The MLC in charge of guiding new planning laws through further scrutiny says he only only took them on after the government’s original proposals had been changed.
The Town and Country Planning (Amendment) Bill has moved on to the Legislative Council for examination after the House of Keys amended it.
Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture member David Cretney has been passed the baton to take the Bill through the various scrutiny stages in the upper chamber.
He praised the work of MHKs to make amendments to the controversial Bill, which he said had ’significantly improved’ it.
He added: ’I would not have taken the bill in its previous form.’
He also urged the Council of Ministers to end 20 years of the government ignoring a provision to set up a consultative body for planning issues.
His comments come at a time when Environment Minister Geoffrey Boot has come under scrutiny for his approach to planning issues.
The new Bill, which will replace legislation dating back to 1999, introduces new powers for the Council of Ministers to issue ’national policy directives’ that could enable the government to override established planning policies when it was in the national interest. But MHKs added a number of amendments, following a lack of scrutiny for such measures in the original format of the bill.
The amendments were accepted by the government.
However a move to add substance to a planning law provision for a consultative body - a provision that is currently in place but has been roundly ignored by successive governments - was defeated.
The 1999 planning law called upon the Council of Ministers to set up a consultative body to obtain the views of organisations on matters relating to the environment, economy and planning and development.
But the body had never been set up in 20 years.
Mr Cretney commented that since the idea of the policy was first conceived, many years ago, there had been other improvements in the way that ’stakeholders’ could be involved in the planning process.
He added: ’The ability to have a consultative body remains, but it is discretionary.’
This allowed ’more flexibility in how the government involves stakeholders in policy matters to ensure we are able to fully understand their views without extra bureaucracy’.
But Mr Cretney, the longest-serving member of Tynwald, commented that the ’good sense’ of having such a body remained and he ’strongly’ encouraged the Council of Ministers to set one up.
Former planning committee member Marlene Maska expressed her disappointment that the mandatory element to the proposed consultative body - even though roundly ignored by successive governments since 1999 - had been watered down.
’The perception, I think, still would remain with those outside who have a special interest in our island environment that this is really letting down a certain sector of our public in that this power has existed since the 1999 Town and Country Planning Act,’ she said.
’It is so unfortunate that it has sat inactive for so long and all I can interpret is there has been no political will to do that.’
She rejected claims from the government there had been no interest from organisations in taking part in such a body and said she had seen correspondence from groups expressing an interest.
Ms Maska also commented that national policy directives would have to be used prudently and said she would not want to see them used by large developers as an ’opportunity to come in almost by the back door and used habitually for that kind of purpose’.
MLCs granted the bill a first reading.
It has several more stages of scrutiny, including an opportunity for MLCs to make amendments.