supporting information to enable the application to be determined. Also, operators are strongly urged to discuss their proposals informally with the planning authority at the earliest possible stage before the application is submitted. Similarly, early discussion with the appropriate statutory bodies is recommended to resolve any conflicts of interest and establish what information should accompany the full application.

I look to county councils to make every effort to improve their performance. In particular, they should target applications for consideration at an early meeting of the planning committee. They should also seek prompt responses to the consultations that they are obliged to carry out with other bodies.