§ Mr. Jenkin
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he expects to issue a public consultation paper on the removal Crown exemption from planning legislation.
§ Sir George Young
My right hon. and learned Friend has today issued a public consultation paper on the removal of Crown immunity from planning law. My right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Secretary of State for Wales also propose shortly to issue public consultation papers as regards Scotland and Wales.
The consultation paper proposes that all Crown bodies should be required to apply to the local planning authority for planning permission, listed building consent, conservation area consent, and hazardous substances consent, and to the Secretary of State for National Heritage for scheduled monument consent in the normal way.
There will be some exceptions to these requirements, principally where national or prison security is involved, and for trunk road proposals, which are already subject to statutory procedures equivalent to town and country planning procedures. In the case of national security, it is intended to make provision in the legislation for a certification system whereby the appropriate Minister or official would certify projects which would be exempt from the legislation on grounds of national security. A similar procedure will apply to prison security.
The Government consider that it would be inappropriate for the enforcement provisions of the planning legislation, particularly those which contain criminal sanctions or permit the local authority to enter land, to apply to the Crown. It is proposed that in lieu of the enforcement provisions and injunctive or criminal proceedings the "enforcing" authority would be able to apply to the High Court for a declaration of the rights of the parties. If the Crown is shown by a declaration to have acted in breach of planning control, it would, of its own accord, remedy the position.
One consequence of the proposals will be that Crown developers will be legally required to undertake environmental impact assessments of their proposals, as required by EC Directive 85/337, in the same way as other developers, replacing the non-statutory arrangements in DOE circular 15/88, Welsh Office 23/88.
The statutory regimes in part VIII of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 for outdoor advertisement control and tree protection will also apply to Crown land, subject to certain modifications and exceptions.
These proposals will be embodied in primary legislation when a suitable opportunity arises.