Committee (9th Day) (Continued)
152ZE: Schedule 10, page 318, line 3, at end insert—
“( ) a statement of consultation undertaken on the proposals in the preparation of the order, including particulars of how paragraph 3A of this Schedule has been complied with, any responses to consultations received and the account taken of those responses.”
I shall speak also to Amendments 152BA and 152BB. These amendments propose that those undertaking a neighbourhood plan should have a duty to engage with people in the neighbourhood area at an early stage in the development of the plan. Of course, the plan has to be tested by a referendum in due course, but that is at the end of the process when the effort and expense have largely been incurred. Amendment 152ZE requires that proposals for neighbourhood development orders should be accompanied by a statement of consultation covering the responses received and how they have been taken into account. Amendment 152BA imposes a requirement to consult. This should be in the manner which the local authority considers to be consistent with good practice and, where relevant, the local authority’s statement of community involvement. These are straightforward amendments and I beg to move.
My Lords, I have an amendment in the group which has nothing to do with the Bill, and I apologise to my noble for inserting it. However, it relates to a long-running campaign for the age of voting to be lowered. When it comes to what is happening in their own community, children as young as 14 not only have a real understanding of that, but are also participating in what is going on and have an interest in the things a community might be doing to improve itself. We should look for ways of involving them.
My Lords, I have tabled Amendment 153ZAKA in this group. It is probing in nature and probably does not require an immediate answer. Your Lordships are unlikely to remember that at Second Reading I expressed a concern that bad neighbour developments might possibly end up in neighbourhoods or parishes where the opposition to such a bad neighbourhood development was likely to be the least vocal. I gather that this is a phenomenon which happens even today, and with a neighbourhood planning system is probably more likely to happen in the future. The reason a neighbourhood is not vocal may be that it is already a deprived area or it is one which for a variety of reasons lacks the capacity, the personalities, the knowledge or possibly just an understanding of this new system and the way things work. It may also lack the funding to commit itself to the preparation of a neighbourhood plan or organising a referendum and so on. Even without the threat of a bad neighbour development, it is likely that many parishes and neighbourhoods lack the time and capacity to organise a cohesive plan which, it is hoped, would promote development and progress. I do not believe that these sorts of communities will be able to compete within the new system.
I was struck by some briefing that I received from the Highgate Society, which, albeit in a completely different context, said—I paraphrase—that people have jobs, children and lives to manage and do not want to take responsibility for what they pay their taxes to government, particularly local government, to do. This applies particularly to deprived neighbourhoods or to people within rural parishes who do not necessarily have the ability to counteract either an articulate middle class who might share their parish or someone with a bee in their bonnet who does necessarily consider the effects of their grievance on the whole community. Perhaps I may paraphrase, or plagiarise, a Chinese proverb—I am not quite sure that it is a Chinese proverb, but, if it is not, it should be: a man with a job or income that pays for more than his basic needs has many choices as to how he spends his time, but a man who struggles to earn his basic needs has only one choice. Very often in rural communities, the poorest people do not get involved because they focus on other needs.
Although the whole localism agenda is a very worthy cause, many people will need a lot of help to play their part. It is vital that the Government devote considerable thought and resources to working out how they help all communities to do that. It is the very communities who are least likely to play their part and pick up the baton who are probably in most need of the localism agenda. I hope that the Government will be prepared to spend a lot of time and resources on developing capacity in those neighbourhoods. It would be good if they could respond positively and state exactly how they are going to set about this.
My Lords, before the Minister responds, perhaps I may comment on the amendments which have just been moved. I thoroughly support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Cameron. Issues around capacity are vital, not only to the planning aspects of the Bill but to the whole issue of localism and whether people can make a reality of it. The impact assessment sets out the range of figures that might be involved in developing neighbourhood plans and holding referenda. Those are not small figures—I have forgotten what the range is, but it is not insignificant.
If there is not proper capacity building, proper training and proper funding, then, as the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, said, the people who will be able to take advantage of these arrangements will be the better off. They will inevitably—from their point of view not unreasonably—use them for their benefit and not necessarily for the benefit of the community as a whole. We should guard against that.
As regards the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, he wishes for people to be involved in the referendum from the age of 14. I do not disagree with that but, as the schedule is constructed, to be able to vote in a referendum you need to be able to vote for your councillor in the first place. You therefore need to be 18 years of age and so he might need a slightly different amendment. However, the concept of involving young people in their neighbourhood is absolutely right and I support it.
My Lords, I can be reasonably helpful over all of these amendments. On the first amendment, the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, is concerned about putting a requirement for consultation in the Bill. That is not necessary. We do not believe that it ought to be in primary legislation, anyway. The right place for consultation is in secondary legislation and the Government have appropriate powers to do this. I say that the amendment is inappropriate not because the provisions are there already but because consultation is about to take place in this area. We shall congregate in the summer and I hope that by the time we meet again we will have some views on the issue. I hope that will satisfy the noble Lord.
On Amendment 153A, our approach has already been to encourage consultation and participation as early as possible. Proposals can only proceed to examination if they have been the subject of consultation with the wider community and it has to be made clear that that has been done. However, as I say, there will be more consultation on consultation over the summer.
As to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, the Government have already undertaken to implement a package of measures to ensure that neighbourhood planning is successful and to strengthen people’s ability and understanding of how to do it. In order to help with this, we have already given more than £3 million to four organisations which are tasked with providing the training, back-up and experience for neighbourhood forums to access so that they receive the support they need. We are also considering whether to provide direct financial assistance to neighbourhood forums for very much the same purpose. The intention is there and it is well understood.
As regards the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, it is a requirement that those who take part in a referendum have to be entitled to vote in a council election on the day of the referendum. As the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, said, someone aged 14 is not entitled to vote in a council election and, therefore, they would not be entitled to vote in the referendum. We believe that it should be only people who are eligible to vote in council elections. These are the people who elect local councillors—and the local councils then go on ultimately to make the final planning decisions —and we believe that it is right that only those aged 18 and above should be involved in these referendums.
With those explanations, I hope the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for her response. We look forward to the consultation on the consultation when we return after the Recess, which we hope will deal fully with the point. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 152ZE withdrawn.
Amendments 152A to 152AB not moved.
152B: Schedule 10, page 318, line 26, at end insert—
(a) a proposal by a qualifying body is made by an organisation or body designated as a neighbourhood forum, and (b) the designation is withdrawn at any time before the proposal is submitted for independent examination under paragraph 7,the proposal is to be treated as withdrawn by the qualifying body at that time.(3) If the withdrawal of the designation occurs after the proposal is submitted for independent examination under that paragraph, the withdrawal is not to affect the validity of the proposal.”
Amendment 152B agreed.
Amendments 152ZBA to 153A not moved.
Amendments 153AA to 153AE
153AA: Schedule 10, page 324, line 27, after “14” insert “, and (if applicable) an additional referendum in accordance with paragraph 14A,”
153AB: Schedule 10, page 324, line 30, after “referendum” insert “(or referendums)”
153AC: Schedule 10, page 325, line 1, after “referendum” insert “(or referendums)”
153AD: Schedule 10, page 325, line 5, after “referendum” insert “(or referendums)”
153AE: Schedule 10, page 325, line 8, at end insert “(or referendums)”
Amendments 153AA to 153AE agreed.
Amendment 153AEA not moved.
Amendments 153AF to 153AH
153AF: Schedule 10, page 326, line 29, at end insert—
“14A (1) The additional referendum mentioned in paragraph 12(4) must be held on the making of a neighbourhood development order if the draft order relates to a neighbourhood area that has been designated as a business area under section 61GA.
(2) Sub-paragraph (2) of paragraph 14 is to apply in relation to the additional referendum as it applies in relation to a referendum under that paragraph.
(3) A person is entitled to vote in the additional referendum if on the prescribed date—
(a) the person is a non-domestic ratepayer in the referendum area, or(b) the person meets such other conditions as may be prescribed.(4) “Non-domestic ratepayer” has the same meaning as in Part 4 of the Local Government Act 2003 (see section 59(1)).
(5) Regulations may make provision for excluding a person’s entitlement to vote in the additional referendum.”
153AG: Schedule 10, page 326, line 31, at end insert “or 14A”
153AH: Schedule 10, page 327, line 10, after “14” insert “or 14A”
Amendments 153AF to 153AH agreed.
Schedule 10, as amended, agreed.
Schedule 11 : Neighbourhood planning: community right to build orders
Amendment 153AHA not moved.
Amendments 153AJ and 153AK
153AJ: Schedule 11, page 331, line 8, after “by” insert “sub-paragraphs (2) to (5) of”
153AK: Schedule 11, page 331, line 29, at end insert—
“(5A) In consequence of the provision made by sub-paragraphs (2) to (5) of this paragraph—
(a) paragraph 12(7) to (9) of Schedule 4B have effect as if the words “(or referendums)” were omitted, and(b) that Schedule has effect as if paragraph 14A (and references to that paragraph) were omitted.”
Amendments 153AJ and 153AK agreed.
Schedule 11, as amended, agreed.
Clause 102 : Charges for meeting costs relating to neighbourhood planning
153ZZAKA: Clause 102, Page 80, line 40, leave out “may” and insert “must”
My Lords, I shall speak also to the other amendments in the group. These amendments are about charges for neighbourhood development orders and would amend Clauses 102 to 105, which are about charges for meeting costs related to neighbourhood planning and financial assistance in relation to neighbourhood planning.
The Bill states:
“The Secretary of State may with the consent of the Treasury make regulations providing for the imposition of charges for the purpose of meeting expenses incurred … by local planning authorities”,
relating to neighbourhood planning functions. As regards the phrase:
“The Secretary of State may … make regulations”,
we say that this should be “must”. Without being able to levy charges, local planning authorities risk being seriously out of pocket. Will the Minister confirm that the expenses which will be reimbursable through these charges include the cost of organising a referendum?
An important question is when the charges have to be paid. The Bill says that it will be,
“when the development is commenced”.
But that means that all the costs of the local planning authority, including the cost of a referendum and examination, may never be recouped if the development does not take place. We are proposing amendments that suggest that the charge should be paid when the draft neighbourhood development order is submitted to the local planning authority by the parish council or the neighbourhood forum, as with an ordinary planning application. Why should this be different and why should the local planning authority, the council, have to carry this cost, perhaps for ever?
An alternative amendment suggests that the cost should be levied when the local planning authority resolves to hold a referendum—in other words, the costs begin when it is really serious and after the decision has been made whether it should go ahead to a referendum. Again, the risk is that the local planning authority is seriously out of pocket due to things that are completely out of its control. This could make a very serious hole in its budget, especially if it is quite a small district council.
The second issue in this group relates to financial assistance by the Secretary of State in relation to neighbourhood planning. The amendments suggest that the first need is to publicise the changes in the planning system. What will the Government be doing to tell people about the changes in this Bill, if and when it becomes law?
The main amendment is to probe who the Government intend should receive this money and how much is involved. The Minister has mentioned that some money has already been paid out to organisations to provide support and training. Forty pilots have been announced and have been funded to the tune of a relatively small amount of money. The Minister can no doubt tell us what that sum is. Why, therefore, is this provision needed, if money can already be provided to pilots? Why do we have to have a separate provision in this Bill allowing this money to be spent? What extra things will it be spent on that it could not be spent on at the moment?
The Bill provides for,
“the provision of financial assistance … to any body or other person”—
which may involve,
“the making of agreements or other arrangements with any body or other person”.
Who does this refer to? Does it include parish councils and local planning authorities, or is it restricted only to neighbourhood forums? Clearly, we are back to the difference between a parished area, with a parish council, and an unparished area with a neighbourhood forum. What kind of bodies are likely to get this money and what are they expected to do with it? What are the processes for handing out this money? How is it going to be decided who to give it to? If neighbourhood planning takes off in a big way, one assumes that the amount of money that the Government have available will not be sufficient to seriously subsidise everybody. Therefore, they will have to choose one way or the other. I beg to move.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, has raised a series of what seem to be quite pertinent questions and I look forward to the Minister’s response. I will just comment on two of the amendments. In Amendment 153ZZAKA, the noble Lord suggests that there has to be a “must” in respect of making regulations—although I see the force of the argument that most, or all, local authorities would be daft not to, we are dealing with localism and I do not see why the discretion should not be with the local authorities. I may have missed it, but I think that Amendment153ZZAKF deletes a right to enforce in the case of death or insolvency. I think that is the thrust of the amendment, but I was not quite sure what it was about. Perhaps I misunderstood but it would be helpful if the noble Lord could clarify that.
My Lords, I can probably enlighten the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, on what his amendment was about when we get to it. Amendments 153ZZAKA to 153ZZAKF all relate to the provisions on charges that we started discussing in the last group. Amendment 153ZZAKA would make it a requirement for the Government to introduce regulations imposing such charges. It is our intention to introduce charges that would be payable by developers on development that has been given permission by a neighbourhood development order. However, that is not to say that, in future, a decision could not be made to meet some of the costs of neighbourhood planning in a different way. We do not, therefore, wish to tie our hands by making it a requirement to regulate in this way. Having said that, before the next stage I would like to test out the business of when the charges are paid so that I can have a sensible answer about it. It is very late for a charge to be made at a time when permission has been given and just before development.
Amendment 153ZZAKB would specify that the costs that can be covered by such charges include the cost of holding a referendum. That is already implicit in the current provisions, and specifying a single cost like this could be taken to imply that other costs have been excluded. They have not, and that would be included.
Amendments 153ZZAKC and 153AKD both relate to the point at which any charge should be made. I am sorry—I leapt in on the previous amendment with what I should have said on this one. Our view is that developers should pay a charge when development commences. We just need to get a little more advice on that, and as to why it is there. It would be more helpful if the fee and charge were made earlier. I will come back to that.
Amendment 153ZZAKE says that, when charges are imposed in relation to a local development order, the charge must be made before the authority takes any further action in relation to that order. The provisions do not extend to local development orders. In the case of neighbourhood development orders, if full permission has been given for development, there may be no further action for a local planning authority to take. So this provision would have no teeth.
Amendment 153ZZAKF would restrict the ability of the Secretary of State to make regulations about the collection and enforcement of charges on a neighbourhood development order. This was the amendment that the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, could not quite remember. The consequence would be that charges would still apply in relation to neighbourhood development orders, but the collection and enforcement of those charges would be constrained. These powers are designed to ensure that the regulations can deal flexibly and efficiently with changes in circumstances or with problems which become apparent in the future.
There were five amendments on financial assistance. Amendments 153ZZAKG, 153ZZAKH and 153ZZAKJ relate to the provisions on financial assistance for neighbourhood planning. Amendments 153ZZAKG, 153ZZAKH seek to prevent the provision of financial assistance for promoting the benefits of neighbourhood planning, and Amendment 153ZZAKJ seeks to prevent assistance being given to other bodies or individuals. We believe that, in addition to central government funding to local planning authorities for their neighbourhood planning functions, communities that wish to engage in shaping their future should receive support. This could be achieved through funding an independent advice service, through direct funding of neighbourhood groups or through a mixture of both approaches. We would not want to rule those out. The amendments would limit our flexibility.
I recognise the concerns behind Amendments 153ZZAKG and 153ZZAKH. It is certainly not our intention to finance reams of propaganda in support of neighbourhood planning. But we do want to ensure that communities, especially those communities with little prior knowledge of the planning system, can understand what neighbourhood planning can do for them. This is what this provision is aimed at. Similarly, Clause 105(2) would allow us to enter into contracts with training providers or to give grants to voluntary sector organisations to work with communities to help them realise their goals. That reinforces what I said to the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, under previous amendments. It is important that when these neighbourhood forums are set up they have the support they need to enable them to do the job that has been put before them. I hope that that answers the noble Lord’s questions and that he can withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for her reply but it does not really take us much further than we can deduce simply by reading the Bill. Concerning financial assistance, I am trying to find out how it is going to work, how much money there will be, who will be responsible for handing out the dosh, how people apply for it and who then makes a decision between the different people applying. Perhaps the Minister does not have any of that information, but that is what I was really trying to probe. Does she agree that somebody can write down what the Government’s thinking is, as far as it goes, together with who has had the money so far and on what basis they have been chosen? Would it be possible to write about that?
My Lords, I will certainly write. Regarding the four organisations that have already received the money, I think there was a full tendering exercise but I will certainly ensure that the noble Lord has the details he asked for. I regret that, both when listening to him and reading his amendments, I was not aware of quite the details that he was looking for but with him having made them clear now, I will make sure that he has answers to them.
That is fair enough. When you put down amendments to delete pieces of Bills to probe things, it is sometimes difficult to get through exactly what you are trying to get at. Concerning the charges, the amendments that I put down should be seen as a whole. Individually, they make no sense at all but, taken as a whole, I am trying to suggest that the point at which the charge is being levied is too late at the moment—the Minister had some sympathy with that and is going to look at it—and that it should be paid upfront. People should go in and hand their money over the counter, or however they pay, rather than being sent a bill and then having all this chasing and enforcement procedure. In the amendment that the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, did not understand, I was just taking out all the chasing-up-the-money procedures. If you take a planning application in and do not hand your money over, your application is not dealt with; it is as simple as that. It seems to me that the same thing should apply for this.
However, the Minister said that she would look at this other point and I look forward to learning the results of her researches. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 153ZZAKA withdrawn.
Amendments 153ZZAKB to 153ZZAKE not moved.
Clause 102 agreed.
Clause 103 : Regulations under section 102: collection and enforcement
Amendment 153ZZAKF not moved.
Clause 103 agreed.
Clause 104 agreed.
Clause 105 : Financial assistance in relation to neighbourhood planning
Amendments 153ZZAKG to 153ZAKA not moved.
Clause 105 agreed.
Amendment 153AKA not moved.
Clause 106 agreed.
Amendments 153AKB and 153AKC not moved.
Schedule 12 : Neighbourhood planning: consequential amendments
Amendment 153AKD not moved.
153AL: Schedule 12, page 336, line 19, leave out “section 61F or 61G” and insert “any of sections 61F to 61GA”
Amendment 153AL agreed.
Schedule 12, as amended, agreed.
Clause 107 : Consultation before applying for planning permission
153AM: Clause 107, page 84, leave out lines 33 to 35 and insert—
“Consultation: code of best practice61W Code of best practice for consultation
(1) The Secretary of State must publish and keep under review a code of practice relating to the carrying out of consultation in cases where—”
My Lords, I shall discuss with this amendment the three others in the group. I can deal with Amendments 153AM and 153AN very briefly. What is proposed here is that instead of having all these requirements laid out in statutes, where they become rigid and less amended, they should form part of a code of practice. That should have exactly the same effect but can be tailored to suit the changing circumstances of the time.
Amendment 153AM is the paving amendment, as it were, but Amendment 153AN would take out almost a page of the statute. It seems to me that is a sensible way of trying to deal with the requirements on pre-consultation. If one is dealing with the major infrastructure units which will go the IPC or to MIPU, then of course there has to be a very substantial programme of pre-consultation. I welcome the Government’s proposal to extend the same sort of provision to the ordinary planning application.
The last amendment in the group in my name is Amendment 153C. This raises an interesting point which was put to me by the United Kingdom Business Council for Sustainable Energy. That body is puzzled as to why the Government have decided that the relevant measure must be statutory. The Government have stated in the past that it is for the developer to decide what level of consultation is proportionate and appropriate. However, Clause 107 amends Section 61 of the Town and Country Planning Act by adding a range of provisions, including new Section 61Y, headed “Power to make supplementary provision”—my amendment proposes to take that out—which allows for local authorities to make a development order to set out publicity and consultation requirements which the developer will be required to follow. There is clearly a contradiction between these two requirements: the Government having stated that it is for the developer to decide the level of consultation, and the Bill stating that the development order will set out requirements in that regard. Therefore, Amendment 153C is a probing amendment to explore the divergence between what appeared to be the Government’s stated objective of allowing developers to decide what is proportionate and this new facility for local authorities to define what must be done through the new Section 61Y powers. I look forward to my noble friend’s reply. I beg to move.
My Lords, I rise to speak to Amendment 153B, which is grouped with the amendments of my noble friend Lord Jenkin of Roding, although it is on a rather different theme. I believe that this amendment has the support of most of those concerned with the cultural heritage of this country, and certainly of those concerned with the understanding of the prehistoric and early historic past of our land. It is needed to ensure that the Bill ensures that heritage issues are not ignored in the course of development.
Members of your Lordships' House will recall that the Heritage Protection Bill, which was supposed to be given consideration in the previous Parliament, had the intention of placing the maintenance of the historic environment record as a statutory duty upon local planning authorities. That did not happen, nor is it proposed here, but it is imperative that all developments have some regard to the historic environment and take steps not to damage it, or at least to do so only after careful consideration and with any necessary actions by way of mitigation.
These obligations do not appear on the face of the Bill and it seems very desirable that they should do so. It seems that as part of the new neighbourhood development plan process there will be no opportunity to carry out pre-application assessment in the same way as for other development under the normal planning application process. This is all the more serious since most archaeological sites are undesignated; that is, they are not scheduled monuments or otherwise protected. This point was discussed earlier in relation to Amendment 145B. This leaves a glaring loophole in the Bill.
My amendment is drawn up in such a form as to place on the developer the obligation to seek the advice of the local planning authority about the historic environment. That implies that the local authority must have access to the relevant historic environment record. This amendment deliberately sets no obligation upon each local planning authority to maintain such a record. Ideally, each will have its own record, but there may be cases where two or three local planning authorities can share a single historic environment record. We are not setting out to be prescriptive in that respect, but it is implied in the amendment that the authority shall at least have access to such a record. Is it conceivable that development should go ahead without the local authority giving consideration to the historic environment on the basis of good and up-to-date information?
My Lords, I shall speak briefly to Amendment 153AM and to express some sympathy with it. I very much welcome the principle of pre-application consultation in a range of applications, particularly for major projects and so on. It has been working in Scotland and there are some benefits to that because there is the ability then to take into account at an early stage the product of that consultation and to feed it back in.
My worry is the one expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, about the rigidity that can creep into the statutory provisions that can sometimes provide a hurdle for developers to get over—and, frankly, they cannot do without lawyers’ advice. While I am more than happy for lawyers to be employed on this, there are limits.
I ask the Government to see whether or not we can get a system that puts the principles into the statute but leaves a lot of the way in which it is done to guidance, and we should not thereby get into a situation where applications fail because one person who might have been expected to be consulted has not been—or something of that nature. That is not to detract in any way from the principle that there must be adequate consultation and, within it, an obligation on the individual developer or applicant to respond positively to the consultation exercise. Let us not get into a rigidity.
My Lords, we support the thrust of the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, about local planning authorities having access to the relevant historic environment records. That must be right, and it follows on from our earlier discussion. I do not know how practical or easy it would be to put in place, but it is something we should require and strive towards.
As to the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, he posed a conundrum about the operation of proposed new Section 61Y, and I look forward to the Minister’s response. I thought that I was sure of my ground on the first amendments relating to retaining in statute the issues about requiring pre-application consultation. It is therefore with some hesitation that I disagree with my noble and learned friend Lord Boyd. I can understand the need for a degree of flexibility, but I do not see within the amendment something that is unduly rigid, although I am prepared to be swayed on that issue. However, I would need some persuading that we should adjust the Bill in that respect, but the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, has raised an interesting point on new Section 61Y and the possible conflicts therein. I wait to see how that is to be resolved. I support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew.
My Lords, I thank noble Lords who have spoken to this series of amendments. Clause 107 sets out a light-touch set of requirements for prospective applicants for planning permission to publicise their development proposals so that members of the community have an opportunity to comment or collaborate on the design at an early stage. Instead, the amendments would require a prospective applicant to have regard to a code of best practice for consultation set out at the national level by the Secretary of State. It is not necessary or appropriate to set out detailed national standards. There should be flexibility for each consultation to be tailored to the unique circumstances and characteristics of the development proposed and the host area.
Furthermore, we do not consider ourselves as the Government to be the leading expert in consultation techniques. This is a fast evolving, creative area of practice which we do not want to stifle. Our intention is to be light-touch. Setting out standards in that way would also introduce an additional and potentially unpopular test of compliance for developers. The Government have made very clear that we want to reduce the amount of policy and guidance on the planning application process. Even if it was introduced with the best of intentions, a code of practice on pre-application consultation would only add to the list. Similarly, we do not want to start expanding the overall purpose of pre-application discussions. We see that is something that takes place between developers and local communities, with local authority involvement optional.
Amendment 153B would compel developers through statute to consider heritage matters at pre-application stage. That would duplicate existing national planning policy and go far beyond the original intention of the provision. Should the need to set up further procedural requirements arise in future, new Section 61Y sets out a power to make supplementary regulations about consultation procedures. The Government would consider carefully the impact of introducing any additional prescription to the policy through those regulation-making powers.
Clause 107(2) is necessary to ensure that developers submit evidence to the local planning authority of what consultation they have undertaken and the account taken of those responses. In line with the Government's commitment to sunsetting new legislation, Clause 107(3) and (4) ensures that the new duty is reviewed in future, by providing that it will cease to have effect after seven years unless it is extended by order.
I trust that, with those reassurances, the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.
Before the noble Lord does so—this is a slightly cheeky intervention—my noble friend said that the Government did not believe in telling people in great detail how to carry out consultation because they were not experts on it and because it is a fast- moving area. Why do they, therefore, in so many parts of the Bill take a very different view when it comes to consultation by local authorities?
My Lords, I have to say that during discussion on the Bill, noble Lords are constantly saying that the Government are being too prescriptive, on the one hand; or, on the other hand, that the Government need regulations or some backstop somewhere. It seems to me that there is balance in all things. What I have read out is the balance perceived at this point. This is Committee, so, as always, the comments of noble Lords will be taken into account.
My Lords, I am grateful for that last comment and most grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Boyd of Duncansby, for his support for my amendment. It is extraordinary how differently those of us on the Back Benches and my noble friends on the Front Benches can view the same proposal. In my innocence, I thought that a code of practice was rather simpler than a substantial statutory provision. Obviously, my noble friend Lord Shutt does not think so. We will look to see whether it is necessary to come back to this; I will certainly take advice. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 153AM withdrawn.
Amendments 153AN to 153C not moved.
Clause 107 agreed.
153D: Before Clause 108, insert the following new Clause—
“Notice requiring application for planning permission for development already carried out
After section 70 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 insert—
“70A Notice requiring application for planning permission for development already carried out
Where, in view of the planning authority, there is a breach of planning permission or the local authority’s planning policy, the planning authority may issue a notice—
(a) requiring the owner of the land in, on, over or under which the development has been carried out to make an application to them for planning permission for the development;(b) describing the development in a way that is sufficient to identify it; and(c) specifying a date by which the application is to be made.””
My Lords, Amendment 153D concerns retrospective planning permissions. It says that, where there is a breach of planning control, the planning authority must issue a notice,
“requiring the owner of the land in, on, over or under which the development has been carried out to make an application to them for planning permission for the development … describing the development in a way that is sufficient to identify it; and … specifying a date by which the application is to be made”.
While the purpose of the clause is, at face value, good, it is suggested that it will not significantly shorten the timescale for inappropriate unauthorised development to be removed. Although the clause seeks to prevent developers running a ground (a) appeal and a retrospective planning application at the same time, it should be borne in mind that, in the event that a retrospective application is submitted closely followed by an enforcement notice, a right of appeal against the refusal of planning permission will still exist. If the intention is to retain this right of appeal, then any appeal, including the appellant’s statement, should be submitted within 28 days of the date of refusal. The appeal should then be automatically converted to a ground (a) enforcement appeal so that in essence only one appeal is running.
However, Clause 108 still fails to deal with developers who carry out unauthorised development and who refuse to submit a retrospective planning application to regularise such development. Where the development is inappropriate, it can be dealt with by a notice. However, where it would not be expedient to take formal action, there is no sanction. This causes problems, especially where neighbours have done the right thing and applied for permission while they see a developer cocking a snook at the system and getting away with it.
The planning system should be an open and transparent method of regulating development. Many of the people who decide to circumvent the system avoid the public consultation process, and that must be contrary to the aims of localism. In addition, it puts an onus on the local authority to investigate and evaluate the proposal at the authority’s expense when the developer is making a gain. As one planning enforcement officer affirmed, it is important that the public have confidence that the system does not allow rogue developers to continue to take advantage. We suggest that any developer who has carried out unauthorised development should be compelled to submit a retrospective planning application, with a suitable sanction by way of a fixed penalty notice for double the appropriate fee if they fail to do so, and this amendment should be incorporated into the Localism Bill.
I am advised by the RTPI that the amendment is based on Section 33A of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997, as amended by the Planning etc. (Scotland) Act 2006. I beg to move.
My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 154, which is grouped with Amendment 153D.
Clause 108 inserts a new Section 70C into the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 and gives the local planning authority the power to decline to determine a planning application if the grant of permission would involve granting, whether in relation to the whole or any part of the land to which an enforcement notice relates, permission in respect of the whole or any part of the matters specified in the enforcement notice as constituting a breach of planning control.
We had a brief discussion, interrupted by a Division, with the Minister and her advisers on new Section 70C a couple of weeks ago, and I hope that in the light of that discussion, the Minister will have had second thoughts about the consequences that it might have.
I should like to make two preliminary observations. The vast majority of retrospective planning applications are not made by Gypsies and Travellers, but power conferred on local authorities by Clause 108 is discretionary. In the discussion that we had, it was clear that we all envisage that it will be used predominantly to put a stop to appeals by members of those communities against refusal of their planning applications for unauthorised developments.
The Secretary of State said on 29 August last year, referring to the CLG's announcement of that date, that he was looking at ways to strengthen the powers available to councils to more effectively tackle unauthorised development and that these developments have caused tensions between Travellers and the settled population. The announcement was not about unauthorised development in general. Yet I think it was also agreed at our meeting a couple of weeks ago that it would have been unlawful for the Government to have designed this clause with Gypsies and Travellers as a target, as Mr Pickles made clear they did. I would be grateful for the Minister's comments on this difficulty that I have with the clause.
The proposal in new Section 70C of the TCPA 1990, to which this amendment relates, when taken together with the amendment to Section 174 of the Act relating to appeals against enforcement notices, goes far beyond the stated intention of preventing delays caused by the running of concurrent or consecutive appeals. If these provisions become law, a local planning authority would be able to use the new power in Section 174(2)(a) to issue an enforcement notice within the period specified in Section 78(2), which I understand is eight weeks, after receiving a planning application for retrospective permission for a Gypsy site, and then use the power in new Section 70C to refuse to determine the application. The applicant would then be estopped from appealing against the enforcement notice, given the wording of Section 174(2)(a), and would have no ability to argue that the planning merits justified the grant of planning permission for the development. Instead of there being no second appeal on the merits, there would be no appeal at all. The applicant could go for judicial review of the decision not to determine the application, but the local planning authority would almost certainly defeat any such challenge by relying on the legislation.
It may be that local planning authorities will decide not to use their powers or will fail to do so within eight weeks, but experience suggests that enforcement powers will be used enthusiastically by local planning authorities in Gypsy and Traveller cases. It is possible that where no enforcement action has been taken before a site is developed, Travellers could decide not to make a retrospective planning application but instead simply wait until an enforcement notice is issued and then appeal against the notice. The amendments to the 1990 Act in this clause will not debar a ground (a) appeal in such circumstances. However, local planning authorities often do not bother to issue enforcement notices; instead, they simply apply for an injunction under Section 187B of the 1990 Act against unauthorised developments.
In most cases, the target family's best way of defending such a claim has been to show that they have sought planning permission and that their application has a realistic chance of success, but given the provisions of Clause 108, such a course may not be open to them. The only recourse would be to argue that the authority should serve an enforcement notice before seeking an injunction, giving them the opportunity to appeal and have their case determined on the merits. However, the chances are that such an argument would be unsuccessful and if the court accepted it, the ensuing delay would be contrary to the Government's aim of stopping retrospective applications whatever their planning merits.
So, this amendment provides that the enforcement notice must not only have been issued but also have taken effect. Clause 108 could not then be used by planning authorities to issue an enforcement notice after an application for planning permission has been made, thus preventing any appeal on the merits of the development being heard. Secondly, it would prevent appeals only for three years after an enforcement notice took effect, so that land would not be permanently sterilised, and changed circumstances would be arguable at a planning appeal brought more than three years after the enforcement notice was issued. We had a brief discussion in the meeting two weeks ago about this time limit and I would not be absolutely committed to it if the amendment is otherwise acceptable to the Government.
The reason why Gypsies and Travellers have resorted to lodging retrospective planning applications is that there is no land in the whole of the country designated for their use by local planning authorities. This is in stark contrast to the Government's intention, in the national planning policy framework to be published later this month, for a housing bonanza for developers in the green belt, according to Ben Webster, the environment editor of the Times, who has seen a leaked copy of the document. With 20 per cent of those who live in caravans being statutorily homeless, they have had no option but to buy a piece of land that they can develop as a site and then apply for planning permission. The consensus among academics and lawyers who know about these matters is that something like 75 per cent of successful appeals are for retrospective applications. Taking the statistics from the work of Dr Jo Richardson, that would equate to around 100 a year.
Just as that number of families has been enabled to settle down and develop a more sustainable way of life—perhaps many more, when one considers that most appeals are for more than one family—so, when this legislation comes into force, 100 or more families a year are likely to be dumped on the roadside, adding to the 1,000 families on unauthorised developments counted by local authorities at the beginning of the year. At the same time, there are 2,200 caravans on unauthorised developments, some of which may not yet have been subject to planning applications and may thus be caught by Clause 108.
The land that these Gypsies and Travellers occupy in desperation is not always ideal from a planning point of view: but the blame rests squarely on successive Governments, not on the victims of the laissez-faire policies over the five successive decades since I first became involved in Gypsy and Traveller issues. Having a fixed abode is better than being hunted all over the country by planning officers and bailiffs. It means that the gross disadvantage in terms of health, education, access to other public services and social exclusion of the Gypsy and Traveller people can be dealt with more effectively in time. This clause makes the task a great deal harder. I beg the Committee to alleviate its effect by agreeing to the amendment.
My Lords, in supporting Amendment 154, I have very little to add to what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, who covered the main ground. I emphasise that at the moment the legislative proposal does not apply only to Gypsies and Travellers; the double whammy covers everybody who is caught in that situation. I am most grateful to the Minister for the meeting we had earlier, at which I think it was registered that there is a certain amount of confusion between the intended and unintended effects. If the legislation is not amended, not only will there be more confusion, but there is likely to be more contentious litigation and the prospect of a challenge to the legislation's compatibility with human rights.
As the Minister will know, previously the UK Government defended the reliance of the planning system on the right to be heard by an impartial planning inspector. This legislation does not match up to any of that. I look forward to the Minister's response.
My Lords, my Amendment 155 is in this group. After listening to the complexity of the last amendment, I must say that mine is extremely simple. However, it is not quite what I intended to table. It is headed, “Requirement for consultation on retrospective application”, which is exactly what I believe should happen. However, it says that the local planning authority may require an applicant to do this. My view is that the council planning authority should do this.
I have had personal experience in two parts of the country. In my village, local people supported an application to convert a barn opposite into a home and to build a wall two metres high. Suddenly, we found that we were faced with a wall at least two to three metres higher than originally proposed. When we said that we were not consulted, we were told that the builders of the wall had been given retrospective permission. However, it was given without any of the people who had taken an interest in the application, and in many cases supported it, having any idea that the thing had gone back for retrospective permission. I believe that anyone who sent in comments on the original application should certainly be consulted again, but I do not think I intended it to be the applicant doing it. I intended it to be part of the planning procedure. It is a very simple amendment. It cut out the lovely view we all had of the village green, the only unspoilt part, where there are sheep and so forth wandering around. Instead, we have got a wall three metres extra in height. I think this sort of thing is happening to people everywhere, and it should be covered.
My Lords, I have the fourth amendment —Amendment 170CH—in the group, which is a bit of a mixed bag. I also added my name to the first amendment which was tabled by the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie of Luton, and support everything he said about it.
Amendment 170CH is another amendment which originated with the RTPI. I am also grateful for help with it from Vivien Green, who is a planning consultant who lives not very far away from me in Pendle. The amendment would add two new sections to the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. The first would be new Section 106D, “Notification of initiation of development”, the key part of which reads:
“A person who intends to carry out development for which permission has been granted or for which a local development order, a neighbourhood development order or a community right to build order has been made must as soon as practicable after deciding on a date on which to initiate the development inform the local planning authority of that date”.
It also requires the local planning authority to draw attention to this provision when it gives permission for development.
The second new section, Section 106E, “Display of notice during development”, states that,
“A person carrying out relevant development must display a notice containing prescribed information while the development is taking place”,
and gives some more details about the classes of development to which this applies—it obviously would not apply to small developments or simple changes of use—and to some other provisions in relation to it.
There is no doubt that there is a general problem with enforcement. In general, enforcement is something that local planning authorities do not always do as well as they do some of their other tasks. It is seen as something that you do when you have a bit of spare time, perhaps, and it does not get the same resources put into it. That includes enforcement of conditions and of compliance with the details of planning applications. It is our view that a provision that developers and people with planning permission should have to inform the local planning authority when development starts would be of help in this respect.
Such a provision would ensure that checks can then be made on pre-commencement conditions and subsequently that development is proceeding in accordance with approved plans. It is already a mandatory requirement for developers to give 48 hours’ notice of intention to commence work under the building regulations. Of course, developers may use someone other than the council to provide building control, but, nevertheless, many still use the council. Even if a developer is going to use a council building inspector, in a number cases the development can commence by the actions of the developer long before a building control notice is required.
I have been provided with correspondence between the Member of Parliament for Pendle, Andrew Stephenson MP, who was originally contacted by Vivien Green to take this matter up, and Bob Neill, the Minister, whose letter puts the argument about why the Government are not happy about this, which is perhaps what the Minister is going to say. The letter says:
“However, I would be reluctant to impose a further statutory requirement of this nature on developers, in addition to those that apply under Building Regulations and the Community Infrastructure Levy system, particularly when we cannot know whether local planning authorities would be likely to use the information routinely or only exceptionally. If a developer is suspected of having failed to comply with any pre-commencement condition, the local planning authority’s enforcement team is still able to take action”.
However, I think the argument that it is onerous should not be taken too seriously. Filling in a simple form, possibly a prepaid one, to notify the council of the intention to start development is not a great burden and is definitely not in the same league as the CIL system. Where developers are using the local authority for building control purposes, they have to notify them under the building regs. It would be perfectly possible to have a joint form so that there would be hardly any extra work. It has been a statutory duty to notify the planning authority in Scotland since 2009, and developers did not raise this requirement as an issue or a cost when the impact of those changes was assessed recently by the Scottish Government. It is a relatively minor thing for people to do but it could have a significant effect in improving the system of making sure that people are adhering to conditions and to the planning application that has been approved. In our view, it would be a useful small reform. I look forward to the Minister’s comments.
My Lords, this has been an interesting debate as we enter into the enforcement chapter of this part of the Bill. I begin by thanking the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, for his Amendment 153D, which at first hearing seems attractive but is, I think, unworkable. As the noble Lord pointed out, the problem is that there is no sanction if the person required to submit a retrospective application does not do so. I doubt whether failing to make a planning application could be made an offence, given that the authority has the sanction of enforcement action. In any case, a fine and conviction would not generate a planning application. In practice, the planning status of an unauthorised development is often regularised when the property is to be sold, in order to reassure the prospective purchaser. The developer will either make a retrospective application of his own volition or apply for a lawful development certificate, depending on whether the time limits for taking enforcement action have expired. Both of these carry a fee, as noble Lords will know.
In speaking to Amendment 154, my noble friend Lord Avebury, supported by the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, has made interesting points about a possible ambiguity in Clause 108. I can assure my noble friend that it is not our policy for both limbs of Clause 108 to operate on the same case. We see Clause 108 as an either/or process, depending on what happens first. If enforcement action has been taken, the council can decline to determine a retrospective planning application. If a retrospective planning application has been made and the council takes enforcement action in time, there could be no appeal on ground A. The aim is that if someone is seeking to obtain planning permission for an unauthorised development, they should have one bite of the cherry—not two, but they should not be denied their one bite. They must follow the first path that they take, to avoid the ambiguity that can occur.
My noble friend and the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, reported that they had met the Minister, my noble friend Lady Hanham, last week and these concerns were discussed. I am not sure that the three-year time limit proposed by the amendments will necessarily solve the problem identified. However, my noble friend Lord Avebury can be assured that we want the same outcome and we shall continue to consider the points that he has made.
My noble friend used the illustration of Gypsies and Travellers. I emphasise that none of the enforcement provisions in the Bill is aimed at any particular group. It would be invidious to suggest that any particular section of the population was especially prone to breaching planning control.
Amendment 155, tabled by my noble friend Lady Gardner of Parkes, is not necessary, as new Section 61W, to be introduced by Clause 107, which we have just considered, applies to retrospective planning applications in the same way as it applies to standard planning applications. The department has deposited a draft statutory instrument in the House Library that specifies the type of developments to which the pre-application consultation provisions will apply.
On Amendment 170CH in the name of my noble friend Lord Greaves, we are reluctant to impose a further statutory requirement of this nature on developers, particularly when we cannot know whether local planning authorities will be likely to use the information routinely or only exceptionally. If a developer is suspected of having failed to comply with any pre-commencement conditions attached to a planning permission, the authority’s enforcement team is still able to take action after the commencement date, so there is no weakening of enforcement powers once work has started.
We are aware that some local planning authorities have informal arrangements for commencements of work to be notified. Local planning authorities are best placed to decide whether such arrangements are appropriate for their areas and where they consider that they would bring benefits and not impose an unnecessary burden on the applicants.
As I say, this has been an interesting debate, and I hope the noble Lords are reassured by the Government’s proposals in the Bill and that they will not press their amendments to a vote.
The problem with enforcement is that it is inevitably reactive when it depends on people making complaints. However, there is no need for it to be reactive in the case of new developments. We all know just how much annoyance is caused when someone in the street is seen to get away with doing various things for which other people apply for planning permission and pay fees. We all know how someone can do it; they can stretch the system out for quite a long time if they want to do so. A system under which there was automatic notification and inspection of the work would seriously cut down on development that did not have planning permission. As I have said before, the Government say that it is a major imposition to ask people simply to say when they are starting work, but that is not true. The Minister said that we cannot know how many authorities would use this provision. Perhaps the people who are promoting this amendment might try to find out.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. He said that he did not think my amendment could be made to work because it had no sanction, but when I moved the amendment I suggested that one could impose a fixed penalty sanction for failure to comply, which hopefully would deal with his concern.
I support Amendment 170CH, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves. In fact, had I got round to it I would have put my name to it for the reasons that he gave. It seems to me that there could be three notifications: building control; the one that the amendment seeks to introduce; and CIL, which is triggered by the commencement of a development. I offer this to be helpful to the Government. Surely those three regulations could be rolled into one to satisfy the requirements in the noble Lord’s amendment: you could have two out and one in, so you would be ahead of the game.
On the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, and supported by my noble friend Lady Whitaker, I should like to read the record of what the noble Lord said because at this hour I did not follow it in great detail. Certainly I would be very concerned if the perception and the reality were that this clause was principally in place to deal with Gypsy and Traveller families. I know how committed both he and my noble friend are to ensuring that those families have justice. For a brief while when I sat in the noble Lord’s position, I remember answering a Question on this. If I am right, across the country something like the extra provision of one square mile of land would be sufficient to deal with the issue. It is undoubtedly the case that local authorities have not fulfilled their duties in making enough provision. However, I should like to read the record so as to understand better the technicalities of the point made by the noble Lord. Having said that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 153D withdrawn.
Clause 108 : Retrospective planning permission
Amendments 154 and 155 not moved.
Clause 108 agreed.
Clause 109 : Time limits for enforcing concealed breaches of planning control
155A: Clause 109, page 89, line 17, leave out from beginning to “and” in line 19 and insert “apparent breach, or any of the matters constituting the apparent breach, has (to any extent) been deliberately concealed by any person or persons,”
My Lords, in moving the amendment, I thought that it would be useful if I also spoke to the other amendments grouped with it. The need for Amendments 155A to 155C has arisen in the light of case law and difficulties encountered in some recent experiences. Although there is no doubt or disagreement that Clause 109 should be aimed only at the worst cases of concealment—I am sure that all noble Lords know about the case of the house in a barn in Welwyn Hatfield recently decided by the Supreme Court—the Law Society thought that the current drafting could be interpreted more widely. The Government also think that it is important that local planning authorities should be able to reassure landowners who are not responsible for breaches of planning control on their land that they are not in danger of prosecution. My noble friend Lady Hanham has written to noble Lords with an explanation of what the amendments do. Therefore, with the leave of the Committee I do not propose to go into further detail today, but if there are questions, I am happy to write to noble Lords.
Perhaps it would be easier for me to respond to Amendment 156 at the conclusion of the debate on this group. I beg to move.
I shall speak briefly to Amendment 156 concerning the removal of time limits on enforcement. I am not sure whether this is exactly what I was aiming for because I certainly would not want to do anything which would make the enforcement last forever. However, I am quite shocked by the enforcement procedures that have been put in place close to where I am in London. The council has put an enforcement order on a conservation area, but nothing has ever happened. The people have put in French windows and large terraces, and the council was successful in getting an enforcement order. I do not know whether the owners live abroad and I do not know why it has not been possible to get anything done about it, but I wonder whether it might be that despite having the orders, you run out of time and nothing can be done. Perhaps the Minister could clarify whether all those enforcement orders last for ever or only for the time limit within which you can apply for enforcement against something. I am concerned that if a breach has occurred and enforcement action is taken but no result is achieved, the person concerned will get away with it.
My Lords, we have Amendments 156A and 156B in this group, which relate to penalty levels. I thank again the RTPI, which welcomes the increase in penalty level proposed in the Bill but considers that it should be even higher. This, it is argued, will help concentrate the minds of magistrates and help focus on the potential seriousness of offences. Amendment 156A is proposed by way of probing the rationale behind the level set by the Government. Equally probing is the amendment to Clause 110(2)(b), which relates to land situated in Wales. Doubtless there is an extensive and constitutional reason why there is a difference between levels of penalty in England and Wales. Perhaps the Minister could let us know how that works.
On government Amendment 155C, it is a bit odd to serve a notice on somebody and then write them a letter and say, “Well, in a sense, we didn’t mean it”. It seems rather a bizarre solution to an issue which I accept has to be dealt with. I wonder whether there is not a more elegant way of avoiding serving the notice on the landlord in the first instance. There may be other ramifications of not doing so, but to serve a notice and then to say, “Well, don’t worry—we’re not going to prosecute”, seems rather an odd thing for government to do.
My Lords, perhaps I may address first the amendment proposed by my noble friend Lady Gardner of Parkes. Abolishing the limitation for enforcement action would be an extremely radical step for which the Government and planning professionals have no appetite. As we have just debated in the context of Clause 109, the Law Society thought that our original proposals for restarting the enforcement clock would have had a chilling effect on the property market. I fear that this amendment would put the markets into a deep freeze. If the amendment were to be approved, Clause 109 would become redundant; there would be no need to start the enforcement clock if there was no clock to start with. The purpose of having time limits for taking enforcement action is to provide certainty, particularly for purchasers. Excepting cases of deliberate concealment, as envisaged by Clause 109, if an unauthorised development or changes of use have not been notified within the time limits, they are probably not doing great damage. If the owner at the time was liable for an enforcement action in perpetuity, people would be reluctant to buy without a full planning history and the markets would be unwilling to lend against properties. I hope that my noble friend understands that argument.
The amendments proposed by the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie—Amendments 156A and 156B—are designed as a probe to try to evaluate at what level we can pitch penalties. I should remind the noble Lord that we are already proposing a significant increase in the fine for failing to comply with a breach of condition notice. The maximum fine would be raised from £1,000 to £2,500, which is level 4. This increase should have a considerable deterrent effect on those who are served with a notice and might otherwise be tempted to ignore it. To increase the maximum fine even further, to £5,000, which is level 5 in England, as the amendments propose, would be disproportionate to the offence. Level 4 fines already apply to the offences of displaying an illegal advertisement and non-permanent damage to a protected tree, which are comparable offences in scale and severity. I hope that noble Lords will feel able to withdraw their amendments.
I remind noble Lords that this is an England-only provision; Welsh Ministers would have to consent to any change to the provisions in the 1990 Act which apply to Wales. I hope that noble Lords will not press their amendments.
Amendment 155A agreed.
155B: Clause 109, page 89, leave out lines 22 to 25
Amendment 155B agreed.
Clause 109, as amended, agreed.
155C: After Clause 109, insert the following new Clause—
“Assurance as regards prosecution for person served with enforcement notice
In the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 after section 172 (issue and service of enforcement notice) insert—
“172A Assurance as regards prosecution for person served with notice
(1) When, or at any time after, an enforcement notice is served on a person, the local planning authority may give the person a letter—
(a) explaining that, once the enforcement notice had been issued, the authority was required to serve the notice on the person,(b) giving the person one of the following assurances—(i) that, in the circumstances as they appear to the authority, the person is not at risk of being prosecuted under section 179 in connection with the enforcement notice, or (ii) that, in the circumstances as they appear to the authority, the person is not at risk of being prosecuted under section 179 in connection with the matters relating to the enforcement notice that are specified in the letter,(c) explaining, where the person is given the assurance under paragraph (b)(ii), the respects in which the person is at risk of being prosecuted under section 179 in connection with the enforcement notice, and(d) stating that, if the authority subsequently wishes to withdraw the assurance in full or part, the authority will first give the person a letter specifying a future time for the withdrawal that will allow the person a reasonable opportunity to take any steps necessary to avoid any risk of prosecution that is to cease to be covered by the assurance.(2) At any time after a person has under subsection (1) been given a letter containing an assurance, the local planning authority may give the person a letter withdrawing the assurance (so far as not previously withdrawn) in full or part from a time specified in the letter.
(3) The time specified in a letter given under subsection (2) to a person must be such as will give the person a reasonable opportunity to take any steps necessary to avoid any risk of prosecution that is to cease to be covered by the assurance.
(4) Withdrawal under subsection (2) of an assurance given under subsection (1) does not withdraw the assurance so far as relating to prosecution on account of there being a time before the withdrawal when steps had not been taken or an activity had not ceased.
(5) An assurance given under subsection (1) (so far as not withdrawn under subsection (2)) is binding on any person with power to prosecute an offence under section 179.””
Amendment 155C agreed.
Clause 110 : Planning offences: time limits and penalties
Amendments 156 to 156B not moved.
Clause 110 agreed.
Clause 111 : Powers in relation to: unauthorised advertisements; defacement of premises
157: Clause 111, page 92, line 20, at end insert “and
(c) unless an appeal is submitted under subsection (16),”
My Lords, I shall speak also to the nine other amendments in the group that stand in the names of myself and the noble Lords, Lord Black of Brentwood, Lord Smith of Finsbury and Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank. Members of the Committee will immediately realise that the four of us sit in different parts of the House so it is a truly cross-party group of amendments.
It is perhaps less obvious that all four of us have had some involvement in the regulation in this country of advertisements. Three of us have been successive chairmen of the Advertising Standards Authority and the noble Lord, Lord Black, is a member of the Advertising Standards Board of Finance, which raises the finance of the authority by virtue of an impost upon advertising receipts in the industry. The noble Lord, Lord Smith of Finsbury, who is the current chairman of the Advertising Standards Authority, is not able to be present this evening but wishes me to say to the Committee that he fully endorses the intent and purpose of these amendments.
All four noble Lords who have put their names to these amendments are, of course, well disposed to the general value and usefulness of promotion and marketing of goods and services of all kinds. This is essential to the economy and deserves one’s support. However, we are all equally appreciative that advertisements should be—in the phrase that has become common because it is the well known remit of the Advertising Standards Authority—legal, decent, honest and truthful. We accept that all advertisements need to accord with the demands of the environment and of the countryside and need therefore to comply with the requirements over the years of the Town and Country Planning Acts, including for those kinds of billboards which may distract motorists from the need for driving safely.
Town and country planning laws have long ensured that local planning authorities have adequate powers to ensure that the owners of billboards on the roadside comply with detailed legal requirements. The Bill seeks, among other things, to update these laws, and that is a fine objective and well worth pursuing. However, I am sure your Lordships will appreciate that it is important to ensure that the advertiser has an appropriate and proportionate right of appeal for any adverse ruling, such as the issue of an enforcement notice by the local planning authority to remove an advertisement. The trouble with Clause 111 as it stands is that it adopts what I might call the present London position on appeals. That is, instead of a right of appeal to local magistrates’ courts, the only so-called appeal is a claim for judicial review to the High Court—a much more expensive proposition and, even though limits on judicial review have expanded in recent years, not an ordinary appeal on the merits. Our amendments seek to replace what I have called the London position with a right of appeal to the magistrates’ court from an enforcement notice issued by a local planning authority to the effect that an outdoor ad is illegal and ought to be removed. That would be a much more proportionate and appropriate route of appeal and more apt for modern ideas of access to justice and the rule of law. After all, it is the position that has operated outside London for many a long day. Magistrates’ courts are, in my view, a valuable, perhaps unsung, and low-cost local justice resource and should be treasured.
Indeed, in recent years, High Court judges have criticised the lack of rights of appeal in London from local planning authority enforcement decisions. For example, Mr Justice Irwin, in the case of Clear Channel UK Ltd v London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham in 2009, said the lack of a normal appeal process is “draconian”. Media owners are reluctant to challenge what may be, after all, an erroneous use of local planning authority power, because the costs involved in the only remedy—judicial review by the High Court—are too great. The word “draconian” to describe the lack of an appropriate appeal mechanism had earlier been used in 2003 in the case of R (on the application of Maiden Outdoor Advertising Ltd) v Lambeth London Borough Council by Lord Justice Collins, who is now a member of the Supreme Court—the noble and learned Lord, Lord Collins of Mapesbury. In these cases, where seeking judicial review is not commercially viable, natural justice is simply not being served by the present procedures, which I have outlined as the London procedure. Small businesses especially are simply deterred from challenging a possibly subjective or irrational decision by local planning authorities. Of course the local planning authority may get it right; but it may get it wrong, and it is important that a reasonable right of challenge should be provided in the legislation. The ability to access a magistrates’ court would be a fairer and more appropriate procedure.
Finally, this is, after all, a Bill dealing with localism. Magistrates’ courts are a low-cost, local judicial resource that should be cherished and welcomed. They are part of the local scene. I beg to move.
I strongly support the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, and in doing so, declare an interest as the director of the Advertising Standards Board of Finance. I support these amendments—and I talked about these issues at Second Reading—because they will ensure an equitable, consistent, and, above all, local mechanism for challenging enforcement notices across the UK. They would deal with an important point, which is that new Section 225A appears to be the only provision within Part 5 of this Bill relating to planning that lacks any right of appeal. From a practical point of view, this set of amendments is likely to be of benefit to both media owners and local authorities because, as the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, said, the magistrates’ courts are best placed to provide a quick, cost-effective route to resolving disputes, something that an action for judicial review in the High Court would never be able to provide, especially when issues of fact rather than of law are likely to be in dispute. From the aspect of the principles underpinning this Bill, it would mean that a local tribunal would be able to look at issues affecting a local neighbourhood, not a remote court possibly many hundreds of miles away.
I appreciate that these are relatively technical amendments, but I underline that they are none the less of real importance to local media owners, who are an important part of the local media ecology in towns and cities up and down the country. I am extremely grateful to the Minister for receiving representations from the industry since Second Reading. The importance of this issue is also underlined by the fact that, as the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, said, the signatories to this group include not just the current distinguished chairman of the Advertising Standards Authority, the noble Lord, Lord Smith, but his two predecessors, the noble Lords, Lord Borrie and Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank. These colleagues, who have huge experience in advertising regulation, understand greatly the importance of the local advertising industry and an equitable, fair and local treatment for it. That is what this admirable Bill is all about, and I hope that these amendments will help to tidy up this technical but important area.
My Lords, I support these amendments. A powerful case has been made. When I studied the amendments, I thought a slightly different argument might be advanced. As I understand it, issues around remedying persistent problems with unauthorised advertisements in the Bill are the subject of right of appeal to magistrates’ courts. It is just the non-persistent problems and the power to remove structures in Clause 111 that the amendment seeks to bring within the remit of the magistrates’ courts. If I have misunderstood that, doubtless the Minister will put me right. But there is an imbalance between those two situations, which will be remedied by the proposition in the amendment. Quite apart from that, the amendment should stand on its own. There is a proper issue of justice here, and a right to appeal to a magistrates’ court.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, for introducing this amendment and my noble friend Lord Black of Brentwood for speaking to it, as well as the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie. We understand the nub of the issue, as the noble Lord Borrie, presented it. It is to provide a speedier and more cost-effective means of challenging a removal notice as empowered under the Bill, especially where consent, or deemed consent, to display an advertisement already exists. But the magistrates’ courts are already heavily loaded with cases, and we should be cautious about increasing the burden on them unnecessarily. We should also be wary of giving any rogue hoarding owners the opportunity to delay the enforcement process by appealing against local authorities for no good reason.
The noble Lord, Lord Borrie, is quite right. The amendment draws heavily on the London experience. I note that these measures have been operating in London since 1995 without the benefit of a right of appeal. In that time, I understand that there have been only five judicial reviews against removal notices, so I hope that the noble Lord will understand the Government’s reasoning on this issue.
Included in the group is government Amendment 166ZA. It is a minor drafting amendment to page 100, which deletes subsection (3) of proposed new Section 225J. Noble Lords will, I am sure, have observed that the words are very similar to those in subsection (4)(a). They are superfluous and should be omitted.
Could the Minister help us out? Why is there the differential treatment in terms of rights of appeal to a magistrates’ court—assuming I am right on that—where there are persistent problems with unauthorised advertisements, compared to those where there is simply the power to remove structures for what may be ad hoc, unauthorised display?
I think I can summarise it best by saying that they are two different orders of problems for local authorities. The reasoning for these proposals is obviously based on the London experience, which has provided local authorities in London with an effective way of dealing with the larger structure problems that one can have, where displays are put on unauthorised structures and their speedy removal is in the public interest.
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Black of Brentwood, for his support for this amendment and for that of my noble friend Lord McKenzie of Luton on the opposition Front Bench. I am bound to say that I am a bit disappointed by the Minister's response, most especially when he said that in London, which is the route followed by the Bill itself, there have not been that many judicial review claims—I think he mentioned five. A great substance of my argument is that judicial review is a most unattractive route for anybody concerned about a decision against them by the local planning authority, because it is expensive and very challenging. It is not a real right of appeal.
The rest of the country has a real right of appeal. The anomaly that exists at present—recognised by the noble Lord, Lord Black, and by my noble friend Lord McKenzie—is not recognised by the government Front Bench. It is an anomaly to have a difference between London and outside London especially, in my submission, in the context of a Localism Bill. When the emphasis is on local government and local associations, it would be so much better and simpler to have a magistrates’ court appeal. The noble Lord has said that magistrates’ courts are very busy, but he will know that that partly arises because there are many closures of them by government decision. That is undoubtedly the case.
That decision may be supported on the basis of saving money, and in some towns and areas I would accept that there is an argument for saying, “The magistrates’ court here is not fully occupied, so it could be closed down”. However, the Minister’s point is that magistrates are already overloaded with work and cannot take on what would be very sensible new work, providing access to justice for those who feel that they needed to appeal against an unfair, unreasonable or difficult local planning authority decision. Of course, I withdraw my amendment at this stage but I think the Minister will realise that we are not happy with his decision, and I hope that he will rethink the matter in due course.
Amendment 157 withdrawn.
Amendments 158 to 166 not moved.
166ZA: Clause 111, page 100, leave out lines 21 and 22
Amendment 166ZA agreed.
Amendments 166A and 166B had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.
Clause 111, as amended, agreed.
Clause 112 agreed.
Schedule 13 : Infrastructure Planning Commission: transfer of functions to Secretary of State
Amendment 166C not moved.
166D: Schedule 13, page 345, line 17, at end insert—
“(3A) After subsection (2)(b) insert—
“(ba) in the case of an application for an order including provision authorising the compulsory acquisition of statutory undertakers’ land, the effect of the compulsory acquisition on any such statutory undertaker,”.”
My Lords, in moving Amendment 166D, I wish to speak to a large number of amendments in this group. With this amendment we turn to Schedule 13, which covers amendments to the Planning Act 2008 dealing with the new arrangements to replace the Infrastructure Planning Commission with a new process whereby the members of the commission are transferred to the planning secretariat. However, the decisions on these major infrastructure projects will be made by a Minister who is accountable to Parliament. At Second Reading, I remarked briefly that I was extremely pleased with the way that the members of the IPC have conducted themselves and with their readiness to accept the new process. However, there is still a lot of anxiety which has been expressed to me by the CBI and by lawyers at a City firm in London who have expressed considerable doubts as to whether the Bill adequately provides a seamless transition from the old process as set up in the 2008 Act to the new process set out in Schedule 13 to the Bill.
The Committee will be relieved to hear that I will not discuss this large group of amendments in detail. I have discussed the matter with my noble friend on the Front Bench. It is clear that she and her department are well aware of the arguments that have been advanced. I have been given an assurance that she and her department are very ready to speak to those who have put their views to me and which are reflected in these amendments.
The purpose of the amendments is, first, to ensure, as I said, a seamless transition, but it goes wider than that. The amendments also seek to remove the need for parallel and separate consent requirements so that the development consent orders regime is truly a one-stop shop, which was what was originally promoted by the previous Government when they brought forward the 2008 Act.
Secondly, they seek to introduce some limited flexibility regarding compliance with what is currently a one-size-fits-all set of procedures and requirements for applications. Thirdly, we want to clarify the ability to modify draft development consent orders as they are going through the process and to replicate other order-making regimes in terms of what criminal offences development consent orders may include; and generally remove what is regarded as unnecessary gold plating now that decisions are being returned from the Infrastructure Planning Commission—a quango—to Ministers. This was something for which a number of us argued fiercely during the passage of the 2008 Act. I am delighted that it is now being implemented in this Bill. That is what we are aiming to do here.
I shall not go through the details of all the amendments, but I should like to say that I am grateful for the offer made by my noble friend on the Front Bench that the Government will consider this matter. I am sure that we will be told that the Bill in fact provides the seamless transition from the old to the new. Nevertheless, anxieties remain. It is a hugely important matter that concerns all major national infrastructure projects such as major airports, new power stations, major transmission lines and so on. It is very important that there should be no hiatus in the process that transfers from the existing system the new.
Before I sit down, one amendment in this group also amends the Planning Act 2008 and concerns minor electricity distribution lines. The Act originally made provisions relating to a new transmission or distribution line that was,
“expected to be less than 132 kilovolts”.
My Amendment 166VZA suggests that it should,
“be 132 kilovolts or less”.
It may seem that there is no difference, but there is in fact a considerable difference. I am told on good authority that Ministers in the Department for Energy and Climate Change are wholly in favour of that amendment, and I hope that perhaps it might be accepted.
However, the bulk of amendments in my name in this group refer to the matters that I have described—the need for a seamless and, I hope, simpler transition from the existing responsibilities of the Infrastructure Planning Commission to make planning decisions for these major projects to its different role of preparing the matter and making recommendations; and the Secretary of State will make the decisions. I beg to move.
My name is also associated with Amendment 166U. At one stage, I had thought that I had put my name to one or two of the other amendments and it indeed appeared in earlier versions of the Marshalled List. However, for some reason my name seems to have been disassociated with those amendments. Nevertheless, I support the thrust of the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, and I emphasise the need for a seamless transition.
I do not want to take up the time of the Committee at this hour of night but I wish to mention two amendments in particular. The first, Amendment 166R, raises an important point of principle on the extent to which a development consent order can deal with all the consents—the one-stop shop that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, mentioned. This was particularly important in the setting up of the Planning Act regime. Noble Lords will recall from the debates at that time that the Terminal Five proposals involved 37 different applications under, I think, different pieces of legislation. The beauty of the development consent order is that it was supposed to bring all this together. The problem is that quite a number of consents are outside this process, particularly those involving the Environment Agency and Natural England. For example, under Section 109 of the Water Resources Act, the Environment Agency deals with consent issues where there is construction work in or near principal water courses. Thereby, if a nationally significant infrastructure project is next to a water course, there is a separate application to the Environment Agency.
I submit that that does not make sense. Adequate protection can be given within the development consent order. By way of example, if the Minister is taking this away to think about it, I mention the London Gateway Port Harbour Empowerment Order 2008, which was made under a similar process: the Harbours Act 1964, where adequate provision is made for the Environment Agency consents.
I mention a second matter. Amendment 166J concerns Section 114 of the 2008 Act. At present, there is concern among developers that, in effect, you get one chance to get the application right. If you have to make amendments to it, the issue then becomes whether they are substantial and, if they are, there is no way of amending the proposal properly in the process. In effect, you go back to square one. It is a bit like snakes and ladders, except that they all go back to the beginning.
I do not expect Ministers to comment on live cases, but one issue has arisen in the past few days with an application before the Infrastructure Planning Commission. It has refused to allow an amendment to an application. Does the developer then go back to square one to propose a development that the applicant presumably believes is inferior to the one they seek? I ask the Ministers to take that away to see whether they can give any flexibility in the process.
My Lords, I support the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, and my noble and learned friend Lord Boyd on these amendments. They are terribly important to help to provide, as near as possible, the one-stop shop for big developments and to give business confidence in the process. As we have said in previous days in Committee, that is one of the most important things: to help get projects developed quickly—and the reason for the 2008 Planning Act and the changes proposed through the Bill.
I shall speak to two groups of amendments in my name. The first is Amendments 166UAA, 166BA, 166 UBB, 166UCA and 166UE, which concern the proposal that the national policy statements should be approved by both Houses of Parliament rather than just the House of Commons. It is interesting that, yesterday, the House of Commons debated and approved the six national policy statements for energy. They have been around for a long time in draft form and been subject to consultation, and it is good that the House of Commons debated them, but I suggest that there is an equal need for this House to debate such national policy statements, because there is a great deal of expertise among your Lordships about issues that are likely to come within the national policy statement framework. It seems equitable that we should debate them too. I am sure that noble Lords will have good contributions to make, and I hope that the noble Lord or the noble Baroness—I do not know which of them will reply—will take that seriously. It should have happened under the 2008 Act, but it did not, so here we are today.
The other amendment in my name, Amendment 166VZB, was proposed to me by Network Rail—which, as the Committee will know, is in the private sector but receives about £4 billion of public money. As the Committee will also know, the Government are rightly putting great pressure on Network Rail to save money. It is involved in a large number of usually quite small investments to create more capacity, meet growing demand and improve network reliability. Of course, many of these investments require planning permissions and other consents to deliver the works effectively on time and within budget. This amendment is designed to facilitate the process and, clearly, to reduce costs.
I am afraid that I have to go into a little of the background on this. Network Rail is the statutory successor in title to the original railway companies and it has fairly extensive permitted development rights, or PDRs, which confer the necessary planning authority, subject to prior approval in some cases, for works. However, it is often necessary to seek additional powers to supplement those powers both for related works outside the existing rail corridor and to acquire land and rights over land.
The methods for seeking authority for railway works has historically been by means of Private Bills—which we do not often see these days, other than for very big projects and then they tend to be hybrid Bills—and more recently under the Transport and Works Act 1992. In England, the procedure is currently also covered by the Planning Act 2008, which requires consent for developments that are, or form part of, a nationally significant infrastructure project, or NSIP, to be authorised by a development consent order. An NSIP is a project for the construction or alteration of a railway, but not where the alteration of a railway is authorised by permitted development rights. Of course, there is no national policy statement for railway projects at the moment. Whether there will be in the future, we do not know, so further guidance is not available. Therefore, many of the Network Rail schemes will not be covered by PDRs, and it will need to seek development consent in addition to using existing PDRs.
It is interesting that, for example, Network Rail is, as noble Lords will know, in the middle of a project to electrify the Great Western main line. It involves demolishing a number of bridges, some track widening and lots of little bits of work over 100 miles or so of track—two track or four track. Discussions with the IPC and the Department for Transport have revealed some questions about the interpretation of the rules in relation to the delivery of rail projects. Most of them are covered by PDRs but some elements of this scheme may not be. They may include a mixture of works authorised by PDRs and those to be authorised in other ways. Where works are covered by PDRs, the Planning Act is not clear whether they can be, or whether they have to be, included in a development consent application as part of an NSIP. That is causing delay and quite a lot of concern.
Network Rail clearly needs flexibility. If it takes, say, two or three years to go through a process between a design being sufficiently advanced and the start of construction, that is going to cause a lot of delay to its projects. Experience to date suggests that the time to be allowed for the full IPC process, from consultation to authorisation, is approximately 30 months. Whether the process would be quicker with a hybrid Bill, as is proposed for the new high-speed line, I do not know. I suspect that it is a bit quicker but no one is suggesting a hybrid Bill for the Great Western.
A procedure carried out by means of permitted development rights can be completed within a matter of weeks where proposals are notified as a matter of policy. Where prior approvals are required, it may take a little longer, but it is also a lot quicker.
There is also the question of minor works. There is no threshold for rail schemes requiring development consent. Where PDRs do not exist, minor works such as alterations to structures, which are not nationally significant, might be caught up in the definition of an NSIP and therefore require consent. Therefore, this all needs clarification.
I am pleased that Network Rail welcomes the changes that the Localism Bill will make to the planning Act, but there need to be further discussions between the Department for Transport and Ministers to clarify some of the issues which I raised and which this amendment would help to satisfy. I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say in response. I am happy to have more discussions, but I hope that they will take Network Rail’s concerns seriously in this regard.
My Lords, I support my noble friend’s amendment. I declare an interest in that my eldest son, Thomas, is a ganger with Network Rail; he is not in the high echelons of management, but he is a ganger with firsthand experience of working on the line, doing maintenance and improvements. No one wants a situation in which Network Rail, or any organisation, can disrupt public services by not fulfilling its tasks properly. Carelessness can lead to other things. Nevertheless, Network Rail, like many other companies, needs the process to be transparent and speedy. I know that it is difficult to get planning applications—or indeed any applications, such as applications for improvements to the rail network—processed speedily, but speed is needed. Anything that improves that must be a good thing. I hope that the Minister will be able to give my noble friend a positive response.
My Lords, I and my noble friend Lord Tope have five amendments in this group. In view of the time, and in the hope that we might get on to the next group before we go home, I would be happy for the Minister to write to me detailing the government’s responses to those five amendments. If he agrees to do that, I shall not say anything further on this tonight.
My Lords, this is a very large group of amendments, many of which are quite technical. None of them has been spoken to in any great detail. I am grateful to my noble and learned friend Lord Boyd for his technical paper, which helped me on this, and for his guidance. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, that I puzzled over his reference to 132 kilowatts and I was not quite sure what the amendment was about. I now know that it is important, although I am not quite clear why.
My Lords, perhaps I should have explained it with one extra sentence. Anyway, it is kilovolts. Rather interestingly, the Public Bill Office printed it as kilowatts at the beginning and we had to put that right. The point is that the voltage for these distribution lines is 132, and therefore we wanted 132 “and below”, and not the ones that would have to go to the IPC, to be above. It is simply a matter of getting the wording right as originally intended in the 2008 planning Act.
I am grateful to the noble Lord for that explanation. That helps me. These amendments relate to the decision to abolish the Infrastructure Planning Commission, with the ink not yet dry on the 2008 Act, which was passed under the previous Government. The House would not expect me to welcome that change with unbridled enthusiasm, but now is not the time to revisit old arguments in detail. We would agree that infrastructure investment is vital to the UK economy and jobs and the commitment to retain the fast-track regime is to be welcomed. In particular, we support the retention of the existing timetable for decision-making, as clarified by the government amendment. The Bill includes provision for national policy statements to be scrutinised and approved by Parliament before designation. There seems to be no reason why this role should be limited to the House of Commons and, accordingly, we support the amendments of my noble friend Lord Berkeley. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, is on the same page. I have no doubt that the collective wisdom of noble Lords covering the policy areas concerned would supplement the expertise of another place. Perhaps the Minister will say why the Government consider this to be a role just for the House of Commons. Section 9 of the Planning Act 2008 includes a role for both Houses.
On the matter of NPSs, will the Minister update us on a timetable for when the full suite will be available? I think that it is some way off in relation to airports, and we have heard that there will not be one in relation to railways.
In Amendment 166UAB, the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, seeks to expand on the explanation of how the NPS relates to the mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change. We support what he is seeking to achieve, but wonder why this is not covered by Section 5(8) of the 2008 Act.
In Amendment 166VZA, the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, proposes a change to the definition of nationally significant projects concerning electric lines above ground. I think that I now understand what that is about.
The amendments tabled by my noble and learned friend Lord Boyd, and many of those tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, are claimed to be either minor changes to the regime in the light of experience and further streamlining, particularly given that some of the detailed checks and balances were inserted because the IPC was an unelected body. To the extent that that is so, of course we support them.
We support Amendment 166U, referred to by my noble and learned friend Lord Boyd, which seeks greater clarity on transitional arrangements. This was debated in another place, when assurances were given by the Minister that there would be continuity across the two regimes, with no repetition of stages that had been completed. Rather than leaving this on a case-by-case basis, we support the amendment that seeks to put clarity in the Bill. The issue raised by the Minister relating to personnel changing their titles seems to be covered by the amendment.
Amendments relating to modifications to draft development orders seem to meet practical concerns, and we await the Minister's response. We support Amendments 166G and 166H, which reinstate the requirement for all interested parties to be notified if the three-month deadline for decision-making is to be extended. We await the Minister's response to the amendments concerning the removal of additional consents and procedures, in light of the fact that it will now be the Secretary of State making the decisions.
Amendment 116R appears to be somewhat more than minor. It would require the sweeping away of myriad different consents from regulators in so far as they relate to construction projects. It is understood that the amendment would still require such consents, but would cause them to be included in the development consent order. Consents from regulators such as Natural England and the Environment Agency are particularly to the point. Perhaps the Minister will confirm that the involvement of those agencies will be channelled through the process so there will be only a one-stop shop.
My noble friend Lord Berkeley's amendment concerning railway projects was interesting. I think I can summarise his position by saying that it appears that Network Rail requires help and discussion to make sure that the projects it has in the pipeline and will undertake in future can be dealt with in an efficient and effective way.
I have spoken to the key amendments that I wanted to highlight. I support my noble friend Lord Berkeley's amendments. I understand and support the thrust of what the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, is doing with his amendment. I believe that the point covered by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, in Amendment 166UAB is probably already catered for—but the Minister may put me right on that. This seems to be a sensible collection of amendments. They will make sure that we have the proper transition from the current arrangements to the future. I hope that the Minister will be able to give comfort to noble Lords who tabled them.
Perhaps I might follow up something that my noble friend Lord McKenzie asked the Minister about the timetable of national policy statements. As I said earlier, the energy ones were published and agreed yesterday, which was great. We have heard nothing yet on ports, airports and interchanges, which will come out of transport. We do not even have any dates for their publication. Perhaps the port statement is in draft form—I am not sure—and there are probably other NPSs coming from other departments. I do not expect an answer from the Minister now, but it would be good to have a letter with an expected timetable. At the moment, industry sees the prospect of several years of vacuum with no policies to work to. It would be very helpful to have firm timetables.
My Lords, this large group contains a range of amendments that seek to amend various provisions in the Localism Bill that amend the Planning Act 2008. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Boyd of Duncansby, has not moved his amendment, which addresses a drafting flaw in the Localism Bill, because government Amendment 166VE deals with it. I am grateful that the noble and learned Lord did not worry us with moving his amendment.
The noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, asked when the full NPS will be available. The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, asked about the ports and the timetable for other such important NPSs. I will write to noble Lords on that and on any other technical issues that I do not cover in my response.
My noble friend Lord Jenkin has tabled a range of important technical amendments that aim to ensure that the new major infrastructure planning regime is as efficient as possible. These address matters such as: land subject to compulsory purchase, Amendments 166D, 166E, 166L, 166M 166N and 166P; notification where a deadline is extended, Amendments 166G and 166H; the power to amend an application after submission, Amendments 166J and 166K; the power to waive compliance with regulatory requirements, Amendment 166Q; the application of Section 150, Amendment 166R; offences, Amendments 166S and 166T; transitional provisions, Amendment 166U, which was also spoken to by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Boyd of Duncansby; judicial review, Amendment 166V; discharge requirements, Amendment 166W; and the decision-making period, Amendment 166VCA.
I can assure my noble friend that, as he suggested, we share the same goals. It is vital for the future of the UK that the major infrastructure planning regime must be as efficient as possible. If my noble friend will permit, I would like to consider the points he has raised in more detail and consult him and others between now and Report to see whether anything further can be done on the issues he has raised. With that assurance, I hope he will not move these amendments at the appropriate point.
Amendment 166KA, tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Greaves and Lord Tope, would remove certain types of development usually connected with underground projects from the definition of associated development in the Planning Act 2008. The ability to grant consent for associated development is critical to the operation of the single consent regime. The amendment would require developers to seek multiple planning consents for major projects, adding to the cost and complexity of making the application, which is precisely the situation we are trying to avoid, so I hope the noble Lords will not pursue this amendment too far.
Amendment 166UAB, which is also tabled by my noble friends Lord Greaves and Lord Tope, seeks to require a national policy statement to address carbon emission targets and national policy objectives on assessing and adapting to climate change. I fully sympathise with my noble friends’ concerns regarding climate change and carbon reduction, but the requirements of the Climate Change Act 2008 are binding on Ministers in the exercise of any of their functions, including national policy statements. Moreover, the Planning Act 2008 already places significant requirements in relation to climate change on Ministers when carrying out their functions in relation to national policy statements. I therefore do not believe this amendment to be necessary.
Amendments 166UZA, 166UZB, 166UAA, 166UBA, 166UBB, 166UCA and 166UE in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, and Amendments 166UA, 166UB, 166UC and 166UD in the name of my noble friends Lord Greaves and Lord Tope, seek to provide for positive approval of national policy statements by both Houses of Parliament and remove the 21-sitting day timetable for consideration.
The 2008 Act provides both Houses with a full scrutiny role in relation to national policy statements and indeed this House has already undertaken a very detailed scrutiny of the first of them, including those on energy and waste water. This role will not change. The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, asked about debates on NPSs. The 2008 Act provides for a Committee of either House to scrutinise national policy statements and, if they recommend it, for a debate to be held on the Floor of the House. The key point to note is that the Localism Bill supplements this with a requirement for approval in the other place.
National policy statements are policy documents, not legislation. This House has never had a role in approving policy documents and it does not automatically follow that because the Localism Bill provides for the other place to have such a role, this House should also. If both Houses had the authority to approve a national policy statement, but one were to reject it and the other approve it, this would call into question the legal standing of the document and any planning decisions that were to rely upon it. This could lead to extensive delay to both the national policy statements and the provision of vital infrastructure.
The discretion to approve a national policy statement using the negative procedure and the introduction of a timetable of 21 sitting days are intended to ensure that the approval process is both efficient and flexible. Their removal could ultimately result in further delay. It is important to note that the DPRRC raised no concerns about these provisions. Given this, and the explanations I have given, I hope that noble Lords will not press their amendments.
Amendment 166VZA, in the name of my noble friend Lord Jenkin, and Amendment 166VZB, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, would amend provisions of the 2008 Act which relate to electricity lines and railway projects respectively. I have considered these proposals carefully and concluded that in both cases the amendments could be effected by amending Part 3 of the Planning Act. The procedure already exists in secondary legislation to achieve this and therefore there is no need to adopt these amendments. On electricity lines, I would of course be delighted to facilitate a discussion between my noble friend Lord Jenkin and colleagues in the Department for Energy and Climate Change. On railways, I would be equally happy to meet the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, and my officials in the Department for Transport to discuss the process further. In short, if there is a problem that needs to be ironed out, I am up for it.
Government Amendments 116VA, 116VB, 116VC, 116VD and 187A extend the new power in Section 116 of the Bill to Wales to cover non-devolved matters and provide greater flexibility in the acceptance of applications.
I hope that I have given sufficient reassurance to the Committee on the matters that concern noble Lords to allow them to withdraw the amendments they have proposed, and I hope the House will agree to the government amendments in the name of my noble friend Lady Hanham when the Question is put.
My Lords, we have had an extremely good debate. I am very grateful indeed to my noble friend for his readiness to accept the need to re-examine the question of the transition and to make sure that the Bill is appropriate now that major decisions on infrastructure are going to be taken by the Secretary of State. That is the difference.
On the question of the approval of the national policy statements, I moved an amendment in 2008 to say that they should be not just scrutinised but approved. Therefore, I agree very much with the proposal in this Bill that the national policy statements should be approved. Indeed, as the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley said, the energy statements were approved earlier this week. The difficulty that was put to me at the time was: if you are going to have both Houses approving, what happens if one says one thing and one says the other? The argument could be that you then have some sort of ping-pong or something, but it is not legislation—that is the point that my noble friend has made. Therefore, although I have much sympathy with what the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, said, I did not put my name to his amendments because I did not think that they were workable. My noble friend on the Front Bench has given a very good explanation of that. I am grateful to him for what he said and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 166D withdrawn.
Amendment 166E not moved.
Amendment 166F had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.
Amendments 166G to 166T not moved.
Schedule 13 agreed.
Clause 113 : Transitional provision in connection with abolition
Amendment 166U not moved.
Clause 113 agreed.
Clause 114 : National policy statements
Amendments 166UZA to 166V not moved.
Clause 114 agreed.
Amendment 166VZA to 166VZC not moved.
Clause 115 : Power to alter effect of requirement for development consent on other consent regimes
Amendments 166VA to 166VC
166VA: Clause 115, page 106, line 12, leave out “subsection (5)” and insert “this section”
166VB: Clause 115, page 106, leave out lines 20 to 24
166VC: Clause 115, page 106, line 26, at end insert—
“(8A) An order under subsection (5) may not affect—
(a) a requirement for a devolved consent to be obtained for, or given in relation to, development, or(b) whether development may be authorised by a devolved consent.(8B) A consent is “devolved” for the purposes of subsection (8A) if—
(a) provision for the consent would be within the legislative competence of the National Assembly for Wales if the provision were contained in an Act of the Assembly,(b) provision for the consent is, or could be, made by the Welsh Ministers in an instrument made under an Act,(c) the consent is not within subsection (6)(c) and the Welsh Ministers have a power or duty—(i) to decide, or give directions as to how to decide, whether the consent is given,(ii) to decide, or give directions as to how to decide, some or all of the terms on which the consent is given, or(iii) to revoke or vary the consent, or(d) the consent is within subsection (6)(c) and the notice has to be given to the Welsh Ministers or otherwise brought to their attention.”
Amendments 166VA to 166VC agreed.
Clause 115, as amended, agreed.
Clause 116 : Secretary of State’s directions in relation to projects of national significance
Amendment 166VCA not moved.
Clause 116 agreed.
Clauses 117 to 120 agreed.
166VD: After Clause 120, insert the following new Clause—
“Acceptance of applications for development consent
(1) The Planning Act 2008 is amended as follows.
(2) In section 55(3) (conditions for acceptance of application) omit paragraphs (b) and (d) (application may be accepted only if it complies with requirements as to form and contents and with any standards set, and gives reasons for any failure to follow applicable guidance).
(3) In section 55(3) after paragraph (e) insert “, and
(f) that the application (including accompaniments) is of a standard that the Secretary of State considers satisfactory.”(4) In section 55 after subsection (5) insert—
“(5A) The Secretary of State, when deciding whether the Secretary of State may reach the conclusion in subsection (3)(f), must have regard to the extent to which—
(a) the application complies with the requirements in section 37(3) (form and contents of application) and any standards set under section 37(5), and(b) any applicable guidance given under section 37(4) has been followed in relation to the application.”(5) In section 37(3) (requirements as to form and contents of application) after “must” insert “, so far as necessary to secure that the application (including accompaniments) is of a standard that the Secretary of State considers satisfactory”.”
Amendment 166VD agreed.
Clause 121 agreed.
166VE: After Clause 121, insert the following new Clause—
“Timetables for reports and decisions on applications for development consent
(1) The Planning Act 2008 is amended as follows.
(2) In section 98(3) (Examining authority must report on application within 3 months beginning with deadline for completing its examination) for the words from “beginning” onwards substitute “beginning with—
(a) the deadline for completion of its examination of the application, or(b) (if earlier) the end of the day on which it completes the examination.”(3) In section 107(1) (which provides for the application to be decided within 3 months of the start day but is amended by this Act to provide for decision within 3 months of the deadline under section 98(3))—
(a) for “with the” substitute “with—(a) the”, and(b) at the end insert “, or(b) (if earlier) the end of the day on which the Secretary of State receives a report on the application under section 74(2)(b) or 83(1)(b).””
Amendment 166VE agreed.
Clause 122 : Development consent subject to requirement for further approval
Amendment 166W not moved.
Clause 122 agreed.
Clause 123 agreed.
In Clause 124, manuscript Amendment 166WA is tabled in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Greaves. Is that correct?
If Members look at the groupings list, they will see that for some strange reason, Amendment 166WA is out of kilter and comes after the debate on whether Clause 124 should stand part. However, I believe that the amendment is a precursor to that debate and therefore it may be helpful and convenient to the Committee if this one amendment is now dealt with by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves.
My Lords, it is now 23:05. Everyone in this Chamber, including the staff of the House, will be here again at 10 o’clock in the morning. The agreement made with the usual channels was, as I understand it, that we would finish as close as possible to 10 pm. It is now 11.05 pm. My colleague, who has been on the Front Bench all day, wishes to depart. We have plenty of amendments to deal with tomorrow and I suggest that we deal with this manuscript amendment then.
My Lords, this is disgraceful. To help the Government we agreed to a back-to-back Committee stage, which is most unusual. We agreed to an early start tomorrow to help the Government. We have already stretched to 11 o’clock tonight. This manuscript amendment is closely linked to Clause 124 which is a substantial debate that we ought to have when minds are relatively fresh. It is best done tomorrow. I can see nods of assent from some of the coalition Benches. That is the way we should leave it tonight. We have made better progress than I thought we would today, and we have played our part in that. I think we should now draw the line.
My Lords, I know that it has been a long and hard-working day and all in the Chamber will appreciate the work that has been put in by colleagues around the House. The noble Baroness, Lady Royall, was perhaps not party to some of the earlier discussions. I did not reach an agreement with the usual channels at any point to finish at 10 o’clock or close to 10’clock this evening. I was clear about the progress that we all wished to make—I am sorry, I am a little out of breath from seeking to ensure that I reached the Chamber in order to respond to the Leader of the Opposition. I was clear in the discussions I had that, in order to assist the House to complete the Committee stage of the Localism Bill tomorrow, which I know is the ambition of all noble Lords, it was likely that we would need to sit until around 11 o’clock tonight depending, of course, on the progress of business. I know that colleagues on these Benches and on the Front Bench opposite have striven to work through our business today.
When my noble friend Lord Shutt referred to the manuscript amendment, he was genuinely trying to be helpful. The noble Lord, Lord McAvoy, looks puzzled because I know that Whips are not usually like that, but I can assure him that in this House, the Whips do try to be helpful because I understand that there have been discussions with the Minister that might elucidate this issue. It looked as though it would be helpful to do that tonight, and clearly anything that is done now reduces the amount of time we need to spend on the Bill tomorrow. I know that the opposition Front Bench is as keen as anyone to complete the Committee stage. I hope that this is helpful to the noble Baroness, Lady Royall.
My Lords, I apologise to the Committee for tabling a manuscript amendment this morning, but as a result of discussions with my colleagues, it seemed helpful to have this amendment on the table in order to assist progress over the summer towards the Report stage. It is something that might be considered as a compromise and a way through what is a very difficult position with certain sections of the public. That is why we did it. But now we seem to be spending a lot of time discussing whether to take the amendment when we could either be considering it or we could be going home. My view, and what I think is the view of my colleagues, is that it should be properly grouped with the debate on whether Clause 124 should stand part of the Bill. The debate on this amendment is an integral part of the debate on Clause 124.
I do not blame anybody for it, but at the last minute the amendment was put in the wrong place, and perhaps it should have been tabled the other way around the clause stand part debate. But it has been tabled and it can be discussed tomorrow with Clause 124. If having it on the agenda tomorrow is a procedural difficulty, I will not move it tonight so we can all go home in the knowledge that it exists and that we can discuss it as part of the consideration of Clause 124. I have to say that I will not be here, so my noble friend Lord Tope will deal with it. The amendment needs to be discussed with Clause 124, because it is part and parcel of the same debate. I do not think that having them together will take any further time. If there is a procedural problem about that, I shall not move the amendment and take advice from whomever.
My Lords, I know that my noble friend is trying to help everyone. I think that he has managed to confuse us even more, which was not his intention. I know that all noble Lords want to have a debate on his amendment. It is clear that, even if the amendment were not down, it would be possible to speak to it at Clause 124 stand part. I suggest that we should do that tomorrow, but on the understanding that tomorrow is when we complete Committee stage, which I know will bring a sigh of relief to all those who have worked hard on this Bill so far.
My Lords, I thank the Chief Whip for that accommodation. I apologise unreservedly for misleading the House. My noble friend Lady Crawley informs me that usual channels agreed to finish at around 23:00, not 22:00. I beg your Lordships’ pardon. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Greaves. It is best that his amendment be debated tomorrow, as the noble Baroness said.
We will strive to finish this stage of the Bill tomorrow, but I cannot give an absolute commitment. I think that we should finish in good time and we will do our utmost to do so.
House adjourned at 11.12 pm.