§ Kate Hoey
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) if he will amend the guidance to local authorities on designation of the River Thames from its present status as an area of special character to full conservation area status; 
(2) what measures he proposes to ensure that the special character of the Thames is protected; 
(3) if he will review the (a) nature and (b) scale of development currently underway on the banks of the Thames; 
(4) if he will make a statement on development along the banks of the River Thames. 467W
§ Mr. Caborn
Strategic Planning Guidance for the River Thames, published in February 1997, designates the stretch of river from Hampton to Crayford Ness as a Thames Policy Area. This recognises the special character of the Thames as it flows through London and carries with it more detailed guidance for local planning authorities to follow in framing their Unitary Development Plans and reaching decisions on planning applications. The Guidance recognises the strategic importance of the river within London's urban environment and the many conflicting pressures placed upon it. It sets out a series of policies and objectives for Thames-side development, and aims to achieve a greater degree of consistency between riparian authorities in their implementation of policy.
Renewed interest in the river has led to an upturn in development proposals. These have the potential to bring new viability to the riverside and make a significant contribution to the renaissance of the Thames and London, especially where the local environment is degraded and in need of improvement. Developments incorporating a mix of uses can bring employment opportunities and a range of new activities. But they must be judged in terms of sustainability and how they relate to the local context. Thames Guidance places a great emphasis on the need to protect local amenity and the successful co-existence of the broad range of functions which the river serves. Over-exploitation of the current commercial interest in development would not satisfy these objectives.
Thames Guidance includes measures to secure a high quality of design for riverside development. It places responsibility both on the local planning authority and developer for the preparation of design briefs which assess the impact of a proposed development in relation to a wide range of factors, including its all-important relationship with the local context. In addition, the Government have indicated that we will review the possibility of additional Guidance on high buildings and strategic views in London following the receipt of advice on these issues from the London Planning Advisory Committee.
The designation of the Thames Policy Area for the entire stretch of river and its immediate hinterland as it flows through London confers a special status which did not exist prior to Thames Guidance. The Thames Policy Area recognises the strategic significance of the river and the need for a consistent approach to policy formulation and decision-making. Through the Unitary Development Plan review process, riparian authorities are strengthening and refining their policies relating to the river to reflect the additional requirements placed on them by Thames Guidance, and to incorporate the Thames Policy Area within their plans. We believe this special planning designation is the most appropriate way of dealing with the varied character and uses of the riverside environment. Although some stretches of the riverside also have conservation area status, we do not believe this would be appropriate along the entire length of the river in London.
§ Mr. Caborn
The policy on call-in is as set out in Planning Policy Guidance Note 1: General Policy and Principles, Paragraph 7 of Annex D.468W
This explains that the policy on calling in planning applications is to be very selective and such action is generally taken only where issues of more than local importance are involved. Examples are applications which raise significant architectural and urban design issues, which could have wide effects beyond their immediate locality, which give rise to substantial national or regional controversy, which may conflict with national policy on important matters, or where the interests of foreign governments may be involved.