First Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.


Wednesday 28 February 1990


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The Committee consisted of the following Members:


Buchan, Mr. Norman (Paisley, South)

Canavan, Mr. Dennis (Falkirk, West)

Douglas, Mr. Dick (Dunfermline, West)

Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland)

Ewing, Mr. Harry (Falkirk, East)

Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas (Perth and Kinross)

Fallon, Mr. Michael (Darlington)

Hughes, Mr. Robert (Aberdeen, North)

Maxton, Mr. John (Glasgow, Cathcart)

Michie, Mrs. Ray (Argyll and Bute)

Monro, Sir Hector (Dumfries)

Ridsdale, Sir Julian (Harwich)

Stewart, Mr. Allan (Eastwood)

Walker, Mr. Bill (Tayside, North)

Wilshire, Mr. David (Spelthorne)

Yeo, Mr. Tim (Suffolk, South)

Young, Sir George (Ealing, Acton)

Younger, Mr. George (Ayr)

Mr. B. M. Hutton, Committee Clerk

2 3 First Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c. Wednesday 28 February 1990



10.30 am

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton): I beg to move, That the Committe has considered the draft Town and Country Planning (Fees for Applications and Deemed Applications) (Scotland) Regulations 1990. The regulations were laid before the House on 20 February. Hon. Members may wish to note that these supersede the draft laid before the House on 14 February and take into account two minor technical changes which in no way affect the substances of the draft regulations. The regulations are made under the provisions of section 87 of the Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980. They amend and consolidate the existing scheme of fees for planning applications which was introduced in April 1981. Before I describe the changes to the fees scheme to be made by the regulations which we have under consideration, the Committee may find it helpful to be given a brief outline of the purpose of the scheme and the way in which it works. Under the scheme, any applicant who seeks planning permission must pay a fee to the planning authority, usually the district council. This reflects our policy that local authority expenditure should in appropriate cases be offset by reasonable fees for the services provided. The fee must be determined in accordance with the provisions of the regulations, and it cannot be waived, although the regulations make provision for circumstances in which no fee, or a reduced fee, is payable. Otherwise, applications attract a fee determined in accordance with the type of development proposed and its size, where this is relevant. The scheme is designed to ensure that there is a broadly uniform scale of fees throughout Scotland, England and Wales, that there is a fair balance between the categories of development, that fees do not discourage serious planning applications, that the scheme is easily understood and that its operation does not impose any excessive administrative burden on developers or on planning authorities. The Government's policy is that fees should be set at a level which enables planning authorities to recover half the costs of operating the development control system. The intention is that the cost of operating the development control system should be shared in broadly equal proportions between developers and the community at large. At present fees only recover around 40 per cent. of authorities' costs. If we were to proceed to 50 per cent. recovery in one step, a very substantial increase in the level of fees would be required. We have concluded that a staged approach should be adopted, the proposed increase now 4 put forward being restricted to the increase required to cover the effects of inflation since the current scales were introduced on 22 August 1985. The new regulations therefore provide for an increase of approximately 20 per cent. in the level of fees across the board. This will result in the two basic fee units rising from £53 to £64, and from £27 to £32. An application for planning permission for the erection of houses will, for example, be charged at £64 per house in the case of a full application, and £64 per 0·1 hectare of site area in the case of an outline application. Apart from the increase in the level of fees, the new consolidated regulations provide for a number of other changes which generally mirror those made in the Department of the Environment regulations since the last Scottish regulations in 1985. There are two main changes. First, we have made provision for a special category of fee for oil and gas exploration applications. At present, these applications are charged at the rate of £27 for each 0·1 hectare of site area, subject to a maximum charge of £270. The new charge would be £64 for each 0·1 hectare of the site area, subject to a maximum fee of £4,800. A similar change has been made in England and Wales. Secondly, we intend to make provision for an exemption from a fee for applications to consolidate existing minerals working permissions. Again, this was increased in England and Wales as a result of representations from English local authority associations.

Mrs. Ray Michie (Argyll and Bute): What does the Minister mean by mineral extractions? Does it include quarrying and sand extractions?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: The answer is yes. If the hon. Lady has any constituency points, I shall respond to them at the end of the debate. The remaining proposals in the new regulations make provision for changes of a minor and technical nature. Overall, the changes proposed in the new regulations bring a uniformity of approach to development control cost recovery on both sides of the border, and I commend the consolidated regulations to the Committee.

10.34 am

Mr. John Maxton: (Glasgow, Cathcart): I do not intend to delay the Committee. The hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Mrs Michie) may have a few questions to ask about quarrying. I am concerned about sand extraction from the foreshore in the area where I go on holiday. Can the Minister tell us the fees for planning permission to remove sand from the foreshore and what controls exist? This causes serious problems in certain parts of the west of Scotland. The Minister said that the fees related largely to planning permissions given by district councils, but regional authorities are the strategic planning authorities and in some cases, certainly for major developments, have to give outline planning permission before the more detailed application goes to the district planning authority. What are the fees there? In my constituency concern has been expressed about the fact that the regional authority which owns the old Newlands bus garage on the Newlandsfield site is also the planning authority that is giving outline planning permission for a shopping development on that site. Whatever the rights and wrongs of having a shopping 5 development on that site—my constituents are not happy about it—it seems strange to me that the regional authority, which is desperate to get rid of the derlict site which it does not want left on its hands, should also be the planning authority giving permission. There seems to be a conflict of interest, and perhaps the Minister would like to say a word or two about it. The hon. Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) may be interested in the fact that one major sporting issue at present depends upon a planning application for a shopping development at Hampden. The Hampden sports development, which all of us want and which the Federation of International Football Associations and the Government will insist must be become an all-seated stadium in the near future, depends upon the lesser Hampden site being sold for a shopping development and planning permission being given. I thought that it would be worth putting that point on the record to see whether the Minister can give a response.

10.37 am

Mrs Ray Michie: (Argyll and Bute): As the hon. Minister for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr Maxton) said, I am puzzled about regulation 9 which exempts from fees an application for permission to consolidate existing mineral working permission. I am not sure what that means. Let me give an example. There is a beach in my constituency which has been subject to sand extraction over some years. Does it mean that the owner who extracts the sand periodically—it is not a continuous exercise—does not require planning permission each time he extracts more sand? Tralee beach in Benderloch is well-known, having been mentioned in national newspapers. It is a tremendous local and tourist asset, because it is the only beach in the area. A great deal of damage has been done by the continued extraction of sand, not only to the beach but to the crofters' common grazing, which has been undermined and some acres of which have been lost. To be fair, the crofters were paid compensation, but it in no way covered the permanent loss of the land for their beasts to graze on. Should the owner apply for planning permission every time he goes in further to destroy the beach? Is there any other way to stop that happening? The Countryside Commission and the coastal protection authorities have been approached, but it seems that we are powerless to keep this as a worth-while amenity for the environment and the tourist industry.

10.40 am

Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North): I wish to follow up what the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Mrs. Michie) about the importance of tourism. The Minister will be aware of the concern in my constituency about the extraction of barytes, which is an essential mineral for the development of the North sea fields and it is therefore important for it to be made available. However, my constituents are concerned that it should not be extracted in a way that disrupts an environmentally sensitive area, causes irreparable damage to the tourist industry because heavy vehicles use roads that were not designed for them or, alternatively, results in a bridge being constructed across the River Tay at a point where the local people are certain that it will cause flooding. In the light of recent events, I should have thought that one would be conscious of the problems of flooding in that part of the country. 6 Although I appreciate the fact that the Minister will have to be careful in what he says, because this is an on-going matter, it is important for it to be put on the record that the barytes could be transported over the top of the hills—that is what the original proposals were said to contain when exploratory drilling was done to find out whether barytes existed—and down on to the A9, which is the route that the locals would prefer.

10.41 am

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: I should like to respond to several points. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) about the importance of looking thoroughly at these matters. Dealing first with the points made by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton), the fees payable when the regional authority decides whether to grant an application are the same; there is in practice no difference. The hon. Gentleman raised the important point about a possible conflict of interest I made inquiries about the rules, particularly where a planning authority is considering an application for land that it owns but is about to sell. Special regulations apply if a planning authority proposes to carry out development on land that it owns. The development must be advertised and, if there are objections, they must be notified to my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for his consideration. Where a planning authority is not itself the developer, there are no special regulations but the authority is bound by the normal legal obligation to consider the application on its planning merits. If it can be shown that a planning authority has determined an application on the basis of considerations which are not material planning considerations, the courts are likely to overturn the decision. The hon. Member for Cathcart asked about the Hampden shopping development. The application is before the Secretary of State on appeal, therefore I am unable to comment on it at present. Regarding the size of fees for sand extraction—I have seen the area on Arran to which the hon. Gentleman referred—it is £32 for each 0·1 hectare of the site area, subject to a maximum of £4,800. The hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Mrs. Michie) was especially interested in the purpose of the order as regards mineral extractions. They relate particularly to provision for an exemption from a fee for applications to consolidate existing minerals working permission, which was introduced south of the border as a result of representations from English local authority associations. The purpose is to assist the desirable rationalisation of planning consents on old mineral sites which have grown by piecemeal extension over the years and to encourage operators to apply for consolidation of existing permissions who otherwise might have been inhibited from doing so because the application would attract a fee of up to the current maximum of £4,050 and £4,800 under the new scales. The answer is that it is encouragement for consolidation of planning permission rather than a person reapplying on every occasion. The hon. Lady asked whether, if the owner extracts sand only periodically, a new application is needed each time. We are aware of the controversy over Tralee bay. This complex case is a matter for the district council now, but I believe that the terms of the owner's consent enables him to go on extracting sand without having to apply each time. 7 I thank my hon. Friend for Tayside, North for what he said about barytes. I will read Hansard with great care and, if required, will write fully to him.

Question put and agreed to.


Resolved. That the Committee has considered the draft Town and Country Planning (Fees for Applications and Deemed Applications) (Scotland) Regulations 1990.

Committee rose at fifteen minutes to Eleven o'clock.


Rhodes James, Mr Robert (Chairman)

Canavan, Mr

Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James

Fallon, Mr.

Maxton, Mr.

Michie, Mrs. Ray

Monro, Sir Hector

Ridsdale, Sir Julian

Walker, Mr. Bill

Wilshire, Mr.