HC Deb 25 May 2004 vol 421 cc1505-6W
Mr. Laurence Robertson

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister for what valid reason local councils may reject proposals made by Government inspectors under PPG10 for major housing development sites; and if he will make a statement. [175592]

Keith Hill

Regional Planning Guidance for the south west (RPG10) provides a regional spatial strategy within which development plans, including those in Gloucestershire, should be prepared; it sets out a broad development strategy for the period up to 2016 and beyond; and provides the spatial framework for other strategies and programmes. RPG10 should be taken into account by local authorities preparing Local Plans.

Following a Local Plan Inquiry the inspector makes his/her recommendations to the Local Planning Authority (LPA). It is for the LPA to consider in the first instance whether to make modifications to the plan based on the inspector's recommendations. The LPA is required to prepare a statement of its decision on each recommendation and to give its full reasons if it does not accept any recommendation made by the inspector. Currently, most local authorities accept the majority of an inspector's recommendations, but they are not obliged to do so.

This statement of reasons and any proposed modifications to the Local Plan are published and objections and representations may be made to the council for a period of six weeks.

There is no criterion against which the reasons for rejecting any recommendation are measured. The Government office for the south west, on behalf of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, will have the opportunity to consider any modifications to identify whether they are consistent with national and regional policies, and whether there are conflicts which do not appear to be justified by local circumstances.

The general approach of Government is that responsibility for deciding planning matters should be left, as far as possible, to locally accountable planning authorities. This is because local authority councillors are elected to represent the views of local people and, in the main, it is these councillors who are in the best position to make the necessary decisions in respect of their Local Plan.

In the light of this, while powers have been reserved to direct modifications to the plan or to call-in all, or part, of a plan for determination by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, these powers are used sparingly and as a last resort.

Mr. Sayeed

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what plans he has to make developers liable for a greater share of the costs of planning inquiries and tribunals. [175879]

Keith Hill

There are no plans to change the existing longstanding practice where each party is responsible for their own costs at planning inquiries.