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Planning Bill

Volume 704: debated on Thursday 16 October 2008

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD SPEAKER in the Chair.]

[Amendments Nos. 168A and 168B not moved.]

Clause 35 agreed to.

Schedule 2 [Amendments consequential on development consent regime]:

169: Schedule 2, page 149, line 7, leave out “and has been granted, for its construction” and insert “for its construction by virtue of section 14(1)(f) of that Act, and has been granted.”

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 170 and 171 not moved.]

171A: Schedule 2, page 156, line 34, at end insert—

“Greater London Authority Act 1999 (c. 29)After section 334(2) (the spatial development strategy) insert—

“(2A) The spatial development strategy must be in general conformity with national policy statements.”

Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 (c. 5)(1) The PCPA 2004 is amended as follows.

(2) After section 1(2) (regional spatial strategy) insert—

“(2A) In subsection (2) the Secretary of State’s policies include national policy statements.”

(3) In section 19(2)(a) (preparation of local plan documents) before “national policies” insert “national policy statements, other”.

(4) In section 24 (conformity with regional strategy)—

(a) before subsection (1)(a) insert—“(za) relevant national policy statements;”;(b) after subsection (1) insert—“(1A) A national policy statement is relevant if—(a) it sets out the amount, type or size of development that is appropriate nationally or for a specified area that includes, or partly includes, the area of the local planning authority; or(b) it identifies a location that is in, or partly in, the area of the local planning authority as suitable, potentially suitable or unsuitable for development.”(5) After section 117(3) (interpretation) insert—

“(3A) Expressions used in this Act and in the Planning Act 2008 have the same meaning in this Act as in that Act.””

The noble Lord said: My Amendment No. 171A is grouped with other amendments in the name of my noble and learned friend Lord Boyd. All the amendments are designed to create a link between national policy statements, which relate to the larger sized projects and are the responsibility of the Bill, and smaller developments that are outwith the scope of the Bill.

On the previous day in Committee, we discussed the various relationships between the minimum size of developments that would be included, as well as energy generators, rail freight interchanges, waste disposal and hazardous waste. There were a number of views about the minimum size of developments. Whatever the minimum size is, will the policies in the national policy statements for all these different types of development filter through into regional spatial strategies and development plans for similar projects that are below the limits that will be set by the Bill? In debates on previous amendments, many noble Lords have mentioned the problem of nimbyism. If one likes the idea of wind farms or hazardous waste disposal schemes and believes that the Bill will make getting development permission easier for these projects, I suspect that we will want the limit to be as low as possible. But many other developments will be well below the limit and could get caught out in what one could usefully describe as local authorities not wishing to have them in their back yards.

I declare an interest as chairman of the Rail Freight Group. I still believe that rail freight terminals have to be in a national network—unlike sewage works—to work. It would be a great shame if the smaller ones, which need to be part of that network, are subject to local authorities which believe in the principle of rail freight—or wind farms or whatever—but do not want them in their back yard.

These amendments try to relate the policies in the national policy statements to the regional spatial strategies, development plans and other similar documents, so that when local authorities or others consider applications for smaller schemes, they take into account the policies in the national policy statement.

The amendments of my noble and learned friend Lord Boyd may be slightly different in detail but the intent is the same. I am sure that his explanation will be much better than mine because he is a real professional in these matters. I beg to move.

Amendments Nos. 408 and 409 in this group are in my name. They would apply to the part of the Bill that amends existing planning legislation and are not directly concerned with the national policy statements or the Infrastructure Planning Commission. Amendment No. 408 would delete Clause 172(3)(a), which omits two sections of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, and Amendment No. 409 applies to Clause 172(4)(c), which would omit two more sections.

My difficulty concerns community involvement. It is not entirely clear why the Government seek to reduce the reporting of community involvement. If the amendments were accepted, those statements of community involvement would be retained and, under Amendment No. 409, would be subject to independent examination.

I have had and will have amendments concerned with the difficulties of disabled people, particularly blind people, relating to the planning system. I will not repeat what I said earlier because the Minister was well aware of those difficulties. However, organisations representing disabled people are upset by the removal of the requirement for local development documents to include a statement of community involvement and would like to see them there.

That was debated in another place. On that occasion, the Minister suggested that the Audit Commission’s comprehensive area assessment process might be an alternative way to deal with that. He gave no details whatever on how that might work and what form the process might take. In those circumstances, it is a little difficult to see that as an alternative to the retention of the existing requirements and statements. Perhaps the noble Baroness will put a bit more flesh and blood on that. If that is an effective way to achieve the same objective, clearly we will have to take account of it. At the moment, it is all rather hanging in the air. No one has a very clear idea of what it would mean and why that would replace the existing statements and requirements.

Amendments Nos. 409A to 409C stand in my name. Like the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Berkeley, they deal with the relationship between the national policy statement and the local development plan, particularly in relation to renewable energy. The principal purposes of the Bill are to ensure that we speed up the planning process and provide the infrastructure to deal with climate change, which we all face. However, the fact is that after the Bill comes into effect, many onshore renewable energy projects, particularly those concerned with wind and solar generation, will continue to be consented as part of the ordinary planning system by the local planning authority. That is because the Infrastructure Planning Commission will deal only with generating stations producing above 50 megawatts, the same threshold as in the Electricity Act. As I interpret them, national policy statements will deal with all development, and the result is that an NPS can be a material consideration in the determination of a planning application.

There is concern that the planning system has tended to place insufficient weight on national policy on renewable energy, and that is partly because few adopted development plans deal adequately with the issue of development for wind and other forms of renewable power generation. The problem is compounded by the primacy given to the development plan under the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, so the amendments aim to ensure that national policy statements that deal with renewable energy generation are given due weight in the planning system both in the preparation of development plan documents and in individual decisions. They seek to amend Clause 172 and thus would amend the relevant sections of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act.

I am aware that Clause 173 obliges the development plan documents to include policies designed to secure that the development and use of land in a local planning authority’s area contributes to the mitigation of and adaption to climate change. Nevertheless it seems appropriate that we should ensure that the national policy statement that relates to renewable energy is given primacy and proper weight by local planning authorities when they deal with renewable energy applications before them.

At Question Time earlier, the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, drew attention to the fact that guidance given by the Government is in fact ignored by a number of local authorities. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, quoted the instance of Oxfordshire County Council ignoring government advice on the provision of cycle lanes. If it is so easy to ignore advice, is it not necessary for that advice somehow to be strengthened?

These amendments seek reassurance in different respects. I hope I can reassure noble Lords that what they are seeking is achieved in the Bill. I shall start by referring to Clause 172. It removes the requirement for the statement of community involvement to be set out in local development schemes and for it to be the subject of independent examination. Amendments Nos. 408 and 409, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, would retain the requirement. The noble Lord has argued that this is an attempt to reduce local opportunity to engage in the planning system by removing the opportunity to make representations on the statement of community involvement and to have them independently examined. Perhaps I may clarify the status of SCIs and the reasoning behind the decision and reassure the noble Lord that this is a rather complex clause which may not do what he thinks it does.

When we created the SCI as part of the new planning system introduced in 2004 to ensure that community engagement was central to the new system, we created the notion of a statement of community involvement which set out how the local authority would involve the public in the preparation of local development documents and planning applications. The local development scheme sets out what documents will be produced and when, and has to be agreed with central government. By removing the statement of community involvement from the local development scheme, the clause as a whole means that local authorities will no longer have to get permission from central government if they want to update, or change the timetable for updating, their SCI. The clause also means that central government cannot any longer use the local development scheme to dictate to local authorities when to update the SCI. That brings us more into line with the Government’s approach to local government in general, which is to give greater space to local innovation and to foster civic leadership.

I am happy to put on the record that the change does not remove the requirement to produce, consult on or conform to the statement of community involvement or to keep people involved. That is still in place. Our recent guidance on a local development framework suggests that local authorities should provide real-time information on plans to update the documents.

We are removing the need for independent examinations of the SCIs. Let me explain why. It is a benign move. We have to recognise that time has moved on since the 2004 Act came into force. Nearly all local authorities now have in place statements of community involvement, all of which have been examined by planning inspectors. We have discovered that the requirement for examination creates unnecessary burdens for local authorities while, at the same time, there is evidence that it is no longer serving a useful purpose. The problem that has been uncovered is that these examinations have turned out to be costly and, more significantly, ineffective. Experience to date has indicated that having SCIs examined in public is an expensive and time-consuming process which has not produced any significant results. Very few changes have been made as a result of the examinations in public.

Each examination costs about £600 in inspector costs, which has to be borne by the authority, but the format is unsuccessful because, more often, what is driving objections to the SCI is not to do with planning issues but how much money the local authority is able to commit to engaging with the community on consultation processes. The Planning Inspectorate is not well placed to examine or assess that issue. Section 18 of the PCPA 2004, therefore, will still require local planning authorities to prepare a statement of community involvement. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, referred to the debate in the other place, where the Minister was saying that there are better ways of achieving the same goal of ensuring that the community is able and encouraged to participate in that process.

There are some new strategies in place which do not replace the SCIs but simply reinforce them. First, we expect local planning authorities to ensure that their engagement strategies are up to date and fit for purpose. Secondly, there are new assessment regimes which are better suited to the appraisal of local authorities; in particular, as the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, said, the new comprehensive area assessment. That will look at the level and quality of public engagement by local authorities and local partnerships. It is an important development because it means that we expect the CAA to assess how well local partners understand their communities and how well they have been involved in defining the priority outcomes and assessing whether outcomes have been delivered. It reinforces the process. We are consulting on the CAA at the moment and expect that to be finalised by next year.

Thirdly, a new agency is already in place which amplifies the local voice. The recently published planning policy statement 12, Local Spatial Planning, emphasises the need for local strategic partnerships to take a strategic approach to community involvement and a corporate approach to community engagement through the duty to involve. We spent several hours when debating the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Bill exploring how we could strengthen the engagement between local authorities and communities. This is all part of that and I think it will strengthen the process. I hope that that will reassure noble Lords. I accept that the clause is quite complex and does not particularly reveal its intent in this respect, so I understand why the bodies referred to have been a bit confused. I hope that this explanation will reassure them as well.

Let me turn to a separate issue, expressed in Amendments Nos. 409A, 409B, 409D and 171A. These seek assurances about the status of national policy statements and whether they will have proper weight in the planning system. My noble and learned friend Lord Boyd referred in particular to the renewable energy national policy statement. I want to be quite economical about this. It is essential that the national policy statement is reflected throughout the planning process and the different levels of planning decision-making. We have explored that in different ways. It is not necessary to include specific reference to either national policies or a renewable energy national policy statement. The Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 already requires regional planning bodies and local planning authorities to have regard to national policies.

My noble friend Lord Berkeley referred to limits and whether it will all be reflected. We expect that all forms of development will be considered throughout those processes. We are not talking about any discrimination towards different levels or thresholds. I hope that that will reassure my noble friend. I can give the same answer to my noble and learned friend Lord Boyd.

On Amendment No. 171A, I should make it clear that the conformity test is one of general conformity and not absolute conformity. Under the planning system, only where a local development document would cause significant harm to the implementation of the RSS or, in the case of London, the mayor’s spatial development strategy, should it be considered not to be in general conformity. It is therefore not necessary to extend the provision to include the requirement to be in general conformity with national policy statements. I hope that that covers the points of detail raised by both noble Lords.

Where local development plans are out of date, national policy statements will be a material consideration in any decision. They will have to be taken into account. We have made, to date, rather slow progress in developing the new local development frameworks. I am pleased to say that we are making increasingly rapid progress and that more and more local authorities are coming forward with up-to-date plans. By the time the IPC is in full operation, I am hopeful that most local authorities will have up-to-date plans.

I hope that I have answered noble Lords’ questions. I am very happy to write on the details of the amendments if that would reassure them even further.

Before the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, replies, may I say that I am extremely grateful for the amount of trouble that the noble Baroness has taken to respond to the case I put to her about community involvement? We shall study what she said with some care, but it sounded to me very reassuring. I am most grateful.

Before the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley replies, I should like to congratulate the Minister and the Government on a small outbreak of common sense on the statements of community involvement. The process has been long-winded and bureaucratic, and having to put them to an independent inquiry has been ridiculous.

To have to put amendments to a local inquiry would be ludicrous. The statements exist now, so it is probably not worth abolishing them—although I would. They are often quite thick documents which in most cases have done little or nothing to improve or change the amount of public involvement in the planning process. They have not changed much; that would have happened anyway in the requirements for each of the development plan documents. At least there is a small outbreak of common sense here. From these Benches, we approve of the amendment.

I am grateful to my noble friend the Minister for her response. I take great comfort from her statement that it is essential that an NPS is reflected throughout the planning system and I shall study what she said with great interest. My only concern was raised also by the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw: will local authorities always take notice of it? The Minister said that she wanted local authorities to have greater space for innovation, but greater space to perform a nimby act is another worry. However, on the whole, I feel comforted and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

172: Schedule 2, page 156, line 39, at end insert—

“Crossrail Act 2008 (c. 18)66 (1) Section 48 of the Crossrail Act 2008 (application of Act to extensions) is amended as follows.

(2) Before subsection (1) insert—

“(A1) Development consent under the Planning Act 2008 is not required for—

(a) an extension of Crossrail, or(b) the provision, otherwise than as part of an extension of Crossrail, of a railway facility for use for the purposes of or in connection with Crossrail.”(3) In subsection (1) for paragraphs (a) and (b) substitute “a matter mentioned in subsection (A1)(a) or (b).”

(4) In subsection (2) for “(1)” substitute “(A1)”.

(5) In subsection (5) for “(1)” substitute “(A1)”.”

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 2, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 36 [Applications for orders granting development consent]:

[Amendments Nos. 173 to 175 not moved.]

176: Clause 36, page 23, line 6, at end insert “, and

( ) be accompanied by evidence that the applicant has taken all reasonable steps to secure conformity with the local development framework policies of the affected local planning authority and, where applicants have departed from local policy, an explanation for any such departure.”

The noble Lord said: This group of amendments follows on naturally from the discussion that we have just had. Amendment No. 176 would ensure that, where a planning application was being considered by the planning commission, the applicant had worked to make sure that the application was reasonably consistent with the local development framework. That is essential if applications are to receive general acceptance. The part of the Bill that we are talking about sets down conditions with which an application must comply and the amendment adds one more. Its purpose is not to try to make the process more complicated and difficult for the applicant. However, it should be, where and as far as is possible, acceptable to the people who are going to be affected by the application. It is to build that part of the process that we have tabled Amendment No. 176.

Amendment No. 185 also follows that principle by requiring consultation with local residents. I accept that that may prove difficult practically—“residents affected” can be deemed to run quite wide—but they should have their views taken into consideration. One can raise questions whether the local planning authority is sufficiently representative or, in more rural areas, as the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, would say, whether the local parish councils might be able to do it, but there may still be large bodies of people who feel that their views have not been taken into account, and we thought that we ought to raise these points.

The relationship between national projects and policies and the current system is a difficult matter. It seems that we are making the current system more complex to comply with the speed that is required for the system being introduced. It is the old question of swings and roundabouts. These are important matters; it is a large group of amendments that indicates wide concern around the Committee. I beg to move.

I would like to speak to my Amendment No. 191, which is in this group. It relates to our discussions last Tuesday. I am mystified, because we have as policy, firmly entrenched and working very well, the principle that the national park authorities are responsible—if they are responsible for anything—for planning. Yet anyone proposing to undertake action as referred to in this clause is not required by law to consult the national park authorities. My best interpretation, as I said last Tuesday, is that this is an extraordinary oversight. My worst interpretation is that it is quite sinister and is actually the beginning of a deliberate policy to undermine the authority of the national park authorities. It is as serious as that.

I simply cannot believe that my noble friend, with her deep commitment to the parks—which I know from first hand, from meetings with her at the department and elsewhere—could possibly be going along with a policy of that kind. Therefore, I want to believe that my first interpretation was right and that this is an oversight, which must be corrected.

I also emphasise that I very much support the concept of strengthening national planning. At the moment, we are in a mess. Just to take the contentious issue of windmills, for example, we have one tactical skirmish after another, wasting masses of time. We need a national policy, but the right national policy. It needs to insist on strategic considerations, but also on the importance of the social dimensions of planning, so that we do not end up with the least articulate and most deprived communities having all the energy developments dumped on them—the waste, infill, pylons and windmills.

We must also have in mind, as I have emphasised on several occasions, the whole quality of our society and why we need energy—why we need a strong economy to preserve a United Kingdom worth living in. What the national parks are about is essential if we are not to slip into becoming a bland, suburbanised society throughout the country as a whole. I feel passionately about this, as my noble friend knows and I therefore hope that she can reassure us.

I welcome the whole tenor of this group of amendments and I very much welcome the amendment about the handicapped. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, is doing a tremendous service to the Committee by keeping that priority constantly before us. That is splendid and it matters and I hope my noble friend can reassure us.

I would like to make one correction about what I said on Tuesday in the context of the other debate. I sometimes get a little caught up in the past—I suppose we all do at our age—and I referred to being a vice-president of the Council for National Parks. In the past few weeks, we have had Charity Commission approval to change our title to the Campaign for National Parks.

I, too, support the noble Lord, Lord Judd, in his appeal to include national park authorities as local authorities. In a way, they themselves are national infrastructure projects of huge importance. It is correct that, as great contributors to the quality of life in this nation, they should be consulted on projects.

My Amendments Nos. 189 and 192 are about whether parish councils should be consulted by the applicant. I was very disappointed by the Minister’s response to my submission on these amendments on Tuesday, so, I fear, I must make them again more strongly. Parish councils are part of local government; they are elected; they raise a precept; they are statutory consultees on planning applications. They are a local authority, so it seems strange that they should not be included in the definition of a local authority. They are also a tier of local government to which this Government have given considerably enhanced credibility in recent years, trying to raise their prowess, abilities and standing, particularly in the light of the desire in certain cases for unitary authorities—in that context, in some larger counties, parish councils will play a very prominent part.

Parish councils are often at odds with their district or county council. The noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, said on Tuesday that district councils would decide whether parish councils should be consulted. That is a very strange concept. To put it into an urban context, let us assume that an applicant has decided to build a reservoir at Wembley to enhance the water supply for Westminster. Actually, let us not take Wembley, which is only 10 miles away; let us say Slough, which is much more applicable as a large district or county council. It is like saying that Westminster Council will decide whether the citizens of Slough should have a say in the matter when they are the ones who will be flooded and have their landscape changed to give water to the council. Such a situation is inconceivable, but it is an exact replica of what is proposed here: district councils, which are often 20 miles away from a parish council, are to decide whether locals should be able to respond to an application.

Perhaps, as proposed in my amendment on Tuesday, including parish councils as consultees on site-specific national policy statements is a step too far, but, given all the emphasis that the Government have placed on parish councils in recent years, I hope that the noble Baroness will be able to accommodate my amendments in respect of consultation by the applicant or indeed the IPC.

My Amendment No. 203 is about the applicant’s response to consultation and publicity. I still have slight doubts about this process. Is it right that a pre-consultation process should be run by the applicant, who will undoubtedly be driven by making profits from the project and so could easily be influenced by the wish to maximise returns? It would be beneficial to the applicant to cut corners or to minimise the mitigation measures sought by locals. I wonder whether this process will get off to a good start by having the body that would make money out of creating a nuisance ask locals and others what they think about the creation of that nuisance. While I cannot think of any other way to do it, Clause 48 needs tightening. Applicants should have to spell out not only all the responses they get, but what they have done to accommodate them or, ultimately, why they were unable to resolve the problems.

I support Amendment No. 188 of the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, who spoke to this group of amendments on Tuesday. The management of our seas, the marine environment that surrounds our sceptred isle, is as important as the management of our land itself. It is not to be undertaken without expertise or a holistic approach. While we have 50 years’ experience of planning land development, it is a sad reflection of the “out of sight, out of mind” approach to our oceans and seascape that there has in the past been relatively little thought given to planning considerations for our oceans. With the marine Bill around the corner, I raise my voice in support for a seamless approach to the overall management of our seas and seabeds.

I also put my name to Amendment No. 197, on the time for individuals’ responses to the applicant’s consultation. It is currently 28 days, and the amendment would make it 56 days. First, I support the principle of a deadline; it is important that we are trying to expedite these projects as quickly as possible. However, 28 days is not enough. There is a lot of work to be done by a consultee. Sometimes it takes 28 days to get a response from a lawyer, and there will be professionals involved. In fact, in my experience of responding to planning applications, or submitting my own, a lot of people are involved. Sometimes there are engineers, landscape consultants, experts in badgers or bats, highway engineers and so on. It is important that you consult with your neighbourhood to put in a co-ordinated response, and 28 days is too short—even if none of the aforementioned people or professionals is not on holiday for 14 of them. I think that 56 days is pushing it, but the desire is to try to speed these application processes up. I commend that amendment to the Committee.

I shall not move Amendment No. 199A, because I had misinterpreted the issue. I did not realise that it was about responding to the applicant’s proposals to consult rather than the applicant’s consultation itself.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Cameron. I like to feel that if we got replies from Ministers to our letters within 28 days, that would be a considerable advance. I shall say a word about that in a moment.

I have a number of amendments in this group but, before I come to them, I shall respond to the kind words of the noble Lord, Lord Judd. I am happy to take advice from the various disabled groups. They came to me because, as I said in an earlier intervention, I used to serve on the council of the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association. I cannot compete with some other Members of the Committee in the amount of time and effort that they give, but I was grateful for the noble Lord’s words.

In return, I say this about national parks: the Committee will be aware that, as I mentioned the other day, the Managing Radioactive Waste Safely programme is in the process of seeking volunteer communities that would be prepared to host a deep underground repository for the disposal of the most hazardous nuclear waste. In return they are invited to put forward proposals to compensate the local community for undertaking this enormously important task.

West Cumbria may well wish to put forward such a proposal given its long experience of dealing with nuclear matters. One of the proposals that local authority might be wise to consider is far better road communication to that part of west Cumbria. Anybody who has done that journey knows that it is very difficult and time- consuming. It is inconceivable that a dual carriageway linking west Cumbria to the M6 north and south could avoid passing through the national park. Indeed, that is why this might be a difficult proposal. Would such a road have to be constructed in a tunnel under the national park, which would be hugely expensive? However, as the noble Lord, Lord Judd, said, the suggestion that the national park should not be consulted about such a proposal is bizarre.

The noble Lord will understand why I am intervening. I emphasise again my relationship with the Friends of the Lake District. There is no reason why such a road should go through the national park. I am saddened that some years back the A66 was chosen as the trunk route through the national park to the west coast because it has completely ruined the whole essence of that fine mountain, Blencathra, which now has traffic running right in front of it. However, if the route went north, avoiding the park, in my view there would be great economic arguments in favour of it because it would bring together the west coast, Carlisle and Newcastle, which make an interrelated growth area for the region.

I was perhaps unwise to embark on this, and I shall say no more about it. The noble Lord has clearly given much thought to the matter. However, to my mind it would be bizarre if the national park were not consulted.

I shall deal briefly with the six amendments in my name in this group. Four of them concern the problems that confront disabled people when dealing with the planning system. Amendment No. 183 suggests that the register of applications should be available,

“in formats accessible to disabled people”.

Clearly, this applies particularly to the visually handicapped, and seems to me a sensible thing to do. There should already be an obligation to do this under the Disability Discrimination Act, but I am advised that a large number of authorities and others do not do it.

As regards Amendment No. 186, it seems to me obvious that applicants should consult organisations which represent handicapped people. That ought to be in the Bill. Amendment No. 197, to which the noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington, referred, also concerns disability, and seeks to double the period for response to an application. Documents that are produced in a format which disabled people and blind people can use often arrive days or even weeks after the original consultation. Are the 28 days to apply to those documents? The Government would be wise to consider a longer period here. The amendment suggests 56 days.

Amendment No. 201 suggests that, as well as advertising in the press, the statement should be advertised in a talking newspaper in the area, if one is available. This seems to me an obvious point. The other two amendments on disability in my name in this group, Amendments Nos. 193A and 225A, raise a very different point, but one which has given rise to a good deal of concern. The purpose of these amendments is to delete certain subsections in Clauses 43 and 55 respectively to limit the span of consultation to what is reasonable and achievable. These clauses concern people who have an interest in land or who the applicant thinks may have a compensation claim under Section 10 of the Compulsory Purchase Act 1965 or Section 1 of the Land Compensation Act 1973. Both Section 1 and Section 10 claims are in principle capable of being made whether or not any land or interest is being compulsorily acquired from the claimant, and so both sections give rise to compensation claims potentially being made in respect of land which is not on the site of the proposed development but could well be affected by it.

A Section 10 claim is a claim for injurious affection for property depreciation exceeding £50 caused by the construction, as opposed to the use, of the relevant infrastructure. A Section 1 claim is a claim caused by the use of the relevant infrastructure. The problem is the near impossibility of identifying with certainty all the land interests in respect of which relevant claims could or might be made. For linear infrastructure, for example a pipeline or overhead electricity line, a judgment would have to be made as to how far away a property would have to be before it could be safely excluded from the notification requirements. This could involve tens of thousands of properties having to be notified if the proposed infrastructure was 50 kilometres long. We have had much discussion about airports. If Heathrow airport is expanded with the addition of a third runway, the number of people who will be affected must run certainly into hundreds of thousands, and possibly into millions. The relevant clauses seem to suggest that they would all have to be notified, which does not seem to me feasible. The notification process requires a written notice to be sent to each of the property owners affected. I should have thought it would be completely impossible to accomplish that with 100 per cent accuracy. If it were not 100 per cent accurate, somebody would claim in court that they should have had a notification but had not received one, and therefore the whole process would have to be quashed.

I do not know quite what is intended here. It seems to me that, as the Bill stands, there is no limit to the area of notification. That seems to take one into the realms of pure impossibility. That is what lawyers tell me and that seems to me a credible interpretation. However, it may not be what the Government intend. I hope that the noble Baroness will explain this or agree to bring forward amendments at a later stage which might allay the anxieties which have been expressed.

I support the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Judd. I do not want to take more than a few seconds of the Committee’s time; the noble Lord has said all that needs to be said. With the greatest respect to the Minister, her reply to the equivalent amendment on Tuesday was really quite inadequate. The national parks are the planning experts in their area, much more so than any local authority. They are indirectly appointed by local authorities and by the Secretary of State. I am not asking her to revisit the matter today, but I hope that she will have a rather more sympathetic approach on Report.

I support the amendment proposed by my noble friend. I shall speak to Amendment No. 188. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington, for his support for the amendment.

Last Tuesday, we debated the impact of the forthcoming marine Bill on this legislation. Here, we are considering the pre-application phase and the role of local authorities in the pre-application phase. I favour that approach, which certainly has considerable advantages, in the sense that it is capable of getting out some of the difficulties in the early stages of planning procedure.

The marine Bill will bring into place the Marine Management Organisation, about which the Minister who was replying for the Government said:

“We expect the IPC to draw on the expertise of the MMO. The MMO can add additional conditions to an order granting development consent if new information comes to light and can even revoke consents if necessary. The MMO will be responsible for the monitoring and enforcement of IPC consents, and the Planning Bill guidance will detail the nature of the advice that will need to be given by the MMO to the IPC. My understanding is that there will also be a memorandum of understanding to formalise the arrangement. MMO enforcement officers will use Marine Bill powers to enforce the system”.—[Official Report, 14/10/08; col. 694.]

Clearly, the MMO will be a considerable arbiter in all matters concerning marine planning, and yet there is no requirement in the pre-application phase to involve the MMO or, in advance of its arrival on the scene, the Marine and Fisheries Agency—that is why the reference in the amendment is to “the relevant marine body”. I hope that the noble Baroness will be able to respond favourably to my amendment, which would greatly enhance the process in terms of marine applications or applications affecting the marine environment by having the body as a formal consultee at an earlier stage, rather than bringing it in to have a row with the new authority afterwards.

I support the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor. Regarding the statutory consultees in the marine sphere, should the relevant general lighthouse authority also be included as a mandatory consultee? In particular with the development of offshore wind farms, the authority is responsible for assessing the risks of the development to the safety of navigation and considering how best to mitigate those risks regarding the positioning of the development, the marking of it, if necessary, by day or by night and whether it needs to be buoyed. It is important that it should be consulted, because safety of navigation is vital and will become more so as we see the proliferation of offshore wind farms as proposed by the Government.

I beg to move that the House be resumed.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.