House again in Committee on Clause 76.
[ Amendment No. 196 not moved.]
moved Amendment No. 197:
Page 66, line 29, at end insert—
("Provided that no such fee shall be payable for any application to carry out development or work which would otherwise have been permitted were it not solely for the fact that the application is in respect of:—
(i) a building which is listed under the provisions of section 54 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971; or (ii) land which is designated as a conservation area under section 277 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971; or (iii) land which is affected by a Direction under Article 4 of the General Development Order 1977; or (iv) land to which the Town and Country Planning (Landscape Areas Special Development) Order 1950 applies.").
The noble Lord said: Now that we have had a fairly full discussion on the principles behind charging for planning fees, I shall reserve what I have to say on that matter—and I may say that I have some sympathy with what my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter had to say—until we have the debate on the Question, Whether the clause stand shall part? Clause 76 is an enabling clause, and it is widely drawn. It enables the Secretary of State to prescribe a fee in respect of
"any permission, consent, approval, determination or certificate";
and also, as the Bill stands at present, in respect of any appeal to him, but I gather that this may come out of the Bill. Yet the consultation document appears to contemplate only a fee for actual planning permission. Listed building consent, tree preservation order consent, conservation area and special development area approval would, it seems, not be subject to a fee. Nevertheless, as the Bill is now drafted, the power is there to charge in such cases.
For reasons which I shall explain, I believe that fees for some of the consents to which I have just referred should not be payable, and the purpose of this amendment is to provide that charges shall not be levied on applications in respect of property when an application would not normally be required had the property not got attached to it some conservation label. Many categories of property have special planning designations because they are of amenity interest or are important to the heritage. The owners sometimes have to make special applications which would have been unnecessary had their property not been subject to the designation. For instance, the owner of a listed building wishing to enlarge his house within the tolerance of the general development order will, merely because it is listed, need consent from the planning authority, and under this Bill he might have to pay a fee.
Such a charge does not seem to me to be fair, nor does it seem to me to be in the interests of amenity. First, surely there should be a balance of justice between individual members of the public. As the Bill now stands, some individuals would be charged and some would not for carrying out virtually identical developments. Secondly, I very much doubt whether the public interest in conservation is best served by increasing the burdens on owners of amenity property, who have enough obligations and burdens already. If anything, such burdens should be eased, and not the reverse.
This amendment would exempt from fees planning applications in four separate categories. The first is listed buildings, where you have to apply to the planning authority virtually every time you do any work on them. An application for listed building consent is necessary even where minor alterations are made to a house which would otherwise have been permitted had it not been listed. Secondly, it would exempt land designated as a conservation area. In those areas buildings are protected as if they were listed, and apart from a few exceptions they may not be demolished except with listed building consent—and here the same arguments apply. I hasten to say that I have no quarrel whatever with the restraints in themselves. It is the unevenness of treatment which is objectionable, once you start charging fees.
Thirdly, Article 4 of the general development order enables directions to be made prohibiting development which would otherwise be permitted under the GDO. If the public wants planning restrictions to be placed on development in certain specific areas—and I have no objection in principle—then the public should pay, and private industry, be it agriculture or anything else, should not have to bear the extra burden in these exceptional cases. Fourthly, the special development order of 1950 requires owners who intend to put up agricultural or forestry buildings, which would otherwise be permitted, to give to the local authority 14 days' notice in writing of their intention to do so and this gives the local authority the opportunity to require the applicant to receive their approval with respect to the design and external appearance of the building before any development is started. The special development order applies to specified areas in national parks, and I and your Lordships are presumably in favour of this restraint. But once you start charging fees for applications for approval, you place an undue burden on people with enough difficulties already by reason of the special geographical location of their businesses.
I should be most grateful for anything that my noble friend Lord Bellwin can tell me about the Government's intentions in regard to applications falling into the categories listed in this amendment, for two reasons. First of all, it is not clear from the consultation document how these are to be treated. Nor is it clear why, if they are to be excluded, it is necessary to draft the clause in the Bill so widely. Perhaps my noble friend would enlighten me on that point. Secondly, it may be that my noble friend will tell me that this kind of detailed amendment is better reserved for the regulations to be made under Clause 76. So it would be most helpful to me in deciding how to proceed with this amendment if I could elicit from the Government some indication as to whether such regulations would be likely to take into account the matters that I have raised. I beg to move.
I should like to support the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Middleton. It is not very often that we see eye to eye on these matters, but on this occasion, particularly as far as subsections (1) and (2) are concerned, I entirely agree with him and I think he is absolutely right. One of the problems—and I found this when I was a Minister in the department where the noble Lord the Minister is now—always was to get people to take care of the listed buildings and to use them; and if, in doing so, they need planning permission to make it more comfortable or to enlarge them, or to do some sort of work on them, and they have to pay a charge for that permission, I think this could act as a very strong deterrent to the survival of our listed buildings, which, as we all know, are an important part of our heritage.It is so difficult—I cannot stress this enough—to keep these listed buildings within the living community, so that they are being used, and not only are being used but are being kept in good repair. I hope the Minister is going to tell us (because, as the noble Lord, Lord Middleton, says, the consultation document leaves it very wide and very open) that in fact they will be exempt, but I feel rather as Lord Middleton does. I think that an area as important as this—and I also include land which is designated as a conservation area—needs to be spelt out. Since in the case of this Bill (and I shall return to this later on in the proceedings) I think the Government are to be congratulated on some of the provisions they have included for listed buildings and conservation areas, it would be a great pity, I think, if this amendment was not accepted, unless the Minister can explain to us that in fact there is no need for Lord Middleton or myself, or other noble Lords on whichever side of the Committee who are concerned with these matters, to be worried about the situation.
Before the Minister replies, I think that the Association of County Councils would welcome the general feeling behind these amendments. May I ask the Minister whether the national parks would be included in this? Is there a special onus on people who live in national parks to develop in accordance with the national parks policy? I think it is important that this should be included if possible.
As I said earlier when we were speaking on this in the broader context, there are a number of details that we will gladly talk about; and people would like to do so for many reasons. On this aspect of the proposals to charge, I think we are probably not too far apart. First, we have no intention of charging for listed building consents nor for approvals required under the Landscape Areas Special Development Order. We will look again with sympathy at the circumstances in which a developer would attract a liability to charge because of an article for direction or because of the proposed exemption of conservation areas from proposed changes in the size limits of development permitted under the GDO. We shall see to what extent it is possible to frame regulations so as to afford the relief that my noble friend has in mind without over-complicating or obscuring the scheme.I hope that this is the feel that your Lordships will get from what I am saying on this aspect of charging. We feel that there are certain matters, some of which come within these amendments, which properly are to be decided in the context of regulations to be made under the enabling power which will set out the scheme for charging and on which there will be further opportunity for discussion. We want to keep the scheme simple. The more complications and the more exceptions we make to it, the more likely it is that things will go wrong and anomalies will arise and that the scheme will become expensive to administer. So far as this amendment is concerned, I think that my noble friend may feel able to withdraw this amendment. I have been able to cover his points. Would that I felt so confident in covering other points which may come under other amendments!
Before the Minister finishes I should like to ask a question. He said that there will be no charges for listed buildings consent. I am talking about where there is a planning application to incorporate the listed building in some form of development, and not just listed buildings consent. I have in mind the building which should be restored and held. The noble Lord mentioned only listed buildings consent. Can he expand on that?
I am open to any points that noble Lords may wish to make. I am trying to stress that this is an area where there is scope for discussion and we will see whether we ought to do something that we are not doing. We want to know this. This is open to discussion at the moment. We have an open mind on this. We want the best we can get in the best way we can get it; and I would listen to any suggestions made.
I think that we can feel reasonably satisfied that the general approach to this as expounded by my noble friend is right. We should all be glad to know that he is going to be generous when it comes to listed buildings, conservation areas and so on. On the other hand, when it comes to the generality of planning applications, I would urge that we do not want too many exceptions if the whole object of this exercise is not to lose its purpose. I should be content to leave to regulations this particular matter that my noble friend has aired, particularly as on page 67 of the Bill, in subsection (6), we see that this particular matter has to be approved by Parliament by Affirmative Resolution.
I am grateful for what my noble friend Lord Bellwin has said. I appreciate what he said about this Government's intentions, with which I am happy. The fact remains that the power remains in the Bill. It is a widely-drawn clause and what might happen at some future date I hate to think. However, in view of what he has said, I should like to look carefully and read what he has had to say in Hansard, I believe that these assurances will be sufficient. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved Amendment No. 198:
Page 66, line 29, at end insert—
("( ) Notwithstanding subsection (1) above, in fixing fees the Secretary of State shall have regard to the total annual cost of the service provided by local planning authorities and no fee shall be so fixed that in any year the sum of the fees collected exceeds the cost of performing that service.").
The noble Lord said: I have been restraining myself. At one stage I nearly broke the restraint but was restrained by Lord Wigoder. I believe that we should talk to these amendments and disclose our true views about this clause on the Question whether the clause should stand part of the Bill. However, to take my particular amendment, its purpose is to look forward to the future, because we have a fear that in future years the intentions of this particular clause within the Bill may be forgotten and the provision might be abused to provide a source of revenue unrelated to service. That is the point about this clause. It is to make sure that local government does not spend too much money on providing a service which is not repaid by the people who use it.
So long as it is that way, that makes sense; but when it gets to the future it could be that those in authority will seek something different. We have heard that the amounts that at the moment the Government propose to charge for these various services are relatively modest; but we cannot be sure that in the future this will not enter yet another taxation system. This has happened before and it could happen again. We know from the experience of charging for nuclear installations inspections that this is not a fear totally without foundation. The object of this amendment is to put a restraint on Government through to the future to make sure that the costs charged do not exceed the costs of the services.
It seems to me that this amendment is a totally reasonable one and one that this Government would not be at all disposed to resist. I would hope therefore that my noble friend would see his way to accepting the amendment. Perhaps it is not technically perfect as to wording and could be improved, but the principle of the thing is to make sure that, as the years go by, the principle of this clause, which is to pay for services rendered, is restrained within that limit. I would hope that my noble friend could give me encouragement or suggest better wording himself; but, better still, to accept my amendment. I beg to move.
The fear has been expressed that the existence of the enabling power for planning charges in Clause 76 could provide this or some future Government with a means of taxation which could be used in a way which would have a particularly damaging effect on the construction industry or the situation at the time. Let me begin by making it clear that that is the reverse of the Government's intention. The purpose of planning charges is to remove part of the cost of financing the planning services from taxation and to finance it instead from a charge to the applicant. My noble friend Lord Bellwin has explained this in detail. Even were we to attempt to use the power for other purposes—and we have no intention of so doing—noble Lords would ensure that that would not come to pass. Any charges to be imposed under Clause 76 will require an Affirmative Resolution of this House. I confirm that and I am sure it will be of interest, especially to the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, who displays such an interest in Affirmative Resolutions.
I am sorry to interrupt, but I feel lost. Is the noble Lord replying to the same amendment as the amendment that was moved?
I am replying in some detail to this amendment, which was moved by my noble friend Lord Mottistone. Perhaps the noble Baroness was looking at the next amendment.To those who fear what a future Government could do with such a power, this amendment could offer little comfort: there is no shortage of powers open to Governments to tax economic activity in general or property development in particular. The wording of the amendment could, however, create difficulties for even a genuine fee aimed at recovering no more than the cost of a service. This is the intention of the amendment. Any scale of fees that this Government introduce will aim to be as simple as possible in the interests of keeping down the costs of administration. That inevitably means some element of swings and roundabouts. Some applicants might pay rather more, and others might pay rather less, than the actual cost of processing their case. Equally, some local authorities will recover a greater, others a lesser proportion of the cost of the service they provide—depending, among other things, on the composition of their caseload and their efficiency. It seems to me that the amendment, as it is worded, could give grounds for inhibiting the simple approach. I hope that in the light of the assurances I have given, the noble Lord may feel disposed to withdraw his amendment.
Would it not be the case, if the legislation goes through as drafted, without taking into account the amendment put down by the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, that administratively each district authority over the country as a whole would have to take on an average of three more officials to deal with the administration of the financing of these applications? Is it not also true that while this is talked of as being a means of saving money, in fact it is a means of transferring money from the public sector to the private sector? It is not really my duty to tell the Government what they ought to do; I am just indicating where they are going wrong. If they are seeking to cover these costs, would it not be better if they did something with the development land tax, which is the way the people who make successful applications for planning consents pay for the privilege of doing that, rather than involving themselves at huge administrative cost and huge addition to the number of public servants in the public sector who will have to be employed as a result of this legislation?
With due respect—and I do mean with due respect in this case—to the noble Lord, Lord Evans, he is confusing a number of issues. The Government are at present reviewing the situation of the development land tax. Secondly, he has spoken of the question of transferring funds from the public sector into the private sector. Surely, in the case instanced by my noble friend Lord Bellwin—and he instanced the case of someone who sought a driving licence—there is a situation in which a fee is being charged for a public service. It is a very relevant comparison.
My noble friend said earlier that he hoped the assurances he had given would be sufficient to satisfy me. I really did not notice any assurances.
The assurances are the assurances of the Government's intention. That should be good enough for my noble friend.
I have lots of faith in the Government; but I have not any faith in a government that might be formed by other parties in this House. Cross-Benchers perhaps might form a government. Who knows? All of us have a fundamental suspicion of government. I suspect that even those in Government have a suspicion of government. I do not think that that assurance really counts for as much as it should do. I am concerned as to the future and what might happen. I quoted an example. I will read carefully what my noble friend has said. I will think very hard before deciding whether or not to put down an amendment on these lines at a later stage. With that, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved Amendment No. 199:
Page 66, line 42, at end insert—
("(c) of 10 per cent. of the prescribed fees received in respect of any description of application by an authority in England or Wales to whom applications fall to be made to the highway authority consulted by that authority.").
The noble Viscount said: This has been a highly messy and unsatisfactory debate so far, interrupted by our refreshment. I have not had an answer yet to Amendments Nos. 195 and 196—probably because, as it is so powerful, my case is unanswerable. Nor have I had a chance to say what I think about the amendment to leave out Clause 76. I will come back on that.
I am concerned with this fairly simple point: If the introduction of fees for planning permission is agreed and decided upon by the Government, it must be recognised that in nearly all planning applications there is a considerable involvement of the highways authority, in that the highways authority is often put to a great deal of trouble and expense in helping to determine whether an application is acceptable or not. There are things to do with road safety, sight lines, improvements and so forth, and there is also consideration of future sight lines for roads wanted by the community. I will not waste time on this, but if there is to be a charge for planning permission applications, then it is only fair that the highways authority, which will need to put in a lot of time on this, should receive some percentage of these fees. For the sake of argument, I suggest that 10 per cent. is not unreasonable. I beg to move.
I hope that the general confusion will provide me with an opportunity to apologise for misleading the Committee at an earlier stage. I said that the AMA was opposed to this proposal. I was wrong then; they are wrong now, but I apologise.
As my noble friend Lord Ridley chided the Committee and possibly the Government with having a messy discussion, my response could be this: In making that suggestion he omitted to explain his amendment in very much detail to the Committee. I might remedy that by informing the Committee of the purpose of this amendment. The effect of the amendment is to enable the Secretary of State to make regulations prescribing that 10 per cent. of the fees received by district councils from planning charges should be passed to the county highway authority they consult.I cannot accept that the administrative expense involved in this proposal would justify any benefits to be achieved by it. We have accepted the principle that where counties decide planning applications relating to county matters, they shall receive the fee. But if the county is also to receive a proportion of the receipts for being consulted as highway authority, why should other organisations which are consulted not receive a proportion of the receipts, too? Why should the water authority, or the parish council or the National Coal Board or any other body consulted not also receive their share? The accounting complexity and paper-passing which would result would be of benefit to no one. I suspect that the motivation for this amendment may also reflect a misunderstanding of these fees. They are not a means of increasing the resources available to local authorities. In estimating local authorities' expenditure for public expenditure purposes and for the calculation of grant, the receipts from charges will be fully taken account of. We do not, therefore, expect to see any increase in planning expenditure as a result of fees. I hope that with that explanation my noble friend may feel disposed to withdraw the amendment.
I am not disposed, but I will. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved Amendment No. 200:
Page 66, line 43, leave out subsection (3).
The noble Lord said: The secret is out. My noble friend the Minister disclosed that he would accept this amendment and, just in case anybody missed it, my cosponsor the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, made sure that everybody realised. However, I am doggedly going to justify this amendment, because it would be useful for the record so to do. It will not take very long, so I ask your Lordships not to settle back.
Whatever the merits for charging for planning applications, the idea of charging for appeals is simply wrong. It would be rationing justice by the purse and deterring applicants from lodging appeals even when they had good grounds for so doing. The right to appeal to the Minister is a vital and valuable part of United Kingdom planning law. It inevitably involves the appellant in considerable expense, and it would be unfair to impose an additional financial burden on him. That is the justification for the amendment. I am delighted that my noble friend the Minister is going to accept it, but I am very sad that his advisers had cause to put this in the Bill in the first place. I beg to move.
I do not propose to detain the Committee with any word at all in regard to the acceptance of this amendment, which I am glad to see. I was only going to say to the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, that, in the same way as he wishes his views to be put on record for posterity, I hope he will remember that he has not done that in the Division Lobbies of this Committee.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 200A:
Page 67, line 2, leave out ("or refunding").
The noble Lord said: Your Lordships will see that the Secretary of State has provided scope in the present wording of the Bill for introducing the concept of the refunding of fees. The district councils, who handle the greatest bulk of all these planning applications, have looked into the whole question of the refunding of fees and have come conclusively to the view that, on balance, there is very little advantage and an enormous number of difficulties in allowing such a thing to occur. Even to be provided with the discretion to make refunds will, in their view, be likely to cause much more trouble than it is worth. The whole idea of having refunds is almost certain, in their view, to lead to very considerable abuse. I should therefore like to move this as a probing amendment, to see whether Her Majesty's Government have come to the same view. I beg to move.
I wonder whether I may inquire out of my ignorance what is the difference, in these circumstances, between "remission" and "refunding"? There no doubt is a difference; otherwise, presumably, the draftsman would not have used both expressions. But what is the difference?
In response to the last question I shall have to take legal advice, because my noble friend is such a great expert in this field. I hope that he may be satisfied with that reply for the time being.My noble friend Lord Sandford said that the authorities concerned with this amendment have reached their view conclusively. The Government are totally of the opposite opinion, and the result is that in the detailed proposals for planning charges which the department have issued for consultation we have not proposed any provision for refunds. I am aware of the arguments that any system of refund would lead to greater complexity and cost of administration. Nevertheless, we have received representations suggesting various categories of refund and I think that these should be considered on their merits. Nor am I confident that we can be sure of getting the charges right for all time at our first attempt. I should not like to be without the power to prescribe refunds, if practice showed that there were cases where they would be the best way of dealing with particular problems or anomalies which are at present unforeseen. We are dealing with a completely new clause and a completely new principle and I am sure that that is entirely understood. But my honourable friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland was very clear in Standing Committee D at column 2214 of the Official Report of 17th April. These are his words:
The words of my honourable friend the Under-Secretary of State reflect exactly the Government's view in this case. We are working in a new field. The principle that a refund should be a reserve power to the Secretary of State is one which is very well established. This is a situation which is providing not a power within a local authority for a refund, but a power for the Secretary of State to exercise when he makes general arrangements for that purpose. I hope that with that explanation my noble friend may feel able to withdraw the amendment."We should like to retain the words, 'or refunding' because we want to keep some flexibility in this part of the Bill when the regulations are being drawn up. We take the view that there could be circumstances occasionally of a rare nature where it might be that a refund should be made to the applicant for planning permission."
Yes, I think I do, so long as I can be quite clear that my noble friend is saying that his view is the same as ours at the moment. He does not see the case for introducing refunds when the regulations are first introduced, but he wants to retain the power to provide for refunds if in the future, in some rare cases, the need for them should appear. Is that understanding correct because, if so, I shall be very happy to withdraw the amendment.
Yes. In general terms, that is acceptable. Perhaps I may take this opportunity of replying to the question about the difference between "remission" and "refunding". In shorthand, a "remission" means that you do not have to pay and a "refunding" means that you get it back.
With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved Amendment No. 201:
Page 67, line 3, at end insert ("and shall provide for the remission of the prescribed fee in cases where the applicant (not being a body corporate) is the beneficial owner of the premises to which the application relates, and the premises do not exceed one hectare in extent.")
The noble Lord said: I beg to move this amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Wigoder and myself, to which he referred in the general debate on this clause, which seems like yesterday, but was, in fact, about two hours ago. I think my noble friend made it perfectly clear that we are concerned about the small applicant with the small planning consent, and with trying to exempt him from the costs which the Government seek to place on applicants for planning permission.
May I say, first, that my noble friends and I on these Benches take the view that Clause 76 should be left out. If I had not been elbowed out in the crush to back the proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Morris, to leave it out, my name would be there on the Marshalled List. But there are so many people who are anxious to leave out the clause that my name is probably about sixty-seventh on the list to do so.
In the event that the Government do not agree to leave out Clause 76, I thought that it would be valuable to seek to make an exemption for the smaller kind of application which comes to the average planning committee. I should mention that my honourable friend Mr. Stephen Ross, at Report stage in another place, moved the exclusion of what was the equivalent of Clause 76. He made the point, which I make now, that if we are talking of imposing a bill of a fair amount, £30 to £45 per person applying for a fairly small planning consent, in addition to the bill he is going to have to pay for byelaw consent, which is about £200 for a £25,000 house, and if he is fortunate enough to be also going to have to pay development land tax, there will be a situation where many people who should be applying for planning consent for a small application—individuals, not limited companies, as noble Lords will see from the amendment—just do not go to the trouble of applying for planning consent. Any of your Lordships who have been engaged in local government on planning committees know the enormous backlog there is at the moment, under the present law, without any fee, in enforcing planning procedures against people who have not taken the trouble of applying for planning consent. In very many cases years pass, and in many cases no action is taken against people who have carried out development without planning consent.
I suspect that for the smaller application of the nature we seek to exempt in this clause there will be a very much larger number of people who do not go to the trouble of applying for a planning consent. This will result either in the law being flouted or in the appointment of a whole new army of enforcement officers to check on whether or not people have applied for planning consents. In the smaller application of this kind we are not talking about the person who is going to make a large profit on the development of a housing estate, which is a different matter; we are talking about a person who is developing perhaps the garden of his house, or whatever.
It seems to me that this is an area where in all conscience the small man, the small developer, the individual who is seeking either to make alterations to his house or to develop his garden, should be exempted from paying a charge for a planning application. If he is not exempted there will be a lot of avoidance of seeking applications. My honourable friend in another place used a vulgar expression to describe the gesture the small man would make to the planning authority. I think that would happen in a very large number of cases. In the other very important sense, exempting this group of people from the fee would cut down an enormous amount of work that would have to be done in the planning department of the local authority.
The noble Lord the Minister made a point, which I do not think is a parallel, about having to apply for a driving licence if one wishes to drive a car. Since he has chosen that analogy I would suggest to him that, while one has to have a driving licence to drive a car because it is a big and dangerous vehicle, one does not have to have a driving licence to drive a bicycle. Really, this is an exemption to exempt the cyclist as against the motorist. I invite your Lordships, on the Minister's analogy, to agree with me. I beg to move.
I wonder what the noble Lord would have said as to motor cycles; but that is another point. The first point I should make is that these matters are properly left to the regulations and not to the enabling power. Your Lordships will have ample opportunity to debate such points as these when the regulations, which are subject to Affirmative Resolution of both Houses, are laid. In setting a scale of charges under the powers of Clause 76 we should certainly need to take care that the levels we set were not an unfair burden. In considering such regulations, noble Lords would ensure that we did so. Nevertheless, we must bear in mind that over half of all planning applications are for house extensions and other such domestic developments. Many other applications will be for developments where the owner of the premises is an individual rather than a company or organisation. The point I made earlier is absolutely valid. We are giving an extension to the GDL, which takes in so many of the applications that are made, from 10 per cent. to 15 per cent. without the need for a planning application at all. It is very interesting to contemplate what that will do to the total number of planning applications that are made in any case.We are anxious to avoid burdening the individual and it seems to me that in the circumstances, if we were to accept this amendment, the financial burden of the planning system would fall entirely on the company sector. At a time when our future depends so heavily on creating the conditions for economic development this seems to me a short-sighted policy. The individual does not gain in the end. The costs to an organisation are felt ultimately by the individual, as its customer or its employee. From the wording of the amendment, I am not clear precisely how far the exemption would extend. For example, "beneficial owner" is not a term which is defined in planning legislation; nor is "premises". Though normally understood in everyday language to mean buildings, it has sometimes been interpreted by the courts in other ways. It might be held that for the purposes of Clause 76 it included land without buildings. The result of that would be that someone seeking to develop a field for a couple of acres of housing, the total worth of which could well exceed £300,000, could be exempt from charges. I wonder whether that is what the noble Lord has in mind; I suspect it is not. I would ask your Lordships not to accept this amendment. In so doing I repeat my assurance that in framing scales of charges we shall wish to structure them in a way which will not be an unreasonable burden to the individual, and that there will be further opportunity to discuss such matters when the regulations are debated.
I hope the Minister will realise that when we come to discuss regulations, be it on an affirmative or a negative motion, the one thing we cannot do is amend them. From that point of view it would be far better to get into the Bill some sensible exception to cover specific types of operation. For that reason, I would certainly support this amendment. There is no other one before us.
What the noble Lord the Minister has said is surely justification for opposing the inclusion of this clause in its entirety, because if I listened correctly to the noble Lord he said that we just cannot chuck the whole cost of this on to the big developers. Therefore it means, in effect, that the Government have in mind making a charge on the small householder; and, as has been made quite clear, 50 percent. of the applications are for the small householder. It seems to me that this is a justification for opposing the clause in its entirety.
Following the point, which I myself was about to make but which was made much better by the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, about the Minister's comment on the regulations, may I ask him this: If he wishes seriously to rest on that point, will he give an assurance now that when the regulations are brought forward, if they are ever brought forward under these proposals, they will exclude these small properties, as suggested in this amendment? As the noble Lord has said, this is the last opportunity—perhaps it will be the Report stage—for your Lordships to assert yourselves on this matter, because we cannot amend regulations. If I may take that point one degree further, we are entitled to reject an Affirmative Resolution—and this House has done it—but in a matter of this sort, which in a way is a measure for raising taxation, it might well be argued, and I myself would have some hesitations, as to whether this House was really morally justified in resisting the regulation. So we come back to this. If the Minister is to have this power can he give an assurance as to how it is going to be exercised?
No, at this moment I cannot do that because I do not have the details before me. Certainly we can think about it and we shall gladly do so. However, we keep coming back to whether we approve the principle of what we are doing. It is very difficult to make an effective clause stand part speech, but I tried to explain why I felt it was not unfair that we should do this. I mentioned a sum of money which my noble friend said set me right in between the two prongs, at some £30 million. I felt that it was not unreasonable to make this kind of charge. Somebody has to pay, in any case. There is no doubt that somebody is going to pay all the way down the line, particularly so far as the small householder is concerned. We must bear in mind that we were talking about £30 on £1,000 and £40 on thousands of pounds. We should keep all this in perspective. We could talk of charges as though they were a massive new imposition, but it is not that at all. Yet in totality it is sufficient to be significant. However, in my opinion the protection for many of the small people to whom this amendment refers come from the fact that there has been a significant extension of the GDL, of the right to increase the works that people do on their house by some 50 per cent. more than now without a planning application. I cannot give the details which my noble friend requests, but I undertake to look at that aspect of it, only because I do not have the answers now.
Is the noble Lord aware—I am sure that he is—that if one is unhappy enough to live in a national park one has to obtain planning permission for the smallest alteration to a house? People I know who wanted to put up a small porch on their door, which was probably not going to cost as much as £30, have had to pay £30 to get planning permission.
When the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, raised this point, I intimated that this was an area we ought to look at on its own, and that we will certainly do.
I wonder whether my noble friend would heed the point made by my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter, and bear also in mind that the Government are surely going to have to make up their minds on the policy decision before very long. One hopes it will not take them very long to make up their minds—perhaps in the next few days. If they do make up their minds, it would give much greater satisfaction to your Lordships on both sides of the Committee if it were written into the Bill instead of being left to the uncertainty of a regulation.
I think that is a very fair suggestion, and with that well in mind I will certainly take the point away and see what I can do about it.
I wonder whether I may press the noble Lord and ask him whether that means he would be prepared to come forward with a properly structured amendment at Report?
I cannot go further than I have already gone. I believe that important points have been made. While I cannot accept the amendment, a method of work I have adopted with the many amendments I have had to different Bills is to take them away and think very seriously about them. If we feel we can meet the points made, one way or another we try to do something about it. But if I cannot do so, I cannot. Then it will be for the noble Lord himself to decide what to do.
As the noble Lord will be aware, there is a very substantial feeling in nearly all parts of the Committee about this amendment. Therefore I hope that before the next stage he will look at the matter with his right honourable friend. The point made by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, is one of considerable importance—namely, that this is the last time that we shall be looking at the issue so far as this Bill is concerned. I agree very much with what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter: it raises questions of propriety as to whether this House could reject the Affirmative Resolution when it comes before it. It is not good enough to say that we will wait until the regulations are made to find out what is going to be done. The House requires some form of guarantee at the next stage of the Bill. Speaking for myself and, I suspect, for many others, we very much hope that the Government will then come forward with a proper amendment on this point.
It would be very helpful if my noble friend could respond to my noble friends Lord Boyd-Carpenter and Lord Renton and let us all see, before we allow the Bill to go, how the Government's thoughts are developing on the regulations. I hope that he will not go too far. These regulations will have to be laid and re-laid at not too infrequent intervals, in the light of a lot of things which will change from year to year. The first set of regulations will not remain in force for five or 10 years and I think that Parliament will have more than one occasion to look at each set of regulations and adjust them. Therefore it is a question of choosing a point somewhere between putting the regulations on the face of the Bill, which I do not think is practicable, and letting us see a little more than we can at the moment how the Government's thoughts are developing.
Until about five minutes ago I had intended to divide your Lordships' Committee, but, in view of what the noble Lord, the Minister, has said and in view of the feeling which has been widely expressed on all sides of the Committee, I think that the right way to approach this would be to invite the noble Lord the Minister to bring forward an amendment which your Lordships could consider to protect the views that are widely held in the House about this area. If the Government do not bring forward such an amendment, I shall reserve my right to do so at Report. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved Amendment No. 201A:
Page 67, line 3, at end insert—
("( ) In all cases where the planning application is made by or on behalf of a person or firm in receipt of assistance under the Inner Urban Areas Act 1978, the applicant shall be entitled to a full refund.").
The noble Lord said: I beg to move the amendment standing in my name. I listened to the important point made by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, with some hope. The notes which the Minister supplied on subsection (4) allow that regulations made under Section 1 or
Section 3 shall provide for the whole or partial remission or refund of fees. They continue:
"As indicated by Ministers in Committee in the Commons, it is not at present intended that any provision for the refunding or remission of fees should be made, but this subsection is included in the clause to enable some provision to be made in the event of it becoming apparent at some future date that circumstances could arise in practice where it would be unjust for a charge to be made".
I believe that the debate which we have had has clearly demonstrated that in practice circumstances could arise in which it would be unjust for charges to be made. So at Clause 76, page 67, line 3, I wish to insert the amendment on the Marshalled List.
The reason is crystal clear—that local authorities, and the Government, are seeking to encourage industry, and small firms in particular, to regenerate the inner city areas. This is the cri de coeur all the time about business. It does not make sense to give them a grant under one Act and to take back part of it by imposing a fee under another. If the Government take the attitude already demonstrated by the Minister that this point will be covered in regulations, this will be satisfactory. Or there could be a caveat that this should be treated as a money Bill or as taxation. Consequently, we should be in a peculiar position. The Minister will need to consult with other authorities. The debate has been encouraging. Therefore I hope that the Minister can say something encouraging so that I do not have to force to a Division this amendment which I consider, despite its brevity, to be of vital importance to the small businessman.
I appreciate the noble Lord's concern that we should not, in charging for planning applications, place excessive burdens on those who are revitalising the inner urban areas. I am not sure that I would accept that the kinds of fees we are proposing would be a disincentive to anyone. I say again that we are tending to get this completely out of proportion. We are mixing the principle with the practical effects. Our aim in setting the level of charges is to ensure that they will not be a discouragement to development. I have noted the noble Lord's argument. The issue is one that we should consider in the context of the regulations under Clause 76 and not the enabling power itself.Your Lordships will have the opportunity to vote on the scale of charges, which will require an Affirmative Resolution of this House. I should mention two technical points. The amendment refers only to planning applications while the enabling power in Clause 76 covers other planning consents and determinations as well. The noble Lord may also wish to consider that under his provision the person or firm concerned would first have to pay the fee and then have it refunded. He might wish to consider whether to argue, when the time comes, that such applicants should be exempted to begin with. He might prefer that. I cannot be so helpful on this. By itself, this is part of the total of what the clause is setting out to do. I would not have thought that the noble Lord would particularly want to press this amendment which, for the reasons given, we would not be able to accept.
In view of the noble Lord's more or less reasonable answer, I see no point in pressing for a Division at this time. I have listened carefully and I beg leave to withdraw.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved Amendment No. 20IB:
Page 67, line 10, at end insert—
("( ) Local planning authorities may remit or refund a prescribed fee in respect of an application relating to industrial development on land which for the time being is designated as an Assisted Area").
The noble Baroness said: On behalf of my noble friend Lord Northfield, who is unable to be with us today, I beg leave to move his amendment which is in similar terms but has a different bias to the one moved by my noble friend Lord Davies of Leek. I suspect we shall get a similar answer, but I beg to move.
The noble Baroness is pretty right. There is not a lot of difference. I am very conscious of the risk that if we complicate the charging arrangements we shall create something which is expensive to administer—the point that my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter made earlier. The noble Baroness will be aware, for example, that the boundaries of assisted areas do not coincide with the boundaries of local planning authorities. The local authority associations are not enthusiastic about operating discretionary refunds, which they fear will lead to a good deal of dispute and administrative work. Nevertheless, we shall weigh these arguments against the points made by the noble Baroness, before arriving at the final proposals we shall wish to make for the detailed regulations.
I beg leave to withdraw.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
On Question, Whether Clause 76, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?
I hope that my noble friend Lord Bellwin will not hold the company that I keep against me. I would point out, however, that it was the noble Lords opposite who joined with me, and not I with them. Nevertheless, I welcome their company most warmly. We are joined in a matter of principle, above and beyond mere matters of partisan political ideology.Before considering the merits or otherwise of charging applicants' planning fees, it is essential to consider the purpose of planning. The purpose of planning has rarely been better or more elegantly defined than by these words:
It will come as no surprise to your Lordships that those are the words of my noble friend Lord Bellwin, stated in his speech opening the Second Reading debate upon this Bill.—[Official Report, 5/8/80; cols. 1337–38]. Your Lordships will appreciate that implicit in these ringing words is that the major beneficiaries of planning law are the country as a whole, those who use the facility both directly and indirectly, both now and in future times—of whom the applicant is only one. Unfortunately, my noble friend Lord Bellwin went on to say:"The purpose of planning is not to frustrate or get in the way of development. It is to reconcile, ideally if possible, and by compromise if not, conflicting demands on and policies affecting land use in a small crowded island which needs to protect its countryside and wildlife, promote its agriculture, improve its housing and social and leisure facilities, and regenerate its industrial base".
There are three implications inherent in the phrase:"We also believe it right that those who stand to gain directly from planning decisions should contribute to the cost of making them".— [Col. 1338.]
First, that those who take planning decisions are providing a service. Secondly, that there can only be one direct beneficiary of planning regulations; namely, the applicant. Thirdly, that the applicant necessarily stands to gain. To suggest to the planned that the planner, in raising a prohibition to improve or develop, is providing a service does not merit the dignity of any further examination. To suggest that there is only one beneficiary flowing from planning regulations and controls flies in the face of Her Majesty's Government's own definition of the purpose of planning. To suggest further that the applicant stands to gain when his application is refused must be met with derision. The only beneficiaries would be the lawyers, architects, civil engineers and the bureaucrats. Furthermore, if the application is granted the applicant, as we have seen, is only one of many beneficiaries, both directly and indirectly, now and in the future. In this context it should never be forgotten that where planning consent gives rise to profits this is at present dealt with through the development land tax, never forgetting the incidence in certain cases of capital gains tax. The charges for planning control, it no doubt will be said, are linked with charges now applied to building control. One must recognise that some builders consider that the amount of inspection and work involved in building control is of some value to them. Following the Anns v. Merton decision, there is also a liability laid upon authorities, and builders may feel it worthwhile to have back-up insurance for themselves and their clients. In addition, there are fairly complex regulations in relation to building control and they ensure that the structures are built to safe standards. But there is nothing in the area of planning control which actively compares either with the work involved in building control or in the liability arising from any defects where local authorities are considered to have some responsibility. One apparent relationship between the proposed charges for planning control and those for building control is the consultative papers from the department estimating that each form of control costs around £50 million. I should like to ask the Minister how these figures have been arrived at and in addition what conclusions can be drawn as to the value of the control to the community and the percentage which the community should pay for the control exercised in its name and to its benefit. I believe it is a matter of regret that Her Majesty's Government have chosen to ignore the learned societies and other organisations who formally objected to planning charges, charges which appear to be nothing other than a tax upon the enterprising. I find it astonishing that a Government wedded to the principle of creating a healthy environment for enterprise and consequent growth should consider this unstraightforward way of taxing development. I endorse Her Majesty's Government's determination to cut public spending, but to do so by passing the cost of administering a planning service designed to benefit the public as a whole is unjust. The answer lies in the hands of the Government: less planning and what planning there is, administered and run efficiently and, above all, expeditiously. It is not only that I find the justification for this clause manifestly absurd and unjust; I, for one, bitterly regret that it should be a Conservative Administration which, wittingly or unwittingly, should seek to bring itself into disrepute by taxing endeavour and circumscribing enterprise. In the past noble Lords have demonstrated their ability not only to listen to the merits of a case but to act upon it in the voting Lobbies. I beseech your Lordships to persuade Her Majesty's Government to think again by doing likewise this evening."those who stand to gain directly from planning decisions".
This ought not to be an appeal to a Conservative Administration or any political administration; it ought to be an appeal—if my noble friend Lord Morris will allow me to say so—to the common sense of your Lordships. This House can so often be relied upon to use common sense when there is no need for party loyalties to be expressed. I put it in this way because the noble Lord the Minister made it perfectly clear that in his view no great principle was involved here. The Government were thinking in terms of this experiment, they came down with a view that an experiment was worth while, that this charge of planning fees was worth while and therefore it ought to be put into the Bill; and as I understand the position it has been left to your Lordships, free from any party loyalty or prejudice, to decide whether this innovation should find its way on to the statute book.Equally, I think it is no way to persuade your Lordships to repeat arguments that have been advanced at length in the course of this debate. I should be very much of a defaulter if I did so because part of my plea, being heard in the first or second speech made in regard to this matter of the clause being left out, was that I should not have to repeat it and others would not have to repeat their remarks on the debate on the clause stand part. Succinctly I hope, in one minute I pray, to sum up the arguments as to why this Committee should go into the Division Lobbies (should that be necessary) on the Question, Whether the clause shall he left out. First, it is an innovation. It has nothing parallel to a driving licence or anything of that kind. It is an encroachment upon the liberty of the individual who may own his little house or his big factory or whatever it may be, to charge him for what is after all the security of a public benefit. Secondly—and here I echo (with some pride I may say) the view of the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter—it is impracticable and it is wrong in practice to do this; and I am afraid the Minister did not find himself so conveniently in the middle of the charges total by way of what the Government may be able to collect. Without any doubt at all, when one is talking of collecting £30 million in one year one is at a pretty high level. The third reason which is advanced against it is that it imposes hardship in individual cases. Briefly, it cannot be put right by exemptions in regulations which are going to come forward because there will be so many arguments on the exemptions and the wording and the limits that the Government have not even made up their minds on how to do this. I should have said it was far better to leave out the clause and then, if the Government wanted to come back at Report stage with another clause listing all the exemptions which they think might get it back on the statute book, that would be the way to approach it, without the matter being deferred in this way. I think I can best get the support of the Committee—not, as I said, only that of my party, but of all sections of the Committee—on this commonsense matter by making a brief speech and urging that, if I may paraphrase Shakespeare, "If you have votes, prepare to use them now".
In supporting my noble friend Lord Morris, may I first say that I am wholly in sympathy with and I applaud the efforts being made by this Government to control public expenditure, and I supported my own Government all last week in getting their crucial financial provisions through. As I said during the Second Reading debate on this Bill, any proposal that aims, as this one does, to recover £30 million of public expenditure must be looked at most carefully. However, I have to say that the more I look at this clause the less happy I feel about it, and I share many of the misgivings voiced earlier, and much more skilfully than I shall do, by my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter.If I may very briefly take what my noble friend Lord Bellwin told us earlier this afternoon, he said it seemed to him perfectly reasonable that a developer should meet a part of the cost of development control. He dismissed the argument that since control is in the public interest it is the public who should pay for it. I do not think one can dismiss this argument as easily as that. The Government are saying in effect—I think the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin said it—that planning is a service and the people who use it should pay for it. I will not repeat the points already made, but surely the development control system is not a service to the applicant for permission, but a service to the community, and if the public wish to enjoy the advantages of the planning system they should be prepared to meet the cost. Earlier this evening Lord Mishcon referred to, and no doubt many noble Lords will have read, the correspondence in The Times during the summer on the proposals to charge fees for planning applications. I think Mr. Henney and Mr. Rose hit the nail on the head when they wrote:
I do beg the Government very seriously, at this late stage of the Bill's progress, to consider whether this proposal, however laudable in its aim, to claw back some of the cost of administering the planning system, may not be, as I think it is, based on unsound reasoning and therefore not worthy to go forward in this Bill."Requiring payment for the return of an expropriated right is analogous to taking a man's wallet and demanding payment for its return".
I have listened to the arguments put forward and I really do not think that any principle is involved in this. There is the question of finding the money to do this planning, and I think it is perfectly reasonable, with the reasonable fees that have been asked, that the people who want to build should pay. I really do not think this need become a major issue. We have got to have the money. It is reasonable that those who want to build should pay.
I have listened to the arguments and everything seems to be missed. This Government got in and was supposed to help the small businessman, the small shopkeeper. Say I am developing my little shop in a little Welsh village, and trying to compete with supermarkets, and I put up a new window, do I have to pay for the planning? If I have a little house and I want to build a little gazebo at the bottom of the garden to watch my trees, I have to pay for the planning. As soon as I change my house, the rate people come along. If I change a stable into a garage, somehow or other within 20 minutes the planning officer knows that Davies of Leek is improving the stable and he comes around with a henchman to tell me my rates are going up.Of course we already pay; every bit of improvement we make is paid for on the rates. Nobody has mentioned that Everybody seems to think that we are getting something for nothing. There was a phrase once, that the Englishman's home was his castle. Now it is going to be haunted by sheets of paper and people snooping around, to see if I am sticking up a gazebo. It is completely ridiculous and it is the wrong way to make money. Have we reached the point in social service where there is no service without money? How arid that is. The nation is not as poor as all that. We have survived two great wars and we can survive this Government.
I should like to add my support to my noble friend Lord Morris. I shall not speak for long because my noble friends Lord Boyd-Carpenter and Lord Middleton have said all that I would like to say. My only problem is that in supporting my noble friend Lord Morris I am also supporting the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, who made rather barbed remarks relating to me earlier. Therefore, I shall have a problem. But, in principle, I strongly support my noble friend Lord Morris.
I should like to add a word of support for the Government because it seems as though they need some at present. We must decide whether we feel that a service of this kind should be free—which means, in fact, that somebody else has to pay for it, because it must be paid for; all the arguments have been deployed—or whether we think that a service of this kind should be paid for partly, if not wholly, by the users of the service. One calls in evidence services like the telephone; one does not expect that to be free. Other examples are the railways and the Post Office. Indeed, to come a little further down the scale, let us say that I wish to have a firearms certificate. I have to pay the police for the time taken in checking whether I should have one. That situation seems fairly analogous and no one objects to that.We must accept that this is an expensive service. It is protecting the public from what are sometimes terrible things, and we should support the Government's wish to charge. If only your Lordships had seen some of the frivolous planning applications which I had to deal with as chairman of a planning authority, in which people put in for planning for hundreds of houses for every field that they owned in the hope of catching the planners unawares, and in the hope that they could possibly get away with it. They had to be treated seriously because they were serious applications and they took a lot of time. If only your Lordships had seen some of the planning applications which have been rejected by planning authorities, applications for gazebos or buildings which would have permanently disfigured the landscape, then you would be totally grateful to the planning service which we have in this country, and which I believe to be the finest in Europe, if not in the world. It needs the help of charging that will make it more efficient. I hope very much that the Government are successful in resisting the amendment.
This clause applies to Scotland. I wonder why? The Secretary of State has bowed out of a lot of this because none of the aspects of finance as regards rate support grant and capital control apply to Scotland. However, this matter does apply. I should like to know what the Secretary of State for Scotland did about it. It is now a better clause than it was originally because we have got rid of subsection (3). However, I must say that subsection (3) is the one that probably cost the Government a little more money than anything else, because I can assure your Lordships that it takes a long, long time for the civil servants to get round to appeals, and then those concerned must await the decision of the local authorities. Those appeals and the hearing of them probably cost more money than would be taken up by a thousand of the small owner-occupiers who will be caught in this.Anyone who is used to reading parliamentary statutes is very sceptical of any Minister who comes along and says, "Ah, but we are going to be very reasonable." The words in the statute are:
for the payment of a fee. In fact this money is going to be so easy to raise. It will not take long for a Government with a majority to get a Motion through the House in respect of this type of matter. From that point of view, this, to my mind, is quite a revolutionary change. It is taxation, but taxation upon whom? We have had some indication of the scale of the fees, and the Minister says that he wants to make it simple. He talks about £40 on £1,000. I am thinking of myself as an owner-occupier who put an extension on his house three or four years ago. What can one get for £1,000? It will be a very simple change in that respect, but it will cost a person £40. The Minister said that it will not cost so very much for the commercial firms, the big developers. He is able to say that because there is so much going on as regards the small people. He instanced the £30 million and then went on to say how much of this would be taken up by the small people. Who are the small people? They are the owner-occupiers. For the kind of job that they are doing they will pay VAT. No doubt they will have to pay something now for the approval of building plans, and now this. These are three things for which three years ago they did not have to pay anything. So you add the one to the other. It is the smaller businessman, the sort of person who is being pushed out of business, who does this kind of job. There will be an inhibiting factor in relation to this kind of cost. The point made from the Liberal Benches was I think so right—there are people who will try to get away with it. People have tried to get away with actually building a whole house without obtaining planning permission. I can remember a member of a local council in Kilmarnock—he was on the planning committee too—who received planning permission for a house in one area but who built it elsewhere in a different area and did not seem to think that he had done anything wrong. So there will be people who will go ahead with these things, and then we shall be faced with the business of enforcement. It will be very troublesome and I do not think that it will look very well when it is written up in the local papers and people discover just exactly what they have to pay for now when they did not have to pay for it before. I hope that the Government will think again on this. To my mind the whole question is wrong. We must balance the interests of the individual against the well-being of the whole community. The great point that has been made is that of the success of our planning system. It has been pretty well agreed. Of course, there have been grouses as it has gone on. Now we discover, about 40 years after having instituted it, that this is something that should be done. Why did we not do it before? Because we recognised that we were interfering with the rights of the individual, which were in existence long before we established the rights of the community through planning. If there is planning conrol, it is in the interests not of the person who uses it, but of the community as a whole, and so it is right that the community as a whole should pay for it. We should not be introducing this question of fees."make … provision as he thinks fit"
A good many hours ago I made a speech in which I sought to suggest to your Lordships certain aspects of principle. I promise your Lordships that I shall not indulge in tedious repetition by repeating it. But if I may, I should like to comment on one or two points that have been made in the course of this extremely interesting debate.First, I should like to suggest to my noble friend Lord Ridley that he seemed to brush aside the degree of innovation involved in these proceedings. After all, it is a fact that for at least 40 years—indeed, rather longer—planning has been regarded as a public service administered not in the interests of the individual applicant but in the interests of the community as a whole for the proper maintenance of the environment. To change that approach after over 40 years—and I am sure that my noble friend, sitting on the Conservative Benches, believes this—requires a good deal of justification. I also thought that he fell into certain difficulties in the use of analogy; we all do. He used the comparison of a gun licence. I would point out to him that one does not have to pay a fee if one applies for a gun licence and it is refused.
Oh but you do.
Not if it is refused.
If you apply for a firearms certificate, you have to send your cheque with the application.
And if it is refused, your cheque is returned.
I doubt it.
If my noble friend's authority does not return those cheques, I suggest that it very urgently consults its legal advisers. No analogy helps us, as I am sure he would agree. It is a change of a quite important nature. In his reply on the earlier amendment, my noble friend—and this is the only reason I return to it—did not answer the question (he answered so many that I fully sympathise with him) as to how much of the £30 million that he sought to raise would be offset by administrative expenses.We have heard a good deal during this debate of the possibility of various concessions and amendments. Most of them are excellent, but no one will know better than my noble friend that acceptance of them would not only lose the revenue involved, would be not only knocked off the £30 million, but would equally entail an addition to the administrative staff required to administer it. If the Committee is to consider this on the basis of £30 million we want to know what the net figure is. Although it does not itself touch on the question of principle, I agree, it is very relevant to the practical side of it. Like other speakers I have not been terribly satisfied by my noble friend's indication that if he gets this power it will be exercised moderately, and the amounts exacted from the citizen who applies, successfully or unsuccessfully, for planning permission will be moderate. Of course, they will be under this Government. My noble friend cannot guarantee what another Government will do. I remind him of a rather sinister precedent of nearly two centuries ago when William Pitt introduced the income tax towards the end of the 18th century. He indicated it would be both modest and temporary. I am sure that he was as honest and sincere when he said that as is my noble friend this evening. What my noble friend has to face is that he is seeking to introduce a new form of taxation. This is an extremely delicate and difficult subject. I find myself in great difficulty over this. The line your Lordships know I have taken from time to time is that we ought to support Her Majesty's Government in their efforts to get the national economy right. Some of us indeed have urged on them not perhaps greater taxation but greater reductions in expenditure. If my noble friend can really get there and say that the raising of this £30 million gross is essential to the recovery of the national economy and can demonstrate that, I should be impressed, but I do not think he can. I have great sympathy with my noble friend's position. There he is on that Bench, and I appreciate that it is difficult for him to concede something like £30 million gross, be it that, of revenue, although I think he has seen that with the gallant exception of our noble friend Lord Ridley the general feeling expressed in this Committee has been very unhappy about this, and critical. Can he relieve all of us of this difficulty? I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Ross, that there is no refuge to be found in the regulations. But there is another stage of this Bill. Can my noble friend tell the Committee that between now and the Report stage he will consult his right honourable friend and indicate to him the general unhappiness in all parties in this Committee about these proposals and the difficulties which have been brought out in this debate? Can he do that? I know if he says it he will do it. Will he say that he will go back to him on the whole thing—not just on the individual modifications which he has been generous in giving undertaking about—without commitment, because I realise having been a Minister that he cannot at this moment give a commitment, we would not expect him to; but he could discuss the matter urgently with his right honourable friend. If his right honourable friend is sensible about it, as he may well be, then he could thereby well relieve many of us in this Committee of being torn on the dilemma of either appearing to accept and not vote against a really deplorable new precedent, or the alternative of appearing not fully to support a Government for which most of us have on this side great enthusiasm and which we realise is struggling gallantly with a desperate economic situation. I hope that my noble friend can help us.
I intervene briefly because I feel the Government are a little lacking in support on this issue. Having witnessed the number of plans submitted on a frivolous basis and then revised by the planning authority, I can only suggest that there is a large waste of money and a vested interest in keeping planning staff employed in many instances, and possibly architects as well. I wanted to make that remark because I feel the principle of planning charges should be commended to the Committee.
May I ask the Minister a simple question and a particular one which is not really on the general principle? In the consultation paper with which we have been provided, under the heading "Exemptions" is says:
If a family contains a disabled member and the family wishes to make an extension rather larger than the new allowance, would not an exemption be made even in that case?"There would be no exemption for particular classes of applicant".
To deal with that last point first, if the noble Baroness, Lady David, were saying that if I could give her an assurance that there would be such an exemption she would then support the rejection of the amendment, I should be glad to answer her in detail. As it happens, I cannot give her a specific answer other than to say that in general terms I have tried to say all along when debating this issue (indeed, I have tried to say this when debating most subjects) that if any of your Lordships raised any aspect that should be looked at, we would gladly do so, but I suspect that this whole debate has gone much further than that now.I wish at the outset to assure my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter that we appreciate the way in which he made his points. I recognise his great wish to be helpful and I want him to know how much I appreciate that, regardless of whatever he does about this issue. I shall not go over the ground again. I made a "clause stand part" speech at the beginning—perhaps I should have made it at the end; I do not know, but I do not think so—and I think I need only comment on a few points that have been made since. First, we do not look on these planning charges at all as a tax. They are not a tax but fees payable whether permission is granted or refused, and they are designed to offset part of the costs of the system. That is all they are, and I suggest that one needs to keep a sense of proportion in looking at the matter. The charges are very small in comparison with the value of the developments and it may be of interest to the Committee to know that about £8,000 million-worth of development passes through the system in a year. The annual yeild of the planning charges is intended to be £30 million; that is, £30 million out of £8 billion. A scheme of 50 new houses would attract a charge of either £2,000 or about £2,800, depending on how it was done, out of a total value of £750,000. It seems to me that the whole debate really turns on the principle of the thing. My noble friend Lord Morris asked me where the figure of £50 million came from. The figure was produced by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy and the figure of £30 million was arrived at as a reasonable proportion of what could be recovered without setting charges at a level which would be a disincentive to development, because there is no way the Government want to do anything which would have that effect. If we really thought that what we were proposing would be a disincentive to development, then there would be no further discussion at all about it. Yes, as my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter said, it is possible that a future Government might exploit charges to "milk" the development industry, but I do not think that that is likely, because it would be self-defeating. That would not be a fear for me. I do not think that there is much purpose in trying to answer some of the other individual points made. I think that the figures quoted by the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, were not correct. My noble friend asked me a very fair question: Is £30 million essential to the recovery of the country's economy? If it is not there, then it is £30 million that is not there. One would have to decide oneself what is essential. In an academic discussion that perhaps I might have with my noble friend on another occasion it would be interesting to learn what is the figure that makes it essential. I do not think that he and I are far apart on that. I was disappointed in some of the comments made by my noble friend Lord Morris, with whom I usually agree extensively on most things. I do not mind that he disagrees with us. I just wish that perhaps he had not put it quite the way that he did, but so be it. At the end of the day my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter quite properly recognised the dilemma that I face in having to make decisions on this matter. In fact I do not have the freedom to manoeuvre; I do not have it at all. The Government believe—I must say it again—that this is not a tax; it is a fee. I thank my noble friend Lord Ridley for the points that he made and which I thought were fair. We genuinely believe that this charge would not at all be an imposition on individuals. One has to look at the figures to see how true that is. We are speaking of £30 or £40 for £25,000 worth of development. My goodness me! I just do not see how that could be a problem, and I would have to come back—
Will the noble Lord allow me to interrupt him here? It is £40 for the hope of £25,000 worth of development; it is not £40 for £25,000. There is a very big distinction in that.
I was not trying to say other than that. I am sorry if I was saying something that I did not intend to say, though I was not aware that I was. In any case, at the end of the day we should take all the other factors into account, not least the fact that by our willingness to free entirely from planning a big section of the GDO for individuals,
|Airey of Abingdon, B.||Denham, L. [Teller.]||Hatherton, L.|
|Avon, E.||Digby, L.||Holderness, L.|
|Balerno, L.||Drumalbyn, L.||Hornsby-Smith, B.|
|Bellwin, L.||Duncan-Sandys, L.||Ironside, L.|
|Belstead, L.||Ellenborough, L.||Kemsley, V.|
|Bessborough, E.||Elliot of Harwood, B.||Lauderdale, E.|
|Boardman, L.||Elton, L.||Long, V.|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Exeter, M.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.|
|Bridgeman, V.||Ferrers, E.||Lyell, L.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Fortescue, E.||Mackay of Clashfern, L.|
|Cathcart, E.||Freyberg, L.||Margadale, L.|
|Cockfield, L.||Gainford, L.||Marley, L.|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Gowrie, E.||May, L.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Grimston of Westbury, L.||Monk Bretton, L.|
|Craigmyle, L.||Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Mowbray and Stourton, L.|
|Cranbrook, E.||Murton of Lindisfarne, L.|
|Croft, L.||Hanworth, V.||Netherthorpe, L.|
|Cullen of Ashbourne, L.||Harvey of Tasburgh, L.||Newall, L.|
|De La Warr, E.||Harvington, L.||Northchurch, B.|
we have illustrated that we are committed to helping people to get on and to get things done without having to go for planning permissions. I invite at least enough of my noble friends, and I think one or two noble Lords opposite, to feel that the Government have justice on this issue. I say again that if it is felt that there have to be adjustments to regulations or whatever, then the door is wide open for that all the way down the line, and it will always stay wide open.
I shall be very brief. I did not speak during the main debate at all. The Minister has said that it is only £30 million, but what he has forgotten is that in the very recent past—and I should, I suppose, declare an interest because I am a lawyer and am apparently going to gain out of this—a developer has been confronted with, in addition to the matters that the Minister has mentioned, a payment for byelaw consent, a payment for Section 40 consents under the Highways Act, and additional payments for gas connections. Any developer is now faced with considerable additional cost, not just with this little planning charge that the Minister seems to dismiss. There is in this Bill and in the conduct of recent legislation a disincentive to development.
On Question, Whether Clause 76, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?
Their Lordships divided: Contents, 71; Not-Contents, 55.
|Orkney, E.||Rochdale, V.||Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.|
|Rawlinson of Ewell, L.||St. Aldwyn, E.||Swansea, L.|
|Redesdale, L.||Sandford, L.||Tranmire, L.|
|Renton, L.||Sandys, L. [Teller.]||Trefgarne, L.|
|Ridley, V.||Strathclyde, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Ardwick, L.||Hale, L.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. [Teller.]|
|Bacon, B.||Hampton, L.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Harris of Greenwich, L.||Roberthall, L.|
|Birk, B.||Hatch of Lusby, L.||Ross of Marnock, L.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, L.||Henley, L.||Shackleton, L.|
|Brooks of Tremorfa, L.||Hooson, L.||Simon, V.|
|Bruce of Donington, L.||Houghton of Sowerby, L.||Spens, L.|
|Chitnis, L.||Jeger, B.||Stanley of Alderley, L.|
|Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.||Kaldor, L.||Stedman, B.|
|Collison, L.||Killearn, L.||Stewart of Alvechurch, B.|
|Craigavon, V.||Kilmarnock, L.||Stewart of Fulham, L.|
|David, B.||Listowel, E.||Stone, L.|
|Davies of Leek, L.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.||Sudeley, L.|
|Denington, B.||Middleton, L.||Swinfen, L.|
|Elwyn-Jones, L.||Minto, E.||Tweeddale, M.|
|Evans of Claughton, L.||Mishcon, L.||Underhill, L.|
|Gainsborough, E.||Morris, L. [Teller.]||Wedderburn of Charlton, L.|
|Gladwyn, L.||Peart, L.||Wigoder, L.|
|Greenwood of Rossendale, L.||Winstanley, L.|
Resolved in the affirmative, and Clause 76, as amended, agreed to accordingly.
Clause 77 [ Local plans—expedited procedure]:
moved Amendment No. 202:
Page 67, leave out from line 22 to line 38 on page 68.
The noble Lord said: I shall not detain your Lordships for very long on this amendment, with which perhaps it would be convenient to speak to Amendments Nos. 204 and 205. The reason I will not take long is not because I do not think it important, for I think it is; but I have a feeling that may be shared by some noble Lords that time is moving on and that we should like to get to bed before too late. The rubric of the clause reads: "Local plans—expedited procedure". That is what Clause 77 deals with. In doing that, it upsets the county structure and local plans—arrangements which, on the whole, have worked very well since the local government reorganisation.
So far as No. 202 is concerned, we are seeking to change the position that is now in the Bill and to return the legislation to the position before the Bill was put before your Lordships, in that the amendment will allow local plans of a district council to be approved in the absence of approval of the structure plans—which seems as though it is putting the cart before the horse.
Amendment No. 204 seeks to amend Schedule 11, since in that case the Secretary of State is allowed to amend a county's structure plan and to refuse or to waive an examination of the county's structure plan in public. Again, I should have thought that while expediting, admittedly, the plans procedures—that can hardly be disputed—it is a considerable invasion of the right of citizens to have a say in the way in which the county in which they live is arranging the future planning of that county for them, their children and their grandchildren. It seems to me that, while expediting the procedures, this is expediting them at considerable cost to the liberty of the individual and of the community to have its say.
My third amendment seeks to bring the law back to the position that it was in before this Bill was published. This is even more serious because it seeks to give the Secretary of State an unusual power. In addition to having to consider objections raised at a public inquiry—which is obviously right—he is also entitled to take account of any other objections not raised at the public inquiry. One must ask oneself: Why were those objections not raised at the public inquiry? It gives one the feeling that possibly objections have been made on the side, in secret, by people who do not want their objections to be known and who have some reason for hiding their views. He can take into account any other considerations which appear to the authority to be material.
People go to a public inquiry—as they have done for years—thinking that only those matters which are discussed at the public inquiry can be considered. They will now find under the proposed new legislation that objections which are never aired at the public inquiry and any other considerations that the Secretary of State may care to dredge out from the recesses of his civil servants' pigeonholes are considered in deciding whether a plan or proposal or inquiry should reach a certain decision. I am not trying to exaggerate the case; I do not think I need to do so. It seems to me that this is a very novel addition, creating secret legislation in the cause and name of expediting the consideration of planning proposals.
All of us are in favour of expediting procedures for local planners but possibly at some time that expedition is won at too great a cost—namely, the cost of the private individual's or the community's right to have their views considered and to know that their views—and only their views—that are discussed in public are considered by the Secretary of State. I beg to move.
It is interesting that the noble Lord is seeking the removal of powers of direction which the Secretary of State received in Section 12 of the Inner Urban Areas Act 1978. The new Section 15A which Clause 77 inserts into the 1971 Act follows Section 11 quite closely.Since the structure plan must be approved by the Secretary of State before it becomes operative, he is bound to be concerned about local plans which anticipate that approval, but there is a very strong case indeed for allowing local plans to proceed in advance of approval o f the structure plan in certain circumstances—provided that necessary safeguards are embodied in the legislation. These safeguards are present in the new Section 15A. The local planning authority can proceed with a local plan in advance of the approval of the structure plan only if the Secretary of State gives a direction authorising them to do so. This gives him an opportunity to ensure that national and regional implications are brought into consideration if a local plan is being adopted before approval of the structure plan. This opportunity is provided not only by the requirement that the Secretary of State must give his authorisation before the authority proceed with the local plan, but also by the consultation which has to be carried out before he makes the direction. The noble Lord must make up his mind. What we are seeking to do is to give local authorities more flexibility to act and update their policies to meet any changed circumstances. There is always a safeguard that any proposals for modification have to be advertised. To refer to this as secret legislation really is stretching the bounds of credulity. I do not see it in any way as such. Indeed, this is another of the many attempts in this Bill to give flexibility and to get things moving. So long as there is a safeguard—and I have just explained that there is a safeguard—what are we afraid of?
The noble Lord the Minister has dealt only with the first amendment. Since the Minister seems keen to expedite the proceedings of this Committee, I moved the three amendments together and the first is the one which gives me least concern. It is the second and the third, Nos. 204 and 205, which I am more concerned about.Some of your Lordships may already be aware that there is great concern being expressed by district councillors, and others who are interested in the district plans and structure plans for various districts, that their views will not be given proper credence by the Minister. That is what concerns them more, and that considerations to which they have not had an opportunity of directing their minds will be considered by the Minister. That seems to me, as a lawyer, to be an unusual way of conducting administrative law. Clearly, the Minister is very hardheaded. He is getting his own back on me for all the attacks he has had from his own side on the later clauses. But in order that we can proceed as far as possible this evening, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment. I will discuss the matter with those people who brought it to my attention and, if necessary, will raise it again at a later date.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved Amendment No. 202A:
Page 69, line 27, at end insert ("and in what general respects it does not so conform").
The noble Viscount said: With this amendment I should like to take Amendments Nos. 202B, 202C and 206A. They are relatively trivial, I believe they are unexceptional and will only help to make the planning process a little smoother. The object of these amendments is to clarify the procedures to ensure that where a local plan does not conform with the structure plan, everybody will know why and where and what is to happen next. Amendment No. 206A merely states that if there is disagreement between a local and a structure plan, the local plan cannot automatically prevail. I beg to move.
I recognise that the local authority associations have misgivings about the position when a local plan is no longer in general conformity with a newly approved or altered structure plan. It is asserted that a provision on the lines proposed by my noble friend would remove uncertainty, but I wish to bring to the attention of the Committee the outcome of the discussions that have taken place with the local authority associations.They have accepted that this way of removing uncertainty might be accompanied by unnecessary precision. In our view, it will usually be apparent from the documents why the local plan is regarded by the county council to be no longer in general conformity with the structure plan. Moreover, there would be a risk of bringing the implications for local plans forward at the same time as decisions were sought on structural issues. This would be certain to cause delay. The local authority associations have accepted that a better way to meet their misgivings would be to extend the provision in paragraph 5(c) of Schedule 11. I am pleased to say that another amendment, No. 206A, which is designed to do this, is on the Marshalled List, and I shall commend that to your Lordships as the best course. I cannot recommend acceptance of No. 202C, although the intention behind my noble friend's amendment is perfectly reasonable. It is quite right that those using a local plan should be aware of the county's decision. But Amendment No. 202C goes only part of the way; it will not help those who already have a copy of the local plan. The present regulations setting out the procedure relating to structure and local plans do not meet this point, but new ones will be drafted shortly to amend the Town and Country Planning (Structure and Local Plans) Regulations 1974, and we shall consider how to meet the point which my noble friend has raised. In the circumstances, I hope he will feel able to withdraw his amendment.
Yes, I am quite prepared to withdraw the amendment on the grounds that it will be acceptable in principle.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[ Amendments Nos. 202B and 202C not moved.]
Clause 77 agreed to.
Clause 78 [ Additional amendments relating to surveys and plans]:
On Question, Whether Clause 78 shall stand part of the Bill?
There is another strange misprint here. The reference to Schedule 10 should be a reference to Schedule 11, and, to save my making another speech on the next clause, I should say that the same mistake is made in Clause 79, where it should be Schedule 12 instead of Schedule 11.
Again, I am deeply grateful to my noble friend, who really is so expert on these matters. He must be the absolute terror of the printers; and thank goodness that he is. I am grateful to him for pointing this out to us.
Clause 78 agreed to.
Schedule 11 [ Amendments relating to surveys and plans]:
moved Amendment No. 203ZA:
Page 150, line 20, at end insert—
("In section 7 of that Act (preparation of structure plans)—
(a) in subsection (3), paragraph (b) shall cease to have effect; (b) the following subsection shall be substituted for subsection (6):—
"(6) The written statement shall be illustrated by such diagram or diagrams as may be prescribed, which shall be treated as forming part of the plan"; and
(c) the following subsection shall be added after subsection (6):—
"(6A) The structure plan shall be accompanied by an explanatory memorandum summarising the reasons which in the opinion of the local planning authority justify each and every policy and general proposal formulated in the plan, stating the relationship thereof to expected development and other use of land in neighbouring areas where relevant and containing such other matters as may be prescribed; and the explanatory memorandum may contain such illustrative material as the local planning authority think appropriate".
In section 8 of that Act (publicity in connection with preparation of structure plans)—
(a) the following paragraph shall be substituted for paragraph (a) of subsection (1):—
(a) that adequate publicity is given in their area to the matters which they propose to include in the plan and to the proposed content of the explanatory memorandum relating to each such matter, and that the results of the survey under section 6 of this Act are publicly available"; and (b) in subsection (2), after the word "State", in the second place where it occurs, there shall be inserted the words "and of the explanatory memorandum".").
The noble Lord said: I rise to move Amendment No. 203ZA and to speak to the consequential amendment, No. 203B. This amendment seeks to separate out the policies on the structure on local plans from the supporting material. At present anomalies can arise because policies can be deleted, but not supporting material. A change in the regulations has already been made by Government and this amendment merely tidies up the primary legislation. I believe the Government will accept it. I beg to move.
Without making any speech on it, I am grateful to the noble Lord for bringing this forward. Yes, we do accept it.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 203A:
Page 151, line 2, leave out ("a report of").
The noble Viscount said: I shall be as brief as possible. I believe that, again, this amendment is not contested. It is just to simplify the process of altering the structure plan. I believe it meets the Government's wishes, and it helps everybody. Accordingly, I beg to move.
My noble friend will be glad to know that I accept in principle what is proposed here because it is a small but none the less useful contribution to our efforts to reduce time and money spent on the preparation of structure plans. We accept the purpose of this amendment, but it does appear to be inadequate. The changes that are needed have been identified and I would be glad to discuss with my noble friend what is required. I would expect this to enable him to bring forward the necessary amendment at Report stage. With that, perhaps he might feel able to withdraw this amendment and we will proceed in the way I have suggested.
I am delighted to withdraw it, but I would much rather my noble friend put down what he does want on this point. It would save me a lot of trouble, and him, too. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved Amendment No. 203B:
Page 151, line 6, after ("section") insert ("subsections (3) to (6A) of section 7 and").
The noble Lord said: This amendment is consequential on the earlier amendment, which was agreed. I beg to move.
In the few words we had on Amendment No. 203ZA I welcomed the proposal to distinguish the policies in general proposals in a submitted structure plan from the explanatory material. It is logical to extend this concept to proposals for the alteration or the repeal or replacement of an approved structure plan. I welcome this amendment in principle. But I understand that, as drafted, it will not properly achieve the necessary alterations, and I would say, as I said to my noble friend, that I would be happy to discuss with the noble Lord, between now and the Report stage, the amendment that is needed. With revised wording, I am sure we can bring it back.
In view of those remarks, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[ Amendment No. 204 not moved.]
moved Amendment No. 204A:
Page 151, line 17, at end insert—
(". The following section shall be substituted for section 15 of that Act (alteration of local plans):—
"15.—(1) A local planning authority may at any time make proposals for the alteration, repeal or replacement of a local plan adopted by them and may at any time, with the consent of the Secretary of State, make proposals for the alteration, repeal or replacement of a local plan approved by him.
(2) Without prejudice to subsection (1) of this section, a local planning authority shall, if the Secretary of State gives them a direction in that behalf with respect to a local plan adopted by them or approved by him, as soon as practicable prepare proposals of a kind specified in the direction, being proposals for the alteration, repeal or replacement of the plan.
(3) Subject to subsection (4) of this section the provisions of sections 11(9) to (11), 12, 13 and 14 of this Act shall apply in relation
to the making of proposals for the alteration, repeal or replacement of a local plan under this section, and to alterations to a local plan so proposed, as they apply in relation to the preparation of a local plan under section 11 of this Act and to a local plan prepared thereunder, but as if the reference in section 14(4)( a) to section 9 of this Act were a reference to section 10 of this Act.
(4) Section 13 of this Act shall not apply in any case where it appears to the local planning authority, on consideration of proposals for the alteration or repeal and replacement of a local plan, that no matters which require a local inquiry arise—
The noble Lord said: It may be that the matter which this amendment deals with is also dealt with, but in a different way, by Amendment No. 206AA. My amendment covers this point. Schedule 11, paragraph 3, confers powers on the Secretary of State to dispense with an examination in public in relation to proposed alterations for repeals or replacements of existing structure plans in appropriate circumstances. In my view it is desirable that similar powers to dispense with the requirement for a public inquiry to be held in connection with proposals to alter, repeal or replace existing local plans should also be introduced for the same reasons as the power is required in the case of structure plans. This amendment so provides. I beg to move.
I recognise that there will be occasions when proposals to alter, repeal or replace a local plan adopted by the local planning authority or approved by the Secretary of State will be uncontroversial and that it could well be a waste of public money to conduct an inquiry. I also recognise that there are a number of objectors to local plans who are quite prepared to rely on their written objections and do not want to take part in an inquiry. In other words, I fully accept the principle behind my noble friend's amendment.There is, however, an important consideration I must bring to the notice of the Committee. We must safeguard the right of an objector to be heard at a public local inquiry if he is not content for his objection to a proposed local plan to be considered on the basis of his written representations. The Council on Tribunals have been consulted and would wish the discretion to local authorities to dispense with a public local inquiry to be limited to cases where no objector wishes to appear at an inquiry. My right honourable friends and I would be happy therefore to accept an amendment to the effect that an inquiry need not be held if all objectors said in writing that they did not wish to appear before an inspector. I wonder whether my noble friend would be able to consider this alternative. In saying that, perhaps I should mention that when we come to Amendment No. 206AA we will accept it, but we feel that this one goes a bit too far.
I am grateful to my noble friend and will be very glad to withdraw the amendment. However, I should feel much happier if my noble friend would go a little further and say that, having accepted the case I am making, he and his department, with all the expertise they can command, will propose Government amendments at Report stage if, in my noble friend's view, Amendment No. 206AA does not do everything which the two amendments together are seeking to do.
We will look at what my noble friend has said. We will accept Amendment No. 206AA, but if it should be that there is something additional along the lines of what my noble friend has said then we will consider it. As for this amendment, perhaps he would withdraw it.
The Minister said that the objection should be in writing. If somebody does not object in writing, what is the position then?
That does not matter. It is when they do object in writing that this has to be taken into account.
I beg leave to withdraw Amendment No. 204A.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[ Amendment No. 205 not moved.]
moved Amendment No. 206:
Page 151, line 45, at end insert—
("( ) in subsection (3) after the word "him" there shall he inserted the words "and shall so direct where an objection has been made, and has not been withdrawn, by the Minister of Agriculture.";").
The noble Lord said: The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that when the Minister of Agriculture has objected to a local plan and has not withdrawn his objection, that plan, before being adopted, shall be called in by the Secretary of State so that the Secretary of State shall have a chance to understand the problem and, maybe, give a direction on that plan. Perhaps I may be forgiven for taking the Committee very quickly through the process of local plans by quoting one particular example. It is in Staffordshire, but it could occur anywhere else. Here a local plan was made. The National Farmers' Union and the Ministry of Agriculture objected to it. An inspector was called and, at great expense, people put their case to the inspector. The inspector ruled in favour of the National Farmers' Union in this case, and the Ministry of Agriculture.
I am sorry to tell your Lordships, however, that the council overruled the inspector's decision and, as a result of this, the council went ahead with the original scheme. It published a plan in the press. As a result, the National Farmers' Union and the agricultural lobby lobbied the Secretary of State and the Ministry of Agriculture. The result of this was a very long delay of some six to eight months. After all this, there was a somewhat garbled letter. The Secretary of State did not call the plan in but neither did he call the plan out—if there could be such a corollory—but made an unofficial recommendation that the council should develop another site before they developed the particular site to which the agricultural lobby, if I may include the Ministry of Agriculture, were objecting.
Under my amendment, which I hope my noble friend will see in a favourable light, the Minister of Agriculture would be called in at stage four, which is when the council decides to go ahead with the original scheme against the advice of the inspector and against the advice or the desires of the Minister of Agriculture. The Minister of Agriculture could then oblige the Secretary of State to look at the scheme. I am not for one moment asking that the Secretary of State should rule in favour of the agricultural lobby. I am far too modest to ask that. I am just asking him to look at it. He did not do this in this case and it caused enormous delay.
The two important points that would be achieved by this amendment are, first of all, the drawing of the Secretary of State's attention to the loss of agricultural land—on which I have bored your Lordships before tonight. Secondly, something which might appeal more strongly to my noble friend is the speeding up of the planning process. I can really see no alternative to my noble friend's accepting my amendment. I beg to move.
May I briefly support the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley, who has made the case for this amendment very well.During a previous intervention I indicated my general support for this. I should have thought that this was an amendment which the Parliamentary Secretary would be glad to support with enthusiasm, because it would mean that he recognised there was a rapport between his right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment and the Minister of Agriculture. The impression given by this Bill is that there is inadequate consultation with the Ministry of Agriculture and with the general interests of agriculture. This may well not be the case in practice but, so far, there has been no indication that the Government understand the concern of farmers generally about the way this Bill is moving. I should have thought that there was a very strong case for conceding this amendment. After all, if the Minister of Agriculture is still concerned that a particular case does not meet the objection which the agricultural community has made to it, and there is an outstanding objection by him and his department, then it is only reasonable that the Secretary of State should call it in and have a discussion with his right honourable friend. It is really a question of co-operation between departments and, if the Parliamentary Secretary can give the Committee an assurance that he is absolutely satisfied that there would be such consultation, then I should be quite happy to let this go by. But I am not yet quite satisfied that there is this general agreement and that there has been the proper kind of consultation between his department and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in this. Therefore I should be glad to have the reaction of the Parliamentary Secretary.
Further to what the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, has said, the 1978 report by the Advisory Council for Agriculture and Horticulture—the Stain Report for short—made the recommendation that the present call-in procedure be strengthened to require the DoE at MAFF request to call in any case where there is an unresolved agricultural objection to a planning proposal. This was welcomed on all sides of the House when we debated it about 18 months ago. If I remember rightly, the recommendation was accepted by the last Government but so far this Government have not reacted to it. This amendment touched on the same point, but is more limited in scope. It is confined to MAFF objections in the case of the adoption of a local plan and, so far as it goes, I support it.On the wider issue I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, that it is time this Government reacted in some way to that particular planning recommendation in the Strutt Report. There is nothing political about it and its acceptance would go a long way towards safeguarding our food producing capacity. I do not see that it needs to be embodied in legislation and I am not asking my noble friend Lord Bellwin to make any statement at this stage. So far as my noble friend's amendment goes in that direction I am with him.
I wish to say a word in support of my noble friend Lord Stanley of Alderley, because I believe his amendment to be most important. I think that the further planning gets into the hands of smaller and more numerous authorities the less easy it appears likely that the Government will find it to be to control land take. Land take is a national matter and I think the amendment has a bearing on that aspect of it. While the amendment will not altogether satisfy what was recommended in the Strutt Report, at least it goes a considerable way towards doing so and helping central Government in their aim of controlling land take.I should now like to turn for a moment to what I believe are the considerable virtues of this amendment, particularly the words mentioned therein
Of course the Ministry can withdraw that objection very quickly the moment they see that the local authority concerned is taking good and sensible steps to avoid excessive land take but, if that local authority is not so doing, they cannot withdraw. By limiting it in this way I think it will be found that it encourages negotiations to continue. Section 206 may in the end not come into effect but the fact that it is there will ensure that matters are resolved quicker—I emphasise the word "quicker"—and at the same time taking the agricultural aspect into account."and shall so direct where an objection has been made, and has not been withdrawn".
This amendment is exercising into the realm of the machinery of government and I should have thought my noble friend would have no difficulty at all in confirming immediately to the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, that, if there is a case of agricultural land being taken for development against which there are massive or heavy objections, he and his right honourable friend the Secretary of State would, without any question, have consultations with the Ministry of Agriculture. The same would apply if there were a proposal from the Department of Energy to build a power station; if there were objections to that there would be consultation between the two departments; or if there were a proposal for building a motorway there would be consultations between the Ministry of Transport and the Department of the Environment, or in the case of docks between the Department of Trade and the Department of the Environment. All these consultations go on, in my experience invariably, when there are objections to these sort of proposals.
I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. But he would of course understand that in the case of a motorway there would be a public inquiry.
There would probably be a public inquiry if there were heavy objections.
The point I am making is that my belief is that the machinery of government requires a decision to call in a matter for a public inquiry to be taken by the Secretary of State for the Environment and the responsibility is his. This amendment will take away that responsibility and place it with the Minister of Agriculture, and I do not think that would be a correct division of responsibility. I think this matter of when and under what circumstances to call something in for public local inquiry is a decision for the Secretary of State to take—certainly after consultations, but it should be his own decision.
I am very grateful to my noble friend for what he has just said. It is the thrust of what I want to say. I would like to pay tribute to what I thought was the very clear way in which my noble friend Lord Stanley of Alderley put his case. My noble friend's concern about the loss of high quality agricultural land is shared by myself and my right honourable friends in another place. Government policy for the protection of agricultural land is to ensure as far as possible that land of higher agricultural quality is not taken for development where land of a lower quality is available, and that the amount of land taken is no greater than is reasonably required for carrying out the development in accordance with the proper standards. There can be no misunderstanding about the recognition of the value of high quality agricultural land. But the needs of agriculture cannot be given absolute priority without regard to other requirements of communities, and hence the need for the planning system to resolve problems about the location of new development.Let me say on the particular matter of calling in local plans for the Secretary of State's approval that every structure plan must be approved by the Secretary of State, but it is the intention that local plans will normally be adopted by the local planning authorities themselves. The object of approving structure plans is to give local planning authorities a clear indication of the planning issues in the county context, so that the authorities can proceed with the detailed work and the resolution of the remaining planning issues without the necessity to refer these detailed matters to the Secretary of State for his approval, as was the case under the old development plan system. The power to call in a local plan is regarded as a reserve power to be used only in a limited range of circumstances where intervention is clearly justified. The circumstances in which the exercise of call-in powers of local plans might be appropriate are where the plan raises issues which are matters of national or regional interest or where the plan gives rise to substantial controversy which extends beyond the area of the plan-making authority. We would not regard it as appropriate for the Secretary of State to consider calling in a local plan where these wider considerations did not arise. In deciding whether or not to call in a local plan the Secretary of State has the opportunity to consider any matter relevant to the local plan proposals. If there is an objection by the Ministry of Agriculture or any other department or body it can be brought to the attention of the Secretary of State, who is able to decide whether he should call in the local plan for his own decision. Having introduced a development plan system which is designed to leave the detailed decisions to local planning authorities, it would be to move in the opposite direction to introduce an obligation to call in a local plan. In fact, no local plan has yet been called in for decision by the Secretary of State but many local plans have been adopted. I should like to say in conclusion that the amendment is not necessary to further the Government's policy of ensuring that the use of high quality agricultural land for development is regulated carefully. It is the Government's policy to keep to a minimum the intervention of central Government in local government affairs. As I have already said, it would seem to me to be wrong to single out a particular kind of objection for treatment in this way. It must be better, surely, to rely on the general power of the Secretary of State to intervene in appropriate circumstances. May I just say to the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, that I thought that the point he raised was absolutely right; namely, the extent to which there would be collusion between the Ministry of Agriculture and the Department of the Environment. Would they really work together and consult together in matters of this kind? In my view that is absolutely essential in matters of this kind. I am not only glad that he put the question to me in the way that he did. I can tell him that it was a point that I had intended to make myself in any case because I thought that it was the important part of the matter. Given the intention generally and where we are trying to get with this whole local structure plan situation, I think that the point he made was the right one and I thank him for making it. I wonder whether, in view of the sentiments that I have expressed, my noble friend Lord Stanley may feel that at least, while obviously not being as happy as if we had been able to accept the amendment, he is able to accept the tone of what I am saying and perhaps not to press the amendment.
I have been very dismayed as a farmer to hear my noble friend's answer. I think that he has dealt with a great deal which, if I may say so, is not relevant to my noble friend Lord Stanley's amendment. It seems to me that there is such admirable mechanistic sense in the amendment that my noble friend should deal with it much more sympathetically. All that he is being asked, as I understand it, is that the matter shall come to the attention of the Minister of Agriculture at the earliest possible moment, and certainly at a moment very much earlier than in the example which my noble friend Lord Stanley quoted. I do not believe that my noble friend has taken this point, and I ask him to reconsider it and try to do something a little better than uttering, if I may say so, pious hopes that the two Ministries will work together.
I am sorry that my noble friend feels it necessary to refer to what I said in that way. Pious hopes—well, I suppose that most of life is hoping, and piously is perhaps a better way of doing it than any other. But what I said—as indeed I hope as regards everything I say—I meant. When we talk about the need for both Secretaries of State to consult together in these cases, I am sure that that is the right way to deal with it. If my noble friend is questioning whether we are satisfied that the procedure, the systems, would throw it up in such a way that it could not be overlooked, or it could not slip through, then I think that would be a fair question to ask and I would want to look at it and be satisfied about it.In view of the doubt expressed, I shall look at exactly what my noble friend Lord Stanley said, to make sure that we have tried to cover his points. But I hope in turn that he will perhaps look at what I have said as well, because I still believe that the principle of what we are trying to do is important. As long as we look at the individual problem situations that are brought to our notice and are forewarned of them—and I am well aware that there are a couple of cases which have given special cause for concern—then I think that that is probably at this moment as far as I could go. I hope that that may satisfy my noble friend.
I am rather worried, and I should like to mention to my noble friend Lord Bellwin that once land has gone for development it has gone for good. I should like to ask him one question. Do we have enough flexibility in this matter? For instance, should the grade of the land, and simply the grade of the land, be the only criterion to which we should work here? What about the aspects of a mixture of land and the effects on units concerned, and so forth? I remain very concerned about it.
If everybody has spoken, I must tell my noble friend that I am not happy with his reply. First, I shall reassure him that I do not intend to divide at this moment, but I am not saying that I shall not return on Report and divide at that stage. I am sorry to say this, but I think that his reply was thoroughly unsatisfactory. Obviously, I did not put my case clearly, and he has not yet got the message.I am sorry to delay the Committee, but this is an important point. There is concern, as the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, said, that the farmers' problem over the loss of land has not been recognised in this Bill. I have said that before and I shall not go on about it. There is a large amount of land take, as was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Monk Bretton, and from looking at the Bill it seems that it is not recognised in the department. Secondly, there is no compulsion for the Department of the Environment to abide by the Minister of Agriculture's petition. In this amendment I am asking only for him to be allowed to petition or ask for a Secretary of State to be called in. My noble friend Lord Bellwin said that of course this would happen. But it is not, in fact, the Secretary of State and the Minister of Agriculture who become involved in such small rows as I have mentioned in Staffordshire. It is regional officers, and it is between them. So it never comes before the Secretary of State or the Minister of Agriculture. I am simply asking that the case should be listened to. I shall not sit down because it is an important point that I wish to make I do not think that my noble friend I, as realised it yet. He said that there is limited use; my noble friend Lord Monk Bretton has already spoken about the phrase "has not been withdrawn". There is ample occasion in the consultative arrangement for the local authority to withdraw their objection when a Minister of Agriculture has objected. I think that this is very important. I shall not go on because I am obviously being pressed to sit down; but I shall bring this back on Report and I shall divide then unless I get some satisfaction on it.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved Amendment No. 206A:
Page 152, line 8, at end insert—
("Provided that where the local plan is specified in such a list as is mentioned in subsection (2)(ii) or (3)(ii) of section 15B of this Act, the provisions of this subsection shall not apply until such time as a proposal for the alteration of the local plan or for its repeal, and replacement with a new plan has been adopted or has been approved by the Secretary of State.").
The noble Viscount said: We have debated this point and I formally beg to move the amendment.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 206AA:
Page 152, line 8, at end insert—
("In section 15 of that Act (alterations of local plans) —
(a) in subsection (3) for the word "the" where it first occurs there shall be substituted the words subject to subsection (4) of this section, the"; and (b) The following subsection shall be added after subsection (3) —(4) The requirement in section 13 of this Act for a local inquiry or other hearing to be held shall not apply if all persons who have made an objection have indicated in writing that they do not wish to appear.").
The noble Lord said: The noble Lord has already indicated that he intends to accept this amendment. Therefore, I think that it would be for the convenience of the Committee if I move it formally.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 206AB:
Page 153, line 27, at end insert—
(" . In section 22(2)(d) of that Act at the end there shall be inserted the words "or for any business purpose".").
The noble Lord said: My purpose is to help small businesses to get started with the minimum of frustrations, particularly in rural areas. On Second Reading I made two points which I said I hoped would be introduced into this Bill. The first was that no permission should be required for starting up a business inside one's own house, and the second, that in the case of small business applications to start up elsewhere the planning authority should have to give a good reason for refusing the application.
Our Select Committee on Long Term Unemployment has been taking a lot of evidence about small businesses. One of the problems coming through to us extensively is the difficulty they are finding in getting suitable premises. I was encouraged when I received after that Second Reading debate a letter from the new chairman of the Development Commission, who had apparently been listening on his car radio to a BBC report of a bit of my speech—a report which I did not know about. He waited until he
had seen Hansard and then he wrote as follows:
"… through our agency, C.SIRA, we do all that we can to support small businesses in rural areas with loans, specialist advice, training and in other ways. The planning problems of small businesses which you mentioned are well recognised."
That is a bit of support from an important source for what I ask to be done.
Amendments Nos. 206AB and AC are designed to do that. They would amend the Town and Country Planning Act which Schedule 11 will do through being brought into effect by Clause 79. My two amendments are not interdependent and so I shall speak to the first one now. Section 22 of the Town and Country Planning Act sets out various exceptions to the requirement that planning permissions have to be obtained for the making of any material change in the use of any buildings or other land. Subsection (2)( d) states that one of those exceptions is,
"the use of any buildings or other land within the curtilage of a dwellinghouse for any purpose incidental to the enjoyment of the dwellinghouse as such;".
My amendment would add to that "or for any business purpose". That, if I might suggest to the noble Lord, the Minister, would, in the words that he used a short time ago, cover nearly half of all planning applications if such an amendment were to be accepted. Therefore, the acceptance of it would reduce the costs of the whole operation enormously.
After that Second Reading debate, I received in my mail another letter dated 29th August which I should like to quote.
"I am engaged in battle with the local planners to obtain permission for my secretary (and perhaps one or two other personal support stall) to occupy, with filing and storage accommodation, 710 square feet next door to my study in a building in the grounds of my home. The grounds cover some six acres and the building is located in the centre of this area in a position where it is visible only from my own house.
"The planners are resisting my application on the grounds that the building is in the Green Belt and there is therefore a presumption against any development other than agricultural or recreational. They are unwilling to grant permission even for one secretary."
When we are trying to encourage the creation of new small businesses, that is a nonsense. I hope that you will give some sympathy to my amendment. I beg to move.
There will be general sympathy with the underlying intention of this amendment. As a Government we believe we are widely supported in our determination to promote the small business sector. We intend to make development control less of a burden by changing attitudes on the part of those who operate the system so that where small businesses want to start up in residential or rural areas, planning permission is withheld or onerous conditions are applied only where there are cogent and specific reasons for doing so. This policy is to be set out in a circular on development control and will be applied in appeal decisions.Such a discriminating application of control is, we believe, a far more practical and reasonable approach than that of abandoning controls altogether, for there is equally no doubt that some, even small scale, developments—the noble Lord referred to one in particular—in residential or rural areas can be very damaging to amenity. I am not suggesting that the case which the noble Lord cited is one of those, but activities which generate noise, smell, vibration, heavy traffic and unsightly clutter cannot go uncontrolled whatever the scale of the activity. I should point out that the curtilages of some dwelling-houses, especially in the country, can be very large indeed. The business activities that would be exempted from planning control by this amendment could thus be large-scale. Also, the amendment does not restrict the use of the curtilage of the house to a use connected with the occupation of the house. The business activities could therefore be carried on by someone other than the person living in the house. For these reasons I hope noble Lords will join me in resisting the amendment.
I am grateful for the Minister's assurance that there will be a relaxation under the directions that will be sent out to planning authorities, and with that in mind I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved Amendment No. 206AC:
Page 153, line 27, at end insert —
(" . In section 29(1)(b) of that Act at the end there shall be inserted the words ("; but such refusal shall not be given in the case of an application to establish a business employing less than ten employees unless it can be shown that the establishment of such a business would be seriously detrimental to the local environment.")
The noble Lord said: This covers the second point I wanted to raise; namely, that where a planning permission is made in the case of a small business it should not be refused for no very apparent good reason. Section 29 of the Town and Country Planning Act, which deals with the determination of applications, says in subsection (1)( a) that a planning authority may grant planning permission either unconditionally or subject to such conditions as it thinks fit or, under subparagraph ( b), may refuse planning permission. My amendment would add to ( b), in effect, that such planning permission would not be refused unless there was a very good reason for so doing. I think that what the Minister said in reply to the last amendment is probably sufficient to cover this one, but I should like his confirmation of that. I beg to move.
The Government have as their policy to encourage and promote the establishment of small businesses, and wherever possible we are removing bureaucratic restraints. There was some demonstration of this on the first day of the Committee stage in a speech by my noble friend Lord Sandford when he pointed out that the associations between them had produced a list last year of a total of 1,000 controls which in their view should be dismantled, governing the relationship between central and local government. As your Lordships are aware, in September of last year the Government produced a White Paper whittling down that number to about 300—with which they were in agreement with the associations.In development control we shall be setting out this policy in a circular which will ask local authorities not to withhold, or set onerous conditions to, planning permission for developments by small businesses unless there are strong specific reasons for doing so. That is a policy which local authorities will have to take into account along with all other considerations which are material to the planning application, including the provisions of the development plan for the area, the availability of infrastructure, the effect on public amenity, the health and safety and traffic implications, and the environmental considerations. This amendment would go further in that it would actually prevent the refusal of a planning application in respect of the establishment of a business employing fewer than 10 people, except where it could be shown to be
I do not know what that vague phrase would mean, but it is clear that the effect of it would be to preclude the local authority from refusing a planning permission for such a development, even if it were dangerous, or overloaded infrastructure, or was unsightly, or occupied land that was earmarked for some other purpose in the plan, or was in a Green Belt. In fact, the case to which the noble Lord referred was in a Green Belt. There are many important considerations that would have to be set aside in this way. I do not think it right to overset this balance of many, often conflicting, considerations in the way that this amendment would do. I think it is right that the employment and economic considerations should weigh heavily in the balance, but not that other considerations should be ignored. I should also point out that the amendment is technically defective, in that it relates not to "development", for which planning permission is required, but to "the establishment of a business", for which as such no permission is required. I hope that noble Lords will join with me in resisting this amendment."seriously detrimental to the local environment".
Again I thank the Minister for his explanation, and I must hope that the circular, when it comes out, will cover the points that I want. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved Amendment No. 206B:
Page 153, line 34, at end insert—
("( ) The following paragraphs shall be inserted after paragraph 7:—
"7A.—(1) The provisions of section 14(2) of this Act shall apply to a local plan prepared by a London borough council as it applies to a local plan prepared by a district planning authority and accordingly the provisions of section 14(5), (6) and (7) shall apply to a case where a London borough council has prepared a local plan with the substitution of references to "the Greater London Council" for references to "the county planning authority". (2) Where in pursuance of paragraph 8(3) below a joint local plan has been prepared by two or more London borough councils, each shall apply to the Greater London Council in pursuance of the foregoing subparagraph. (3) Where a joint local plan is prepared by one or more London borough councils and one or more adjacent planning authorities, each London borough council shall apply to the Greater London Council in pursuance of sub-paragraph (1) of this paragraph and each of the other planning authorities (if they are district planning authorities) shall apply to the county planning authority for their respective area. (4) Where a local plan is prepared by one or more London borough councils jointly with the Greater London Council the foregoing sub-paragraph (1) shall not apply. (5) In the said Schedule 4, in paragraph 12(2) for the words "submitting it for approval" there shall be substituted the words "obtaining a certificate". (6) In the said Schedule 4 in paragraph 7 for the words "12 and 14(5) to (7)" there shall be substituted the words "and 12". 7B. In section 15B of that Act the provisions of subsection (3) relating to alterations of a structure plan by a county planning authority, and the need for certification of local plans to conform with that structure plan as altered, shall apply to alterations to a structure plan prepared by the Greater London Council and, accordingly, in relation to such last-mentioned alterations for the reference in that subsection to "a county planning authority" there shall be substituted a reference to "the Greater London Council" and for the reference "every district planning authority" there shall be substituted a reference to "every London borough council"".")
The noble Lord said: This amendment would have the effect of extending the following provisions to Greater London. The first is Section 14(5) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971, which requires a district planning authority that has prepared a local plan to apply to the county planning authority for a certificate that that local plan conforms generally to the structure plan for the area concerned. The second is new Clause 15B(3) in Clause 77 on page 69 of the present Bill. It requires that when a county planning authority has approved proposals for alteration of a structure plan, it shall consider whether the local plans operative in the area to which the structure plan relates are in general conformity with the provisions of the structure plan as altered, and it shall prepare lists showing plans which do conform and those which do not.
I understand that it was the intention of Her Majesty's Government to extend such provisions to the Greater London Council during the passage of this Bill in another place, but due to the shortage of time available the necessary amendments could not be moved. If I am incorrect, I hope that my noble friend will point it out. This amendment seeks to ensure that these provisions apply. I beg to move.
My noble friend will be glad to learn that the Government support this amendment in principle. In fact, we are not able to accept it in its present form because it appears to be defective in one or two respects. For example, it does not refer to the new Section 15A of the 1971 Act, inserted by this Bill, which provides for alterations to local plans to be proceeded with, in certain circumstances, in advance of related alterations to the structure plan. There are one or two other alterations, too, which will be needed. To ensure that the timing of the steps required are compatible, we should like this amendment to include a provision that it would be brought into effect by order by the Secretary of State. However, the defects are minimal, and I would hope that my noble friend might come forward with the appropriate amendments at Report stage. I should be happy to discuss with him what appears to be required.
I would hope that perhaps the noble Lord himself might come forward with the amendment at Report stage, as in the case of an earlier amendment that I was talking about, where there were defects. I think that would be useful.
I was merely trying to put it very nicely the other way round, but what I am really saying is this. Let us by all means get together and jointly produce a form of words which will cover the point.
I am very grateful for my noble friend's remarks. This matter will be considered and brought up again at Report stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Schedule 11, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 79 agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 206C:
After Clause 79, insert the following new clause:
" . Schedule [ Amendments relating to enforcement of control] below shall have effect:
AMENDMENTS RELATING TO ENFORCEMENT OF CONTROL
1. The following sections shall be substituted for sections 87 and 88 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971:—
"Power to issue enforcement notice.
87.—(1) Where it appears to the local planning authority that there has been a breach of planning control after the end of 1963, then, subject to the following provisions of this section, the authority, if they consider it expedient to do so having regard to the provisions of the development plan and to any other material considerations, may issue a notice requiring the breach to be remedied and serve copies of the notice in accordance with subsection (3) of this section.
(2) A notice under this section is referred to in this Act as an "enforcement notice".
(3) There is a breach of planning control—
(4) An enforcement notice which relates to a breach of planning control consisting in—
may be issued only within the period of four years from the date of the breach.
(5) A copy of an enforcement notice shall be served, not later than 28 days after the date of its issue, on the owner and on the occupier of the land to which it relates and on any other person having an interest in that land, being an interest which in the opinion of the authority is materially affected by the notice.
(6) An enforcement notice shall specify the matters alleged to constitute a breach of planning control.
(7) An enforcement notice shall also specify—
(8) An enforcement notice shall specify the period within which any such step as is mentioned in subsection (7) of this section is to be taken and may specify different periods for the taking of different steps.
(9) In this section "steps to be taken in order to remedy the breach" means (according to the particular circumstances of the breach) steps for the purpose—
(10) The steps mentioned in subsection (7)( b) of this section are steps which consist of the carrying out of work —
(11) Where the matters which an enforcement notice alleges to constitute a breach of planning control include development which has involved the making of a deposit of refuse or waste materials on land, the notice may require that the contour of the deposit shall be modified by altering the gradient or gradients of its sides in such manner as may be specified in the notice.
(12) The Secretary of State may by regulation direct—
(13) Subject to section 88 of this Act, an enforcement notice shall take effect on a date specified in it.
(14) The local planning authority may withdraw an enforcement notice (without prejudice to their power to issue another) at any time before it takes effect.
(15) If they do so, they shall forthwith give notice of the withdrawal to every person who was served with a copy of the notice.
Appeal against enforcement notice.
88.—(1) A person having an interest in the land to which an enforcement notice relates may, at any time before the date specified in the notice as the date on which it is to take effect, appeal to the Secretary of State against the notice, whether or not a copy of it has been served on him.
(2) Subject to subsection (3) below, an appeal may be brought on any of the following grounds—
(3) Where an enforcement notice relates to a breach of planning control consisting in the winning and working of minerals, no appeal against the notice may be brought on the ground specified in subsection (2)( a) above.
(4) An appeal under this section shall be made by notice in writing to the Secretary of State.
(5) A person who gives notice under subsection (2) of this section shall submit to the Secretary of State, either when giving the notice or within such time as may be prescribed by regulations under subsection (6) of this section, a statement in writing—
(6) The Secretary of State may by regulations prescribe the procedure which is to be followed on appeals under this section, and in particular, but without prejudice to the generality of this subsection—
(7)The Secretary of State—
(8) Subject to subsection (9) below, the Secretary of State shall, if either the appellant or the local planning authority so desire, afford to each of them an opportunity of appearing before, and being heard by, a person appointed by the Secretary of State for the purpose.
(9) The Secretary of State shall not be required to afford such an opportunity if he proposes to dismiss an appeal under paragraph ( a) of subsection (7) of this section or to allow an appeal and quash the enforcement notice under paragraph ( b) of that subsection.
the Secretary of State may determine the appeal without considering any of the
specified grounds as to which the appellant has failed to give such information within that time.
(11) Where an appeal is brought under this section the enforcement notice shall be of no effect pending the final determination or the withdrawal of the appeal.
(12) Schedule 9 to this Act applies to appeals under this section including appeals under this section as applied by regulations under any other provision of this Act.
Appeals against enforcement notices—general supplementary provisions.
88A.—(1) On the determination of an appeal under section 88 of this Act, the Secretary of State shall give directions for giving effect to the determination, including, where appropriate, directions for quashing the enforcement notice or for varying its terms.
(2) On such an appeal the Secretary of State may correct any informality, defect or error in the enforcement notice, or give directions for varying its terms, if he is satisfied that the correction or variation can be made without injustice to the appellant or to the local planning authority.
(3) Where it would otherwise be a ground for determining such an appeal in favour of the appellant that a person required to be served with a copy of the enforcement notice was not served, the Secretary of State may disregard the fact if neither the appellant nor that person has been substantially prejudiced by the failure to serve him.
Appeals against enforcement notices—supplementary provisions relating to planning permission.
88B.—(1) Subject to subsection (2) of this section, on the determination of an appeal under section 88 of this Act the Secretary of State may—
(2) The powers conferred by subsection (1) of this section may not be exercised where the enforcement notice related to a breach of planning control consisting in the winning and working of minerals.
(3) In considering whether to grant planning permission under subsection (1) of this section, the Secretary of State shall have regard to the provisions of the development plan, so far as material to the subject matter of the enforcement notice, and to any other material
consideration; and any planning permission granted by him under that subsection may—
and where under that subsection he discharges a condition or limitation, he may substitute another condition or limitation for it, whether more or less onerous.
(4) Where an appeal against an enforcement notice, other than an enforcement notice relating to a breach of planning control consisting in the winning and working of minerals, is brought under section 88 of this Act, the appellant shall be deemed to have made an application for planning permission for the development to which the notice relates and, in relation to any exercise by the Secretary of State of his powers under subsection (1) of this section,—
(5) On an appeal under section 88 of this Act against an enforcement notice relating to anything done in contravention of a condition to which section 71 of this Act applies, the Secretary of State shall not be required to entertain the appeal in so far as the appellant claims that planning permission free from that condition ought to be granted.".
2.—(1) In subsection (1) of section 89 of that Act (penalties for non-compliance with enforcement notice)—
(2) In subsection (4) of that section (continuing failure to comply with enforcement notice)
for the words "£50" in paragraph ( a) there shall be substituted the words "£100".
(3) The following subsections shall be substituted for subsection (5) of that section:—
3. In section 90 of that Act (power to stop further development pending proceedings on enforcement notice)—
4. In section 91 of that Act (execution and cost of works required by enforcement notice)—
5. In section 92(1) of that Act (effect of planning permission on enforcement notice) after the words "service of" there shall be inserted the words "a copy of".
6. The following section shall be inserted after that section:—
"Register of enforcement notices.
92A.—(1) Every district planning authority shall keep, in such manner as may be prescribed by a development order, a register containing such information as may be so prescribed with respect—
which relate to land in their area and to which this section applies.
(2) This section applies—
after the passing of the Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1979.
(3) A development order may make provision—
(4) Every register kept under this section shall be available for inspection by the public at all reasonable hours.".
7. In section 93 of that Act (enforcement notice to have effect against subsequent development)—
"(6) In subsection (5) of this section "the statutory maximum" means the prescribed sum within the meaning of section 28 of the Criminal Law Act 1977 (that is to say, £1,000 or another sum fixed by order under section 61 of that Act to take account of changes in the value of money.".
8. In subsection (7) of section 94 of that Act (certification of established use)—
Listed Building Enforcement Notices
9. The following sections shall be substituted for sections 96 and 97 of that Act:—
"Power to issue listed building enforcement notice.
96.—(1) Where it appears to the local planning authority that any works have been or are being executed to a listed building in their area and are such as to involve a contravention of section 55(1) or (4) of this Act, they may, if they consider it expedient to do so having regard to the effect of the works on the character of the building as one of special architectural or historic interest, issue a notice—
(2) A notice under this section is referred to in this Act as a "listed building enforcement notice".
(3) A copy of a listed building enforcement notice shall be served, not later than 28 days after the date of its issue, on the owner and on the occupier of the building to which it relates and on any other person having an interest in that building, being an interest which in the opinion of the authority is materially affected by the notice.
(4) Subject to section 97 of this Act, a listed building enforcement notice shall take effect on a date specified in it.
(5) The local planning authority may withdraw a listed building enforcement notice (without prejudice to their power to issue another) at any time before it takes effect.
(6) If they do so, they shall forthwith give notice of the withdrawal to every person who was served with a copy of the notice.
(7) Where a listed building enforcement notice imposes any such requirement as is mentioned in subsection (1)( b)(ii) of this section, listed building consent shall be deemed to be granted for any works of demolition, alteration or extension of the building executed as a result of compliance with the notice.
Appeal against listed building enforcement notice.
97.—(1) A person having an interest in the building to which a listed building enforcement notice relates, may, at any time before the date specified in the notice as the date on which it is to take effect, appeal to the Secretary of State against the notice on any of the following grounds—
(2) An appeal under this section shall be made by notice in writing to the Secretary of State.
(3) A person who gives notice under subsection (2) of this section shall submit to the Secretary of State, either when giving the notice or within such time as may be prescribed under subsection (4) of this section, a statement in writing—
(4) The Secretary of State may by regulations prescribe the procedure which is to be followed on appeals under this section, and in particular, but without prejudice to the generality of this subsection, may make any such provision in relation to appeals under this section as may be made in relation to appeals under section 88 of this Act by regulations under subsection (4) of that section.
(5) The Secretary of State—
(6) Subject to subsection (7) of this section, the Secretary of State shall, if either the appellant or the local planning authority so desire, afford to each of them an opportunity of appearing before and being heard by a person appointed by the Secretary of State for the purpose.
(7) The Secretary of State shall not be required to afford such an opportunity if he proposes to dismiss an appeal under paragraph ( a) of subsection (5) of this section or to allow an appeal and quash the listed building enforcement notice under paragraph ( b) of that subsection.
the Secretary of State may determine the appeal without considering any of the specified grounds as to which the appellant has failed to give such information within that time.
(9) Where an appeal is brought under this section, the listed building enforcement notice shall be of no effect pending the final determination or the withdrawal of the appeal.
(10) Schedule 9 to the Act applies to appeals under this section.
Appeals against listed building enforcement notices supplementary.
97A.—(1) On the determination of an appeal under section 97 of this Act, the Secretary of State shall give directions for giving effect to the determination, including, where appropriate, directions for quashing the listed building enforcement notice or for varying its terms.
(2) On such an appeal the Secretary of State may correct any informality, defect or error in the enforcement notice, or give directions for varying its terms, if he is satisfied that the correction or variation can be made without injustice to the appellant or to the local planning authority.
(3) Where it would otherwise be a ground for determining such an appeal in favour of the appellant that a person required to be served with a copy of the listed building enforcement notice was not served, the Secretary of State may disregard that fact if neither the appellant nor that person has been substantially prejudiced by the failure to serve him.
(4) On the determination of such an appeal the Secretary of State may—
(5) Any listed building consent granted by the Secretary of State under subsection (4) of this section shall be treated as granted on an application for the like consent under Part I of Schedule 11 to this Act, and the Secretary of State's decision in relation to the grant shall be final.".
10. In section 98(4) of that Act (penalty for continuing failure to comply with a listed building enforcement notice) for the words "£50" there shall be substituted the words "£100".
11. The following section shall be inserted after section 99 of that Act—
"Effect of consent under section
99A.—(1) If, after the issue of a listed building enforcement notice, consent is granted under section 56A of this Act
56A on listed building enforcement notice.
for the retention of any works to which the listed building enforcement notice relates, the listed building enforcement notice shall cease to have effect in so far as it requires steps to be taken which would involve the works not being retained in accordance with the consent.
(2) If the consent is granted so as to permit the retention of works without complying with some condition subject to which a previous listed building consent was granted, the listed building enforcement notice shall cease to have effect in so far as it requires steps to be taken for complying with that condition.
(3) The preceding provisions of this section shall be without prejudice to the liability of any person for an offence in respect of a failure to comply with the listed building enforcement notice before the relevant provisions of that notice ceased to have effect."
12. The following section shall be substituted for section 100 of that Act:—
"Enforcement by, or by direction of, the Secretary of State.
100.—(1) If it appears to the Secretary of State, after consultation with the local planning authority and, (in Greater London, also with the Greater London Council), to be expedient that a listed building enforcement notice should be issued in respect of any land, he may issue such a notice; and any notice so issued by the Secretary of State shall have the like effect as a notice issued by the local planning authority.
(2) In relation to a listed building enforcement notice issued by the Secretary of State, the provisions of section 999 of this Act shall apply as if for any reference in that section to the local planning authority there were substituted a reference to the Secretary of State."
13.—(1) In section 103 of that Act (enforcement or duties as to replacement of trees which are the subject of tree preservation orders, in subsection (3) (appeals to the Secretary of State) the words from "and the provisions" to the end of the subsection shall cease to have effect.
(2) The following subsections shall be inserted after that subsection:—
- "(3A) An appeal under this section shall be made by notice in writing to the Secretary of State, which shall indicate the grounds of the appeal and state the facts on which it is based.
- (3B) On any such appeal the Secretary of State shall, if either the appellant or the local planning authority so desire, afford to each of them an opportunity of appearing before, and being heard by, a person appointed by the Secretary of State for the purpose.
- (3C) Where an appeal is brought under this section, the notice under this section shall be of no effect pending the final determination or the withdrawal of the appeal.
- (3D) On the determination of an appeal under this section the Secretary of State shall give directions for giving effect to his determination, including where appropriate, directions for quashing the notice or for varying its terms [in favour of the appellant].
- (3E) On such an appeal the Secretary of State may correct any informality, defect or error in the notice under this section [or give directions for varying its terms] if he is satisfied that the [informality, defect or errors is not material]".
(3) In subsection (5) of that section, after the words "enforcement notice", in the second place where they occur, there shall be inserted the words "a copy of which has been".
14. The following section shall be substituted for section 104 of that Act:—
"Penalty for non-compliance with notice as to wasted land.
104.—(1) The provisions of this section shall have effect where a notice has been served under section 65 of this Act.
(2) Subject to the following provisions of this section, if any owner or occupier of the land on whom the notice was served fails to take any steps required by the notice within the period specified in it for compliance with it, he shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £100.
(3) If at any time after the end of the period so specified any of those steps have not been taken, and any person does anything which has the effect of continuing or aggravating the injury caused by the condition of the land to which the notice relates, he shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £100.
(4) If a person against whom proceedings are brought under subsection (1) of this section has, at some time before the end of the period allowed for compliance with the notice, ceased to be the owner of the land he shall, upon information duly laid by him, and on giving to the prosecution not less than three clear days notice of his intention, be entitled to have the person who then became the owner of the land (in this section referred to as "the subsequent owner") brought before the court in the proceedings.
(5) If, after it has been proved that any steps required by the notice have not been taken within the period allowed for compliance with the notice, the original defendant proves that the failure to take those steps was attributable, in whole or in part, to the default of the subsequent owner—
(6) If, after a person has been convicted under the preceding provisions of this section, he does not as soon as practicable do everything in his power to secure compliance with the notice, he shall be guilty of a further offence and liable—
(7) Any reference in this section to the period allowed for compliance with a notice is a reference to the period specified in the notice for compliance with it or such extended period as the local planning authority may allow for compliance with the notice."
15. In section 108(1) of that Act (enforcement of orders requiring discontinuance of use or alteration or removal of building or works)—
16. In subsection (2) of section 109 of that Act (enforcement of control as to advertisements)—
17.—(1) In section 243(1) of that Act (which limits the right to question the validity of enforcement notices, listed building enforcement notices and notices under section 65 which are served on owners and occupiers of waste land) the words "on which such an appeal may be brought" shall be substituted—
(2) the following subsections shall be substituted for subsection (2) of that section:—
"(2) Subsection (1)(a) of this section shall not apply to proceedings brought under section 89(5) of this Act against a person who—
(a) has held an interest in the land since before the enforcement notice was issued under Part V of this Act; and (b) did not have a copy of the enforcement notice served on him under that Part of this Act; and (c) satisfies the court that— (i) he did not know and could not reasonably have been expected to know that the enforcement notice had been issued; and (ii) his interests have been substantially prejudiced by the failure to serve him with a copy of it.
(2A) In any case where the enforcement notice was issued before the coming into force of Part VII of the Local Government, Plan- ning and Land Bill subsection (2) of this section shall have effect as if—
(a) in paragraph (a), the word "served" were substituted for the word "issued"; (b) the following paragraph were substituted for paragraph (b):—
- "(b) did not have the enforcement notice or a copy of it served on him under that Part of that Act; and";
(c) in paragraph (c)(i), the word "served" were substituted for the word "issued".
(3) In subsection (3) of that section the words "on which such an appeal may be brought" shall be substituted for the words "specified in section 105(1)( a) to ( c) of this Act".
18. The following subsections shall be substituted for subsection (1) of section 246 of that Act (appeals to High Court relating to enforcement notices and similar notices):—
"(1) Where the Secretary of State gives a decision in proceedings on an appeal under Part V of this Act against—
(a) an enforcement notice; or (b) a listed building enforcement notice,the appellant or the local planning authority or any other person having an interest in the land to which the notice relates may, according as rules of court may provide, either appeal to the High Court against the decision on a point of law or require the Secretary of State to state and sign a case for the opinion of the High Court.
(1A) Where the Secretary of State gives a decision in proceedings on an appeal under Part V of this Act against a notice under section 130 of this Act, the appellant or the local planning authority may, according as rules of court may provide, either appeal to the High Court against the decision on a point of law or require the Secretary of State to state and sign a case for the opinion of the High Court".
19. In section 207(2)( b) of that Act (application to local planning authorities of provisions as to planning control and enforcement) for the word "or", in the first place where it occurs, there shall be substituted the words ", notice or copy of a".
20. In section 271 of that Act (application to local planning authorities of provisions as to listed buildings) after the words "service of" there shall be inserted the words "copies of".
21. In section 247(1) of that Act (ecclesiastical property)—
22. In subsection (2)( c) of section 280 of that Act (rights of entry) for the word "or", in the second place it occurs, there shall be substituted the words "notice or copy of a".
23. In subsection (1) of section 284 of that Act (power to require information as to interests in land) after the word "notice", in the first place where it occurs, there shall be inserted the words "copy of a notice".
24. In Schedule 16 to the Local Government Act 1972 (functions under, and amendment and modifications of, enactments relating to town and country planning)—
The noble Lord said: I wish we were able to deal with this amendment as smoothly as we dealt with the last few amendments because, again, this amendment really deals with a matter which should have been included in the Bill. It seeks to improve the enforcement procedures, and was agreed between the local authority associations and the Government, which was reflected by its inclusion in the No. 1 Bill. Of course, one hardly need say that that Bill is in fact still awaiting its Second Reading by your Lordships' House. In particular, this amendment increases the penalties for breach of the regulations, in line with inflation. Through passage of time, those penalties may not be as high as they should have been. I understand that it is the Government's intention to introduce legislation on the lines of this amendment when parliamentary time is available. This, I hoped, would be in the next Session of Parliament, but I am given to understand that that is highly unlikely; and even more problematic is the Session afterwards.
What I find very odd with regard to the Government's willingness or otherwise to accept amendments to the present Bill to bring in some of the universally accepted provisions in the earlier Bill is the arbitrary way in which they accept those amendments they are prepared to accept and not those they are not prepared to accept, and the arbitrary nature of them. Amendment No. 9, moved by the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, brought back into this Bill a 12-page schedule, and this was accepted. Admittedly, my amendment brings back into the Bill a rather longer schedule than the schedule brought back by Lord Ridley, but it does not really seem that the length or the size of the schedule is any good reason why it should not be included.
I understand that because of the hurried way in which the No. 1 Bill was cobbled together there are some technical faults in the schedule as it now stands. But the department, I believe, knows exactly the nature of the faults. Indeed, the department, if pressed very hard, could come forward with a schedule at Report stage which would meet the particular faults which have been detected in the schedule since it was first included in the No. 1 Bill. I feel very strongly that it would be wrong to leave this matter over for another two or three years because of lack of parliamentary time and that it would be wiser to grapple with this problem now and to do something in the present Bill rather than defer it until parliamentary time becomes available.
I hope that the noble Lord will take that point. The proposals are ones which will be positively welcomed by all concerned with effective planning, and therefore I hope that the noble Lord will be able to be as co-operative with regard to this particular amendment as he was with the amendment of Lord Gainford and with my two earlier amendments in trying to knock them into shape. I am sure that that would be the right thing to do with this amendment as well. I beg to move.
Before my noble friend answers that, understand entirely what has happened and it would be very unfair of me to ask the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, about some of the details of the amendment he has put down. But as a person who, from time to time—indeed, not altogether infrequently—has to use these parts of the Town and Country Planning Act, I should be interested—if one looks, for instance, in page 23 of the Marshalled List, at the new subsection (2) of the proposed inserted new Section 88B of the Town and Country Planning Act—to know why one cannot ask for the grant of planning permission
when we have not got most of the rest of the minerals bit of the No. 1 Bill in this Bill at all. I do not think that, standing on its own as this subsection would, without any of the other provisions as to minerals, an insertion of that sort would be very sensible. On the next page, page 24, there is a new subsection (5) of Section 88B which, with the greatest respect, appears to me to be inconsistent with the provisions of the new Section 88(2)(a) on page 19. I only say that to the noble Lord because, as a matter of fact, a number of people's rights, a number of people's emotions, a number of people's money and a good deal of time and energy goes into this sort of activity under the Town and Country Planning Act. If we put it in—and I understand that he says that there are deficiencies noted by the department—and do not get it right at this stage of the Bill in the second House, we are probably going to do a good deal of damage. Therefore, I counsel a little caution before my noble friend accepts the amendment of the noble Lord opposite. I think perhaps it would be better if it were considered a little further."where the enforcement notice related to a breach of planning control consisting in the winning and working of minerals"
I think that I should be quite satisfied and I hope the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, would be satisfied as well, if the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, were able to give us an assurance that the Government would be able to come forward with a Bill on the lines of this amendment during the next Session of Parliament.
I am grateful to my noble friend. He illustrated the point that the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, knew I was going to make; namely, that there is no difference between us as to the motives. We recognise the tremendous amount of preliminary work that was put into this, even going back to 1975, by George Dobry and other such eminent people who were concerned in this field. The fact is that for whatever reason the schedule is a complex one; it contains a large number of drafting errors. Therefore we could not possibly take it on at this time.I must compliment the noble Lord on having his signals plugged in so well that he was telling me—and I was listening with interest—when it was likely that we could come forward with something else. I was going to say that it was our intention to come forward with this in the proper form as soon as the legislative opportunity presented itself. When he said it would not be next year or the year after, I was listening with fascinated interest. So far as I know, we certainly have not got round to discussing that. I cannot tell him when because I truly do not know. He will have to be content with the knowledge that there is no difference about wanting to do it. We must take the point—we all do, surely—that that unquestionably has to be right. The amendment is longer than many Bills; it has 23 pages. It is something on its own. We all want the same thing. I hope it will not be too long, but I cannot tell him exactly when it will come. I hope it will be not as long ahead as the noble Lord fears and that his fears are not so well founded as he feels.
Before I withdraw the amendment, I hope that the noble Lord can assure the Committee that he will use such pressure as he possesses to see that this legislation is brought forward sooner rather than later.
I certainly undertake to speak to colleagues on this point to see where we stand with it. There is no difference between us on leaving it.
May I withdraw the amendment?
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Schedule 12 [ Further planning amendments]:
moved Amendment No. 207:
Page 156, line 18 at end insert:—
("( ) The following paragraph shall be inserted after subsection (4) of section 36 of that Act (appeals against planning decisions):—
"and that person shall not less than seven days before reporting to the Secretary of State consult the applicant and the local planning authority on the findings of fact to be included in his report and shall have regard to their comments."").
The noble Lord said: The purpose of this amendment is to prevent the Secretary of State being misled by factual errors in an inspector's report. It seems there are such arrangements in Scotland to give an opportunity of up to 14 days. In my amendment we ask for only seven days for the reporter, as he is called, to provide a copy to every party to the inquiry and to consider comments on it.
There have been examples recently in England which show a need for such an arrangement in this country. There was an appeal in Staffordshire where the inspector left out of his report an undertaking not to leave open and unrestored at any time more than 10 acres of the site. That undertaking was fundamental to the applicant's case. There was another one about minerals extraction, which I will not go into. Suffice it to say that there are examples where inspectors have made errors of fact, and the object of this amendment is to give an opportunity for errors of fact to be put right before a report is made to the Secretary of State. I beg to move.
This amendment would add an additional stage to the procedure for all those planning appeals which fall to the Secretary of State to decide if there has been a local inquiry. It goes wider than the recommendation of the Franks Committee which was adopted in Scotland, that the parties should, if they wished, have an opportunity of proposing corrections to the factual part of the inspector's report in such cases. The report would have to be sent in every case and would give an opportunity for submitting further argument.I do not wish to rest on points about technical defects in the drafting, though I think it worth mentioning that if the principle were accepted a more detailed procedure would have to be provided. But I cannot, when we are looking for every possible means of speeding up the procedure on planning appeals, accept a proposal which would lead to more delay, and, in my view, quite substantial delay, in all appeals submitted to the Secretary of State. It might be a different matter if significant errors were frequent, but it is actually very rare for a material error of fact to be shown. I wonder whether my noble friend feels able to withdraw his amendment.
I wonder whether my noble friend would reconsider that reply, because I should have thought it was very unlikely that it would lead to any considerable delay. This is a common aspect of procedure at inquiries under various Acts, and it seems to me imperative that the parties should have an opportunity to correct the facts, not to produce new arguments. It cannot lead to new arguments. It is a question of correcting the facts, and this is all that is being asked for. I commend this amendment to my noble friend.
I am very sorry, but I have to disagree with my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn. I can think of a number of cases where I should have been all too pleased to have had an opportunity to correct quite inadvertent facts and omissions in an inspector's report, which led to subsequent litigation and was of no great advantage to anybody. The difficulty is that it is not just a matter of the applicant and the local planning authority.These days, for no doubt extremely good reasons, inspectors South of the Border—and, I am sure, reporters North of the Border—are prepared to allow virtually anybody who wishes to come and make representations, to have his say. The pure volume of, first, the actual planning appeals and, secondly, the parties or the people who have taken part in them, would seem to be a wholly different matter in England and Wales from what it is in Scotland, and I should have thought it was simply the amount of paper work that made this impracticable. There is no difficulty, in the end, if a mistake of fact has been made. There is an appeal procedure. If it is sufficiently important, the courts will correct it. There is an opportunity for sending it back. Thank goodness! it is not used very often. But I really think that to give an opportunity for all the parties who had made representations before the inspector to have the opportunity to comment, even if they could succeed in doing it, with the postal services, in seven days, would involve the Government in a very great deal of time-consuming work which would not be warranted.
With great respect, that is not what the amendment says. It says,
"consult the applicant and the local planning authority".
That is what I complain about.
But it does not follow that you have to consult all the parties.
If you do not consult all the parties who have been allowed, under the discretion given to the inspector at the inquiry, to correct all the facts that they said they had adduced at the inquiry, you will simply have trouble compounded. You will simply have to allow all the people who have had their say at the inquiry to join in this procedure. There is no alternative.
I am very grateful to both of my noble friends for their constructive comments. Of course, in that it is the Government's line, I feel happier with the observations of my noble friend Lord Colville. From everything which I have seen—and I know this only from another side—I believe that anything we can do that will avoid putting another step into the proceedings must be the right thing to do. For that reason alone, I hope that my noble friend may feel able not to press the amendment.
I am extremely grateful to my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn and I must confess, with the greatest possible respect to my noble friend the Minister, that I am much more convinced by my noble friend Lord Colville than I am by him. However, perhaps if we have an opportunity to read very carefully the report of what has been said, we may come back at the next stage. There is still a point which has not really been taken up by anybody; that is, the appeals that seem to prove the point which my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn pinned upon. Having said that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment. Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved Amendment No. 209:
Page 156, line 45, at end insert—
("The following sections shall be inserted after section 54A of that Act—
" Listed Buildings
54B.—(1) Where the Secretary of State proposes to amend any list compiled under Section 54 of this Act and the amendment consists of the addition of a building to the list, he shall first give notice of the proposed amendment to the owner of the building which is proposed to be added to the list.
(2) The notice to be given under this section shall identify the building which is proposed to be listed and shall state—
(3) If the Secretary of State, having received objections or representations which are duly made, proposes to confirm the amendment of the list and the objections are not withdrawn, the matter shall be referred for determination by the Lands Tribunal.
(4) In this section "owner" has the meaning ascribed to it by subsection 7 of section 27 of this Act.
Power of Directions
54C.—Where a notice has been given under section 54B of this Act, it may include a direction that the provisions of this Act shall have effect in relation to the building as if it were a listed building; and a direction so given shall take effect from the date on which the notice is served until—
Power of the Lands Tribunal
54D.—The Lands Tribunal shall have power, on the application of any person who is the owner of a building which is proposed to be included in a list compiled under the provisions of section 54 of this Act, to make an order directing that such a building shall not be included in the list, on being satisfied—
but in any other case shall make an order confirming that the building should be listed,".")
The noble Lord said: We come to listed buildings again. The purpose of this amendment is to give to owners of listed buildings two things that they do not now have: first, a chance to be consulted before the building is scheduled, and second, a right of appeal against a proposal to list. To me it seems quite extraordinary that these rights do not already exist. It is also to protect a building that it is proposed to list, during the consultation process, in a less cumbersome and more satisfactory way than that already provided for by the building preservation notice procedure.
The listing system imposes on an owner substantial legal obligations, breach of which can expose him to criminal proceedings. Even though Section 54(3) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 obliges the Minister to consult persons and bodies who have a special knowledge of historic buildings, there is no obligation to consult the owner, the person most directly affected by the listing. Many listings are made, quite understandably, on the basis of rather cursory examinations. I know of one case where a building was listed in the mistaken belief that it was the work of a particular architect. If the owner had been consulted by the department he could have told them that it was not.
I should like to explain, as briefly as possible, this rather long amendment. New Section 54B, which by means of Schedule 12 to this Bill is to be inserted into the Town and Country Planning Act 1971, provides for notice of a listing proposal to be given to the owner. This notice must describe the grounds upon which the proposal is based and must give the owner 28 days in which to object. If the Secretary of State does not accept the owner's objections or any representations made therewith the matter can be referred to the Lands Tribunal. I should say that subsections (2) and (3) of this proposed new section are modelled on the Tree Preservation Order Regulations 1969. Unlike an owner of a listed building, an owner of trees has a right to be consulted and a right of appeal before a TPO is confirmed.
New Section 54C provides for protection of the building during the consultation period or pending the outcome of an appeal. The effect of such a direction would be, as it were, to freeze the situation from the moment the notice is given. I believe, as I shall explain in a moment, that this is a very necessary provision. A similar power already exists for a local authority under Section 58 of the 1971 Act, but protection under that section, I believe, lasts for only six months.
New Section 54D establishes the Lands Tribunal as the body to decide a listing appeal. I suggest that a planning inquiry, with the inspector appointed by the Minister, would not be appropriate because it is the Minister who also decides whether or not to list the building. There already is a precedent for referring this sort of matter to the Lands Tribunal under Section 84 of the Law of Property Act 1935; and there are good reasons, with which I shall not weary your Lordships, for making this the body to decide a listing appeal.
Finally, I suggest that, by making the listed building system fairer, one would make it stronger. For example, let us take the Firestone building in West London. Under the scheme I am putting forward by this amendment, that building would have been protected from the moment the owners were notified that a listing was being considered. I have no close knowledge of the case, but I suppose there is a chance that, had there existed an appeal procedure where the views of the owners could have been taken into account, then its demolition might conceivably not have been carried out over that bank holiday weekend. I beg to move.
The new clause would prevent the immediate listing of buildings of special architectural and historic interest. In consequence, it would become impossible to take speedy and effective action to protect such buildings when threatened with demolition. This problem is not solved by the related provisions of new Section 54C, to which I shall refer in a moment. Under the new section where the Secretary of State proposes to list a building the owner will have to be given notice of the proposal. He will have to be identified, and he may even have to be traced in order to do this. The owner will then have the right to object. If he exercises that right and cannot be persuaded to withdraw his objection, the matter will have to be referred to the Lands Tribunal for determination.In a case where the proposal to list is in response to a threat to demolish, the delay involved may prove fatal since it will enable demolition to be carried out before listing can be determined. This problem is not solved by Section 54C, and I shall explain why when dealing with that section. It will be noted that under the present system of control the owner, and indeed the occupier, who may well be a different person, has to be informed of listing under Section 54 (7) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971. Although there is no formal right to object, it is open to the owner and occupier to raise arguments directed to the criteria of special architectural or historic interest. Alternatively, or in addition, such arguments can be pursued in connection with an application for listed building consent when it is possible to look at a specific proposal to carry out works and weigh the merits of that proposal against the merits of the building. I suggest that the existing procedure provides the best way of protecting the rights of the owner and occupier while at the same time ensuring the survival of buildings of special architectural and historic interest. The new clause will undermine the present system of control. I should like to say something about the Lands Tribunal. It is an admirable body, but it is primarily concerned with the problem of land valuation, and I do not think it has either the expertise or the staff to deal with questions relating to buildings which are thought to be of special architectural or historic interest. I observe in passing that the new clause is silent about the way in which the Lands Tribunal is to deal with the matter. I am informed that the Lands Tribunal has always refused to regard itself as having any planning function. In its work under Section 84 of the Law of Property Act it is essentially dealing with power to discharge or modify restrictive covenants affecting land. Section 54 is about contractual matters, not public law. That section does not require specialist knowledge, and it certainly does not require the making of a judgment on criteria such as those affecting listing. Nor does Section 84 give the tribunal a government function, which is what Section 54 is concerned with. There is a substantial body of case law to support our view that the tribunal would not wish for, indeed is not fitted for, the functions which this amendment seeks to put upon it, and I am quite sure that it would not welcome the enormous additional burden this new section and the following two seek to throw upon it. So far as I am aware, the tribunal has not even been consulted. That is why we could not accept this part of the amendment. Clause 54B will not enable buildings to be given immediate protection, as is possible under the present system, because the protection it offers will take effect only when the owner has been identified, traced and given the requisite notice. It follows that it will not be possible to deal with an immediate threat to demolish. By the time protection is afforded under the new clause there may well be nothing to protect. We have all seen the regrettable disappearance of the Firestone factory before it could be listed. This new proposal, I suggest, will result in a multitude of Firestones, and I am certain that is not what my noble friend wants. I have already in connection with Clause 54B voiced the objections which I have just made to the involvement of the Lands Tribunal, but this new clause would take matters further. Not only would it involve the Lands Tribunal in considering questions of special architectural and historic interest, but paragraphs (b) and (c) would appear to take the tribunal into questions of planning control and beyond, since there is no restriction on the circumstances which the new clause would permit the tribunal to deem material. This could allow owners to range very wide and go far beyond the range of the tribunal's existing functions. It would inevitably take the tribunal into areas with regard to which it has no expertise. In connection with this, it is relevant to point out that the tribunal could well find itself involved in difficult questions of planning control which it has no power to decide in a planning context. It would clearly be inappropriate for the Lands Tribunal to decide such matters when it has no effective responsibility for planning control. I have much more about this, but I hope that in view of what I have said my noble friend may feel that the points are valid and therefore will not pursue his amendment.
While I supported the noble Lord, Lord Middleton, in his last amendment, I find that I cannot in thus amendment. I entirely agree with what the Minister has said. The proposal is lengthy, complex and time-consuming, and introduces procedures which are totally unnecessary. The Minister is absolutely right when he points out that, although the intention of the noble Lord, Lord Middleton, may have been different, the protection to listed buildings would be far less than with spot listing and the present procedure. It is perfectly true that spot listing is sometimes tripped up, as it probably was over the Firestone building. With the present procedure, however, it is up to the Secretary of State and not removed from him to a Lands Tribunal which is concerned with land values and not with listed buildings and protection, and the definition of whether a building is of historic and architectural interest. I am therefore glad that the Government will not accept this amendment but will leave the procedures as they are at present.
I am sorry to keep disagreeing with my noble friends on this side of the House, at least in the text of what they say, but I think that my noble friend has a point. If it cannot be met by this amendment, and I think that the argument is overwhelmingly against it, could my noble friend on the Front Bench consider this? It is very easy to spot list a building because it is under threat or because some event in the locality has required the department to have a good comb through their list, and add about 50 per cent. more because some threat is seen. When it comes, as it will do or may do in due course, to the question of getting a listed building consent for an alteration or a demolition, that is the time when one can question whether the building was properly listed in the first place.Unfortunately, a number of questions are asked in Parliament about the number of listed buildings to which listed building consent has been given in any particular year. Those questions never discriminate between the cases where the matter was obviously concerned with a Grade 1 building, where the greatest possible care has to be taken, and the one that was spot listed without more than five minutes' notice, where it is perfectly possible to argue that the department, in granting a listed building consent, was merely acknowledging that a mistake had been made in the first place. It is very easy for those in charge of these matters to advise Ministers, who are rightly very sensitive about these matters, that once a building has been listed there is a prima fade case against any listed building consent whatever being granted. That cannot be right if you have no appeal procedure of the sort that my noble friend has suggested. If Ministers were a little more ready to concede the possibility that a mistake had been made by those who listed it, perhaps in a hurry, and that there was after all an opportunity for reconsideration of this matter at the listed building consent application stage, then I think that my noble friend would have achieved something. Can the Minister say two words on that?
I am, again, very grateful to my noble friend for what he has said. I should like to take it away, think about it and discuss it with those who have special knowledge of this field.
I think that it is worth reiterating, if thought is given to an appeal procedure, that I hope that the Minister will stick strongly to the point that the Lands Tribunal must not come into this. At the moment we have to accept the decision of the Lands Tribunal on valuation because we recognise their expertise in valuation. But, if one feels that they are part of the planning procedure, it weakens the acceptance of their decisions on things to do with valuation. Let there be an appeal by all means, but not to the Lands Tribunal. That would injure the real work they have to do in the field of valuation.
I am most grateful for what my noble friends Lord Bellwin and Viscount Colville of Culross have said. I do not see why, if the Department of the Environment goes to the trouble of listing a building, it should not go to the trouble of finding out to whom it belongs.My noble friend Lord Bellwin has deployed some very powerful arguments as to why my amendment is the wrong way to achieve what I am trying to do. I shall read most carefully what he has to say, and perhaps come back later. At this stage, however, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved Amendment No. 209A:
Page 156, line 45, at end insert—
("(3) Notice of an application made under subsection (1) above shall be given to the local planning authority within whose area the building is situated at the same time that the application is submitted to the Secretary of State. (4) In subsection (3) of this section "local planning authority" shall, in relation to a building in Greater London, include the Greater London Council.")
The noble Baroness said: In Schedule 12 the Government have proposed a new system whereby if an application has been made or granted for any development involving the alteration, extension or demolition of a building any person can apply to the Secretary of State for a certificate. Once granted, this certificate would, for a period of five years, preclude the Secretary of State from listing the building and stop a local authority from serving a building preservation notice on it during that period.
The point of this amendment is that we believe it is essential that a local authority should be notified of such an application at the same time as the Secretary of State is asked for a certificate, so that they have the time to make appropriate inquiries and representations. This is not the time to go into the problems of the five-year period, where I can see there are certain "pros" but there are "cons" as well, but the local authority will eventually learn of such an application when the DOE writes to them for confirmation that the building is the subject of planning permission, although it may then be too late for effective representation. As I am sure the Minister is aware, when this was discussed in Committee in another place the Minister, Mr. Tom King, said that there were some drafting errors in it but that he would be happy to consider this point, and I hope that now the Minister is going to accept the amendment. I beg to move.
We are glad to accept the amendment.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 209B:
Page 156, line 45, at end insert—
("( ) Before the issue of any certificate under sub-section (2) of this section, the Secretary of State shall notify such persons or bodies of persons as appear to him appropriate as having special knowledge of, or interest in, buildings of architectural or historic interest.").
The noble Baroness said: This amendment is rather similar and I hope I shall get the same response from the Minister. This is on the same point but states that the Secretary of State
"shall notify such persons or bodies of persons as appear to him appropriate as having special knowledge of, or interest in, buildings …".
Here I am referring to amenity bodies such as the Ancient Monuments Society, the Council for British Archaeology, and so on, which in fact are listed in Appendix 3 of Circular 23/77, which was issued by the department when I was a Minister there.
The intention behind this amendment is to try to ensure that the same bodies are notified—not consulted; I hope the Minister will note that the word is "notified"—before the Secretary of State decides not to list a building which is under threat. I think this amendment is entirely compatible with the amendment which the Minister has just accepted and I understand that the Association of Metropolitan Authorities are quite happy with this addendum. I beg to move.
This amendment requires the Secretary of State first to consult a particular body of persons having special knowledge of buildings of interest before giving a certificate. The Historic Buildings Council are his statutory advisers. They are busy people who give liberally of their valuable time without payment, and Her Majesty's Government are indebted to them for that. We are not prepared to ask them to shoulder a further and as yet unquantifiable burden in examining every application under this provision. We do not know how many applications will result from it—it might be 20 or 200 or even 20,000. The council will be available to give their advice where it is needed, as they do already in listing matters, and really that is as far as we are prepared to go.Nor could we accept, if that is what the noble Baroness intends, that the persons to be consulted shall be the national amenity societies. They are not the bodies of persons which were referred to in the 1971 Act and they cannot be presumed to be the persons referred to here. They are of course consulted by local planning authorities about applications for listed building consent involving demolition. If consent is refused there is a right of appeal to the Secretary of State. They are not consulted before a building is added to the statutory list of buildings of special architectural or historic interest and we cannot give them a privileged place in the determination of applications made under this provision. I have much more that I could say on similar lines, but I think it all comes down to the fact that we really do not want to accept this amendment.
I think the Minister made that very clear. He did use the word "consult" which was originally in the amendment, but the word is now "notify", which is rather different. If we can be satisfied that the local amenity societies will be aware of this in their localities so that they do have the opportunity to make representations to local authorities, obviously in the face of opposition from the Government there is no point in pressing it, certainly at this time of night. I am glad the noble Lord understood that what I was getting at was not that all these applications should go to the Historic Buildings Council, which would obviously be impossible, but should be considered within the different localities. As long as there are means by which they are made aware of this and know that these buildings are going to be tied up for five years without being able to be listed, then one could see how that works and see the amenities societies' reports. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved Amendment No. 210:
Page 158, line 37, leave out ("56A") and insert ("55(2A)").
The noble Lord said: This amendment is required to correct a technical error. Section 56A (5) is intended to prevent the new time-limiting condition from being applied to consents granted for works already carried out under new subsection 55 (2A). Instead of referring to subsection 55 (2A), Section 56A (5) incorrectly refers to Section 56A. I beg to move.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 210A:
Page 158, line 38, at end insert—
("12. In section 101 of that Act delete the word "unoccupied".").
The noble Baroness said: This is rather a tricky little amendment. Up to now, under the 1971 Town and Country Planning Act, local authorities have had power to carry out urgent repair works to listed buildings after giving not less than seven days' notice to the owner. This power is currently restricted to unoccupied buildings. It is felt essential, and has been put forward by several local authorities, that in order to protect our heritage they should have power to carry out urgent repair work to any listed building whether occupied or unoccupied.
I said it was tricky because I am well aware of the problems that may arise where a house is occupied. There are listed buildings both occupied and unoccupied which are falling into decay. It does seem to me that local authorities should have discretion—there will not be a mandatory power—if they can do so (it is a question of resources) to insist on repairs to a building that is occupied. Where the person living in the building is unable to afford to do the repairs, it would be impossible for the local authority to claim back from him, but we are all aware of listed buildings which have been shamelessly neglected by owners who could repair them but will not do so. If the local authority does the repairs itself, it can reclaim the cost. I beg to move.
We share the noble Baroness's concern to strengthen local authorities' powers to require repairs to listed buildings, but I fear that the proposal in its present form is not acceptable. Entering occupied premises against the wishes of the owner to carry out work is always open to the very real objection of the invasion of privacy and rights of property.As the noble Baroness will well know from her own experience in my department, finding a solution to the problem of securing repairs to neglected listed buildings, whether occupied or not, is far from easy. For example, Section 115, which empowers authorities to serve a repairs notice on unoccupied or occupied buildings requiring works to be carried out for the proper preservation of the building, has no teeth unless an authority is prepared to follow it up with compulsory acquisition under Section 114. Understandably, many authorities are reluctant to make a compulsory purchase order. While they want the building repaired, they do not necessarily wish to own it. Nevertheless, we accept that there is a case for strengthening the powers currently available and have in fact completed a considerable amount of preliminary work aimed at augmenting the present powers by introducing an alternative to compulsory purchase under Section 114. This would involve seeking a court order to carry out the repairs specified in a notice served under Section 115 if they have not been carried out within the statutory two month period. If the order were granted, the authority or the Secretary of State could also seek to recover the cost of the work. The procedure would be complicated by the fact that there is a limit of £2,000 on the amount that can be recovered in the county court—higher claims have to be the subject of an order from the High Court. Unfortunately, there simply has not been time to work out the details of this procedure and consult the local authority associations in time for their inclusion in this Bill. I am sure that the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, will agree that it is important to get any amended procedure right and I hope, therefore, that with the assurance that the department have proposals in mind which they will discuss in due course, she may feel able to withdraw the amendment.
As the Minister is not accepting the amendment, I can now say that it was probing in nature and what he said was what I was hoping to hear—namely, that the department is considering it and it is something that it has in mind. I hope it will bring forward legislation when it has sorted out what, I am the first to admit, is an extremely difficult problem. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[ Amendment No. 210B not moved.]
moved Amendment 211B:
Page 159, line 38, at end insert—
(". In section 63 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971—
(a) at the beginning of subsection (4) there shall be inserted the words "Other than in conservation areas"; and (b) the following subsection shall be inserted after that subsection:—"(4A) A local planning authority shall have the power to declare by resolution that a conservation area within its area, or any part thereof, shall be an area within which there shall be applied the limitations on the display of advertisements contained in Regulations made under subsection (3) hereof in respect of areas of special control":Provided that, before passing such a resolution, the local planning authority shall publish a notice of the proposed resolution and consider any objections which may be communicated to it in writing.".").
The noble Lord said: The purpose of this amendment is to give to local planning authorities the power to declare a conservation area to be an area of special control for the control of outdoor advertising. Section 63 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 provides that an area which requires protection on grounds of amenity interest may be defined as an area of special control for the purpose of controlling outdoor advertising. But, while the power to designate a conservation area is conferred upon the local planning authority, the power to designate an area of special control is reserved to the Secretary of State.
From the information given to us by local authority associations it is clear that many local authorities would much like to control advertising in areas of special amenity interest, such as conservation areas, but that they are deterred by the need to argue their case with the Department of the Environment, which may order a public inquiry to consider objections. The result is that out of over 5,000 conservation areas in England and Wales, hardly any of them have as yet been separately designated as areas of special control.
Up until now these powers have mostly been used, very properly, for the restriction of advertising in the countryside. The relatively few conservation areas—less than 2 per cent.—which are protected in this way, are mostly villages which happen, by chance, to be situated in a large rural area in which advertising is restricted. Thus, in respect of the vast majority of conservation areas—over 98 per cent.—the powers provided for this purpose are not being used. The clear intention of Parliament is consequently being ignored.
In order to remedy this situation we consider that local planning authorities should be given the power to designate the whole or part of a conservation area as an area of special control without the need to obtain the approval of the Secretary of State. In this connection it should be noted that in respect of other much more important issues, such as the adoption of local plans which may radically affect the whole character of a town, the final decision is entrusted to the local planning authority unless the Secretary of State in very exceptional cases decides to intervene.
We do not, of course, wish to deprive shopkeepers of their right to advertise on their premises their names and the goods and services that they provide. What we particularly want to restrict are glaring posters on the blank walls of the corner houses of side roads all along the high street. These posters, such as the ones that advertise the beer that reaches every part, are mostly unconnected with the neighbouring shops and traders. Equally, we wish to discourage large advertisement hoardings, such as those around the vacant site opposite the Victoria and Albert Museum, which for several decades have disturbed the harmony of an area of architectural quality.
I know that there are some who consider that objections should be examined by an independent person appointed by the Secretary of State. But I suggest that it is wrong to think that the democratically elected local authority is not both anxious and well qualified to weigh local views and interests.
It is, of course, not our intention that objections should be lightly brushed aside. In fact, it will be seen that since we first tabled this amendment in order to make our intentions clear, we have added a specific proviso, which requires the local authority to publicise its proposals and to give due consideration to any objections which may be submitted to it. Likewise, I wish to make it clear that we are not suggesting that local authorities should automatically restrict advertising in all conservation areas all over the country. What we are proposing is that they should have the discretionary power to do so where they consider it appropriate.
I also think it right to draw attention to the advice given in a circular on this subject issued by the Department of the Environment, Circular No. 23/77. After recognising that many conservation areas include commercial centres, the circular specifically asks local planning authorities:
"to ensure that advertising displays do not detract from the appearance of areas of architectural or historic interest".
But that, of course, is precisely what conservation areas are. Thus it will be seen that all we are asking is that local authorities should be given the power to do what the Government have themselves asked them to do.
This amendment has the full support of the Association of Metropolitan Authorities and of the Association of District Councils, the two types of authorities concerned with this matter, and it is in complete accord—and I wish to emphasise this—with the main purpose of this Bill which, as the very first words of its Long Title state, is:
"to relax controls over local government".
I hope, therefore, that in that spirit the Minister will feel able to accept this amendment.
I had the privilege of following in the noble Lord's footsteps in two great departments of state, and I have the greatest admiration for what he has achieved. I am therefore delighted to be associated with him in commending this amendment to your Lordships, and I should indeed hesitate a very long time before disagreeing with the noble Lord on a matter of this kind.As the noble Lord explained, whet we are seeking to do is something which is so simple as to be obvious. We are asking the Secretary of State to allow local planning authorities automatically to be able to do what he himself has asked them to do. There is nothing very revolutionary in that. The converse, of course, is complete nonsense. Mr. Heseltine has won a well deserved reputation for his action in conservation matters. I hope tonight that he is going to enhance that reputation still further by allowing the noble Lord to accept the amendment which the noble Lord, Lord Duncan-Sandys, has moved.
May I say how delighted I am to be associated with the amendment put down by the noble Lord, Lord Duncan-Sandys. His record in the field of conservation needs no praise from me; it is apparent to everyone who is the least bit concerned about this matter. When the legislation was originally put forward I had thought that this omission was a mistake on the part of the drafters of the Bill. Then I received a letter from the Law Society telling me, as a member, that I ought to oppose the amendment that I had already put my name down to support, on the grounds that local shopkeepers should be given the opportunity before a public inquiry of making their feelings felt about advertising in conservation areas.The amendment that the noble Lord put down to this amendment between the publication of the first and second Marshalled Lists has covered that problem. The words
are a perfectly adequate protection for local shopkeepers, advertising agents and others who have an interest in this matter. My experience in local government over a fair number of years on the planning committee is that every opportunity is given to people who want to object to a proposal by a local authority to in any way limit their freedom, to have it discussed, debated and considered at the local authority level. The noble Lord was right when he said that this is a Bill which is supposed to give more freedom to local government, and this is an excellent area where we could give considerably greater freedom to local government and at the same time make the appearance of conservation areas that much more attractive. I think in particular of an area, a splendid square in the town in which I live. It is said to be the best square in the United Kingdom outside Edinburgh. I do not know whether that is true or not. It has been made a conservation area, but its appearance is considerably marred by the fact that the local authority is not able to control the extremely garish advertisements not only proposing the advantages of a certain kind of beer or lager, as the noble Lord suggested, but also the virtues of firms of estate agents, purveyors of secondhand furniture, and a variety of other uses which diminish enormously the beauty and attraction of this square. The reason given for making the conservation order was its architectural beauty. Now it is completely marred, not by the architecture of the square but by the quality and unattractive nature of the advertisements which the local authority is unable to do anything about because of the enormous, complex and expensive machinery that was involved in making the kind of order it is suggested the local authority should be entitled to make. Most of us here are concerned about conservation not only in rural areas but, perhaps more importantly, in urban areas, particularly in the North of England where, God knows! we have little enough to conserve. Mrs. Jennifer Jenkins was in my part of the world recently and she said, "You have some absolutely lovely Victorian, Edwardian and late Georgian buildings here. Why have you not done something to improve the external appearance of them?" We had to tell her that the procedures for doing that were long, complex and expensive. Therefore, as a person living in a northern industrial town, I welcome this proposal as being perhaps more important than conserving rural areas and villages in rural areas. I have pleasure in supporting the amendment, which I hope will have the support of the Government."Provided that, before passing such a resolution, the local planning authority shall publish a notice of the proposed resolution and consider any objections which may be communicated to it in writing"—
I support the amendment, which has been so excellently moved. Like the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood, I thought the Bill was designed to give more relaxation from the Minister and more control to local authorities. Under this process, however, every special control scheme will have to receive the approval of the Secretary of State. Surely it is better to leave this to the people on the spot, for they can get hold of their local authorities, put their complaints to them and get things moving much more quickly. I know the public have a right to object to special control proposals at a local public inquiry. I have attended many such inquiries and on occasions have given my views, but public inquiries take a long time and are expensive. Also, when the inspectors arrive they often have little knowledge of the local people and the matters into which they are to inquire.We have received a great deal of literature—expensive literature in many colours—from the Outdoor Advertising Council but we have received nothing from the Chamber of Commerce, which represents local shopkeepers, and I was therefore interested in the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Evans of Claughton, because not only in the rural areas but in the towns there have been no protests by the local shopkeepers on this subject, and I hope the Minister will give full consideration to the points that have been made so that we may see local government being given more authority under the Bill than seems to be the case at the present time.
I cannot believe the Minister will not consider with great sympathy the points that have been made. Peter Ustinov in his autobiography said that when his Polish mother arrived by boat for the first time in England she thought every town was called Bovril and that it was only when she reached the biggest Bovril of them all that it became apparent to her that she was in London. While that is a slightly exaggerated view of what might take place, my noble friend has raised a very important matter and I wish to support him.
I just want to issue a little warning from this side of the Committee. I am thinking of what those of us who come from the country districts see in our schools. While coming through the lovely city of St. Albans earlier today I was stopped by the traffic lights when I saw glaring above me a mighty advert declaring, "Tell your kiddies to collect the labels off these beans so that your school can get what it wants". What a pathetic state for education to be in! That apart, I can think of nothing worse than advertisements all over our country villages, although nobody objects to the local butcher or whatever advertising local plays or other events in his shop window at Christmastime. Such adverts can be quite cheerful in fact.
I rise to confirm what my noble friends have said in support of the amendment—namely that it is strongly supported by the Association of District Councils.
It would be a pity if the debate were to pass without any voice being raised in favour of the present situation. As I understand it, the primary difference between a conservation area and an area of special control lies in the fact that in a conservation area the local authority has control over all advertisements individually. It can prevent advertisements from being set up; it can cause them to be taken down. The position is different in an area of special control. As my noble friend Lord Duncan-Sandys mentioned, in such an area the only advertisements allowed are those in which the size of the lettering is limited, which give the name of the advertiser, state the goods that he sells or the activities that he pursues, and are displayed on his own premises. Advertisements not displayed on premises belonging to the advertiser are not allowed, regardless of whether they would be on special sites, pillars, bus shelters, or wherever. That is the position.Under the present law, all such advertisements must come down as soon as an order is made. However, because of possible interference with advertisements that may have been displayed for 30 years, it is thought right that before such an order is made the Secretary of State must be consulted and give his approval. Notice must be given in the form of the draft order; that has to be publicised. In the last 30 years there have been objections in only a third of all the cases that have been the subject of local public inquiries. The opinions of others have not been mentioned. It must not be assumed that everybody is as allergic as some Members of your Lordships' Committee to the appearance of advertisements. In order to protect these rights, and to give an opportunity for objections, it is thought right to give this power of appeal. It is not a control by central Government of local authority; it is a power of appeal; and the person who presides over the local public inquiry is an independent person, who is totally impartial. Surely this is the right procedure. My noble friend who, as has been said, has done so much in the Civic Trust for the improvement of amenity, must surely know what is the position in a conservation area. There is already a control of individual advertisements, and therefore a control of all advertisements in that area. As I say, that is totally different from what happens once part of that conservation area is made into an area of special control. May I remind the Committee that the area of special control is intended to give protection on grounds of amenity. As I say, it is a blanket control. Commercial advertisements would be restricted to business premises and to non-illuminated advertisements on the premises, stating the name of the trader and the goods sold, or other activity carried on there. However tasteful and harmonious the advertisements might be individually, however much they might fit in, they would simply not be allowed in an area of special control. They would not be allowed to be erected; worse still, those already displayed would have to be taken down. No compensation would be payable, except for the cost of taking them down. At present, such undiscriminating restrictions can be imposed only by order of the Secretary of State. What the amendment proposes to do is to give local planning authorities power to declare an area of special protection by resolution, and the only preconditions are that before the resolution is actually passed a copy of the proposed resolution must be published, and any objections in writing must be considered. There are no plans; no requirements as to the form of publication or as to the period for the public to think about it; no written notice given to those individuals likely to be affected by it: just dull uniformity by resolution.
May I interrupt my noble friend? Why does he say "might"; that before passing such a resolution the planning authority "might" publish a notice and "might" consider any objections? It says here quite clearly:
"… before passing such a resolution, the local planning authority shall publish … and consider any objections which may be communicated to it in writing".
I apologise to my noble friend. It must have been a slip of the tongue; I meant to say "must". I am told I did say "must"; I am much obliged.So that is the situation. I really do not think it is right to depart from this on the slender grounds given. In the last 30 years there have been only three local public inquiries a year. Surely that is not too big a price to pay for the freedom of the individual.
I have my name down to this amendment, and in order to shorten the proceedings I must try not to take part in the debate, but I really must, in view of what the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, has been saying—and I know that certainly his past experience in the advertising field has been great. I am afraid he has a lot of this quite wrong. He has made the same mistake as there is in this glossy publication referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Vickers. Mr. Michael Shersby, MP, is reported as saying, in Hansard, that
this was when the Bill was brought forward again—"the proposal was deliberately excluded"—
What seems to have been lost sight of since it was moved and then supported by my noble friend Lord Greenwood is that this is giving local authorities the power to exercise control in the most sensitive parts of the most sensitive conservation areas. It does not mean that the whole of a conservation area becomes controlled; it does not mean that any part of it need be controlled. What it does mean is that, instead of the matter going to the Secretary of State, the local authority can exercise its own discretion on an issue of concern to its own people, and exercise its own view as to the quality of the environment. Through the Housing Bill and also through this Bill we have seen the number of powers taken away from the local authorities. Here is an opportunity for local authorities to be encouraged to take an interest in their own environment. Who in fact make up the local authorities? There are local businessmen, there are professional men and there are people who have as great an interest in advertising their own wares as the noble Lord and others who take the same view as he does. All we are asking is that at a time when the sophistication and complexities of the visual content of advertising have become so enormous that advertising is harmful to conservation areas and areas of beauty, it should be up to the local authority to have the chance to decide. The addendum to this amendment really covers the position for anybody who wants to object or who feels that it is unfair to them. I think we must be quite clear that we are discussing what the amendment is about. We are not discussing what another amendment might or might not say. This is what the amendment says and we should stick to that. I hope that the Government will accept this amendment which, with the exception of the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn (who, with great respect, has got it a little wrong), has had the support of all noble Lords speaking from all sides of the Committee."because it would be absurd to try to ban advertisements entirely in conservation areas. Some such areas have within them a thriving commercial centre".
My noble friend Lord Drumalbyn said most of what I would wish to say. In view of the fact that my noble friend Lady Vickers said that the industry had not made any stand against this, the views I will convey reflect those of the Confederation of British Industry. The noble Baroness has just tried to persuade the Committee that there is no serious ground for complaint or worry about this amendment. But the proposed amendment would allow local authorities to make any conservation area into an area of special control for advertisements without the important current safeguards of having to obtain the approval of the Secretary of State for the Environment and of having a local inquiry. The amendment refers to consideration of any objections in writing. This is very different from a local inquiry. It would facilitate a total ban on commercial poster advertising in many large town centres. It has been put to us that everyone wants that. I do not think they do. Throughout the United Kingdom it would eliminate even small posters in bus shelters and kiosks such as often enliven shopping precincts; and, on the whole, many of our fellow citizens welcome them.The most important point is, clearly, that this is against the general interest of British trade and industry. It is ridiculous to suggest that advertisements have no purpose in life. If that were so, people would not want to spend millions on them. As to the question of making extra Government control, this is no increase on the present situation. The Government control, as my noble friend has said, has had to be exercised in a very limited way. I am afraid that most of my noble friends and the noble Lords opposite who spoke in favour—not to mention my noble friend who moved the amendment—have emphasised one side of the picture to convey an impression which, on the whole, is not strictly giving the right picture at all.
May I say one or two words in view of what the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, has said in suggesting that there is not very much support against this amendment? I have a lot of respect for my noble friend Lord Duncan-Sandys and for many others who spoke in favour of the amendment. I am amazed by some of the things I have heard. There is one massive point which my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn mentioned. There seems to be no difference made between the areas of special control and the other areas we have been talking about. The special control areas were designed primarily for the countryside and for special places round castles and cathedrals and so on. Conservation areas cover busy shopping centres for which special control was never intended.The planning authorities already have full powers to control advertisements in conservation areas. They do not need any more. They have the Town and Country Planning Regulations 1969 as amended in 1972 and 1977. If, perhaps, they are not doing their job, that is no reason to blame the advertising people. The majority of the general public like advertising in their shopping areas and it is in their interest as well as the interest of local traders. The special advertisement control is confiscatory; it bans a lot of advertisements without any compensation at all. Parliament has given local traders the right to object to special advertisement control orders and to have their objections heard in any local public inquiry. The House of Lords has been quoted many times for giving the tights and private liberties to individuals. I do not think that the amendment is any good.