§ Mr. Ian Stewart
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how he intends to proceed following the response to the improving planning appeal procedures consultation paper published in August 1998. 
§ Mr. Caborn
I am pleased by the very positive reaction to the proposals in this consultation paper. The Government's objectives of streamlining appeal procedures and speeding up planning decisions, while safeguarding public participation and the fairness, openness and quality of decision-making, were widely welcomed. All the proposals were supported by a majority of the 122 respondents and there were also a number of helpful suggestions for improving individual proposals which are reflected in our final conclusions. I am grateful to all those who took the trouble to comment. Their views have been given careful consideration in deciding how to proceed.
The changes we have made to our published proposals are designed to introduce a measure of flexibility into the timescales proposed while delivering real reductions in the overall time taken to handle appeals whether by written representations, hearings or inquiries. It is incumbent upon all parties to co-operate with the Planning Inspectorate in introducing greater discipline into the procedures and observe the deadlines which are set.
I am putting in the Library a list of our proposals, showing the changes made following consultation. The Department is now preparing the necessary statutory instruments and guidance to implement the changes. As indicated in the consultation paper, we shall monitor the modified procedures, and review their effectiveness after the first 12 months of operation. If necessary, we shall consult on further measures to ensure compliance with procedures in the light of that experience.