HC Deb 15 March 1999 vol 327 cc472-4W
Ms Bridget Prentice

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what conclusions he has reached concerning the types of planning application on which the new Mayor for London should be consulted by the local planning authorities as being of potential strategic importance; and if he will make a statement. [77234]

Mr. Raynsford

Under the proposals set out in the White Paper, A Mayor and Assembly for London, and reflected in the Greater London Authority Bill currently before Parliament, London boroughs and the City of London will remain the planning and development control authorities for their areas. However, their Unitary Development Plans must be in general conformity with the Mayor's Spatial Development Strategy. The Mayor must also have a means of representing the broader pan-London view for individual planning applications where issues of genuine strategic importance are concerned. The Mayor will therefore become a statutory consultee for a limited number of applications of potential strategic importance, to be defined in secondary legislation. He or she will also have a fall-back power to direct the refusal of planning permission in these cases where this is considered necessary on strategic grounds. The applicant would then have the normal right of appeal to the Secretary of State, who will also continue to be able to call in applications for his own decision where appropriate.

Last August the Government issued a consultation paper setting out our initial proposals for the categories of development on which the Mayor is to be consulted. A summary of the responses received is being placed in the Library.

Having considered the responses, we have decided that the broad categories set out in the consultation paper will be retained, but with changes to some of the sub-categories and thresholds proposed.

In summary, the categories will be:

  1. (i) Very large scale development including:
    1. (a) major residential developments (over 500 units or 10 ha);
    2. (b) very large new buildings or structures (over 30,000 m2 in the City of London; 20,000 m2 in the rest of central London; 15,000 m2 elsewhere);
    3. (c) tall buildings (25m fronting the Thames; elsewhere—75m in the City of London and 30m in other areas).
  2. (ii) Major new infrastructure projects, including:
    1. (b) mining operations (sites of more than 10 ha);
    2. (c) large new waste facilities (more than 50,000 tonnes capacity);
    3. (d) new transport facilities, i.e., runways, air terminals, heliports, rail or tram lines, bus or coach stations, large freight depots, piers and river crossings on the Thames.
  3. (iii) Applications likely to affect key strategic policies, including:
    1. (c)the loss of housing (more than 200 units) or designated housing land (more than 4 ha);
    2. (d) the loss of land (more than 4 ha) in use or designated for employment purposes;
    3. (e) the loss of land (more than 2 ha) in use or designated as a playing field;
    4. (f) development of more than 1,000 m2 in the green belt or on designated Metropolitan Open Land;
    5. (g) development affecting a designated strategic view;
    6. (h) Substantial development in locations not identified in the development plan for such uses: (i) residential use (more than 150 units); (ii) commercial uses and other uses likely to generate significant new travel (more than 2,500 m2);
    7. (i) the provision of more than 200 car=parking spaces for non-residential purposes.
  4. (iv) Any development on a key sit of strategic importance as designated in a consultation direction made by the Secretary of State.

A paper setting out the proposed definitions in more detail, and showing the main changes from the consultation draft, is being placed in the Library, and is available from the Government Office for London.

We believe this package represents an appropriate balance. It will ensure that the Mayor is able to have a say in key planning applications in support of his or her Spatial Development Strategy, whilst recognising that the vast majority of planning applications are properly a matter for the local planning authorities. Setting clear thresholds will provide certainty and minimise the scope for dispute. We expect that between 150 and 250 planning applications out of some 70,000 submitted in Greater London each year will fall into the categories identified above.

The Mayor will be consulted in parallel with other statutory consultees, and will have no power to delay the taking of a decision by the local planning authority. He or she will, however, have a further period of 14 days after the local planning authority has reached a view within which to use the fall-back power of direction.

Subject to Parliamentary approval, it is intended that the Order defining these categories of applications will come into effect when the Mayor begins work in July 2000. It will be subject to review and, if necessary, amendment in the light of experience and following publication of the Mayor's first Spatial Development Strategy.