§ Mr. Michael Brown
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he has yet reached any conclusions in the light of responses to the consultation letter "Planning and Compensation Bill: Twin-Tracking".
§ Sir George Young
The Department's consultation letter of 6 March proposed an amendment to clause 14 of the Planning and Compensation Bill to enable local planning authorities to decline to determine a planning application if an appeal was before the Secretary of State in respect of a similar application.
A total of 74 responses were received, of which 16 expressed support for the proposal on the grounds that twin-tracking wastes the resources of local planning authorities and the planning inspectorate and that it involves an element of "queue jumping" in that twin-tracking applicants submit appeals for tactical reasons rather than as a matter of last resort.
Fifty-six respondents were against or strongly against the proposal. Many contended that twin-tracking is often the only lever available to applicants to encourage local 627W authorities to process applications with reasonable promptness. They also argued that the proposal would reduce the scope for constructive negotiation, because developers would lodge appeals as early as possible rather than risking protracted—and possibly fruitless—discussions with local planning authorities.
We announced in another place that we would review the 75 per cent. fee concession at present enjoyed by duplicate planning applications. I confirm that we intend to consult on the proposal that this concession should be eliminated altogether when we amend the application fees regulations later this year.
The Government are reluctant to take any action which would reduce the pressure on local authorities to determine planning applications quickly. Although the speed with which applications are decided has improved slightly, there is still considerable room for improvement—only 52 per cent. of applications were decided within eight weeks in the third quarter of 1990, compared with the Government's target of 80 per cent.
We accept that appeals should be made as actions of last resort, but at present applicants need some means of ensuring reasonable handling times. Accordingly, the Government have decided not to proceed with the proposal described in the consultation letter.