HC Deb 21 March 2001 vol 365 cc251-2W
Mr. Sawford

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will publish his response to the recommendations of the independent panel that conducted the public examination of the draft regional planning guidance for the east Midlands; and if he will make a statement. [155260]

Mr. Raynsford

My right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister has today published for consultation proposed changes to the draft Regional Planning Guidance for the east Midlands. These are largely based on the recommendations of the independent panel that held a public examination into draft RPG last summer.

In October 2000 my right hon. Friend published new guidance on regional planning in Planning Policy Guidance (PPG) Note 11. This followed the announcement of a new approach to planning for housing provision last March which was taken forward in more detail in revised Planning Policy Guidance Note 3. Important issues for the region to take forward are contained in the Urban and Rural White Papers issued last November. The proposed changes to the draft RPG for the east Midlands reflect the principles and priorities set out in these statements. They aim to support economic growth and regeneration while protecting and enhancing the region's environment.

For housing, the regional allocation and those for each structure plan area are now expressed as annual averages to reflect the requirements in PPG3 and PPG11 for annual bench marks, rather than a fixed total. Adjustments can then be made regularly as required by the "plan monitor and manage" approach. The regional allocation of 13,900 a year should meet expected needs. We are proposing a small reduction for Lincolnshire of 200 a year over the draft to discourage long distance commuting across the regional boundary into East Anglia and reduce the pressure for developing greenfield sites.

We agree with the panel's recommendation that 60 per cent. of housing completions should be on previously developed land by 2008. The regional planning body will be invited to develop sub regional targets to allow for variations in local circumstances while still aiming for 60 per cent. at the regional level. We propose to adopt the panel's recommended annual rate of 3,400 dwellings a year as an appropriate indicator for monitoring whether affordable housing need is being met.

The panel considered that a new business park near to the East Midlands Airport and Junction 24 (M1) in addition to the existing commitments for business development there, could undermine regeneration of nearby urban areas, in particular Nottingham, Derby and

Leicester. We agree with the panel, as we are not persuaded that sufficient limitations on occupation are possible through the planning system to avoid harmful displacement of economic activity from those urban areas.

Draft RPG proposed designating two major investment sites (sites of at least 50has and capable of being safeguarded for a single user). We propose to adopt the panel recommendation that no new greenfield sites should be promoted for this purpose until a comprehensive analysis has been carried out of the quantity and quality of the existing supply of employment land.

We make it clear that there should be no variation across the region in the systematic approach to selecting sites for development so as not to damage the credibility of the RPG and to maintain consistency with the sustainable development objectives of national policy. We agree that the coalfields are a priority for regeneration. The outcome of applying a systematic approach to the selection of sites might be that some greenfield development would occur, but only if that is the most sustainable option in the context of local circumstances and the priority for employment development.

We agree with the panel that car parking standards should be consistent with those in Draft PPG13, and should be applied across the region to all new employment development but above certain thresholds.

The consultation period on the proposed changes will be for 12 weeks ending on 15 June. Views are invited and should be made to the Government Office for the east Midlands. Copies of all the relevant documents have been placed in the House Library and made available to the region's MPs.