§ Mr. David Nicholson
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when the results of the inquiry into the operation of the planning system in North Cornwall district will be available; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Curry
Miss Audrey Lees was appointed in August last year to carry out an inquiry into the operation of the planning system in North Cornwall. She submitted her very thorough report to my right hon. Friend at the end of August.
Miss Lees concludes that many of the complaints about the district council were justified. North Cornwall has granted planning permission for sporadic developments in the open countryside, on an inconsistent basis, contrary to national planning guidance and the structure plan. Some councillors seem to have favoured certain applicants, often local people, because of their personal circumstances.
Miss Lees suggests that the practices and procedures of the council in publicising, assessing and deciding planning applications should be improved. She recommends that priorities given to completing the local plan to provide the basis for consistent decisions in future.
I am seeing North Cornwall district councillors today to emphasise the Government's concern to seek a positive commitment from the Council. I know that some improvements have been made already, but I will be seeking a full response to Miss Lee's recommendations when the council have considered her report.
The report also provides a valuable reminder of the need for all local planning authorities to follow proper procedures when dealing with applications for planning permission. I have arranged for each authority to receive a copy.
I note that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales has recently written to all the local planning authorities in the Principality to emphasise the importance of taking full account of Government planning guidance and the development plan in making decisions. He also warned that the personal circumstances of applicants should not normally influence such decisions.
Copies of the report are being placed in the Library of the House today and copies will be on sale from Her Majesty's Stationery Office tomorrow.