Consideration of Bill, as amended in the Public Bill Committee
New Clause 6
Compensation for temporary severance of land after vesting declaration
“In Schedule A1 to the Compulsory Purchase (Vesting Declarations) Act 1981 (counter-notice requiring purchase of land not in general vesting declaration), in paragraph 16, after sub-paragraph (3) insert—
“(4) If the vesting date for the specified land is after the vesting date for any land proposed to be acquired, the Upper Tribunal’s power to award compensation under section 7 of the Compulsory Purchase Act 1965 includes power to award compensation for any loss suffered by the owner by reason of the temporary severance of the land proposed to be acquired from the specified land.””—(Gavin Barwell.)
This amendment ensures that, when an acquiring authority is required to take more land than it had planned to take when it executed a general vesting declaration and the additional land vests in the authority after the land which it had planned to take, the Upper Tribunal may require it to pay compensation for the temporary severance of the land it had planned to take from the additional land.
Brought up, and read the First time.
I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:
New clause 3—Review of compulsory purchase—
“Before exercising his powers under section 35(1) the Secretary of State must carry out a review of the entire compulsory purchase order process.”
This amendment ensures that there is clarity on appeal routes, pre-completion and pre-occupation conditions.
New clause 12—Rates of interest and advance payments—
“Within 14 days of the Neighbourhood Planning Bill receiving Royal Assent the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and the Chancellor of the Exchequer must bring forward outstanding regulations relating to Clauses 192 to 198 of the Housing and Planning Act 2016 and Clauses 19 to 21 and 33 to 35 of the Neighbourhood Planning Bill.”
The Housing and Planning Act includes measures requiring further regulations in order to come into force. This new clause requires that, once the Neighbourhood Planning Bill receives Royal Assent, these regulations should be brought into force to ensure that all farmers, business owners and landowners benefit from the Government’s commitment to improve interest rates on late payments as soon as possible.
Amendment 26, in clause 15, page 14, line 12, leave out
“as well as, or instead of, compulsory acquisition”
“or compulsory acquisition, but not both”.
This amendment would ensure that where an acquiring authority seeks temporary possession rights it cannot at the same time also seek permanent possession rights. It would not stop the acquiring authority at a later date seeking permanent acquisition rights via a fresh compulsory purchase order should it be required to complete the project.
Government amendment 21.
Amendment 27, page 25, line 36, leave out clause 28.
This would remove changes which would prevent landowners who have land compulsorily purchased for a particular purpose seeking additional compensation should the land end up being used for a different purpose. It ensures that, where the original calculation of compensation that was paid did not take into account the possibility of the development that the land is now being used for, the claimant receives the correct level of compensation.
Government new clause 6 deals with the ability to claim compensation for temporary severance when a material detriment claim has been referred to the upper tribunal. This will arise when the acquiring authority has taken possession of the part of a claimant’s land that it wants before the tribunal has determined the claim, and the tribunal then decides that it must take more of the claimant’s land. The tribunal will be able to award compensation for any loss suffered by the claimant as a result of the temporary severance of their land while the matter is being determined.
A provision to ensure that the compensation is claimable is already contained in paragraph 28(5) of schedule 2A to the Compulsory Purchase Act 1965 when the acquiring authority is proceeding by notice to treat and notice of entry. The Housing and Planning Act 2016 should have included an equivalent provision in schedule A1 to the Compulsory Purchase (Vesting Declarations) Act 1981, but that was not spotted at the time, so new clause 6 fills the gap.
Government amendment 21 is a consequential amendment to the definition of “acquiring authority” in section 172 of the Housing and Planning Act 2016 on the power to enter land to survey it in connection with an acquisition proposal. The amendment aligns the definition of “acquiring authority” with that in clause 14, so that the power to enter and survey land can be used in connection with any proposal to take temporary possession of land under that clause. The new definition still works for authorities intending to acquire the land permanently. I commend the amendment to the House.
New clause 3 calls for a comprehensive review of the entire compulsory purchase order process. There was clear consensus among the witnesses at the Public Bill Committee evidence sessions that the current CPO system is not fit for purpose. It is convoluted and puts people off using it, which in turn has a negative impact on the delivery of development. Colin Cottage of the Compulsory Purchase Association commented:
“The existing system is not helpful for reaching quick solutions. In fact, in many ways it encourages people to be fighting with each other from the outset.”––[Official Report, Neighbourhood Planning Public Bill Committee, 18 October 2016; c. 64, Q114.]
He said that ultimately that causes uncertainty and additional cost. Richard Asher of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors said:
“I believe, and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors has always believed, that codification of the whole of the CPO rules, which go back to 1845 and are highly complex, would be a sensible way forward”.––[Official Report, Neighbourhood Planning Public Bill Committee, 18 October 2016; c. 64, Q113.]
He said that he wanted a review of the system as it stands. Labour strongly believes that the legislation should be updated to enable the greater use of CPOs as a tool to drive effective regeneration and development strategies and to work in partnership with developers to ensure that we get the new homes and development that we need.
More than 100 years of conflicting statute and case law makes up the current CPO legislation, so small changes will not have a significant effect. Indeed, in Committee the Minister reflected on the fact that the changes, welcome though they are, would not be a game changer. I therefore ask him why the Government continue to make small changes to the CPO system bit by bit, rather than bringing forward legislation to allow us to review it and make it fit for purpose.
I wish to speak to new clause 12 and amendments 26 and 27, which are in my name.
On new clause 12, both the Housing and Planning Act 2016 and the Bill contain welcome measures to make it clear that an acquiring authority should make payments of compensation in advance—that is the important bit—of taking possession of land. They also provide a mechanism for improving the rates of interest on late compensation payments, which is important because it will hopefully encourage acquiring authorities to pay in advance, and to pay a reasonable interest rate, rather than delaying payment.
Those measures require further regulations to bring them into force. As soon as the Bill becomes law, those regulations should be brought forward without delay to ensure that landowners and business owners benefit from the Government’s previous commitment to improve interest rates on late payments.
On amendment 26, I welcome the Bill’s provisions to allow acquiring authorities to take land on a temporary basis. That will provide much-needed flexibility within the compulsory purchase system and stop acquiring authorities having to take land on a permanent basis that is required only temporarily. However, they should not be allowed to take land on both those bases. If, having taken land on a temporary basis, an acquiring authority finds that it needs to take it on a permanent basis, that should be subject to a second notice to treat and a compulsory purchase procedure.
Finally, amendment 27 is the most important, in my view. It would remove clause 28, which repeals part 4 of the Land Compensation Act 1961. That repeal will prevent landowners who have had land compulsorily purchased for a particular purpose from seeking additional compensation should the land end up being used for a different, more lucrative development. I will briefly try to explain that to the House.
The general principle of compulsory purchase is that if someone’s land is being compulsorily acquired, they should be paid the same price as if that land were being acquired on a voluntary, willing-seller willing-buyer basis in the private commercial sector. Abolishing part 4 of the 1961 Act will mean that if the land subsequently has a different use—for example, if the planning zoning changes so that it suddenly becomes extremely valuable because it could be developed for housing or commercial purposes—the person having his land acquired will not get the benefit of that uplift. As a chartered surveyor—I declare that in my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests—if I were ever selling land that I felt was likely to have such an uplift, I would always insist on an overage clause being placed on the sale, not for 10 years but for 20 or 25 years. During that time the vendor would get 50% of the value of the uplift.
I say to my hon. Friend the Minister, loud and clear, that in clause 28 he is enabling acquiring authorities to acquire land on the cheap at the expense of private landowners, and I think that is unfair.
I am sure it was a very important and fascinating minute, Mr Deputy Speaker, particularly as the hon. Member for City of Durham (Dr Blackman-Woods) was speaking—I have great regard for her.
I support my hon. Friend the Member for The Cotswolds (Geoffrey Clifton-Brown) and the amendments in our names. We put them forward in an endeavour to be constructive. They reflect areas where the Government have taken valuable and worthwhile steps. New clause 12 is built on the fact that they rightly increased the rates of interest, but it is important that there is not a lacuna between the enabling legislation and the practical application of the regulations. The Minister might say, “There is another means whereby I can achieve the same objective as the new clause,” in which case my hon. Friend the Member for The Cotswolds and I will be perfectly happy, but it is important to flag that up, particularly because the Treasury has to deal with the regulations, although I could be wrong about that. We would not want anything to fall between the gaps and prevent the Government’s good intention from being delivered in practice.
We are putting the ball in the Government’s court in that regard. We have the commencement date for the relevant provisions. It seems to my hon. Friend and I that the regulation to implement them ought to follow at the time of commencement, or as close as practically possible thereto. That is what we are seeking to achieve, so that there is a smooth transition.
My hon. Friend rightly points out that the Government have agreed to the provisions, and therefore that Treasury approval has presumably been given because the measure will cost a certain amount of money. It would therefore be logical that, as soon as the Bill comes into force, the provisions should come into force. That is the strength of our joint proposals.
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. I could not put it better and need not say more on that aspect.
The key point on amendment 26 is that the word “certainty” is fashionable in the current political climate. Businesses want certainty about a number of things, and the proposal is another example. They may well have to make contingency arrangements to relocate all or part of their operations. It is obviously much better for them to know at the earliest stage what is to be acquired on a permanent basis and what is to be acquired on a temporary basis. If it is temporary, they can plan accordingly. Nothing stops the acquiring authority from coming back for a second bite of the cherry, but businesses—it need not be a large business, and could be a small or medium-sized enterprise or a family firm—would not be left in limbo about their long-term future.
My final point is on amendment 27, and the situation is as my hon. Friend rightly says. I respect his professional expertise as a surveyor, and my experience as a lawyer leads me to the same conclusion. My experience in the local government world leads me to expect that of any local authority. My local authority is active and has a good investment fund in property in Bromley. If we acquire by private treaty, we expect to enter into overage payments. It would be the norm. We are seeking to address an equality-of-arms argument.
I understand the point the hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for The Cotswolds (Geoffrey Clifton-Brown) are making, but are they talking about a one-way ratchet? If the “different purpose” helpfully referred to in the Member’s explanatory note to amendment 27 meant that the land was worth less than the original purpose, would the landowner get a lower compensation, or is it a one-way ratchet?
It is a one-way ratchet because it is designed to prevent somebody in a monopoly bargaining position from putting unfair pressure on the owner. If somebody has compulsory acquisition powers, they are not obliged to go through the free bargaining process. That is why the ratchet deliberately goes in that direction. It would prevent what I hope responsible acquiring authorities would not generally do. However, there is a risk that instead of using compulsory acquisition as a last resort, which is what we all want, acquiring authorities have a perverse incentive to say, “We will use the compulsory powers early on in the process, because otherwise, if we acquire by private treaty, we might be forced into an overage.” We would not want that where the powers or the agencies of the state are potentially bearing down on individuals or small businesses. That is the thinking behind the amendments and new clauses.
I was in at the beginning. I have come because this an important subject and I want to support my colleagues in saying that where land is being compulsorily acquired, the aim should be to ensure that the owner gets the open market value that they would have got had they been a voluntary seller in the private sector market without the distortion of the public sector purchaser. As my hon. Friend the Member for The Cotswolds (Geoffrey Clifton-Brown) indicated, that surely means that if there is hope value in the land, it should be included in the price. It might be possible to take care of hope value with an overage, or it might be that we can express a capital value of the hope value and clean the whole thing up in one go. Either way, it needs to be sorted out, and I hope that will be confirmed by the Minister. I believe that that is the intention.
As to the Opposition argument, I think that sometimes the best is the enemy of the good. We already have 17 pages of additional legislation on compulsory purchase, and if the Opposition thought that something needed fixing or improving, this was their opportunity to table amendments to do so. The new clause is the Government’s best fix for the current legislation. I think we can do it by means of amendment to existing law. We need not redesign the whole thing. A redesign could create added hazards and complexities and bring scope for mistakes.
The right hon. Gentleman will be aware of the Housing and Planning Act 2016. This is the second time that this issue has come before the House, so the idea that we do not want additional legislation or the review process proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for City of Durham (Dr Blackman-Woods) looks a bit thin, given that this is our second bite of the cherry in primary legislation.
I think we have agreement. I am saying that this is a process of continuous review and incremental improvement. The Opposition are entitled to join in—this Bill was another opportunity for them to do so—although I am pleased that we have been spared a complete rewrite of the whole legislation, as that might not have produced extra advantages and would have brought with it all sorts of hazards. I support the Government in what I assume will be their wish not to proceed with new clause 3.
This has been a short debate on a technical but important area of the Bill that cuts to the core of our belief in this country in the importance of people’s property rights and the rightly very clear restrictions we place on the circumstances in which the state can compulsorily acquire people’s property.
I will start by responding to the official Opposition’s new clause 3. The hon. Member for City of Durham (Dr Blackman-Woods) explained to the House why she believed there should be a fundamental review of compulsory purchase law. A similar new clause was debated in Committee. She also made this point in the debate last week on the affirmative regulations arising from the Housing and Planning Act 2016. I suspect that compulsory purchase is one area on which it is easier to agree on the need for fundamental reform than on what that fundamental reform should be. She is right that most of the people who gave evidence to the Committee, while supporting what the Government were doing, believed that there was the potential for more far- reaching reform, but there was no consensus on what it should be.
The Law Commission looked at this issue, and what the Government did in the Housing and Planning Act, and what we are doing in the Bill, reflected its conclusions. It came up not with a complete rewrite of the law, but with a focused set of reforms. To come to the point raised by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton South West (Rob Marris), the reason we are coming back to this is that when we consulted on the previous legislation, people raised some fresh points around which there was a consensus, and that is why the Government have proceeded.
Let us see what impact the reforms in the 2016 Act, which are only just being implemented, and the reforms in the Bill will have. I hope that they will make it easier for people to use compulsory purchase when it is necessary to do so, and make the process a simpler and clearer one. We will then be in a better position to consider whether any further reform is necessary.
I am happy to confirm to the hon. Member for City of Durham, as I have said to her before, that if there was a growing consensus about a specific package of more wide-ranging reform, the Government would look at it, as we have proved we will do in respect of the 2016 Act and this Bill. What I do not want to do, however, is to write into legislation a statutory requirement to conduct a review. My experience on inheriting the 2016 Act is that it is full of requirements for the Government to review this and that, but I want my officials focused on the fundamental issue of how to get this country to build the homes that we desperately need, not on conducting endless reviews.
It is worth putting on record that the Opposition amendment would prevent the Secretary of State from commencing the provisions in the Bill—we all agree that they are an improvement—until we had conducted the review. The Secretary of State and I are of one mind that what we need in this area of policy is to get on with things and not have further delay. Although I am sympathetic to the view of the hon. Member for City of Durham that if a consensus for a more radical review develops over time, we should look at it, I urge her to withdraw new clause 3.
Three amendments were tabled by my hon. Friends the Members for The Cotswolds (Geoffrey Clifton-Brown) and for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill). Let me begin by reassuring my near neighbour and hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst that he did not miss much at all in the first minute of the debate. He missed me trying to explain two very technical amendments, so he will probably consider that time well saved. I have had the opportunity to meet both my hon. Friends to discuss these issues, and I am grateful to both of them for the time they took to raise their concerns with me. I hope that I can offer at least partial reassurance on the points that their amendments were designed to raise.
In new clause 12, my hon. Friends sought to obtain a commitment on when the Government will make regulations in three areas of the reformed compulsory purchase regime. The most pressing, it was clear, are the regulations to impose a penal rate of interest on late payments for advance payments of compensation for compulsory acquisition. Allied to these are the powers to make regulations prescribing claim forms for compulsory purchase compensation and advance payments for compensation. Those powers are contained in sections 192 and 194 of the 2016 Act.
My hon. Friends also asked, understandably, when the regulations setting the rates of interest for outstanding payments of compensation and late payments for advance payments of compensation for temporary possession of land under clauses 19 to 21 will be made. I shall outline to my hon. Friend the Member for The Cotswolds and the House what we have to do to make these things happen.
I shall deal first with late payments and advanced payments of compensation for compulsory acquisition. The power for the Treasury to make regulations to set the interest rate is contained within section 196 of the Housing and Planning Act 2016. The provisions in that section are, however, being amended by clauses 34 and 35. Once the Bill receives Royal Assent, subject to the will of this House and the other place, we shall commence clauses 34 and 35 as soon as possible, together with section 196 of the 2016 Act. My colleagues in the Treasury will arrange for the regulations setting the penal rate of interest on late payments of advance payments to come into force alongside the substantive provisions.
We shall commence the other substantive provisions on compensation and advance payments in sections 192 to 198 of the 2016 Act and clause 33 of this Bill on the same day. Clearly, I cannot predict precisely when that day will be, because it depends on the passing of this Bill, but I am happy to put on record that I recognise the extreme importance for those whose land is being taken that advance payments are made on time so that they can make alternative arrangements. The Government are therefore committed to bringing these provisions into force as soon as they are able to do so.
On the powers in sections 192 and 194 of the 2016 Act, the Government do not intend to make regulations to prescribe claim forms immediately. We intend to start with non-statutory forms in guidance, which will allow them to be easily amended in the light of initial experience. If they are a success, there would not be a need to legislate. I am sure hon. Members would agree that we should legislate only when there is a clear need to do so.
Finally, on the rates of interest for temporary possession, the commencement strategy for the new temporary possession regime is still in its infancy. I can say, however, that there should be no difficulty in bringing the interest rate regulations into force at the same time as the commencement of the substantive provision. I hope that that has reassured my hon. Friend the Member for The Cotswolds.
My hon. Friend is nodding, and I hope he will therefore withdraw new clause 12.
My hon. Friend went on to raise one of the more difficult points in the new temporary possession regime. As he said, amendment 26 would permit either temporary possession or permanent acquisition of a particular parcel of land, but not both at the same time. A balance has to be struck between certainty for the landowner—he made that point very powerfully—and flexibility for acquiring authorities who are tasked with providing what is often vital national infrastructure.
For linear transport schemes, it is not always possible to determine the precise line of a route at the time of taking compulsory powers. The final details might not be confirmed until a late stage. The acquiring authority must always work within the lines of the limits of deviation, but it will often be necessary to occupy much of the land temporarily in order to construct the scheme, but only take permanent possession of the land that is actually built on. Where this is required, clause 15(3) currently provides flexibility for an authorising instrument to authorise temporary possession of land needed for carrying out construction works, as well as compulsory acquisition of the land needed permanently for the actual scheme, although clause 15(3) does not of course enable temporary possession or compulsory acquisition of the same land at the same time.
On the other hand, I would not wish, for the reasons my hon. Friend so eloquently set out, to give carte blanche to lazy acquiring authorities who cannot make up their minds early enough about what land they need on a permanent basis and what land they need temporarily just to carry out the scheme. I hope it will satisfy him if I say that I propose to issue guidance on what an acquiring authority would have to demonstrate before the confirming authority, which would be the relevant Secretary of State, confirmed an order that attempted to authorise both temporary and permanent acquisition of the same land. With that reassurance, I hope my hon. Friend will withdraw his amendment.
Finally, amendment 27 seeks to ensure that part IV of the Land Compensation Act 1961 would remain in force. The majority of those who responded to the Government consultation on further reform of the compulsory purchase order system in March 2016 were in favour of repeal of part IV, as was the Law Commission. I reassure my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (John Redwood), that compensation under the ordinary rules already reflects the full market value of the land at the valuation date with all its present and future potential, including any hope value for future development—a point he made very forcefully.
The balance has moved more in favour of repeal since the reform of the planning assumptions for compensation in the Localism Act 2011, as these specifically take the conditions as known to the market at the time into account. I accept however that the arguments for and against repeal are finely balanced. In favour of repealing part IV is the argument that it introduces an element of uncertainty and unknown risk about liability for compensation for the acquiring authority, which leads to increased cost for the public sector, for example often through insurance premiums. The Government believe that repeal of part IV will reduce the risk and uncertainty, while maintaining the principle of fair compensation.
My hon. Friends the Members for The Cotswolds and for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill) have argued passionately that the repeal of part IV would create uncertainty for claimants. Under part IV, a claimant is treated as though they have retained their investment and interest in the acquired land so that they can benefit from any increase in value generated by a subsequent planning permission. My hon. Friends argued that that reflects commercial practice in that overage clauses are routinely included in land transactions.
The perceived clash between commercial practice and the compensation rules might be reconciled if after the repeal of part IV, landowners pressed for overage clauses when negotiating with acquiring authorities over the sale of their land. That might enable deals by agreement to be struck without recourse to compulsory purchase. That is what all of us should aspire to: that acquiring authorities agree deals voluntarily with those who own land.
I am happy to look at that. I was just about say that the Government are not at present wholly persuaded by the arguments of my hon. Friends the Members for Bromley and Chislehurst and for The Cotswolds, so I ask them not to press their amendments on this occasion. As I said, however, the arguments are finely balanced and I look forward to them being explored further in the other place. I am certainly happy to reflect on whether we could strengthen the guidance for acquiring authorities to seek to achieve normal commercial deals in the way that my hon. Friends have described.
When the Minister drafts that guidance, he may like to include the obvious point that if those whose land is subject to compulsory purchase can reach a voluntary agreement, it will probably speed up the compensation and reduce the legal costs. There is something in it for both parties if the local authority has goodwill towards landowners. Some of our local authorities have such goodwill, but others do not. That is what the guidance must address.
My right hon. Friend makes a perfect point on which to end this section of the debate. The point is that compulsory purchase should be a last resort. We should encourage all acquiring authorities to seek to secure land that is needed for major infrastructure projects or redevelopment schemes on commercial terms, which is quicker and cheaper and avoids all the legal costs, as he said. What we are legislating for here should be a last resort for when it is overwhelmingly in the public interest and necessary to acquire sites in order to allow projects to go ahead. With that, I hope that hon. Members will not press their amendments and that we can proceed to the next part of the Bill.
Question put and agreed to.
New clause 6 accordingly read a Second time, and added to the Bill.
New Clause 1
Guidance on clustering of betting offices and pay day loan shops
“(1) Before exercising his powers under section 36(1) the Secretary of State must issue guidance to local authorities on the granting of planning for permission change of use to betting offices and pay day loan shops.
(2) This guidance must set out the manner in which policies in neighbourhood plans and local plans about the number, density and impact of betting offices and pay day loan shops shall be taken into account when determining applications for change of use, to prevent a deleterious effect on the neighbourhood or local area.”—(Graham Jones.)
Brought up, and read the First time.
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:
New clause 2—Planning Applications: award of costs—
“(1) Where a planning application for development meets the terms of subsection (2), and is—
(a) refused by a local authority, or
(b) an appeal under section 78 of the TCPA 1990 which is dismissed,
the planning authority may apply to the Secretary of State for an award of costs to reimburse the expenses incurred by individuals who submitted objections to the unsuccessful application or appeal.
(2) A planning authority may only use this power if the following conditions are met—
(a) the unsuccessful application or appeal concerned a new commercial or residential development; and
(b) the application or appeal was unsuccessful, at least in part, due to its incompatibility with the relevant approved neighbourhood development plan.”
New clause 4—Sustainable development and placemaking—
“(1) The Secretary of State must issue guidance setting out how the principles of sustainable development and placemaking can be—
(a) reflected in neighbourhood development plans;
(b) used by local authorities to support neighbourhood planning.
(2) “Sustainable development and placemaking” means managing the use, development and protection of land and natural resources in a way which enables people and communities to provide for their legitimate social, economic and cultural wellbeing while sustaining the potential of future generations to meet their own needs.
(3) To support this aim local planning authorities should—
(a) identify suitable land for development in line with the economic, social and environmental objectives so as to improve the quality of life, wellbeing and health of people and the community;
(b) contribute to the sustainable economic development of the community;
(c) contribute to the vibrant cultural and artistic development of the community;
(d) protect and enhance the natural and historic environment;
(e) contribute to mitigation and adaptation to climate change in line with the objectives of the Climate Change Act 2008;
(f) promote high quality and inclusive design;
(g) ensure that decision-making is open, transparent, participative and accountable; and
(h) ensure that assets are managed for long-term interest of the community.”
This new clause would clarify in statute that neighbourhood planning should be focused on the public interest and in achieving quality outcomes including placemaking.
New clause 5—Neighbourhood Planning: Payments to support production of plans—
“(1) Where a parish is designated as a neighbourhood area under the Neighbourhood Planning (General) Regulations 2012, and where the parish council agrees to forego some or all of the relevant Community Infrastructure Ley Monies, the Local Planning Authority may make available the amounts foregone to support the parish council in the production of a Neighbourhood Plan or a Neighbourhood Development Order.
(2) For the purposes of subsection (1) the relevant Community Infrastructure Levy Monies are those that will be payable to the Local Planning Authority under Regulation 8 of the CIL (Amendment) Regulations 2013 if the Neighbourhood Plan or Neighbourhood Development Order, when made—
(a) provides for the number of houses specified for development in that neighbourhood area under the relevant Local Plan, and
(b) those houses are built.”
This amendment would require Local Planning Authorities to make advances available to parish councils to support the production of Neighbourhood Plan or a Neighbourhood Development Order. The advances will equal the amount of income that the parish council agrees to forego out of the CIL revenues that would otherwise be paid to them by the Local Planning Authority once the housing specified in the Plan or Order is built.
New clause 7—Planning decisions: involvement of neighbourhood planning bodies—
“In place of section 75ZB of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (as inserted by section 156 of the Housing and Planning Act 2016) insert—
“75ZB Responsibilities of decision-makers in respect of Neighbourhood Development Plans in the exercise of planning functions
(1) In considering whether to grant planning permission or permission in principle for development which affects land all or part of which is included within the area covered by a made or emerging Neighbourhood Development Plan, the local planning authority must—
(a) have regard to the desirability of upholding the policies and proposals contained in the Neighbourhood Development Plan;
(b) send a copy of the application to the relevant neighbourhood planning body;
(c) allow the relevant neighbourhood planning body a period of 21 days from receipt of the application to make recommendations about how the application should be determined; and
(d) take into account any recommendations made under paragraph (c).
(2) Where a neighbourhood planning body recommended against the application, under subsection (1), and the following conditions are met, the local planning authority may not approve the application without first consulting with the Secretary of State.
(3) The conditions mentioned in subsection (2) are—
(a) the development is not classed as a householder development;
(b) the development is not on a site identified for the proposed development in the relevant neighbourhood development plan.
(4) Consultations with the Secretary of State under subsection (2) must follow the procedures set out in provisions 10 to 12 of the Town & Country Planning (Consultation) (England) Direction 2009.
(5) In this section—
“emerging Neighbourhood Development Plan” means a Neighbourhood Development Plan that has been examined, is being examined, or is due to be examined, having met the public consultation requirements necessary to proceed to this stage.
“householder development” means proposals to alter or enlarge a single house, including works within the curtilage (boundary/garden) of the house.
“neighbourhood planning body” means a town or parish council or neighbourhood forum, as defined in section 61F of the 1990 Act (authorisation to act in relation to neighbourhood areas).””
This new clause would require planning authorities to consult neighbourhood planning bodies on decisions to grant planning permission. Where a planning authority wants to approve a major development against the wishes of a neighbourhood planning body, the planning authority will be required to consult the Secretary of State before granting permission.
New clause 8—Delivery of housing development—
“After section 74 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 insert—
“74A Delivery of housing development
(1) The Secretary of State may make provision, by a development order, for regulating the manner in which applications for planning permission for housing development are to be determined by local planning authorities with regard to the assessment of a five year supply of housing land.
(2) A development order issued under subsection (1) may in particular—
(a) define a methodology to be used by local planning authorities to assess a deliverable five-year supply of housing land, including confirmation of types of sites that may be included;
(b) specify the minimum period of time after which, if a local authority has not demonstrated a five-year supply of housing land, the presumption in favour of sustainable development should be applied in accordance with paragraph 49 of the National Planning Policy Framework;
(c) set out the desirability of upholding policies and proposals of made or emerging neighbourhood plans, where these are positive towards housing development, notwithstanding any lack of a five-year supply of housing land in the local authority area in which the neighbourhood plan is wholly or partly situated.
(3) In this section “five year supply of housing land” means specified deliverable sites identified as sufficient to provide five years’ worth of housing against the area’s housing requirements (see paragraph 47 of the National Planning Policy Framework).””
The proposal would empower the Secretary of State to issue a development order to: clarify the means by which housing land supply is assessed; define the minimum amount of time before a local planning authority’s failure to meet its housing targets results in its local plan being “out of date”; and specify that neighbourhood plans should be taken into account notwithstanding the lack of a five-year supply of housing land.
Amendment 1, in clause 1, page 2, line 3, at end insert—
“(c) it has been examined by an independent examiner who is registered with the Royal Town Planning Institute.”
This amendment ensures that the examination of a neighbourhood plan is conducted by an RTPI registered examiner.
Amendment 2, in clause 2, page 2, line 19, at end insert—
“(3C) To support Neighbourhood Plans, the Secretary of State should set out the weight that should be given to approved neighbourhood development plans at key stages in the planning process.”
This amendment gives weight to the Neighbourhood Plans at key stages along the process and not just at the post- referendum stage.
Amendment 3, in clause 3, page 2, line 28, at end insert
“after consultation with the local area involved.”
This amendment ensure that any changes to a neighbourhood development order or plan are first subject to consultation with the local area involved.
Amendment 4, in clause 4, page 4, line 7, at end insert
“providing that the subsequent area is not smaller than a parish or town council area or local authority ward.”
This amendment ensures that the size of a neighbourhood area is not smaller than a parish or town council area or local authority ward.
Amendment 7, in clause 5, page 5, line 10, at end insert—
“(c) reasonable payments made by local authorities for the purpose set out in paragraph (a) and (b) shall be recovered from the Secretary of State’s department.”
This amendment allows for the full recovery of costs of assisting with the development of a neighbourhood plan to be recovered to the local authority.
Amendment 5, page 5, line 11, at end insert—
“(2BA) Such statements of community involvement must include a right for members of the community to make representations.”
This amendment would give local people and communities a statutory “right to be heard”.
Amendment 6, page 5, line 11, at end insert—
“(2BA) Such statements of community involvement shall include measures to enable local parish councils to be set up in a streamlined and speedy manner.”
This amendment would make it easier for new parish and town councils to be formed.
Amendment 8, page 5, line 21, after subsection (3) insert—
“(4) Section 120 of the Localism Act 2011 (Financial assistance in relation to neighbourhood planning) is amended as follows—
(a) at the end of subsection (2)(a) leave out “, and” and insert “subject to the condition that such assistance is prioritised for bodies or persons in deprived communities, and”,
(b) after subsection (3)(b), insert—
“(ba) a deprived community is defined as being any area which is among the 20 per cent most deprived Lower Layer Super Output Areas according to the most recently published English Indices of Deprivation,
(bb) prioritised financial assistance is defined to mean that no less than 50 per cent of the total value of the financial assistance provided under this section is provided to deprived communities.””
This amendment would require the Secretary of State to prioritise deprived communities when making available financial assistance to support the development of neighbourhood plans.
Amendment 23, page 5, line 21, at end insert—
“(4) To support Neighbourhood Plans, all councils should have a Local Development Plan in place by December 2017.”
This amendment ensures that Local Plans are in place so Neighbourhood Plans can be made in line with the strategic aims of Local Plans.
Amendment 24, in clause 6, page 5, line 26, at end insert
“which must consider the current and future housing needs of the whole population including older and disabled people”.
Amendment 25, page 6, line 7, after “strategy” insert
“which must consider the current and future housing needs of the whole population including older and disabled people”.
Amendment 28, page 6, line 21, at end insert—
“(3) In section 70 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 ((determination of applications for planning permission: general considerations) after subsection (4) insert—
(5) No grant or other financial assistance shall be payable by the Secretary of State in connection with development of land in the circumstances set out in subsection (6) below.
(6) The circumstances are where a development plan document includes any of the following policies—
(a) the removal of the Green Belt designation from land in order to accommodate 10 or more dwellings;
(b) the designation of land that falls within a designated National Park, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, or Site of Special Scientific Interest to allow major housing development;
(c) the designation of land that falls within a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest to allow major housing development.
(7) The Secretary of State must by regulation set out—
(a) what constitutes “major” development for the purposes of subsection (6) (c); and
(b) any exceptions to subsection (5).””
This amendment would have the effect of preventing the Government from making payments under the New Homes Bonus scheme for developments proposed in development plan documents on land (i) where the Green Belt boundary had been redrawn or (ii) within a National Park or Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, where a development is considered to be “major”. The amendment also allows the Secretary of State to set out exceptions to this provision within policies or guidance, which would include the NPPF.
Amendment 10, in clause 10, page 10, line 19, at end insert—
“(c) they must set out a timetable to review the need for technical documents.”
Government amendments 17 to 19.
Amendment 29, in clause 11, page 10, line 35, at end insert—
“(4) Such Statements of Community Involvement must outline—
(a) the links between Neighbourhood Plans and Local Plans; and
(b) consultation arrangements for Parish and Town Councils in the drawing up of Local Plans.”
This amendment outlines the relationship between local and neighbourhood plans and the role parish and town councils would play in their development.
Government amendment 22.
Amendment 9, in schedule 2, page 42, line 15, at end insert
“must consult the relevant lower-tier planning authority.”
This amendment ensures that district councils are consulted before a county council writes a local plan for their area.
I want to speak to new clause 1, tabled in my name and those of many hon. Members from across the House, and planning guidance on the clustering of betting offices and payday lenders. Fixed odds betting terminals have been described as the crack cocaine of gambling and plague our high streets. Members have witnessed innumerable issues following the explosive growth in betting shops on their constituency’s high streets. Given the number, clustering and impact of betting shops, it is high time that there was clarity in planning law on this significant problem, which my moderate new clause seeks to address.
Research by the Local Government Association reveals a clear correlation between high-density betting shop clustering and problem gambling. Betting shop loyalty cards show that 28% of people living within 400 metres of betting shop clusters are problem gamblers, compared with 22% of those who do not live near a cluster. Research from the Institute for Public Policy Research shows that problem gambling, exacerbated by clustering, costs secondary mental health services and the taxpayer £100 million a year. Further academic research has revealed that clustering disproportionately affects vulnerable communities. The poorest 55 boroughs have more than twice as many betting shops compared with the most affluent 115 boroughs. There has been an adverse impact on our high streets. Those findings were summed up by Mary Portas, who said that
“the influx of betting shops, often in more deprived areas, is blighting our high streets”.
I remind some Members who might disagree that the Portas review was set up by Conservative Members when they were in the coalition Government, in the previous Parliament.
To date, deficiencies in the legislative framework have hampered efforts to address the effects of clustering on local communities. We have only to walk down any high street in a deprived area to see clusters of payday lenders and betting shops, which are affecting the vitality of our high streets.
I support my hon. Friend’s excellent proposal. He, like me, will be aware that for some people gambling is an addiction. This House has repeatedly passed measures in relation to addiction to alcohol and tobacco to restrict the availability of those legal products. Surely, that is all he is seeking to do here: place restrictions, through guidance, on the availability of a legal product, to cut down on its availability and lessen its attraction to addicts.
I presume the hon. Gentleman has done an impact survey and a geographical study of the number of alcoholics and whether they live near pubs and of the number of people who may be obese because they live near takeaways, but he did not offer that information, so I presume that he has no argument and is just trying to make an invalid point. [Interruption.] Caring about this issue is caring about the people who go into these bookmakers and get caught by these FOBTs, because there are clusters and these things are attractive. We also have to look at the impact on the viability of our high streets, on communities and on other retailers.
Absolutely, we should be. A societal concern about this issue is about licensing, where we have the review, but this debate is about planning, because it is about clustering. That issue is separate from licensing and whether we have a limit of £2 instead of £100, or whatever the Government’s review decides. Licensing is one aspect, but today we are here to discuss the completely different issue of the impact of clustering and density and the planning provisions, or the lack of them, in legislation that allow significant clustering on our high streets. We have all read about the situation in Newham, where bookmakers face bookmakers of the same franchise.
The right hon. Gentleman makes my point for me; he shows why this is a modest proposal, as it asks the Secretary of State to make that designation. It is not for the Opposition or for me to prescribe this, but for the Secretary of State to provide that clear guidance to local authorities. I thank the right hon. Gentleman for making his point, because he, along with his Conservative colleagues in government, will be able to decide what the density, impact and clustering should be. I hope that he joins me in the Lobby when this is pressed to a vote.
The issue is not whether the number of betting shops is going up or down, but whether ordinary people are affected by the consequences of this product. If there are 1 million smokers now but 999,999 tomorrow, the number is going down, but still, as Philip Morris said this week, this is a disease. No matter whether the number is going down or up, the people who are affected should be our primary concern.
We are discussing a planning issue, and no doubt my hon. Friend will be aware that the density is decreasing in some neighbourhoods, whereas it is increasing in others. That is precisely the sort of thing that the new clause and the pursuant guidance would address.
I commend the hon. Gentleman for speaking quite a bit of sense. I do not often disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies), but he is wrong on a few occasions. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the key issue is the proliferation of fixed odds betting terminals and not betting shops per se? It is quite in order for local planning authorities to bring forward supplementary planning documents to address specific issues such as antisocial behaviour; it is normal in planning law.
The hon. Gentleman is talking about the licensing aspect and the planning aspect. The answer is both. What we want is licensing. The Government are reviewing that and the number of fixed odds betting terminals in a bookmakers. I do not want to prejudice the outcome of that review or the Government’s decision. What we are talking about is the failure of the planning system, because we are dealing with planning in the Bill. The straight answer to the hon. Gentleman, with whom I am familiar, is that it is both. It is not one or the other. It is licensing and planning.
Too often, it seems that neither central Government nor local government have the capacity or the will to take responsibility in planning law for the proliferation and concentration of betting offices and payday loan shops on the high street. I want to stress here that new clause 1 is also about payday lenders. The current planning legislation is very weak at best. Any Member knows from looking down their high street and speaking to their councillors that planning law is weak on this issue, so local councillors on planning committees often err on the side of caution and grant permission to bookmakers, because their budgets are under pressure and they do not want to lose appeals. Therefore, there is a secondary reason why clarity is really important—why the law must be tightened up.
Despite the protestations of the Government and the hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies), article 4, which is often used by the Government as a reason in law to assist local authorities in dealing with this matter, is totally fallacious and unhelpful. Local authorities do not use it. It is not the tool that the Government say that it is. It is completely counterproductive, because it just adds to the confusion of local authority members on planning committees. They are unsure about the law and whether they can act, which is why they often grant planning permission for bookmakers.
In theory, a direction under article 4 can require bookmakers to seek planning permission, but in practice, a direction must be justified according to the strict criteria, can be overturned by the Government and is likely to be legally challenged. Its cost and complexity mean that councils are unwilling to utilise such measures. Not many local authorities use article 4. I have not made a freedom of information request recently, but when I speak to Local Government Association members and local authorities, no one tells me that they find this aspect of the law suitable for the purpose for which it was designed.
Absolutely. That returns to the point that I have just made, which is that we need clarity. The new clause is an opportunity to bring clarity. It is not about the Opposition trying to be prescriptive. If Members read new clause 1, they will see that it asks the Government to come forward with what they think is reasonable. It just clarifies the law and takes up the point that we do not have clarity now. It will bring clarity, so the consequences on planning committees in making decisions and compensation claims are there for all to see. That is why the LGA, the all-party group on fixed odds betting terminals and local authorities have all demanded a clearer framework for granting planning permission to these types of development, so avoiding the problem of clustering. The new clause does exactly that, and I intend to press it to a vote.
By setting out guidelines that lay down parameters for quantity, density and the impact of those businesses on the high street, central Government will assist local authorities in their efforts to ensure that proposals for new developments are approved on public interest grounds. Accordingly, this cross-party proposal seeks to address these concerns by injecting greater accountability and responsibility into planning considerations.
I am still trying to learn how the measure would work. Is there a danger that, if it were adopted, there would be more betting shops in other communities that currently do not have them, because there would be a spread-out effect and more people would have easier access to betting shops?
I welcome the opportunity to talk about neighbourhood planning, not betting shops. I shall speak to new clauses 7 and 8, which attempt to deal with the problem of undermining a very good policy that the Government have pioneered. The good policy is that of neighbourhood planning, which embodies the spirit of localism by giving local communities control over where development takes place. People are empowered to take responsible decisions about development. It changes the terms of the conversation from communities resisting the imposition of development to one where communities ask themselves what they want in their area. Where communities have taken neighbourhood plans forward, they have produced more housing than was anticipated in local plans. Neighbourhood plans are therefore not a means by which development can be resisted. Rather, they ensure that communities have a proper say in where development should go.
The basis on which communities have been encouraged to embark on neighbourhood plans is that for a period of 15 years they will be able to allocate sites where development will take place, and sites where development will definitely not take place and which will be protected green spaces. Many hon. Members, including me, appeared before our local parish or town councils and encouraged them to take forward neighbourhood plans on the basis that they would be protecting themselves from future development if they did so.
These neighbourhood plans are a very good thing, but they are immensely burdensome on local communities. It is volunteers who draw up the plans, and the process takes years. We are probably making it unnecessarily complex, with much inspection of the plans; they have to go through many hoops. The responsible volunteers who sit on the neighbourhood planning committees to draw up the plans often face a great deal of criticism from parts of their community that may not want development on sites whose suitability the committees have to assess. The individuals concerned put a great deal of time and effort into the plans.
West Sussex was one of the earliest counties to produce neighbourhood plans. When they were submitted to referendum, support for the plans was very high among the local communities. One of the thorniest questions in planning is what happens when communities are confronted with development that they really do not want. We embarked on the policy of neighbourhood plans with confidence that they may be a means of settling that question in a way that produced local housing in the area. One small village in my constituency, Kirdford, has only 120 houses at its centre. People there actually produced a neighbourhood plan for another 50 houses—a very big number of additional houses—because that was what they wanted, and they wanted that housing to be affordable and for local people.
So, turning around the incentives is a policy that works, but what has happened subsequently is a matter of considerable concern to those who have embarked on these plans and to many hon. Members on both sides of the House, because the plans have unexpectedly been undermined by speculative developers in two ways. First, even when a plan is made—in other words, when it has gained approval in a referendum—the local authority may not have a five-year land supply. As a consequence, a planning permission is allowed that goes against what is provided for in the neighbourhood plan. It is allowed either by the local authority, which is fearful of an appeal by the developer, or on appeal. If there is not a five-year land supply, that is held against the neighbourhood plan, and that has, in some cases, allowed development to go through, even where local communities thought they were protecting their area.
Reading new clauses 7 and 8 carefully, I am not sure they cover the situation to which the right hon. Gentleman has adverted. Briefly, in the Tettenhall area of my constituency, the local neighbourhood plan had a more than 50% turnout on a referendum in July 2014; the local neighbourhood plan goes through; there is then an application for a site called the Clock House; the local authority refuses planning permission; the case goes to the Planning Inspectorate in Bristol, which, in a 17-page decision, makes two brief references to the neighbourhood plan—and allows the appeal. Can the right hon. Gentleman assure me that new clauses 7 and 8 would deal with the local neighbourhood plan being overturned by the Planning Inspectorate in contradistinction to the planning authority—in this case, Wolverhampton City Council, which refused the application?
It may be a weakness in these new clauses that they may not deal with a situation where the Planning Inspectorate takes such a decision. I will not be tempted down a line I have pursued in the past, which is to question whether we should have a Planning Inspectorate at all under the provisions of localism; indeed, one Conservative manifesto promise was to abolish the power of the Planning Inspectorate to rewrite local plans, but we seem to have lost sight of that.
I am very glad to be pushed into a more moderate and Conservative position on this issue than the one I previously took. What I am focused on is ensuring that the Planning Inspectorate takes the right decisions should such developments be called in, and, more particularly, that local authorities take the right decisions in the first place. We should be minimising the number of appeals that have to go to the Planning Inspectorate because a wrong decision is made or because a decision appears to be in breach of national policy, and that means getting the national policy right. My contention is that national policy should give primacy to made neighbourhood plans, because these have been approved in local referendums.
Has my right hon. Friend also come across cases, which I am now seeing, where the local plan clearly has a five-year supply of land, but because it is concentrated in a major settlement—to concentrate the infrastructure and the development gain—an appeal can still be lost in another village, which naturally wants to protect itself because the development the local community agreed to was going to be concentrated in a new settlement?
Yes, my right hon. Friend makes the point very well.
The first way in which neighbourhood plans can be vulnerable to speculative development—even when it was thought that they would protect areas—is when there is not a sufficient five-year land supply in the local authority. The problem with that is that the five-year supply is not always properly in the hands of the local authority, but depends on the ability and willingness of local developers to build. Developers are undoubtedly gaming the system so as to secure speculative development applications and planning permissions, in a way that is deeply cynical and that is undermining the principles of localism and community control.
My right hon. Friend is very good to give way on this matter. Does he agree that in mid-Sussex, which he and I both represent, we have seen some extraordinarily unscrupulous behaviour by the house builders, who have been gaming the situation and abusing the plans, and thus have done something very bad for Government policy by undermining the credibility of a really good idea?
I strongly agree with my right hon. Friend. The actions and behaviour of developers in mid-Sussex have also caused a delay of the plan, which has delayed the building of essential new housing as well as undermining neighbourhood plans.
There is a problem with the measure of the five-year land supply, which should be assessed in an accurate and honest way and not in a way that is capable of being gamed by the developers.
The second way in which neighbourhood plans can be overridden is when local authorities do not have a plan. Clearly, that is not a satisfactory situation, and the Government are seeking to address it. The problem is that this allows for a free-for-all in the area. Apparently that free-for-all can include neighbourhood plans, in the sense that when the local authority is drawing up its plan, it can override the neighbourhood plans not just with the allocation of strategic levels of housing, as was always envisaged, but with the requirement that neighbourhood plans wholesale are rewritten, as has been suggested to some communities in my area. Neighbourhood plans can also be overridden because the needs of a local plan, which often now have to provide far more housing than was originally intended, are said to come first. Those are problems for the principle of responsible neighbourhood plan making and local democracy.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that in its call for evidence in October 2015, the Local Government Association invited the Government to look again at the methodology for five-year land supply in local planning authorities? Does he not think that it might be considered potentially quite draconian to put a de facto moratorium into this Bill?
I am not proposing a moratorium, because I think it is essential that we build houses in this country and, as I have said, neighbourhood planning has produced more housing than was expected.
There is a real danger that if we undermine public support for neighbourhood planning we will undermine the principles of localism and will not get people to participate in neighbourhood planning in future. As I have seen in my constituency, neighbourhood planning, about which people were slightly cynical in the first place but became enthusiastic, is now being described in a very detrimental way, and some communities are saying that they will not go ahead with neighbourhood plans.
I very much agree with my right hon. Friend, as he knows, and he is making an impeccable defence of the position, but may I urge him to correct one tiny point? It was never envisaged in the first place that there would be a sequence that involved a neighbourhood plan first and a local plan second. It was, on the contrary, envisaged that all local authorities would proceed immediately towards the new-style local plans. It is a gross dereliction of duty on the part of those that have not thus proceeded. He is therefore right, and my hon. Friend the Minister is right, to press forward with new-style local plans everywhere without delay.
Yes, I agree with my right hon. Friend. The authorities should come forward with the plans. It is also true, though, that sometimes the plans have not come forward, as in mid-Sussex and in Arun, because they have been sent back by the inspector, and the inspector, in causing delay, has allowed a situation where the housing number increases. That then puts at risk all the areas that created neighbourhood plans with an allocation that they thought was accurate according to the original assessment in the draft plan, but now is not so. It is not just the fault of local authorities that plans have been delayed, and it is undesirable that we have a situation where the cart has come before the horse.
My right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin) is absolutely right that it is a gross dereliction of duty. My local authority is in that category, and the net result is that we do not have a single neighbourhood plan, despite the fact that I have written to every single clerk and every single town and parish councillor in my constituency. We need to put powers in the Bill to make sure that every local authority has a local plan, so that the good people in our constituencies can go forward with their local plans in the confidence that they will not be derailed by speculative developers.
I agree with my hon. Friend. I hope that if the Government are willing to listen to this argument, as I believe they are, and come forward with proposals to deal with the situation—should the measures I have tabled not be the right way to do so—we will rebuild confidence in neighbourhood planning and it will proceed.
The measures I have tabled work as follows. New clause 7 addresses the first problem I set out. It would require planning authorities to consult neighbourhood planning bodies on decisions to grant planning permission. Where a planning authority wanted to approve a major development against the wishes of a neighbourhood planning body, the planning authority would be required to consult the Secretary of State before granting permission.
The five-year land supply is dealt with by new clause 8, which would empower the Secretary of State to issue a development order to: clarify the means by which housing land supply is assessed; define the minimum amount of time before a local planning authority’s failure to meet its housing targets would result in its local plan being out of date; and specify that neighbourhood plans should be taken into account, notwithstanding the lack of a five-year supply of housing land.
I very much hope that the Minister will respond to the new clauses in the spirit in which I have tabled them. There is a genuine problem here, but it is capable of being addressed without undermining the need to build more houses in this country. We must respect local communities that do the right thing and embark on the plans, because there is a real danger of undermining localism and communities if we do not act to ensure both that the principles of neighbourhood plans are upheld and that made neighbourhood plans that have been approved by the local population in a democratic vote cannot be overturned by speculative developers.
My right hon. Friend is being most generous in allowing interventions. Does he have the problem that I have in my constituency, namely that the district council has very nearly, but not quite, given sufficient permissions for the set number of dwellings for the planning period, but the developers given the permissions do not make the building starts, so when the next scheming developer comes along, the district authority says no, but the planning inspector says yes, because the area has not built up to the number? Building is in the control of the developers, but the permissions are in the hands of the council.
My right hon. and learned Friend puts the point incredibly well. That is exactly how developers are able to game the system and why the way in which we calculate the five-year land supply is fundamentally flawed and is giving rise to this injustice. The loophole has to be closed, and I very much hope that the Government will do so.
I apologise for troubling the House twice in one day, not least since I only very rarely intervene in this area of public policy, but in Sutton Coldfield we are absolutely astonished and mystified by the Secretary of State’s unwise and illogical decision to lift the stop imposed by his predecessor on the plans from Labour-controlled Birmingham City Council to build 6,000 new houses on Sutton Coldfield’s green belt. I should make it clear that we are strongly in favour of building more homes in Sutton Coldfield. My excellent local councillors—11 out of 12 of them are Conservative—have consistently sought to ensure that, where appropriate, we build new homes, because we are conscious that we want our children and grandchildren to benefit in the same way as my generation has, but those homes have to be built in the right places.
I support the measures tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert) and by my hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire (Heidi Allen), and wish to speak to amendments 28 and 29, which stand in my name and those of right hon. and hon. Friends. Amendment 28 would stop the Government from paying, under the new homes bonus scheme, a bonus to those who want to build on the green belt. Such a payment is clearly a perverse incentive that encourages developers to do precisely what the Government do not want them to do—build on the green belt. I am pleased to help the Government out by tabling the amendment.
Amendment 29 addresses the importance of including town and parish councils in local plans, and the role that they can play in the development of those plans. Once again, the amendment is four-square behind the Government’s wishes, so I have much pleasure, as a former Government Chief Whip, in assisting the Government. It is inconceivable that the Minister would not accept both amendments with gratitude for my helping him out in such a way.
The Secretary of State recently said, and I quote him exactly:
“The green belt is absolutely sacrosanct…Unless there are very exceptional circumstances”—
note that he said “very exceptional circumstances”, not “exceptional circumstances”—
“we should not be carrying out any development on it.”—[Official Report, 18 July 2016; Vol. 613, c. 544.]
Call me old-fashioned, but I think that if a Minister, and particularly a Secretary of State, makes such a statement to Parliament, he should stand by it absolutely. However, on 24 November, speaking at a National House Building Council annual lunch—I applaud what my hon. and right hon. Friends have said about the pernicious effect of some developers—the Secretary of State agreed to lift the moratorium on Labour’s plans to build 6,000 homes on our green belt. I do not know whether he was not expecting his words to be reported, but he said:
“Birmingham City Council has put forward a plan to meet some of its local housing need by removing green belt designation from a small area of land...it’s fundamentally a local decision made by local people. They’ve looked at all the options. They’ve considered all the implications.”
It must have been a very good lunch indeed because those claims are wholly fallacious. Saying one thing in the House of Commons and saying another at a lunch with developers is precisely the sort of thing that brings politicians and Ministers into disrepute. The fact that people behave in that way is why we have seen the election of President-elect Trump in America, the growth of Nigel Farage in this country, and the growth of the people versus the establishment.
I am coming directly to that point, but let me go back to parsing, for the benefit of the House, what the Secretary of State said at the developers’ lunch. First, he said that this was a local decision. It is not a local decision; it is made by Birmingham City Council, which is one of the largest authorities in Europe, and the views of my constituents—100,000 residents of the royal town of Sutton Coldfield—have been completely blocked out. Our 2015 manifesto stated that we would
“ensure local people have more control over planning and protect the Green Belt”.
The action that the Secretary of State has allowed flies absolutely and categorically in the face of that. Entirely ignored are the 100,000 citizens of the royal town of Sutton Coldfield, virtually all of whom are totally opposed to the development. They have marched in their hundreds and protested in their thousands, and 11 out of 12 Conservative councillors have opposed the process.
We have the largest town council in the country. It is totally and unanimously opposed to the development, but it has not even been consulted. Will the junior Minister commit to going back to Birmingham City Council and suggesting—I do not think he has the power to force the council to do this—that common decency expects it to go back to the 24 elected members of the largest town council in the country, formally consult them and listen to what they have to say?
Labour has been trying to build around and emasculate the royal town of Sutton Coldfield for 30 years—it refers to us as “North Birmingham”—and, thanks to the Secretary of State, it now might well succeed. My 100,000 constituents have been totally and completely disfranchised. That is the very definition of the tyranny of the majority over the minority, and the Department and the Secretary of State have now made themselves complicit in this.
On the second point that the Secretary of State raised, neither the council nor the Department, and certainly not the inspector, has looked at the patently obvious alternatives. There could be a much more comprehensive regional approach, which the excellent Conservative mayoral candidate for the west midlands, Andy Street, has spoken up for. There are superb plans to build a Wolverhampton garden city, almost all of which would be on brownfield land, to provide 45,000 houses. There are small brownfield sites in Birmingham that have specifically not been included for consideration. We in Sutton Coldfield came up with the very reasonable proposal that there should be an eight-year moratorium on building 6,000 homes on the green belt while the other 45,000-plus were built on brownfield sites. That approach would enable the Government and the council to review the extent to which building on the green belt might be needed or acceptable. However, the proposal was rejected, without even any consideration by the inspector.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England made an excellent submission in February, which I sent to the Minister on 16 August. It made many excellent points that have not been addressed. I point out that when Birmingham was controlled by a coalition of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, Tory councillors had plans to build the same number of houses as are now proposed by Labour-controlled Birmingham City Council, but without needing to encroach on the green belt. By definition, there are not even exceptional circumstances for building on the green belt, let alone “very exceptional circumstances”, which were the words used by the Secretary of State.
I accept of course that these are Labour plans, but Sutton Coldfield has been grievously let down. I believe that we were and are entitled to expect the protection of the Government, based on their manifesto commitment, and I am deeply disappointed that we have not been able to rely on that. The transport problems on our side of the Birmingham conurbation that will be caused by the development will be acute and horrific. There is no guarantee that the Labour council will spend the necessary money on infrastructure for these new builds. There was no proper consultation with the relevant health services and authorities, although the council was obliged to carry that out.
The Government have got themselves into a mess on the green belt by trying to face both ways at the same time. With this decision, they have massively shot themselves in the foot. My right hon. and hon. Friends will not trust the Department on issues involving the green belt, about which many of them are extremely sensitive, because of the ludicrous nature of this decision. Building more homes, which we all want, will therefore be much more difficult for the Department.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on making a very cogent case. Does he accept that the reason the green belt has a high designation is that such areas are very special—they are green lungs in and around our great cities? Once they are built over, they are very difficult to recreate.
My hon. Friend puts the argument eloquently. That is exactly what my constituents feel. The west midlands has less green-belt land than many parts of the country, which is another reason why there should have been a much more holistic and imaginative approach, rather than this appalling scheme.
Amendments 28 and 29 offer the Government a chance to show good faith with regard to our 2015 election manifesto. I do not propose to trouble the House by pressing them to a Division, but I warn the Government that if they do not accept the principle behind what I am saying, if not the amendments, not only will they have great difficulty on house building, because they will not be trusted on the green belt, but I have no doubt that the other place, which has a strong history of looking at these matters, will oblige this House to think again.
I rise with three purposes, the first of which is to support my right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert), whose new clauses I have put my name to. The purport of what he said is clearly right. Those of us who were in on the birth of neighbourhood planning and believe in it are troubled by things that have happened more recently, among which are those that he described. Clearly some remedy is needed.
The only thing that I want to add to what my right hon. Friend said so clearly and well is that the written ministerial statement that we have now seen is an admirable way to deal with those issues. Clearly we will want to ensure that the statement is observed in the observance and not in the breach.
I am delighted to hear that. I wish I could be absolutely confident that the inspectorate will always listen to the guidance it receives from Ministers, but I hope that it will on this occasion. If it does, I believe that the written ministerial statement will do the trick that we were trying to perform with the new clauses. If it does not, I am sure the Minister will come back with further evolutions of planning policy, of which, effectively, the written ministerial statement is a part.
Secondly, I want to refer briefly to the powerful speech made by the hon. Member for Hyndburn (Graham Jones) on new clause 1, which relates to clusters. Unlike my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Mr Jackson), I usually do disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies), amiable and enthusiastic though he is, and this is one of the many occasions on which I disagree with him profoundly. It is a very sad spectacle to see our fellow citizens—I have watched them do this—moving from payday lending shops directly into betting places. Nothing could be more deleterious to the things that this Government hold dear and that my party has fought for over many years—since the days when my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr Duncan Smith) first brought out “Breakdown Britain” and “Breakthrough Britain” to try to restore the stability of family life and workfulness in households that suffer all too often from a desperate effort, as part of a chaotic lifestyle, to improve their lot through betting, which is a snare and a delusion.
It is extremely reprehensible that there has been a focus on building payday lending and betting shops right by each other. It is also extremely reprehensible that betting shops have been built in the poorest areas. If they were built in the middle of the richest areas of our cities, one would object to them much less, because people there can afford to bet. I am therefore very much on the side of the hon. Member for Hyndburn and those, including hon. Friends of mine, who have signed his new clause to try to ensure that the Government come forward with measures to limit such clustering. The reason I shall not join him in the Lobby this afternoon is solely that the new clause would require the Government to do so before going forward with the rest of the Bill, and I cannot accept that. I hope that Ministers will respond by taking forward the spirit of the new clause without that caveat.
I appreciate the right hon. Gentleman’s generous comments. The Government are taking forward licensing, but this is probably the last chance to deal with the planning element, which is not part of the Government’s review—those are two separate entities. I wondered whether that was the point he was raising.
I do not think this is the last chance anybody will have to reflect on the planning element, partly because the Bill will be considered in another place and partly because history shows that there is roughly one planning Bill a Session. As we can never get these things right, there is a process of continuous revision. It is also partly because I hope that, as part of the licensing review, the Government will look at the issue of clustering—it might be possible to approach it in that way—and partly because it is open to the Minister to produce the kind of guidance that the new clause seeks without turning that into a precondition for moving forward with the rest of the Bill.
I see the Minister nodding and hope that, apart from my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley, we can move by consensus in that direction.
The third reason—the main reason—why I rose was to speak to new clause 5, which I tabled. I am grateful to the Minister for meeting me and talking through the proposition. I tabled the new clause in the hope not that it would be accepted immediately, but that it would induce the Department to bring forward an array of policies—I doubt it can be just one—to solve a particular problem. The new clause would help to solve it in a particular way, and I hope that the measure might come back in some form as a Government amendment in the other place.
The problem is cognate with the one that my right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs talked about—it is another aspect of the same problem. As he rightly pointed out, the formation of a neighbourhood plan is quite a complicated and arduous undertaking. Those of us who are passionate about neighbourhood planning believe that, in the long run, those plans are the way to resolve the tension that has hitherto existed between the desire to maintain communities and the appearance of the places in which we live, and the need to house our people. The problem that neighbourhood planners face in trying to achieve that noble goal is that they are all too often daunted by the immense amount of work involved.
The only way in which that problem can really be resolved is for neighbourhood planners to employ professionals, particularly of two kinds. The first type of professionals can help with knotty questions of law and planning guidance. It takes someone who is fully paid up and knowledgeable to guide those involved in a neighbourhood plan through the questions that have to be answered: what are the strategic elements of the plan that will have to be observed; what constraints related to areas of outstanding natural beauty and sites of special scientific interest have to be observed; and how does the whole thing have to work to cohere with law and guidance?
The second type of professionals whom neighbourhood planners need to be able to employ are of a quite different kind: those with the imagination to enable people who are not in any sense experts, but who have a feel for their neighbourhood, to envisage what a particular set of policies in a neighbourhood plan, and ideally in a neighbourhood development order, will produce on the ground. Such professionals can conceptualise and draw what that will look like—literally, on pieces of paper or for display on overhead projectors—and work with the neighbourhood interactively at meetings. They can enable people to see what they cannot yet see so that they will know whether it is what they were looking for. That is actually quite a talent. Many hon. Members spend time in neighbourhoods talking about these things, and they will know how difficult it is to engage in conversation with 100 or 200 people who are all stirred up about local planning, to calm the atmosphere, to engage emotionally, to be imaginative, and to end up with something that the neighbourhood actually likes.
I am listening intently to the excellent speech of my right hon. Friend and neighbour. Does he agree that the planning process is often not clear, especially regarding the points that he mentions? In my area—the Purbeck District Council area—people have a lot of different views about how many houses there should be. Two numbers have been suggested, but we cannot find anyone who can agree on a number without fear of going to the planning inspector. The lack of clarity, or the lack of guidelines or of regulation—I do not know what it is the lack of—leads to chaos, anger and confusion.
My hon. Friend illustrates very well the point I am trying to make. There is actually perfect clarity on that subject in the local plan that his local authority and mine have jointly drawn up, but an expert is needed to interpret it for the neighbourhood. We cannot expect the parish council to know the answers to the questions, and if it asks inexpert people, it will get conflicting answers—very possibly more than two wrong answers if it consults more than two inexpert experts. A certain amount of money is required so that the parish council can employ a genuine expert who can give it good, clear answers to questions. As I have said, a second person is also needed—quite a different sort of person who can imagine for the neighbourhood what things could look like. By putting those together, we can overcome the obstacles to neighbourhood planning.
Unfortunately, those people do not come for free; they have to be paid for. Over the years, the Department has rightly produced funds to enable parish and town councils and neighbourhood forums to employ people, but unfortunately the funds were based on the presumption, which is now mercifully falsified, that neighbourhood planning would be slow to take off, and that very few plans would be produced at any given moment.
I am delighted that the number of neighbourhood plans is very great, and I hope it will be much greater—I hope that they become the norm and that tens of thousands arise in our country in the coming years. However, I very much doubt that the Chancellor of Exchequer, who faces one of the most difficult fiscal situations in our history, will come up with the funds required to meet that need, given the other priorities he faces. New clause 5 would find a solution to that problem and provide the money to employ experts on behalf of neighbourhood planners in parish and town councils. It would do so by using an existing pool of funds, as there is already a provision to share the community infrastructure levy that arises from each house built. Under the law, 25% is due to the parish or town council in the area where the neighbourhood plan is drawn up.
One problem is that the CIL money comes in after the houses are built, whereas the money is needed before—it is needed even before the neighbourhood plan is in place so that experts can be employed to help its production. The question is how we advance those funds. The new clause suggests that we could, through the Bill, put beyond doubt a local planning authority’s lawful ability to advance sums that would accrue to the neighbourhood when the neighbourhood plan is up and running and the houses are built for the purpose of employing experts to assist in the production of the neighbourhood plan. In that way, the houses could be built and the money could come in from the community infrastructure levy, meaning that the local planning authority could be repaid.
Despite the helpful way in which the Minister has engaged in the discussion, I do not say that the mechanics of the proposal are perfect. I hope he is willing to look at it in detail as part of a range of options for solving the problem to which I allude. I hope that, when the matter is considered in the other place, the Government will come forward with their own vastly superior, rock-solid measure to solve the problem. Otherwise, neighbourhood planning could be stymied not just by the problems that my right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs cited, but by an inability to pay for the expertise required.
I know you have kindly expressed an interest in my occupational history previously, Mr Speaker. At one point very briefly many years ago, I practised planning law. I remember two things about it. First, it is incredibly technical. Secondly, as adverted to by the right hon. Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin), it seems to change. Like criminal law, we seem to have an annual Bill on planning or matters relating thereto before Parliament. This year we have had a bumper year and two Bills, one of which is now the Housing and Planning Act 2016.
I hope we can have a brief discussion at least on amendments 24 and 25, which are part of this group, and which urge planners to take into account the needs of older people and people with disabilities. That is important anyway in terms of equalities, but it is relevant to planning matters when we have a changing population. The population is getting older. With that, but not just because of it, it also has a higher rate of disabilities, some of which are susceptible to being accommodated, in both senses of the word, within the planning system.
I cannot resist making some brief remarks about the speech of the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell). I remember, as he might or might not, that before 1974, when I was a lad, Sutton Coldfield was not part of Birmingham. It was subsumed within Birmingham—against its wishes, I suspect, but I was not that old, so I do not recall—in 1974 and now has the town council. I was not clear—I might have nodded during his speech when he referred to the 6,000 houses—whether Sutton Coldfield has a local neighbourhood plan. He rightly referred to the concerns of Sutton Coldfield residents—concerns shared by residents elsewhere, I am sure, including in my natal city, Wolverhampton, which I represent and where I live—that there should be sufficient housing for coming generations.
The right hon. Gentleman also mentioned the 45,000 houses and Wolverhampton garden city. Wolverhampton is already a garden city, of course, having as it does more trees than almost any city in Europe, relative to its size, but we welcome more gardens and more people, and we are trying to build. As he might know, however, and as I know from visiting relatives in Sutton Coldfield, it is an awfully long journey, temporally, from Wolverhampton to Sutton Coldfield, so it cannot be a Sutton Coldfield overspill. On a more serious note, however, I find it strange that he berates Birmingham City Council for its spending on transport infrastructure, when Governments of which he was a member and which he continues to support—broadly—have cut its total income in the last six years by over 40%. He is right that there are transport infrastructure problems in the urban west midlands and within the city of Birmingham, as administratively constituted, including in Sutton Coldfield, but some of those problems—not all of them, but some of them—come from the huge Government cuts that he broadly supported.
None of what the hon. Gentleman says detracts from my central argument. The important point about Wolverhampton garden city, which the Conservative mayoral candidate in the west midlands, Andy Street, makes so eloquently, is that we need a much more holistic, regional approach to ensure that the needs of his constituents and mine are met in a sensible way.
I agree. I suspect that all candidates, including the Labour candidate, for the West Midlands Combined Authority mayoralty agree with the holistic approach and devolution, but we always have problems, in the House and in our constituencies, when trying to agree on what local means, as the right hon. Gentleman has eloquently set out. Someone from Bromsgrove, for example, might see Birmingham as all one place, whereas those of us who grew up in the region know that there are districts within Birmingham, and then there is the royal town, which is now part of the administrative sub-region of Birmingham City Council, many of whose 100,000 residents would not I suspect—he can correct me if I am wrong—consider themselves as Brummies, just as those of us from the black country would not consider ourselves Brummies, although we are in administratively different areas.
On the speech by the right hon. Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert), I have sympathy with new clauses 7 and 8, and I hope that if the Government want to take them forward, they will address the issue—one that I do not think they currently address but which I suspect he would support—that I raised when he kindly allowed me to intervene. Tettenhall district, in my constituency, was a separate entity until 1966, when it was folded into Wolverhampton, which in the millennium itself became a city but which before had been a metropolitan district borough. Tettenhall district, which I have the honour to represent, had a local neighbourhood plan. People, including close friends of mine, worked incredibly hard on it and knocked on an awful lot of doors, and in July 2014, the turnout—from memory—was over 50% in the referendum on whether to adopt that plan, and it was overwhelmingly adopted.
I do not expect the Minister to comment on a particular application, but I use this as an example. I have raised it in the House before, because I and the residents of Tettenhall have a real beef about it. The local neighbourhood plan set out certain parameters for how housing might be incorporated. The good people of Tettenhall are not opposed to new housing, just as the good people of Sutton Coldfield are not opposed to new housing—it just depends on where it is. Labour-controlled Wolverhampton City Council acceded to the demands of the local neighbourhood plan and the two wards in Tettenhall, which have between them six Conservative councillors, and to the surprise of some agreed that the planning application for the site known as the Clock House should not be given planning permission. It was refused by the city council. The developers, McCarthy & Stone—many Members will have come across them, with their retirement home juggernaut—then put in an appeal to Bristol. I am speaking now as a lay person, because I have not practised planning law for a very long time, but the planning inspector in Bristol totally ignored the local neighbourhood plan. He did not say, “We disagree with the local neighbourhood plan” or that “other factors override what is in the local neighbourhood plan.” The long written decision, which overturned the city council’s decision to reject and allowed the application to proceed, made almost no reference to the local neighbourhood plan.
If new clauses 7 and 8 address that issue and it is in the spirit of what they provide for—I will be corrected if I am wrong—I hope that the Government can take it into account. This is not to say that local neighbourhood plans should be able to trump everything else, but they should be given due weight, not just by the local authority as the planning authority, but by the Planning Inspectorate.
One reason why I am raising this issue at some length today is that when I have raised it in oral questions and debates before, I have been told, “Well, the Neighbourhood Planning Bill is coming down the pipe, so raise the issue then.” Well, Minister, I am raising it, and I would like an answer. New clauses 7 and 8 offer a convenient peg on which to hang it. I am grateful to see the Minister nodding his head. I hope I will get an answer—perhaps not the one I want—because an answer would be helpful.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, because that segues me nicely into the next and final section of my speech, which is about new clause 1. I hope that the Government will accept it, but if not, it looks as if we will have a Division tonight. I believe that new clause 1 is quite mildly worded, and the Minister may say that he accepts its spirit. As for the possible restriction on the rest of the Bill coming into force—that this provision might be a block, which was raised by the right hon. Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin)—if the Minister says to my hon. Friend that he agrees with the spirit of the provision and wants the guidance, but fears that it will act as a block, that would be great. In that case, I suspect that we will not have a Division. The Minister will guide us on that.
The content of new clause 1 seeks to have the Secretary of State “issue guidance”, not to make detailed rules about whether a betting shop or payday loan shop should be open in a given high street. If the hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) visited his salad days again, having been to school in the west midlands, and went back to Dudley borough, he would see the transformation there as in other black country boroughs in respect of clusters of payday loan shops and betting shops. Those clusters are not helpful to community cohesion, or to some of the most disadvantaged people in our society.
My hon. Friend and I have made it clear that, in asking the Government to issue guidance, we are not seeking to ban payday loan shops or betting shops, but to restrict the density of them. What seems to be happening—this is anecdotal; I have no statistical evidence to present—is that we are getting a clustering of such outlets in different areas, which is often, but not always, deleterious to those areas. We have an over-concentration of them. The same thing was happening, until the law was changed, with off-licences. Older Members might remember when getting a licence to sell alcohol was quite difficult because there was an unofficial density system operated by planning authorities. That went out the window, and every place—including petrol stations, for goodness’ sake—seemed to get licences to sell alcohol. We saw the same over-concentration with attendant social problems in some places, and we are rightly rowing back from that.
My hon. Friend wants guidance—I fully support him—so that we can row back from over-concentration of payday loan shops and betting shops. Part of this problem comes from a mistake made by the Labour Government, and some Back Benchers pointed out to them at the time that fixed odds betting terminals were bad news and should not be encouraged. I have to say, to my chagrin, that my own Government did not listen, just as they only partially listened—some longer-standing Members and you, Mr Speaker, will remember this—when there were proposals for 16 super-casinos. There was a lot of to do on the Labour Back Benches at the time, and we got it down to two super-casinos. On fixed-odds betting terminals, we made a mistake.
I take my hon. Friend’s point that the Labour Government were responsible for bringing in the Gambling Act 2005. In trying to be responsible about the problem we face, does he agree that the Government should accept that their own 2011 Portas review talked about clustering and density as being a problem? We are now five years on from that; time has passed and mistakes have been made. We need to tackle those mistakes today, not tomorrow, next week or next year.
I agree with my hon. Friend. We need to learn from our mistakes, just as I hope any Labour Members who were on the Front Bench in 2005 when they were pushing fixed odds betting terminals have now done their mea culpas and recognised that they made a mistake then, because it is still rebounding on many urban constituencies around the country, including mine. We need to row back from that, but part of the mechanism, which is being reviewed, for doing so is not, and cannot be, the subject of this Bill. We can address another part of it, however: the over-concentration and the guidance which this Government ought responsibly to be issuing. They ought to have the statutory authority to do so within primary legislation, which is the very reasonable measure put forward by my hon. Friend in new clause 1. I hope that the Minister can support the spirit of it, if not the exact wording.
I begin by declaring an interest: for six years I have been honorary vice-president of the Local Government Association. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin). I hope his amendment finds success in the other place. I also want to mention the doughty champion, the hon. Member for Hyndburn (Graham Jones), who, together with my hon. Friends the Members for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) and for Enfield, Southgate (Mr Burrowes), has been very much at the sharp end of this important debate, as indeed I was at one time with my “stop the FOBTs” campaign in Peterborough city centre.
I ask the House to look at the wider context of the practical implications of new clauses 7 and 8, and also amendment 28 tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell). We were all elected on a manifesto commitment to increase the supply of housing, and we all, I think, agree with the national consensus that we are in the middle of a housing crisis at present. We also need to look at this Bill within the wider context of generational fairness and social equity between those who own capital and those who wish to acquire capital. That is an important issue. I strongly welcome the likely publication in January of the housing White Paper and I hope that this important debate and Bill feed into that.
In that context, I draw the attention of the House to a useful paper published today by Daniel Bentley for the Civitas think-tank, “Housing supply and household growth, national and local”. It examines housing supply projections and puts a nominal figure on the real impact of the housing crisis. My right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert) put his case in his usual erudite and well thought-through way, but my challenge to him and others is this: will their new clauses and amendments improve the position? The projected housing supply for the county of Sussex in 2015-16 did not even meet 50% of the figure for projected annual household formations from 2014 to 2039. Few local authorities are meeting those targets. Even the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has used the conservative figure of 220,000 new homes being needed to keep pace with population change over the period to 2039. Some estimates, including those in the paper, suggest that the figure may be as high 330,000. I will not proceed down the path of discussing immigration, but, according to the Local Government Association, 49% of household formation over that period will come from net migration, so it is a big issue.
In 2015-16, we physically built only 163,940 new homes, although more were created through 5,000 conversions and 35,000 changes of use. In the 30 fastest-growing non-London local authorities only five managed to outstrip the difference between housing supply and housing growth by percentage increase: Dartford; Uttlesford; Aylesbury Vale; Slough; and Ashford. Of the 30 non-London local authorities with the highest population growth, in nominal terms only eight built enough houses to meet long-term need. While not perfect, the national planning policy framework has helped in some respects. Oxford, for example, has produced only 66% of its need based on population growth, but thanks to its duty to co-operate with other local authorities, such as South Oxfordshire District Council or Vale of White Horse District Council, it is meeting its targets on a sub-regional strategic housing level, which is good.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs and I have crossed swords before on the NPPF way back in 2012, but we must not put in the Bill a potentially wide-ranging and draconian measure that would effectively stymie the building and development of appropriate homes. We all have horror stories about the Planning Inspectorate. For example, the village of Eye near Peterborough was grossly overprovisioned with residential accommodation, with the inspectorate completely ignoring the hundreds of petition signatures, public meetings and so on, but we are where we are with the current system. Nevertheless, the NPPF already sets out the appropriate weight to be given to relevant policies between neighbourhood plans and the adoption and development of local plans, structure plans and site allocation plans.
New clause 7 would discriminate against local planning authorities that produce timely, robust local plans and that have adhered to the correct procedure for consultation, public inquiries and the Planning Inspectorate. We must bear it in mind that there might be an inadvertent consequence.
I am listening carefully to my hon. Friend, and I do not want him to traduce the intention of the new clause, which is not to prevent house building, but to ensure that neighbourhood plans are protected. I repeat my earlier point: neighbourhood plans have produced more housing than was anticipated. As he took such an interest in Sussex, I should point out that many district councils in West Sussex, including in my constituency, are producing housing far in excess of the south-east plan to meet local demand.
I pay tribute to the neighbourhood plans being produced by volunteers in my right hon. Friend’s constituency and throughout our country. They do an excellent job and I support the policy four-square. My point is about opportunity cost: is this approach going to have a detrimental effect on the Government’s strategic housing objective, which is to deliver large-scale housing for people who need it? When we look at the age of people buying their first house and at the availability or otherwise of affordable housing across the country, we see that this proposal has the potential to undermine the authority of the local planning authority to meet wider, long-term strategic housing and planning objectives. These things are already in place via the emerging or adopted local plan. The proposal will inevitably give rise to conflict between the local planning authority and the neighbourhood planning bodies, with the possible perverse consequence that we will see the establishment of neighbourhood planning bodies merely in order to thwart development.
Let me move on to deal quickly with new clause 8. I used the correct word “moratorium” in respect of the use by the Minister of development orders. On the specific issue of five-year land supply, again, this proposal seeks to put a draconian policy in the Bill, rather than, as I suggested in my intervention—my right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs was generous in accepting interventions—waiting for a response from Government, by means other than primary legislation, to do as the LGA has suggested, which is to review the policy and look for a more consistent and better understood methodology for both developers and local authorities in respect of the policy under the current auspices of the national planning policy framework.
At the moment, we still have a robust system that tests the efficacy of five-year land supply through planning appeals and local plans. We should encourage greater incentives from local planning authorities. It is as well to make the point that, in some parts of the country, they lack the appropriate resources to carry out the proper work in that respect.
My final point is about amendment 28, which was tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield. I can understand the anger, passion and resentment that he articulated in his usual powerful way, but this is probably the most inappropriate amendment, because preventing payment of the new homes bonus when we already have strong protections in place for the green belt and other designated areas to prevent inappropriate development will have consequences.
This may be my lack of understanding of planning matters, but can my hon. Friend explain how a Government who say they are committed to protecting the green belt then pay people a subsidy to build on the green belt, rather than paying them a bigger subsidy to build on brownfield sites, while protecting the green belt? Perhaps he can explain that conundrum.
My right hon. Friend makes a good point, but I am saying that we have less than benign financial circumstances and, were his policy to be followed, the city of Birmingham might lose £54 million in income through the new homes bonus. There are other ways in which we can toughen protections for the green belt, while allowing discretion for some exceptional sites. I made the point in my intervention that 216,000 homes had already been placed in emerging and completed local plans in the green belt by March. I accept that there is a problem, but I am not convinced that this amendment will sort the issue out.
In reducing the income stream and funding to local planning authorities, the perverse ramification may well be that those hard-pressed authorities cannot therefore put in the effort to properly manage well-funded speculative developers with their land grabs. There might also be an impact on rural housing schemes, which are very important and necessary for many of my hon. Friends.
For those reasons, I ask my right hon. and hon. Friends—I think they have already acceded to my request—not to push these matters to a vote. Ministers will have heard the points that have been raised on both sides of the House and will correctly identify methods to ameliorate the problems that have been raised.
I rise to speak to new clause 2 tabled in my name and to support new clauses 7 and 8 tabled in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert).
The aim of new clause 2 is to permit the Secretary of State to impose what would in effect be penalty costs on appeal. My constituency of Eddisbury has a wealth of picturesque villages, located in the most beautiful settings and with excellent schools. These villages are now finding that they are the target of a large number of planning applications, which are often totally against the emerging or adopted neighbourhood plan.
In Cheshire West and Chester, which has a five-year land supply, the council has rightly turned down those applications as being against the neighbourhood plan, yet developers persist in appealing. Local councils and the Planning Inspectorate have to spend valuable resources dealing with appeals that fall squarely against the ambitions and the principles of the neighbourhood plan.
My local parish councils, just like those in the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs, have embraced neighbourhood planning. They have committed months of work—sometimes even years of work—to this and have relished the fact that they can bring forward a mix of housing that includes, for example, first-time starter homes as well as executive homes. They want to see starter homes, so that people can get on to the housing ladder and live in the community in which they have grown up, and they want to see smaller homes—bungalow-style homes—for the older people in my constituency who want to downsize. Given the part of Cheshire in which we live, developers invariably build five-bedroom executive homes. My local parish councils have relished the fact that they can plan for a mix of homes that allows for a varied community and enables people to remain in the community in which they have lived and grown up.
Like Arundel and South Downs, we have seen an increased offer and an increased acceptance of housing coming forward. None the less, we still see attempts by developers to drive a coach and horses through those neighbourhood plans. The aim of the new clause is to ensure that there is a financial disincentive in respect of appeals. It raises the prospect of a serious financial penalty for those developers seeking to have a go, as it was described in earlier contributions.
Constituents feel that their rural villages are under siege and that, at every point, their wishes as expressed and adopted in neighbourhood plan are being ignored. The new clause seeks to allow the full recovery of costs, with an additional punitive element, where it is clear that the refusal has been on the basis of the application being against the local neighbourhood plan. These speculative appeals impact on local council resources, and developers constantly feel that they can effectively try to push and break the plan, and it is deeply frustrating.
My hon. Friend is speaking for many of us whose councils are constantly abused by the disgraceful behaviour of house builders. In my constituency—I intend to deal with the matter at some length—they have spent a very great deal of time and money trying to undermine the local plan.
It becomes almost a war of attrition. The behaviour of developers appears to be designed to break local neighbourhood plans, so that they can drive through their ambitions, which ignore the wishes of local people and go against the commitment shown by local communities in producing those plans.
The hon. Lady is my constituency neighbour. As we are in the same part of Cheshire, I can confirm everything that she is saying. Does she share my concerns that, as things stand, planning law is stacked far too much in favour of the developers and that there are not enough tools in the armoury of local authorities and neighbourhood plans to resist them?
That is the very reason that I tabled new clause 2. I wanted to give the Secretary of State an additional power in relation to costs when developers try to drive a coach and horses through neighbourhood plans. That is also why I support new clauses 7 and 8 tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs.
I agree with much of what my hon. Friend says. When she drew up her new clause, did she think about encouraging the planning inspector to award costs to the local authority where the developer was turned down at appeal and the conditions in her new clause were met? I have one case in my constituency where the council had to pay the developer’s costs, even though the council had won.
I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s intervention. That seems a very strange case indeed. I am aware that councils often do not apply for costs and, when they do, they get only a proportion of their costs back, not their full costs. By tabling the new clause, I hope to give additional powers to rectify that position and to discourage developers from such behaviour.
The Minister will be aware that I have campaigned long on this issue because of the actions of developers in my constituency. I know that there are issues affecting the Cheshire East half of my constituency, which does not have a local plan. Where communities have worked hard and put in place their neighbourhood plans, it is deeply frustrating for them to be put at risk because the methodology for calculating the five-year housing land supply was not correct. It seems ironic that Cheshire East used exactly the same methodology as Cheshire West and Chester, whose five-year land supply was accepted, yet that of Cheshire East was not. I can only assume that that is because there was no build-out of the housing that was described in earlier contributions.
I support new clause 8 because where a defect in the five-year supply is caused by the failure of developers to build out that causes the problem. The council has granted planning permission, but the developments are not being started. For those reasons, I support these new clauses.
I should say in passing that I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Eddisbury (Antoinette Sandbach) on her new clause 2, and with my right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert) on new clause 7. I particularly agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell) on amendment 29. He is absolutely right and he may or may not know that I faced exactly the same situation in Bradford as he did in Sutton Coldfield. The Minister has put a stop on the core strategy plan of Bradford Council, but I hope for a much more favourable outcome from those deliberations than my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield received. I assure my hon. Friend the Minister that I will feel equally aggrieved should the decision be as it was in Birmingham.
I want to speak about new clause 1, and in doing so I should begin by referring people to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. The hon. Member for Hyndburn (Graham Jones) made it clear once again that he is the biggest devotee in the House of Donald Trump. He quoted him, as he usually does, when he referred to fixed odds betting terminals as the “crack cocaine of gambling”. Anybody who knows anything about this subject knows that the term was first used by Donald Trump in the 1980s to refer to video keno games, which he saw as a threat to his casino businesses. Ever since he first used the phrase, any new form of gambling—in fact, every new form of gambling—has been referred to at various times as the “crack cocaine of gambling”. That has included casinos themselves at certain points and lottery scratchcards—name any form of gambling, and I can point to somebody who has called it the crack cocaine of gambling. So, of course, fixed odds betting terminals have been called the same—not because they are considered to be that, but just because the same old phrase is trotted out every time we have a new form of gambling.
The hon. Gentleman talked about the massive public concern about these issues. I suspect, Mr Speaker, that if you were to go out on to the street and ask 1,000 people what their views of fixed odds betting terminals were, 999 would say, “What’s a fixed odds betting terminal?” In fact, when people in the House have been out knocking on doors in their constituencies at election time—those who do so—I wonder how many people have said to them, “Do you know, the main thing that concerns me is FOBTs. My vote at the election will be determined by your policy on FOBTs.” I suspect nobody in the House can put their hand on their heart and say that that has ever been their experience. So the idea that this is a massive social concern for the vast majority of our constituents is a—
Will my hon. Friend give way?
No, I am going to press on. I will take some interventions in a bit, but I will press on, because other people wish to speak.
In his briefing notes on the new clause, the hon. Gentleman said he wanted to deal with the proliferation of betting shops. I know he would not want to mislead the House deliberately, so I will say charitably that he does not understand the meaning of the word proliferation. I will try to help him out. The dictionary defines proliferation as the rapid increase in the number of something. The hon. Gentleman is trying to tell us that we have a proliferation of betting shops. Well, the facts are the exact opposite.
The number of betting shops in the UK peaked in the mid-1970s, at about 16,000, and it has dropped since then. It was 9,128 in 2012. There are 8,709 this year. I suspect—in fact, I can virtually guarantee—that there will be fewer next year and fewer the year after that. There is not a proliferation of betting shops in this country; there is a reduction in the number of betting shops, and that reduction is getting steeper and steeper every year. These firms employ people, including lots of younger people and lots of women. I know that the Labour party no longer cares about working-class people, but when it did, these firms were an essential part of a working-class community.
Would my hon. Friend prefer the word “clustering”? I know he did when he was an esteemed member of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee. In its report of 2012, it recognised the consequences of encouraging the clustering of betting shops and said that it was
“a local problem which calls for a local solution.”
Does new clause 1 not want to empower people to use that local solution?
No, the new clause is all about being against betting shops. It is a solution looking for a problem.
The reason there is concern about fixed odds betting terminals is a chap called Mr Derek Webb. The hon. Member for Hyndburn knows him very well, but for those who do not know him, he made millions—tens of millions and maybe even hundreds of millions—out of making gambling machines. When the Labour party allowed bookmakers in 2005 to introduce fixed odds betting terminals, Mr Derek Webb was so concerned that he wanted his machines to be installed in betting shops, and the bookmakers turned him down—probably the biggest mistake they have ever made in their business. So he has made it his business ever since to make sure that his machines cannot be in betting shops and people have to go to casinos where they are installed. That is basically what all this is about. It is, in effect, a rich man’s grudge match. He has spent millions trying to get these machines out of betting shops for no other reason than vindictiveness; that is the long and short of it. He set up the Campaign for Fairer Gambling on the back of this issue. He has spent millions. He gave half a million pounds to the Lib Dems in the previous Parliament, trying to buy their support, and he has now started giving a great deal of money to the Labour party in the hope of buying some influence with it.
I am going to press on if my hon. Friend does not mind.
These are the facts, whether people like them or not. The average time that somebody spends on a fixed odds betting terminal is about 10 minutes. Their average loss in that time is about £7. These machines make a profit of about £11 an hour; people may say that that is excessive, but I do not believe it is. The rate of problem gambling in the UK has not altered one jot since fixed odds betting terminals were introduced—it is still about 0.6% of the population, as it was before. The biggest problem-gambling charity in the UK, the Gordon Moody Association, was established in 1971, 30-odd years before fixed odds betting terminals were even introduced in the UK. The idea that we will eliminate problem gambling by getting rid of fixed odds betting terminals is for the birds. People who have a gambling addiction will bet on two flies going up a wall if they get half a chance. The answer is to solve their addiction, not just to ban a particular product in a way that will make not one blind bit of difference.
In this House we have an awful lot of upper-class and middle-class people who like to tell working-class people how they should spend their money and how they should not spend their money.
It is a shame that the hon. Gentleman has become so detached from his roots, along with the rest of his party. Perhaps Labour would not be in such a mess if it stuck a bit more closely to its working-class roots.
I was astonished to hear my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin) talk about all those people in West Dorset going from payday loan companies into betting shops. It is a while since I have been in West Dorset, but it has clearly changed an awful lot since the last time I was there.
My hon. Friend misunderstood me. My point was that I do not have this problem in leafy West Dorset: the places I have seen people go directly from payday lenders into betting shops are in inner-city areas, where there are people far harder pressed than most, though not all, of my constituents. That is the worry.
No, I will not.
I did not come into Parliament to ban people from doing all the things that I do not happen to like myself. I think that our duty in this House is to try to protect people’s freedoms, even the freedom to do things that we do not choose to do ourselves. Unfortunately, there are lots of people in this House who do nothing other than try to ban people from doing all the things that they personally do not happen to like themselves. Many people in this House do not like gambling and betting, and want to stop anyone else doing it.
As I made clear in an intervention, there are far more pubs in poorer communities, per square mile, than betting shops. How many Members of this House want to restrict the number of pubs so that poor working-class people do not waste their money down at the pub? None, or hardly any. Why? Because MPs like a drink themselves, and they do not want to ban anybody from doing anything that they happen to like themselves. There are far more takeaway food outlets per square mile in poor working-class areas than there are betting shops. How many Members want to ban all those takeaways? None. Why? Look at everyone—we all like a good takeaway ourselves, and do not want to do ourselves out of it. This is all about people in this House telling other people what they should and should not be doing in a rather patronising way that does not give a very good image of this place. They do not want to stop people doing things that they themselves like doing—only the things that they do not happen to like.
My hon. Friend is putting a very sincere argument. I know he holds these views sincerely and his integrity is beyond question. I do not want him to ban anything he does not want to ban, but on this occasion I am happy to do it for him.
I am very grateful to my hon. Friend.
If people are not allowed to bet on a fixed odds betting terminal, the idea that they will all of a sudden not bet at all is for the birds. What will they do? I will tell the House. They will go from the roulette machine in a betting shop, where staff are keeping an eye on them and intervening when they show concerning behaviours and referring them to problem-gambling charities for help, but they will not just stop gambling. They will go on to the internet, and play exactly the same roulette game, but for unlimited stakes and unlimited prizes. Why on earth do people in this House want people to go from a product that has a stake limit and a prize limit, in a place where there are people keeping an eye on them, on to the internet, where there are unlimited stakes and prizes? That is complete nonsense.
I caution the hon. Gentleman on that point. I do not know what he did, but I remember that when I voted for the ban on smoking in workplaces, one argument put forward by opponents was that people would still continue to consume tobacco, and just do so in a different venue. That is manifestly not the case. The number of people giving up smoking or smoking less has increased very considerably because of that legislation. I am not saying that it is entirely due to the legislation, but the consensus among medical experts is that the legislation has been a major contributory factor in people’s abandoning or lessening personally harmful behaviour.
The problem with the hon. Gentleman’s argument is that smoking has gone down in this country every single year, without fail, since 1975—every single year, without fail, whether before or after the smoking ban. It was therefore inevitable that after a ban on smoking it would go down, because it would have gone down if there had been no ban. That cause and effect argument does not wash with me, I am afraid. People who bet will go on to the internet.
To give another argument, The Times had an article based on information from the Gambling Commission showing that 16% of under-16s were gambling every week. What were they gambling on? It was not fixed odds betting terminals—they were not going into betting shops. They were gambling on fruit machines, and largely on national lottery scratchcards. People can purchase those scratchcards at 16. They can gamble at 16 on the national lottery.
Who argues against that in this House—who argues against young people getting into gambling at the age of 16 like that? I do. I think it is an absolute outrage that people can play the national lottery at 16. If we believe that gambling should be allowed only at 18, that should be the case for all gambling. But who is arguing against playing the lottery at 16? No one. Even though young people are getting into gambling on scratchcards, people do not complain. That is not because they care about the people losing money; it is because they are concerned about the people winning the money. The money from the lottery goes to good causes, so people think it is fine for others to get an addiction to scratchcards. Although they do not like to say so, and so dress it up by saying they are concerned about problem gamblers, the fact is that what lies behind measures such as the new clause is that people do not like the people who are winning the money. They do not give a stuff about the people who are losing the money. That is the sad thing.
How much did Derek Webb give to problem-gambling charities when he was accumulating his hundreds of millions of pounds? Perhaps he did give some money, but I am not aware of anything. The bookmakers give millions and millions—about £6 million a year—to problem-gambling charities to help people with their treatment, and that would be under threat if we did away with these betting shops.
I know my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Sussex (Sir Nicholas Soames) cares a great deal about the racing industry, and every single betting shop in this country gives £30,000 in picture rights to racing. Every shop that closes means £30,000 less for the racing industry, which employs an awful lot of people. The proposal will have unintended consequences.
New clause 1 is a solution looking for a problem, and it is motivated by people who are simply against gambling. They do not like gambling and they do not like betting shops. That is fair enough, and it is a perfectly respectable position to hold, but they should at least be honest about it and about the motivation behind the new clause. It is not about problem gamblers. There will be problem gamblers whether we have fixed-odds betting terminals or not, and we must do everything we can to help those individuals to get out of the mess that they are in with their lives. Problem gambling will be solved by treatment, education and research, not by getting rid of a product or targeting betting shops because we do not happen to like them. Most people in here have probably never even been into a betting shop and met the customers, but that does not stop Members spouting on about something that they know next to nothing about.
The hon. Member for Hyndburn talked about the clustering of betting shops on the high street. The fact of the matter is that a person can only go into one shop at a time, and the fact that there are two, three, four or five shops on a high street does not make that person more or less of a problem gambler. Whether there is one shop or five makes absolutely no difference to problem gamblers, and it is absolute nonsense to suggest that it does.
The problem with that is something that used to be called competition, which the Conservative party used to be in favour of, many moons ago. I know that it is an old-fashioned view in the Conservative party to believe in competition, but some of us still do. Self-exclusion for people who have a problem now applies across different betting shops. If someone self-excludes in one shop, it will apply in every shop in the locality, so I think my hon. Friend’s concern has been allayed.
The point I want to make before I finish is that if the choice was between having a betting shop in a town centre—in Bradford or in Shipley, for example—or having Marks & Spencer or Next, I would say every single time that the local authority should look to give planning permission to Marks & Spencer or Next, because it would do much more to regenerate the high street in Shipley than another betting shop would. Absolutely—I would be with the hon. Member for Hyndburn, every single day of the week. But the reason why betting shops have gone from the side streets to the main street is that retailers have been abandoning the high street—they have been walking away from it. The choice is now whether we have a betting shop or a closed-down, boarded-up shop down the high street. It is not a choice between a betting shop and a wonderful retailer that will do this, that and the other to the local community; it is often a choice between a betting shop and no shop whatsoever.
I would say that in a local community it is far better to have a betting shop employing people, and looking out for people who are gambling to make sure that they do not bet with a problem, than to have a boarded-up shop, which is the alternative. The Government should be very wary about doing something that will further reduce the number of betting shops when it is already going down, even without any intervention. I hope that the House will support my hon. Friends with their new clauses but reject new clause 1.
Members might be relieved to know that I shall be extremely brief. I rise to speak to my amendments 24 and 25, although I should say that there is not a new clause or an amendment that we have heard about today that I disagree with. I thank the many Members on both sides of the House who have supported my amendments.
My hon. Friends will know that I am a passionate champion of the vulnerable. I have often spoken about disability and social care issues, and today is no exception. I doubt that anyone in the House would disagree that safe, secure, affordable and appropriate housing is a basic requirement for everyone. I also doubt that many would disagree that we face an unprecedented housing challenge. When the supply of housing is tight, some in society must make do with seriously inappropriate housing. I am pleased to report that 90% of all new housing developments in London must meet building standards category 2, which concerns accessible standards, and that the remaining 10% must be totally wheelchair-friendly. That is fantastic and exactly as it should be, but no similar requirement applies outside London.
My amendments would require local planning authorities to consider the needs of elderly and disabled people when identifying strategic priorities for the development and use of land. They would support the national policy guidance on new developments outlined in the national planning policy framework. They would also, by enabling independent living, support the Government’s commitment to halving the disability employment gap. Furthermore, they would reduce pressure on the social care sector and the NHS by providing more suitable accommodation for elderly people and keeping them safe in their homes for longer. In itself, achieving that is one of the biggest challenges that this country faces, and we have talked an awful lot about it recently.
The Government are tackling the housing challenge head-on. I look forward to the imminent White Paper, but as we rise to this challenge, we must not inadvertently replace it with a different kind of challenge by failing to recognise the need for accessible housing. My amendments purely seek to safeguard against that.
With an ageing population and more people living longer, with complex needs, the demand for accessible homes is set to increase rapidly. By 2030, the number of people aged 65 and over will have increased by 50%. In the next 20 years, the number of disabled people is set to increase from 11 million to 15 million. Estimates —conservative estimates at that—show that 3 million more accessible homes will be needed by 2035. Today, we have 11.9 million disabled people in the UK, yet only 6% of the housing stock currently provides the four bare-minimum standards needed to allow a disabled person to visit, let alone live there. The number of people aged 85 and over is expected to double in the next 23 years to more than 3.4 million.
Older people should be able to live safely and with dignity in good-quality, warm and safe housing. We know that most older people want to retain their independence and to stay in their homes for as long as possible. Not only should we actively support that, but if we want to tackle the crisis in social care—it is a crisis—we must do so. The cost of hospitalisation and social care for older people, such as those who have suffered hip fractures, most of which are caused by falls but could be prevented if there was more suitable housing, is £2 billion a year.
My hon. Friend makes an important point. Most older people live outside London, and the demographics of local authority areas show that a higher proportion of older people live outside the metropolitan areas, which is particularly important in relation to her amendments. The preventive measures she mentions are an important aspect of social care. Will she elaborate a bit more about how early intervention could save money for the NHS and the social care system?
Absolutely. I see that particularly in my constituency of South Cambridgeshire, which has one of the fastest growing elderly populations. We are spending money hand over fist by acting after the event. If we can keep people safe in their homes, it does not take a genius to see, given the pressures on the NHS at the moment—hip fractures alone cost us £2 billion a year—that there are hundreds of ways in which the money could be better spent.
The amendments could have a far-reaching impact. Research by charities such as the Papworth Trust and Habinteg shows that disabled people who have a home that works for them are four times more likely to be in paid employment. If we are as serious as I believe we are about halving the disability employment gap, we need to get serious about these amendments.
I have highlighted the issues that every Member of this House knows we face and the impact that the lack of accessible housing is having and will continue to have on our economy and, more importantly, on our society. My amendments would impose no additional cost on the Government. Indeed, they would save the Government, and thus the taxpayer, a huge sum. All they ask is that we put into law the guidance already provided in the NPPF.
All I am asking is that planning authorities must consider the needs of the whole population. What arguments against the amendments could there possibly be? I do not accept that they will place an additional burden on developers, and thus a cost on the consumer. The additional cost of making a home accessible from the outset is absolutely minimal. Having run my own manufacturing business, I know how powerful competitive necessity can be to drive costs down.
My hon. Friend is making an important point about the affordability and accessibility of a property in which people are to live. Will she include the energy efficiency of homes in what she is encouraging developers and local authorities to consider so that elderly people can live in homes that are warm as well as accessible?
My hon. Friend makes an extremely important point. This is all about thinking about things before we have to fit them retrospectively. It is vital that we have warm and efficient homes that save money for elderly people.
Some might argue that if central Government agreed to legislate through my amendments, that would take power away from local authorities. However, the amendments would not remove any local power at all; if anything, they would bolster it.
National demographic changes are happening now. We need more accessible housing and I believe that we have an opportunity to act now. This is about how we make this country one that truly works for everyone.
I have been bullied by the Whips into making only a very short intervention, so I am not able to expand on the extensive views that I wished to favour the House with. However, I thought that I should not let the moment pass without my thanking my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) for his immensely touching description of betting shops, which, as we all know, are havens of peace, tranquillity, excitement and—
Yes, virtue. They are great places to be, and they make a tremendous and important contribution to the money-lending business. I say to my hon. Friend that he was extremely patronising about my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin) who, like myself, has probably spent many, many happy hours in gambling shops, as my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley knows I have. I have nothing but the very highest opinion of them. My hon. Friend gave us a particularly touching exposition and I hope the House will pay no attention to it.
I thank my hon. Friend the Housing and Planning Minister for his courtesy, kindness and consideration, and for the immense efforts he makes on behalf of all of us to try to ensure that we have a fair planning system in this country.
I, of course, support amendment 28, which was tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for the imperial town of Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell). I am delighted that he will not pressing it to a Division, but I am completely on his side and thought he made a powerful case. The decision that his constituents have had to cope with is certainly very unpleasant.
I am really speaking to support my right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert), who is my close friend and parliamentary neighbour. He and I are currently struggling as Mid Sussex District Council is undergoing an examination in public. As my hon. Friend the Minister knows, Mid Sussex has made 14 parish and town council plans, which is something of a record. That is an extraordinary achievement. The local communities have worked immensely hard, with great credibility and integrity, only to find that all their efforts are constantly undermined and challenged by the most unscrupulous building lobby it has ever been my pleasure to have to deal with.
At the examination in public, at which my right hon. Friend and I appeared on the second day, I was astonished to see the range of what the builders produced. They had bogus development forums that had been rushed together to try to present them as reputable. Their lobbying is aggressive and, in my view, totally unacceptable. Even our local enterprise partnership is chaired by a builder. They seek to interfere, very unhelpfully, in the work of the planning authorities.
My hon. Friend the Minister knows of the infamous application by Mayfield Market Towns to build a completely unwanted new settlement to the south of my constituency and partially in the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs. It has been turned down time after time. No one wants it and it is not in any plan, yet the builders continue to chip away at the fabric, integrity and credibility of the plans.
In supporting the very sound and sensible new clauses tabled by my right hon. Friend, all I wish to say to the Minister is that I hope he understands that councils such as Mid Sussex are fighting a losing battle. There need to be clear rules and a clear understanding that there is a spirit that is entered into, because at the moment the house builders act quite outside the spirit and intention of the law. As my hon. Friend the Member for Eddisbury (Antoinette Sandbach) said in her excellent speech, it is quite unacceptable that all this hard work is undone by some completely unacceptable lobbying.
I am pleased to follow my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Sussex (Sir Nicholas Soames). I rise to support the provisions in the Bill that will identify and build the houses that the country and my constituents badly need, and to speak in support of new clause 7.
The Bill addresses many key areas to help to deliver the home building agenda. However, speeding up the delivery of homes and increasing their number should not inevitably come at the cost of valuable green-belt land. Unfortunately, the draft Greater Manchester spatial framework, which is currently under consultation, relies heavily on the release of green-belt land, particularly in my constituency, with more than 8,000 houses planned on Cheadle’s green belt. My residents, especially in areas where neighbourhood plans are in progress, are extremely concerned about that. We have ambitious home building targets, but when delivering new homes, we must look at the long-term sustainability of development, rather than offering up our green spaces for easy wins for developers. We must be ambitious, direct development strategically and with a coherent vision, and value local community involvement.
Thousands of people have contacted me to raise their concerns about this issue, and I will be presenting a petition to the House later today that shows the strength of feeling in my constituency about protecting the green belt for the next generation while demonstrating the importance of local voices being heard.
It is evident that people care about their local communities. They want to see urban areas regenerated, and they love their open and rural spaces, and recognise their value for physical and mental health and wellbeing. People in Cheadle not only care about the place where they live, but want to help to shape it and to have their views heard. They want to have their say not only as individuals but in groups, such as Save Heald Green Green Belt and the Woodford Neighbourhood Forum. I want to make sure that they have their voices heard, too.
We should be proud of our record of encouraging and enabling community engagement through our localism agenda. The opportunity to help to shape the village of Woodford was taken up wholeheartedly by residents, who set up their neighbourhood forum in October 2013. Since then, the members and residents have raised funds and spent thousands of hours working on their local plan. Getting a local plan together is no mean feat. Over the past three years, they have put together a residents questionnaire and a neighbourhood plan scoping report, and they have held a neighbourhood plan exhibition. They have produced an interim analysis of data for 2015, an annual progress report, a landscape and environment studies report, a housing needs assessment, a movement study, and a heritage and character assessment. They have worked tremendously hard and know every inch of their area. They are now consulting village residents on the plan and reaching the pre-submission phase, which is a critical point in the plan’s progress.
I want to encourage more residents to get involved in that way. However, an obstacle to the uptake of the opportunity for groups to put together neighbourhood plans is the perception that plans can be overturned by local planning authorities, especially if they have not reached the final stage or if the local planning authority cannot demonstrate a five-year land supply. Communities need reassurance that neighbourhood plans are given due weight in planning considerations, and that all the hard work that goes into them will be rewarded and given proper consideration.
The Bill gives us an opportunity to give our green belt further protection for years to come, and to encourage more people to get involved in neighbourhood forums to develop and shape their area. I look forward to the publication of the Government’s White Paper in due course. On my Christmas card this year, I have featured the green belt at Woodford, which I look out over. I hope that, in future years, I will be able to include it on my card again.
I rise to speak in support of new clauses 7 and 8, to which I have added my name, but I am spurred by my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) to put on record my support for the tenor of new clause 1.
It is imperative that Ministers act to restore the confidence of my Congleton constituents in the status of neighbourhood plans specifically and in localism more widely. My constituents consider that the status and application of neighbourhood plans is confusing, contradictory, inconsistent and unfair. The area has no local plan and no agreed five-year planned supply. For years, local communities in my constituency have been bombarded with a barrage of inappropriate planning applications by developers gobbling up green spaces, including prime agricultural land, and putting pressure on local schools, health services, roads and other services. It is essential that Ministers take action to give neighbourhood plans the full weight in practice that the Government say they have in theory. It is for that reason that residents in my constituency have in some cases taken years to prepare neighbourhood plans. I respect the Government’s good intentions, but they are not being carried out.
The Government factsheet on the Bill states:
“Neighbourhood planning gives communities direct power to develop a shared vision for their neighbourhood and shape the development and growth of their local area. For the first time communities can produce plans that have real statutory weight in the planning system.”
That is the theory, but let me tell hon. Members about the practice. The parish of Brereton was the first area in my constituency to produce a neighbourhood plan. It is a rural farming area mainly—just 470 houses are dotted about it. It developed a neighbourhood plan over many years, and it was voted in with a huge 96% majority vote on a 51% turnout. It is a very intelligent document. It has no blanket objection to development, but does say that development should be appropriate in scale, design and character of the rural area of Brereton, and that it should not distort that character. It says that small groups of one or two properties built over time would be appropriate, supporting the rural economy and providing accommodation for those with local livelihoods, which seems reasonable.
I warmly welcomed the plan when it was produced and when it was adopted. However, the Brereton example is one of several in which planning applications that are contradictory to the best intentions of local residents have been approved by the inspectorate. Brereton is a parish of 470 houses. Within the last month, one development of no fewer than 190 houses has been allowed on appeal. Another application for 49 houses is coming down the track. That is more than half the size again of the parish.
Brereton has very few facilities—for example, it does not have a doctors’ surgery—so nearby Holmes Chapel will be pressurised further. That village already has hundreds of recently built properties or properties for which permission has been given. The health centre is full, the schools are under pressure and traffic pressures render roads dangerous. Unlike Brereton, Holmes Chapel has not yet completed its local neighbourhood plan, but people there are now asking whether it is worth the time and effort of completing one.
The position is the same in Goostrey, another nearby village that is in the process of developing its neighbourhood plan. A resident and member of the Goostrey parish council neighbourhood plan team wrote to me. He says that such decisions are demotivating when it comes to creating neighbourhood plans, and that they make encouraging people to get involved in the Goostrey plan much harder—he refers not only to the Brereton decision, but to the inconsistency of two recent decisions down the road in Sandbach, where one application for a substantial housing development was dismissed based on the neighbourhood plan, and another, cheek-by-jowl down the road, was approved with the neighbourhood plan carrying little or no weight, even though there was no five-year housing supply in both cases.
I have been told by local residents that what really offended people in Brereton was the fact that
“at the public examination of the Brereton Neighbourhood Plan in November 2015 at Sandbach Town Hall, the Examiner insisted our Plan and its policies were sufficiently robust to counteract mass housing development and protect the rural character of the Parish. He asserted publicly that Brereton, as a rural Parish, did not have a responsibility to provide mass housing towards the wider strategic housing target—yet, the Appeal Inspectorate essentially has argued the complete opposite. Why are Government representatives involved in planning matters holding completely opposing and inconsistent views?”
Another resident in yet another parish who has worked for almost two years with neighbours to develop a neighbourhood plan area designation has now resigned from the steering group, in what the constituent calls “total disillusionment”, saying:
“I do not understand how this decision is either fair or reasonable…I conclude that the Neighbourhood Planning Process is a Government-sponsored confidence trick”.
Those are strong words, but they express how many of my constituents feel. Another said that
“there seems little point in producing a neighbourhood plan if it is considered irrelevant.”
That is what I am saying. Time and again, our constituents are being encouraged to produce neighbourhood plans. About two years ago, my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham and Stamford (Nick Boles), then a Minister in the Department for Communities and Local Government, came at my invitation to Sandbach town hall to talk to residents concerned about the barrage of applications by developers to build thousands of houses across my constituency. He said that the way to protect our local communities was by developing neighbourhood plans. That galvanised communities such as those that I have mentioned into working towards neighbourhood plans. As others have said, some residents have put hundreds of hours into doing so.
My hon. Friend describes a situation that I am sure we all recognise well. In my experience, many local communities engage positively with their neighbourhood and local plans to identify the housing need in their area, and then plan accordingly. Does she share my frustration, however, that because of the robust protections afforded to the Bristol and Bath green belt to the north of my constituency, despite my communities having made plans in Somerset, much of the former’s housing demand is being displaced southwards, so we end up having to absorb that as well, outwith our planning?
I do very much empathise with my hon. Friend’s concerns.
Another resident says that unless neighbourhood plans are given significant weight—that is what I and many colleagues have asked the Minister to ensure—their community
“would advise others not to put the time and effort into what is increasingly looking like a futile and wasteful exercise”.
Another resident pointed out that the factsheet I referred to states, in response to the question,
“should a community produce a neighbourhood plan where the Local Plan may not be up-to-date?”,
“a neighbourhood plan, communities can have a real say about local development…and protect important local green spaces”.
It also states that
“the NPPF is very clear that where a planning application conflicts with a neighbourhood plan that has been brought into force, planning permission should not normally be granted (NPPF para. 198)”.
Contradictorily, in the case of Brereton, the inspector’s report allowing the appeal for these 190 houses stated:
“Reference was made to paragraph 198 of the Framework, which provides that where a planning application conflicts with a neighbourhood plan (as in this case)”—
he acknowledged that—
“that has been brought into force, planning permission should not normally be granted”.
So far, so good. It goes on to say:
“However, the position is not ‘normal’ in that as NP policy HOU01 is clearly a relevant policy for the supply of housing, and is in conformity with LP policies which are themselves out of date”—
meaning there is no current neighbourhood plan—
“only limited weight can be afforded to the policy”.
As my residents are saying, it looks as though the Department is saying that an application that conflicts with a neighbourhood plan would result in refusal of a planning permission, even though a local plan is not up to date—that is in the factsheet—but the Planning Inspectorate is saying that a neighbourhood plan can be given only limited weight for the very reason that the local plan is out of date.
In conclusion, I ask Ministers to clarify the weight—the actual weight—to be given to made neighbourhood plans in the absence of a local plan, and also to provide increased weight to a draft plan because of the stage it has reached. Many of these communities that are now in the process of developing plans have become disillusioned, as I said. There are many months still to go before their plans can be finalised, and they want to know whether it is worth continuing.
Let me finally ask if we could have a fairer methodology for calculating a deliverable five-year land supply, because the head of planning strategy at Cheshire East Council has confirmed to me:
“If we could count all our current permissions, the Borough would have a 5-year supply as things stand.”
But things do not stand there because the problem arises from the fact that developers do not build out. They are tardy, and they are deliberately tardy because they simply want to get more and more permissions. They are, as colleagues have said, gaming the system.
It is a pleasure to participate in the debate, and, with a mainly rural constituency, I felt I must. I refer Members to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) and my right hon. Friends the Members for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert), for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell) and for Mid Sussex (Sir Nicholas Soames) on their contributions. I entirely concur with them and share their concerns on this important issue.
Let me touch briefly—I, too, have been got at by the Whips, which is unusual for me; I have not been got at in six years, but I have been today, so I shall not be long—on regionalism, which my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield brought up, and localism. As I am addressing my remarks to the planning Minister, for whom I have a huge amount of respect and who is doing a wonderful job, I would also like to touch briefly on housing density.
To look at this from a more macro point of view, my concern is that we will be here for many years to come, because planning has always been a complicated issue. With the pressures on immigration—no one should get me wrong; I am all for controlled immigration—and with a net immigration of 340,000, that means that something comparable to the population of the city of Leeds, with a population of 750,000, is settling in the country about every two years.
There are pressures on us all in this House, and they are going to increase—not just in our urban areas, but in our beautiful rural areas such as South Dorset. I entirely concur with my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield that we must look at planning, and housing in particular, in a far more regional and holistic way. Local people entirely support the neighbourhood plans, which I think are a very good idea—as long as they are going to work, of course. Local plans must be respected and must have some statutory weight, as my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton said. A reasonable holistic approach is going to be far more pragmatic and sensible if, for example, a region with an urban and a rural area can decide where the jobs, the hospitals, the roads and all the different parts of infrastructure are. All too often, these do not come with proposals by developers because, of course, that costs money. Moving on briefly to localism, the opinion of local people must, of course, be sought, because that is going to be crucial.
Conservative Members must be very careful. I remember cursing Labour’s regional spatial strategy until I was blue in the face, but I think we are in danger of not listening to local people who have genuine concerns. This is nowhere more appropriate than in my part of the world in Purbeck. As I hinted to my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin), I think we need more clarity on the rules and regulations governing where houses should be built. Quite apart from all the local people, who are consulted, we have the officers, who in many cases do not seem to understand what the planning regulations mean or interpret them wrongly. There are the over-enthusiastic officers who get it completely wrong, and vice versa. Then of course there are our dear councillors on all sides of the political divide, who are doing their best, but they are human beings and often make mistakes. They may make decisions for political reasons. There are all kinds of factors that we in this House know lead councillors to make decisions, and they might not always be the right ones.
Local people in Langton Matravers in my constituency know exactly who needs to have a house: it must be affordable—and I mean affordable—and they know best where to place it. They do not need to be told by planning inspectors, whom everyone is terrified of, that they must have hundreds of homes on the edge of their beautiful village, which in effect almost turns it into a sort of ghetto and ruins the reason millions of people come to our beautiful constituencies. This clearly is absolute madness.
I know other Members wish to speak and the Government want to move on, but finally I wish to make a plea on density and style of housing. I have a friend in north Yorkshire who is a landowner and who has developed truly affordable proper homes—affordable homes for rent, which is equally important as homes to buy. The following point is crucial. In too many housing developments, particularly in rural areas, there is no area for children: the cars are parked on the street, the dustbins are at the front doors, there are no green fields to run out and have fun on.
My hon. Friend is making a very important point. One of the things I have been horrified by in following this examination in public is that here are these builders proposing building hundreds of houses over what is already a very substantial target, which the council has agreed to, and they have made no mention at all of infrastructure. How can anyone accept that?
My right hon. Friend represents a beautiful constituency like mine and speaks eloquently, and I entirely concur with him, as I am sure we all do. I make a plea to the Government to look at some form of legislation to ensure that developers have a duty to develop responsibly and in ways whereby they treat people and families as human beings, not animals trapped in a cage where they cannot go outside and children cannot roam without annoying the neighbours. This will lead to social breakdown, as we have seen across the country in many areas, and the worst examples lead to more social incohesion, which is the last thing we need.
It is a pleasure to take part in this debate and to speak briefly to new clause 1 and amendments 24 and 25, which are both moderate amendments.
We have had a debate about betting shops and FOBTs, but Mr Deputy Speaker is giving great latitude to the discussion on new clause 1, because FOBTs and betting are the responsibility of another Department. This is essentially about the tools in relation to licensing and the welcome review. We have heard the warm-up act from my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies). His speech can be rehearsed again when we come to the outcome, which hopefully will show evidence of the significant harm that is being done, particularly to the most vulnerable people.
I am not so concerned about the Derek Webbs of this world or the motivations of hon. Members or hon. Friends; I am concerned about the vulnerable people who are certainly being preyed upon, particularly in deprived communities, and especially as a result of the clustering of betting shops. There is good evidence from the Local Government Association that in areas of clustering there is increased problem gambling. We cannot avoid that evidence. New clause 1 seeks to deal with clustering.
It is just one tool. The number of betting shops, the number of those betting, and indeed those going to payday loan companies, are thankfully being reduced because of other regulatory measures. The 2015 regulatory interventions on payday loans were very welcome, and have had an impact. The additional taxation of gaming machines has also had an impact on the number of betting shops.
These are all tools at the Government’s disposal, but we are discussing planning tools and whether they are fit for purpose. In London there are local plans in Enfield and elsewhere—the borough plans that take account of impact on amenity, concentration of similar uses, security, locality and proximity to sensitive uses. That is all welcome. The previous Mayor of London also focused in his plan on the over-concentration of betting shops and prepared and issued the 2014 supplementary planning guidance. It recognised the urgent need to enable local planning authorities to control the proliferation of betting shops and to address implications of retaining the viability and vitality of town centres while protecting amenity and safety.
Governments, local councils and neighbourhood plans are all on this journey, but all of us in this place may not be on the same journey. There has been good cross-party support for the concerns about clustering, but is that adequate? Control, not least of clustering, is insufficient across the board and across the country, and we must consider the available opportunities. That is what new clause 1 is about. It provides for an assessment when an increase in the number of betting shops or payday lenders is proposed to ensure that deleterious impacts of clustering are prevented.
In many ways, the new clause pulls together the elements of the journey that the Government are on, and I look forward to hearing the Minister welcome the principles behind it. If he is unwilling to support it this time around, taking account of the concerns of my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin) about blocking, I hope he recognises that there are good intentions across the House. When the review of fixed odds betting terminals is published, if there is evidence of significant harm, I hope the Government will do what is already within their power and issue appropriate guidance. It matters that betting shops are sadly disproportionately affecting vulnerable people. There is something in the fact that the poorest 55 boroughs have more than twice as many betting shops as the most affluent 115 boroughs. There needs to be an appropriate local dimension so that those poorer boroughs have the Government behind them, backing them up with local plans. I am supportive of new clause 1, but I will not join the hon. Member for Hyndburn (Graham Jones) in the Lobby tonight. I want the Government to be true to their word and take appropriate action and issue guidance at the appropriate time, such as when we hear back from the licensing review.
I support amendments 24 and 25—two welcome and moderate amendments from my hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire (Heidi Allen). She is somewhat radical on occasions, but they are moderate and simply state what we all no doubt want to ensure. When we consider new building and the current and future projections in our areas, we must take account of the entire population, older and disabled people in particular. The amendments make sense and fit with the Government’s agenda of integrating social care and with the Green Paper about integration across Departments. It is projected that over-65 households will represent almost half of all household growth up to 2026, so getting housing right for older people will have immense benefits for society and the economy. When we ask our local authorities about new higher accessibility standards, the number of retirement housing developments, easy access to public transport and other local services and facilities, home adaptations, disabled facilities grants, and proper and appropriate housing support services in sheltered housing, these amendments will give that real teeth and ensure that what we all want does happen. I look forward to the Minister’s positive response.
It is in my hands. The Whips will see whether their spell has worked.
I start by welcoming my hon. Friend the Planning Minister. He has been incredibly generous in listening to Back-Bench concerns about planning. Having practised in it as a chartered surveyor, I know that it is an incredibly difficult area. The Bill is important, because neighbourhood plans were introduced by the Localism Act 2011—the clue is in the name—and if we can devolve planning down as far as possible, many people will feel that they have ownership of the planning system and be much happier about what is being done to them. In contrast to some Members who have spoken in this debate, I warmly welcome such plans, and the Bill is a good step forward. New clauses 7 and 8 and amendments 19 and 28, which are in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell), all represent improvements to the Bill.
We must ensure that neighbourhood plans work, and we need three things to do that. I represent two local authorities, Stroud District Council, which has a local district plan, and Cotswold District Council, which does not, and I have been pretty strong in my words about the latter. The net result in the Cotswold District Council area is that we do not have a single neighbourhood plan in operation.
I have here a neighbourhood plan; this has 50 or 60 pages of hugely detailed stuff prepared by Fairford Town Council, dealing with not only where houses go, but a host of other aspects such as infrastructure, bus routes and community facilities. It contains a huge range of things, so it is a really good thing to get local people thinking about these plans. They cannot do that, however, unless they have a local plan in place; although they can, theoretically, produce a neighbourhood plan, they need a local plan in place. I therefore urge that we get on to local councils to get one in place.
The second thing that needs to be done is to make sure that the five-year land supply can be controlled by the local authority. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Harborough (Sir Edward Garnier) has made clear, the local planning system is a system of development, not of building. Therefore, if a developer plays the system and does not develop one site but gets planning permission for another, that can throw the system. I am grateful for the Minister’s written statement today, which protects the situation until this Bill comes into effect. Indeed, it goes further in some respects than the Bill, because it protects some aspects of a three-year land supply, so I am grateful for what he has done.
If we do not have confidence in the neighbourhood planning system, we will not get any of the 130 towns and villages that I represent in my huge constituency, where 80% is designated as an area of outstanding natural beauty, to produce a neighbourhood plan. Planning is as difficult in the Cotswolds as it is anywhere in the country, and if we want them to produce these neighbourhood plans, which, as others have said, are difficult, detailed, costly and time-consuming for these volunteers, we need to have confidence in the system. In order for that to happen, these plans must work and stand up to scrutiny, and where a local plan and a neighbourhood plan are in operation, it should be de rigueur that the planning inspector does not overturn them, as happened in Kingswood, in the Stroud constituency. Fortunately, this Bill would rectify that, because Kingswood’s neighbourhood plan was at an advanced stage of preparation but was not actually adopted. Just to show hon. Members how neighbourhood plans should work, let me point out that in many cases well over 50%, and often 60%, vote for these neighbourhood plans in referendums, so they are very popular. As has been said by a number of others, they bring forward more houses, because when people buy in to the system, they tend to want to adopt more houses. So I think this is an excellent Bill and I commend the Minister for what he has done.
Given the lateness of the hour, even though we have a number of amendments in this group, I will speak only to amendments 7 and 8, and to confirm our support for a few others. Amendment 7 would allow the full recovery of costs by local authorities for assisting with the development of a neighbourhood plan. We know that planning departments are massively under-resourced and that they are hugely important in getting the housing that we so desperately need built. I wholeheartedly agree with the Minister that if we want to build the housing we need, we must make sure that planning departments are adequately resourced. I therefore hope he will bring forward something beyond simply allowing local authorities to charge higher fees to resource planning departments properly.
Amendment 8 requires the Secretary of State to prioritise deprived communities when making available financial assistance to support the development of neighbourhood plans. Again, we discussed this in Committee, and if we are really serious about ensuring that all communities across the country are able to produce neighbourhood plans, deprived communities need to be supported in that endeavour and funded properly to produce such a plan. I wish also to put on the record the fact that we support amendments 24, 25 and 29 and new clauses 7 and 1, the latter having been tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Hyndburn (Graham Jones).
In contrast with the first group of amendments, where we had a short debate on technical issues, this group has cut to the heart of our planning system, and I hope the House will bear with me, as I have a large number of amendments to respond to. Of the official Opposition amendments, I will respond only to the ones the hon. Member for City of Durham (Dr Blackman-Woods) spoke to, as I know the Opposition are keen for us to get on to the third group.
I start very quickly with four Government amendments. Three minor and technical amendments, 17, 18 and 19, are required to remove unnecessary duplication between clauses 10 and 11. Amendment 22 to clause 40 amends the commencement provision so that it no longer refers to the duplicated Bill in clause 11. If the House will take me at my word on that, I will move on to the more substantive issues. I will take them in the order in which they were raised in the debate.
Speaking to new clause 1, the hon. Member for Hyndburn (Graham Jones), my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin), and my hon. Friends the Members for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) and for Enfield, Southgate (Mr Burrowes) spoke movingly about problems caused by the proliferation—my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) begged to differ on that word—or clustering of betting shops in their communities. Their concerns are not just limited to the planning system, but they rightly looked to the planning system to protect their communities.
In responding, I remind the House of important recent changes to the planning system, which specifically require planning applications to be made for additional betting shops or payday loan shops. Before April 2015, under the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order, a new betting shop or payday loan shop could be opened in any premises used for financial or professional services in the A2 use class. In addition, an A3 restaurant, A4 pub and A5 hot food takeaway could all change use to a betting shop or a payday loan shop under permitted development rights without the need for a planning application.
Recognising the concerns that people have expressed about that, the Government changed the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order: betting shops and payday loan shops were made a use class of their own and now require a planning application, allowing proper consideration of the issues that a change of use may raise. As with any planning application, the local planning authority must determine that application in accordance with the development plan, unless material considerations indicate otherwise. Those planning authorities that have concerns about the clustering of such uses should therefore ensure that they have an up-to-date plan in place with relevant policies. As with any policy, that plan should be based on evidence and tailored to meet the needs of the local area.
Paragraph 23 of the NPPF is clear—local planning authorities should recognise town centres as the heart of their communities and pursue policies to support their viability and vitality and to promote a mix of uses. Betting shops and payday loan shops are not an issue everywhere. Where the ongoing clustering of them is an issue, and where that has an adverse impact on the character or balance of uses on the high street, planning authorities can ensure that they have policies in place. We have given them the tools they need to manage the issue.
My hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate said that this is a local problem that requires local solutions, and the Government agree with that. We do not see the need for national guidance that sets out what every authority should do, partly because the situation is by no means uniform across the country, and partly because there are very different opinions within this House and within local authorities about the right response to these issues. The Government’s view therefore is that this is a matter that is best left to individual local authorities, as they know their circumstances.
I will not take an intervention now, as I am conscious of the time. What I will say to the hon. Gentleman, who clearly has a real passion for this issue, is that I am prepared to talk to colleagues in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and see, as part of its wider review of these issues, whether it would be helpful to issue guidance to local authorities so that they are aware of the powers that they have and how the NPPF works in this area.
Let me move on now to the main issue of the debate, which was in relation to neighbourhood planning. I thank all right hon. and hon. Members who put their names to new clause 7 for the opportunity to debate an issue in which so many people in this House have a strong interest. I am talking about the role of neighbourhood planning groups in our planning system.
There are many champions of neighbourhood planning in all parts of the House. As the planning Minister, I am very grateful for that support. The encouragement and support of a trusted local MP can undoubtedly help with many aspects of the neighbourhood planning process.
It is worth taking a quick moment to say why neighbourhood planning is so important. Research tells us that 42% of people say that they would be more supportive of proposed developments if local people had a say in them. There is strong evidence that those plans that have included housing allocations have increased, on average, the allocation above what their local planning authority was putting in place. To put that simply, where we give people control of the planning system, they plan for more housing. It is therefore crucial that the plans that people have worked so hard to produce are given proper consideration when local planning decisions are made.
In responding to new clause 7, I want to reassure my right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert) that measures in the Housing and Planning Act 2016 that were commenced only on 1 October, the measures in this Bill, and in particular the written ministerial statement, which he referred to in his remarks, that I made yesterday, will address the concerns that he has raised. The national planning policy framework already says clearly that, where a planning application conflicts with a neighbourhood plan that has been brought into force, planning permission should not normally be granted. As my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton pointed out, the issue here is that, where a local planning authority does not have a five-year land supply, that is not a normal circumstance and the presumption in favour of development in some cases—not all—overrides neighbourhood plans.
In the written ministerial statement, I made it clear that from yesterday, where communities plan for housing in their area in a neighbourhood plan, those plans should not be deemed out of date unless there is a significant lack of land supply—that is, under three years. That applies to all plans for the next two years, and for the first two years of any plan that is put into place. That will give a degree of protection that has not been available. The message needs to go out clearly from this House that local authorities must get up-to-date plans in place to provide that protection for neighbourhood plans. I hope that that reassures people. As I said, I have written both to the Planning Inspectorate and to local councils on that issue.
I hope that my right hon. Friend feels that what I have said is part of the solution. I was attracted to part of his new clause 7. It refers to the idea that parish councils and neighbourhood forums should be told if there is a planning application in their area. At present, they have a right to request information, but they are not necessarily told. If he does not press new clause 7 and with his permission, I will take that proposal away and seek to insert it into the Bill in the Lords.
On new clause 8, which deals with the five-year land supply, the written ministerial statement partly addresses that concern, but the other issue that my right hon. Friend touched on was whether, once a five-year land supply has been established, there should be a period that it holds for. The local plans expert group made some very interesting recommendations in that area. We will look at them as part of the White Paper, so I can reassure him that the Government are actively considering that issue and will return to it. I hope that he feels that with the changes in the 2016 Act that have just been brought into force, the changes that we are making in this Bill, the written ministerial statement, the fact that I will accept part of his amendment and what is going to come in the White Paper, there is a package that underlines this Government’s commitment to neighbourhood planning. I thank him on a personal level for the priority that he has given to the issue. I found my discussions with him very useful.
On amendments 28 and 29 in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell), I should say that I am always grateful for his advice and suggestions. He is a champion for his constituency and the whole House understands how passionately he feels about the green belt in his constituency. As someone with green belt in my constituency, I both understand and share that passion. The green belt has been a feature of planning policy throughout the post-war period, and although its boundaries have changed over time, the underlying objective of preventing urban sprawl remains as relevant as ever.
I make it clear to the House that the Government’s policy on protecting the green belt and national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty and sites of special scientific interest remains unchanged. The national planning policy framework is very clear that it is for local authorities to decide whether to review green-belt boundaries but that they should do so only in exceptional circumstances. There needs to be public consultation and independent examination of their proposals. In relation to applications to build homes on green-belt land, again there is very strong protection. The NPPF says that inappropriate development is by definition harmful to the green belt and should not be approved except in very special circumstances.
As I said, there is independent examination whenever a local authority seeks to review green-belt boundaries. The inspector looked at whether Birmingham City Council’s decision passed the test of exceptional circumstances, and his judgment was that the council’s proposals on density and its work with neighbouring local authorities under the duty to co-operate passed that test. As my right hon. Friend is aware, the previous Secretary of State issued the holding direction, and we looked at the inspector’s decision to see whether there was any reason we might feel he had misdirected himself, and we decided there were no grounds for us to overturn the decision. I understand that my right hon. Friend does not agree with that decision and feels very angry about it, but that is a factual account of what happened.
Nevertheless, there was no consultation of the 100,000 people in Sutton Coldfield—at least, the consultation was completely ignored. We are the largest town council in the country, and every single town councillor is opposed to this plan. Will my hon. Friend at least suggest to Birmingham City Council that, before it proceeds to ratify the plan, it should consult the largest town council in the country and listen to its views?
I was going to come to that issue when I came to my right hon. Friend’s second new clause. Since he has raised it with me directly, I am happy to say that I would expect local authorities to consult their parish and town councils. I have no power to direct them to do so, as he alluded to in his speech, but there should clearly be consultation with large town councils and local communities should be consulted as part of the local plan process. I suspect that part of his frustration with this decision is about the fact that he does not necessarily accept the legitimacy of Birmingham imposing it on Sutton Coldfield and that perhaps speaks to his views about local governance in the area. However, the whole House will have heard his passion for this issue.
I am conscious of the time, Mr Speaker, so let me briefly reassure the House on the Government’s efforts to ensure that we have a policy of brownfield first. We are introducing statutory brownfield registers. Our estate regeneration strategy, which has just been published, is looking at how we can redevelop our estates. Permitted development is about bringing old buildings back into use. There is the release of surplus public land. The £3 billion home building fund is aimed at getting brownfield sites back into use. There are also the £1.2 billion starter home land fund and the changes to the NPPF that we are consulting on to put an even stronger emphasis on brownfield. I just want to reassure the House on that issue.
Let me turn to my right hon. Friend’s second amendment, on the relationship between neighbourhood plans and local plans and on the roles of parish and town councils. He referred to Sutton Coldfield Town Council, which was recently set up under the reforms the Government brought in to allow new town and parish councils to be established. The Government have a lot of sympathy with the argument he is advancing in this amendment. There are already powers in legislation in relation to the statements of community involvement that local authorities have to produce, but I think he has found an issue where we can strengthen the statutory protections. With his leave, and if he were not to press his amendment, I would like to discuss the issue with him and come back in the Lords to see whether we can make the kind of changes he suggests.
Let me turn briefly to new clause 5 from my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin), which is about the resourcing of the neighbourhood planning process. The neighbourhood share of the community infrastructure levy was introduced by this Government in 2013—I suspect that he had a hand in that—to give local people a real say over infrastructure priorities in their area. Communities without a neighbourhood plan already benefit from using 15% of CIL receipts. The money is passed directly to parish and town councils, and Government guidance makes it clear that it can be used to develop a neighbourhood plan.
New clause 5 sets out that a local planning authority may make available funds where a parish agrees to forgo some of the CIL levy it expects to get over time. If communities wish to do that, they are already able to do so, because regulation 59A of the CIL regulations allows them to. However, I think that the wider point my right hon. Friend was trying to probe was about the resourcing for neighbourhood planning. We have a budget of £22.5 million for 2015 to 2018. Nearly £10 million of that has been spent so far. Clearly, if we get an acceleration in the number of neighbourhood plans, we will need to find additional resources, and I am happy to discuss further with him how we might go about doing so.
In new clause 2, my hon. Friend the Member for Eddisbury (Antoinette Sandbach) seeks to encourage developers to comply with existing local and, particularly, neighbourhood plans. At appeal, an award of costs may be made if there has been unreasonable behaviour by a party that has caused another party to incur unnecessary or wasted expenses. It is worth pointing out that Government guidance includes as an example of unreasonable behaviour a development that is clearly not in accordance with the development plan and where no other material considerations indicate that a decision should be made against the development plan. So this ability is already there. An award of costs does not determine the actual amount but states the broad extent of the expense that can be recovered, and the matter then has to be settled between the parties or in the courts.
My hon. Friend’s new clause raises issues that it may be of interest to explore further. We need to think about whether we can do more to ensure that the collective vision of a community as set out in its neighbourhood plan is not regularly overridden. I cannot agree with the part of the new clause that refers to initial applications to the local authority. However, in relation to award of costs in the appeals system, we can look at what more we can do to ensure that only appeals that have a legitimate chance of success go forward to the inspectorate. If she is happy not to press her new clause, I am happy to look further at that matter.
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire (Heidi Allen) for her two amendments raising the important issue of homes for older and disabled people. The Government want to see new homes and places that stand the test of time. We therefore want to ensure that buildings and spaces work well for everyone and will adapt to the needs of future generations. Her proposal tackles a very important issue. Older and disabled people have a wide range of housing needs. As she implied, we are already seeking to address that in the NPPF. I fully understand why she wanted to further emphasise the importance of this issue by putting it into primary legislation. We need to guard against attempts to put all national planning policy into primary legislation, but she has alighted on a particularly important issue. Given that we support the spirit of her amendments, if she is happy not to press them, I am minded to accept their thrust and work with her to come back in the Lords with amendments approved by parliamentary counsel that take forward the principle of what she has been trying to achieve. I thank her for her interest in this issue.
I turn finally to the amendments tabled by the official Opposition. I will deal with just the two proposed by the hon. Member for City of Durham (Dr Blackman-Woods). On amendment 7, the Secretary of State and I have been clear that the resourcing of local authority planning departments is an issue very close to our hearts. As I set out in Committee, in the specific case of funding for neighbourhood planning duties, we believe that adequate funding is already available. Planning authorities can claim £5,000 for each of the first five neighbourhood areas they designate and, where there is no parish council, a further £5,000 for each of the first five neighbourhood forums. They can claim an additional £20,000 once they have set the date for a referendum. In addition, where a second referendum must be held, a further £10,000 is available. I know that the House is very interested in second referendums at the moment. I should stress that this relates to areas where there are businesses and local residents; it is not an attempt to rerun the argument. In total, £13 million has been paid out since 2012 to help local planning authorities to meet their responsibilities. We are committed to continuing to review the costs incurred by councils delivering neighbourhood planning as take-up increases, and we will continue to fund them. This should not be conflated with the wider issue of the funding of local planning departments. As the hon. Lady knows, we will include proposals in the White Paper to try to address that issue.
Amendment 8 raises the important issue of neighbourhood planning in deprived communities. As I said in Committee, we recognise the issues that those communities face. Neighbourhood planning groups in these areas can apply for a grant of up to £15,000—£6,000 more than the usual limit—and, in addition, get significant technical support. I am reluctant to put specific spending requirements into primary legislation because we cannot predict the balance of schemes that will come forward, and it could mean that we could not then fund some neighbourhood planning groups in other areas. However, I assure the hon. Lady that we are committed to making sure that deprived communities get the funding they need. This should not just be a policy for wealthy rural areas. We are putting specific effort into encouraging groups in deprived urban areas to apply for neighbourhood planning.
The House has been very patient with me as I have had to deal with a large number of new clauses and amendments in a short period. I hope that Members will not press their new clauses and amendments and are happy with what I have said.
Question put and negatived.
New Clause 9
Permitted development: use clauses and demolition of drinking establishments
“(1) The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 (SI/1987/764) is amended as follows.
(2) At the end of section 3(6) insert—
“(p) drinking establishment.”
(3) In the Schedule, leave out the paragraph starting “Class A4. Drinking Establishments”
(4) The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 (SI1995/418) is amended as follows.
(5) In Part 3 of Schedule 2—
(a) in Class A: Permitted development, leave out “A4 (drinking establishments)”.
(b) In Class AA: Permitted development, leave out “Class A4 (drinking establishments)”.
(c) in Class C: Permitted development, leave out “Class A4 (drinking establishments)”.
(6) In Part 31 of Schedule 2 under A.1 at end insert—
“() the building subject to demolition is classed as a drinking establishment”.”—(Dr Blackman-Woods.)
The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that any proposed demolition of or change of use to public houses and other drinking establishments would be subject to planning permission. Currently such buildings, unless they have been listed as Assets of Community Value with the local authority, can be demolished or have their use changed without such permission being granted.
Brought up, and read the First time.
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:
New clause 10—Funding for local authority planning functions—
“(1) The Secretary of State must consult local planning authorities prior to the commencement of any new statutory duties to ensure that they are—
(a) adequately resourced; and
(b) adequately funded
so that they are able to undertake the additional work.
(2) In any instance where that is not the case, an independent review of additional cost must be conducted to set out the level of resource required to allow planning authorities to fulfil any new statutory duties.”
This new clause would ensure that the costs of new planning duties are calculated and adequately funded.
New clause 11—Planning obligations—
“(1) The Town and Country Planning Act 1990 is amended as follows.
(2) In subsection (1) of section 106 (planning obligations) after paragraph (d) insert—
“(e) requiring that information submitted as part of, and in support of, a viability assessment be made available to the public.””
This new clause would ensure that viability assessments are public documents with no commercial confidentiality restrictions, except in cases where disclosure would not be in the public interest.
Amendment 14, page 11, line 1, leave out clause 12.
This amendment would remove from the Bill completely the changes to planning conditions.
Amendment 11, in clause 12, page 11, line 18, leave out subsection (2)(a).
This amendment would ensure that “acceptable in planning terms” does not mean that conditions can be overlooked because they are unacceptable for other reasons.
Amendment 12, page 11, line 27, leave out subsections (4) to (7).
This amendment would ensure that local authorities are still able to make necessary pre-commencement conditions on developers.
Amendment 13, page 11, line 34, at end insert—
“(6A) The Secretary of State should provide guidance for appeal routes where an agreement cannot be reached on pre-commencement conditions, along guidance on pre-completion and pre-occupation conditions.”
This amendment ensures that there is clarity on appeal routes, pre-completion and pre-occupation conditions.
Amendment 15, in clause 13, page 12, line 32, at end insert—
“(e) information on the number of permitted demolition of offices for residential use to a similar scale including—
(i) the impact on a local plan;
(ii) an estimate as to how many homes the development will deliver; and
(iii) a consultation with the local authority regarding the effect of the change of use on any urban regeneration plans.”
This amendment would ensure monitoring of the impact of permitted right of demolition on offices on urban regeneration that requires office space and on the provision of housing.
Government amendment 20.
Amendment 16, page 13, line 21, at end insert—
“(9) The cost of compiling a register and gathering the information to underpin it should be met by the Secretary of State.”
I will speak to new clause 9, tabled by the hon. Member for Leeds North West (Greg Mulholland), because I have added my name to it. It would require the demolition or change of use of pubs to be subject to planning permission. That seems very sensible. It is something that I feel very strongly about. As a shadow Minister, I was at the forefront of the fight against the changes to permitted development rights that the Government started to force through two years ago. I have spoken on pubs and permitted development many times. It is very important, as a pub can often be a real central point for a local community, and so it is right that local residents are given the chance to have their say over what happens to it.
Although pubs can be protected if they are designated an asset of community value, the process for that can be very cumbersome. I believe it is much more appropriate to return the decision on whether a pub can be demolished or converted to the local community, where it belongs, rather than dealing with it through permitted development.
I will move straight on to—
If the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I will not, as I am very short of time. I might a bit later, once I have made a bit of progress.
I also want to speak to new clause 11, on the need for the viability assessments to be transparent to the public. Labour has consistently raised this issue, and we continue to believe it is of huge importance. If the public are to accept development in their area, they have to be absolutely certain that viability arrangements for site—in particular, safety integrity level requirements and section 106 requirements—are all that they should be.
As things stand, a viability assessment lays bare to council officers the economics of a project, providing detailed financial evidence for a developer’s claim that a particular scheme would not be viable without reducing the number of affordable homes. The problem is that the assessments are not available for public scrutiny. Labour has commented that despite planning practice guidance encouraging transparency, developers may opt not to disclose their viability assessments to the public on the grounds of commercial confidentiality. It is widely accepted that that is sometimes done so that they can negotiate down their section 106 obligations without public scrutiny. As a consequence, affordable housing may be reduced and the quality of the built environment may suffer. We need a uniform approach to transparency, across the country—I am sure the Minister supports that—so that developers know that they will be open to public scrutiny wherever they decide to operate.
I move on to amendment 14. This Bill is the Government’s sixth measure on the planning system in six years. I hope that the current Minister will not continue what we saw in the past, namely the Government blaming the planning system, or various elements of it, for their failure to build enough homes. On this occasion, pre-commencement planning conditions are in the firing line. But as the Minister well knows from our time in Committee, there is a distinct lack of evidence that pre-commencement planning conditions slow up development. In fact, we heard a lot of evidence that they often make a development acceptable for a local community.
Pre-commencement conditions are also advantageous for a number of different stakeholders in the house building industry. They have certain advantages to developers, who may not be in a position to finalise details for a scheme but wish to secure planning permission as soon as possible. They have advantages for local authorities, because councils may, in practice, have limited legal ability to enforce conditions once a scheme is under way. Conditions are useful to the development industry in general, because they make it possible to permit schemes that might otherwise have to be refused.
It makes little sense to us to make such important changes as the Minister wants to make to pre-commencement planning conditions, especially as the evidence that we received suggested that the problem was not with the conditions but with the signing off of planning conditions in a timely manner. The evidence suggested that the problem was mostly with the resourcing of planning departments and the fact that they did not have enough officers to carry out enforcement, rather than with the pre-commencement conditions. We heard that that could slow up development or result in development being rejected because the conditions are not applied to it.
We intend to press to a vote new clause 11 and amendment 14, because we want to ensure that measures are in place not only to deliver the homes that we want in this country, but to make sure that they are in communities that have access to the services, jobs and general good-quality built environment and natural environment that people want.
I will give way to the right hon. Member for Wokingham (John Redwood) if he still wants to intervene.
We are not against a change of use for a pub; we are against the fact that that change goes through permitted development, taking away local people’s right to have a say over what happens to the pub. The new clause is designed to remove those changes from permitted development and put them back into the planning system, which is exactly where they should be.
I am very sympathetic to pubs, and always voted on what we might call the pub side of the argument, including over the tenancy issue—the tied pubs issue—during the previous Parliament. I am concerned that if we say to a struggling pub that it has to get planning permission, the bank might pull the plug on it much more quickly, because there will be no guarantee that the bank will be able to get its money back—as it can at the moment—if it keeps lending the pub money. I wonder what the hon. Lady makes of the idea that the proposal could be inadvertently counterproductive for pubs that are struggling.
When we are considering the future of a pub, it is really important that the local community has a say in that. In the totality of the scheme, it is rarely the case that the cost of a planning application will make the whole scheme viable or unviable in the long term.
I want to speak briefly to new clause 10, which is designed to press the Minister when it comes to ensuring that planning departments are adequately resourced, not only to undertake their current work but to deal with any new burdens that the Minister places on them. I will leave it there, to allow the hon. Member for Leeds North West (Greg Mulholland) to come in on new clause 9.
I do not intend to trouble the House for long, but I want to focus on new clause 9. I am pleased that the hon. Member for Leeds North West (Greg Mulholland) is in his place, and I pay tribute to him for the work that he has done over many years to support pubs. Just to show that I do not want to ban things that I do not do myself, I remind the House that I do not drink. I am a teetotaller, but I still believe in pubs and their importance in the local community, and in people’s freedom to do as they please.
The hon. Gentleman has done a fantastic job of supporting the pub industry. As I made clear in my intervention, during the previous Parliament I voted on the side of pubs on the question of whether they should be tied. I felt that too many pubs were tied to unfair conditions that affected their viability, and I was pleased that the Government lost that vote. My instinct is to want to support the hon. Gentleman’s new clause 9, because I support pubs and the work that he does.
I will not blame the hon. Member for City of Durham (Dr Blackman-Woods), who is very impressive, but I clearly did not explain myself very well when I raised my concern. It was not her lack of understanding; it was clearly the fault of my explanation. I apologise for putting her in the difficult position of trying to make sense of something that did not make any sense at all.
I would be very pleased to hear how the hon. Member for Leeds North West can address my concern about new clause 9. If a struggling pub needs support from the bank to keep it going and the bank knows that the site of the closed pub can easily be changed to an alternative use without going through a bureaucratic planning process that may end up with the plans being rejected, my fear is that the bank—it knows that if all goes wrong, it can get its money back by changing the pub’s use or building something else on the site—will pull the plug on the pub much earlier in the process, instead of investing more money in the pub to help it to keep going and to turn it around. The bank might think, “If this goes on, we’re not going to get our money back. If we can’t get planning permission on this land, we’ll be left with a debt we’re never going to be able to recover. We do not want to get ourselves into that mess in the first place, so we will pull the plug on the pub.”
I thank the hon. Gentleman, who is my constituency neighbour, for making that point—I also thank him for his support on pub issues in the past—but his concerns are entirely misplaced. I may not have the time to convince him of that today. The reality is that profitable pubs are being closed up and down the country, but that is nothing to do with the banks. No one is saying that, when a pub is not viable and no one wants to buy it to run it as a pub, it should not be given planning permission. However, because of these absurd loopholes at the moment, people are deliberately targeting profitable pubs because they will make a good supermarket. Surely as someone who believes in localism, he cannot support that.
The hon. Gentleman makes a very good case, although as someone who worked for a supermarket chain for 13 years, I am not sure that was the best example he could have given to try to persuade me. I take on board his point, which is a good one.
I will not go on for much longer, because I want to listen to what other Members have to say. I am genuinely in a difficult position because I can see both sides of the argument. I will, however, reiterate my fear about a new clause that has the best of intentions. It aims to do what I think we would all want, which is to help the pubs sector to flourish. Pubs are important to our local communities, and I am all for them. In some instances—perhaps not in every instance, and perhaps not even in the majority of instances—new clause 9 may have the unintended consequence of leading to the closure of pubs much sooner and much more often than would otherwise be the case.
I will listen to the cases that other Members make. I will do a rare thing in this House: I will listen to the debate before deciding how to vote.
I thank my colleagues on the save the pub all-party group, particularly the hon. Members for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) and for Sheffield, Heeley (Louise Haigh), who are vice-chairs of it. I thank the hon. Member for City of Durham (Dr Blackman-Woods) for very kindly opening the debate for me. I apologise to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, and to the House for not being present at that time, but I was wandering over to the Chamber expecting a vote and suddenly saw that the debate on new clause 9 had begun. I also thank the hon. Lady and her colleagues for their consistent support on this issue. Above all, I thank the hon. Member for Eddisbury (Antoinette Sandbach) for having the courage to add her name to the new clause. She will be toasted by many groups around the country.
I thank Protect Pubs for its excellent campaigning. It is now the leading organisation in the country for standing up for and protecting our pubs. I also thank the British Pub Confederation, which represents 14 pub sector organisations in the UK. I declare an interest as I am its chair.
Today we are campaigning on exactly the same issue that the hon. Lady’s colleague and great friend of pubs, the hon. Member for Bristol North West (Charlotte Leslie), set out in an amendment in February 2015 as vice-chair of the save the pub group. Too many pubs are still closing. The statistics go up and down slightly, but in excess of 20 pubs are closing a week.
The hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) has missed the point. The new clause is not about stopping pubs that are not viable from being converted into other things. Pubs are being converted into other things all the time. Some pubs might be unviable, but a considerable number of them are viable and profitable. Unfortunately, they are closing because of permitted development rights. Surely it cannot be right that a wanted, profitable business can be closed without local people having any say.
I will not go into the detail, because I know there is limited time, but I think that people are aware of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995, which allows people to turn pubs into shops, supermarkets and offices, or to demolish them, without planning permission. May I ask how long I have to speak, Madam Deputy Speaker?
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the debate has to finish in just over 20 minutes and that several other Members wish to speak. Of course, if the House does not wish to hear the Minister, that is up to the House. I would like to hear the Minister, but I cannot insist upon it.
Of course we must hear from the Minister, but we need to hear the argument or people will not know what the new clause is about, as is clear from the comments made by the hon. Member for Shipley.
The new clause is about the simple principle that if someone wants to demolish a pub or to convert it into anything, the proposal should go through the planning process to allow residents to have their say on whether they oppose or support it. That is all we are talking about. This simple, common-sense change would mean that—as is the case, strangely, for theatres and launderettes—proposals for pubs would have to go through the planning process.
Let me quote a Conservative councillor. Councillor Michael Iszatt of Cheshunt North ward in Hertfordshire was quoted in The Guardian in 2014, talking about the closure of the Victoria. He said:
“It wasn’t a quiet pub”.
He clearly knew that it was not a failing pub, as did the planning authority, but it could do nothing. Councillor Iszatt said:
“Localism doesn’t apply here… Localism’s got to be a little village where the big supermarkets aren’t interested, because there aren’t thousands of people to buy things. We’re not allowed to have a community. But the reality is, we do.”
That profitable and wanted pub became a Morrisons. It was the victim of the sort of predatory purchasing that we see all the time.
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I will speak for no more than a minute to conclude, because otherwise people will not have heard any of the arguments for the new clause.
The Victoria was a profitable, wanted pub. It was closed in 2014 and turned into a Morrisons. And guess what? Because people did not want that and did not have the chance to comment, the Morrisons has closed. Permitted development rights have doubly failed that community, because a profitable business was closed and a supermarket that was not wanted has also closed, meaning that the building is empty.
I know that the Government will not listen and make a concession; frankly, they have not had the chance to hear the arguments properly. However, I urge Ministers to sit down with me and the save the pub group, with the hon. Member for Eddisbury and with Councillor Michael Iszatt to discuss how the Government can address the problem. While communities up and down the country—and councillors, including Conservative ones—are in uproar about the situation, it cannot continue.
I rise as a member of the Campaign for Real Ale and one of the vice-chairmen of the all-party group on beer and brewing.
Given what we hear about the number of pubs closing each week, a proposal such as new clause 9 has a superficial attraction. After all, pubs are at the heart of our communities not only as a place for people to come together, with all the social and health benefits that that brings, but increasingly as community hubs, as more and more services are operating out of licensed premises.
I am afraid that I must continue.
Unfortunately, the new clause smacks a little of, “Something needs to be done. This is something, so it must be done.” What we really need is thriving pubs, but the new clause would do little to support them. Removing permitted development r