§ Mr. Dawson
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) if he will assess the advantages of imposing a moratorium on local authorities approving new developments at any stage of a local plan process between consultation and public inquiry; and if he will make a statement; 
(2) if he will assess the advantages of imposing a moratorium on planning decisions pertinent to district-wide local plans at any stage prior to public inquiry; and if he will make a statement. 
§ Mr. Raynsford
[holding answer 22 July 1997]: No. The recently revised planning policy guidance note 1—"General Policy and Principles"—already contains guidelines which are designed to prevent decisions on major planning applications pre-empting decisions that are to be made in the course of an emerging development plan. In particular, it states that, where proposals for a development plan have been published for consultation, it may be justifiable to refuse planning permission on the grounds of prematurity where the proposed development is significant enough to predetermine decisions that are more properly taken in the context of the development plan.
During the development plan process, planning applications should continue to be considered in the light of current policies. However, account can also be taken of policies in emerging development plans which are going through statutory procedures towards adoption. The weight to be attached to such policies depends upon the stage of plan preparation or review, increasing as successive stages are reached. When planning permission is refused on the grounds of prematurity, the planning authority will need to demonstrate clearly how the grant of planning permission would have prejudiced the outcome of the development plan process.