Committee (9th Day)
Clause 100 : Use of Community Infrastructure Levy
148ZZC: Clause 100, page 79, line 20, at end insert—
“( ) In section 209 (liability: interpretation of key terms) after subsection (8) (regulations may make provision for a person not to be treated as a developer in specified circumstances) insert—
“(9) CIL regulations must provide for an exemption (or a partial exemption) from liability to pay CIL in respect of a development where the person who would otherwise be likely to pay CIL in respect of the development is already required to make payment of a sum or sums under a planning obligation under section 106 of TCPA 1990 which is or are applied towards—
(a) existing infrastructure (within the meaning given in section 216(1)), or(b) other existing local infrastructure or matters relating to that infrastructure.””
My Lords, might I intervene? It is customary, if one wishes to ask general questions, to do so on the Motion that House do now go into Committee. Last week, Back-Benchers involved in this Bill showed a willingness to move on and to debate the Bill, and not to argue about how it should be arrived at by particular times. Announcements were made. Might I suggest that if the Chief Whip of the Opposition has anything to say, he has the courtesy to have discussions with me first outside the Chamber? If he wishes to proceed now, of course that is his right. My noble friend Lord Jenkin of Roding was supposed to be moving an amendment. I remind the House that it is the normal courtesy to give notice that one wishes to say something on going into Committee. The noble Lord decided not to do so. If he has changed his mind and wants to do it in a different way, it would be helpful to the House if it knew what procedure was to be followed.
My Lords, I am normally very courteous in your Lordships’ House and I do not wish to trespass on its time. I am more than happy to have discussions outside the Chamber—that would be preferable—but I draw to the attention of the House that the Government have set a target of 29 amendments. The House is due to rise at 10 o’clock this evening and, with it sitting again at 10 o’clock tomorrow morning, your Lordships will wish to know that that permits, on my calculation, only 12 minutes per group of amendments, and some of the groups contain as many as 40 amendments. We are, of course, more than ready to try to make progress on the Bill. It is a serious Bill containing serious matters and the House needs to give all the issues serious and proper consideration. I hope that the House will support that approach— that is how we usually proceed—but, if we cannot reach that target by 10 o’clock this evening, I hope that we will adjourn at 10 o’clock because noble Lords need to come back tomorrow refreshed to carry on with urgent and proper business.
I am grateful to the noble Lord the Opposition Chief Whip for saying that the Opposition are keen to make progress. We on this side of the House are also keen to make progress. These are preliminary discussions and we will certainly listen to all the debates as they proceed because all Members who have amendments down consider them to be important. The Back-Benchers said again and again last week that they want to get on with scrutiny of the Bill. Let my noble friend Lord Jenkin of Roding have his moment to do just that.
Amendment 148ZZC not moved.
Amendments 148ZZCA to 148ZZD not moved.
Clause 100 agreed.
Clause 101 : Neighbourhood planning
Amendment 148ZZE had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.
148ZZZEA: Clause 101, Page 80, line 38, at end insert—
“( ) Where a local authority has a scheme or process of neighbourhood engagement and localised planning that promotes and enables the involvement of the residents and businesses of its area, within their local neighbourhoods, and that process has been agreed by the Secretary of State to—
(a) meet the objectives set out in section 61F, 5(a)(i) and (ii) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 as amended by Schedule 9 to this Act; and(b) constitute a sufficient process of local engagement to enable the making of neighbourhood development orders and neighbourhood plans on the basis of informed involvement and consent,that local authority may make such orders or plans on behalf of local residents without the establishment of neighbourhood forums or the holding of a referendum.”
My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendment 148AZZF. We are approaching a critical new section of the Bill and I want to underline that I do not seek to challenge the concept of neighbourhood planning or public participation in it—both are absolutely essential. They have been agreed in Committee and so I could not support amendments which seek to remove reference to neighbourhood forums in any circumstances. However, I oppose a straitjacket being placed on local authorities in relation to how they should go about neighbourhood planning.
The Local Government Association has written to many noble Lords saying that the Bill adds unwanted levels of bureaucracy and Whitehall interference that threaten to squeeze the life out of a fluid, flexible and localist system that is currently in operation. I would not go as far as that but I believe that in its present form the Bill could delay effective neighbourhood planning in many places as much as it accelerates it.
Amendment 148ZZEA is clearly defective in its drafting. It was drafted in this way in order not to leap ahead of another amendment that was later withdrawn. However, I hope its purpose is clear and that the Committee will be able to support its principles. They are that there should be an expectation of every local authority to have satisfactory arrangements for neighbourhood planning and that those arrangements must be approved by the Secretary of State. If those arrangements do not exist—I repeat, do not exist—the ideas set out in Schedules 9 and 10 could have effect. In other words, it seeks to replace a one-size-fits-all approach regulated from the top towards neighbourhood planning with a more open public service framework that enables a range of different local approaches to neighbourhood planning which are suited to different local circumstances. Under a framework like this, a recalcitrant authority that is not involving its local people as it should can still be obliged to do so, albeit with the rather cumbersome machinery laid out in the Bill.
My view is that good local authorities can be trusted to, and encouraged to, trust and involve local people in planning their futures. It has been a frequent thread in this Committee that the Bill’s approach seems too often based on the view that local authorities cannot be trusted and must be made to operate centrally designed systems. We had that in the section on the community right to bid where a sensible backstop system to protect key community facilities became transformed in the writing of the Bill into a potential engine of bureaucracy.
I was moved to put down this amendment after entertaining dozens of dedicated local authority workers who had given up Saturday after Saturday and much other of their spare time to help our local communities in working up neighbourhood plans. One of those local authority officers—with a lot of justifiable pride in her case because she had done more than most—said to me, “It has been a great experience. People want to take part. They welcome it so much. It is so rewarding to be breaking new ground”. Of course, she was right, although our authority is far from alone. The Local Government Association brief gives us many other examples of innovative activity right across the country. People want more say in local planning and the Bill’s instincts are right. The Government’s interest in it is welcome but—this is a big but—why must it be presumed to be done only in the elaborate way in the schedules to this part of the Bill?
As I have said before, more than 15,000 people have taken part in our neighbourhood planning process. I think the assumption should be that every citizen and business in a village or neighbourhood should be involved in the process, which is why in my other amendment in this group, Amendment 148AZZF, I suggest that the default position should be that all people should be involved in deciding who forms a neighbourhood forum. That is also the effect of Amendment 148AZZFA and other amendments from my noble friends Lord Tope and Lord Greaves. Why should it not be the case for all local people, supported and facilitated by a good local authority, and not a selected few—as few as 21 people in this Bill—who may well claim to represent their area but could well be representative of only part of competing local opinions? Why those few and not others? Is not everyone’s voice equal in matters affecting their own area? Indeed, you could argue that good neighbourhood planning should reach beyond established local pressure groups and amenity bodies, which already have a voice, and not go through them.
I ask my noble friends to consider allowing different approaches, without the need for forums or potentially costly referendums in every case. I am not challenging the basic structure of the backstop in the Bill but I am asking for a more permissive approach. Some may say that we have to legislate for all local authorities in the same way. I profoundly disagree with that. As I said at Second Reading, good community engagement and good local planning should be spontaneous and flexible, even anarchic. One size fits all will choke those qualities and good local planning should enable variety from place to place. Surely, the whole idea of localism is that diversity should be encouraged.
While I freely acknowledge that the words of my amendment may not be right, I hope that between now and Report the Government will give active and serious consideration to the approach that I am suggesting: namely, to have an overriding expectation of local authorities to carry out neighbourhood planning but to do it in a way that liberates and supports existing innovation and fits their own area, and for the Government to have powers in reserve to require the same spirit of community engagement from those other authorities which are not as complying as local people might wish. That would be real localism.
I have views about many aspects of neighbourhood planning that are covered in this group but, in the interests of making progress, I will leave it there for now, as other noble Lords have amendments. However, I cannot sit down without at least welcoming the intent behind Amendment 148AA, in the name of my noble friend Lady Hanham, and others in the group which accept points made at Second Reading that an unelected neighbourhood forum, once set up, should not be untouchable for five years, as it is in the Bill. I am a little disappointed in the briefing being circulated that says the removal of a forum’s designation should be a rare occurrence. I do not see why a fixed set of people should remain in place for five years, unelected, when an elected council can be removed after four years. However, the acceptance that a forum may be disbanded, replenished or renewed is welcome. It represents an excellent first step away from some of the rigidities built into this part of the Bill. I thank my noble friend for that and I only hope that we can tempt my noble friends further. I beg to move.
I start by agreeing with pretty much everything that the noble Lord, Lord True, has just said. I have more than a few amendments in this group—I will speak generally and raise the questions they bring up rather than go through them individually.
Liberal Democrats are supportive of and excited by the concept of neighbourhood planning but we have two practical criteria to apply to this Bill. First, we want it to work; and secondly, we want it to work in the interest of local communities. We are not sure that the Bill as it stands does that. We are into a new world—a new architecture—of a new neighbourhood planning system based on neighbourhood areas and on authorised and qualifying bodies to carry out planning functions in these areas, which may be parish councils; or, in unparished areas, neighbourhood forums. These bodies can make neighbourhood development orders and neighbourhood plans. This is quite revolutionary stuff.
I will indicate my recent experience of neighbourhood planning at this stage. In recent years I have been involved, as a local councillor, in several master-planning exercises under the housing market renewal programme in east Lancashire, involving consultation with and participation by local residents and businesses in areas of Victorian terraced housing and local industry. I was also a member of the Whitefield Regeneration Partnership in a similar, but mainly Asian heritage, area in Nelson with special conservation status that started with an inquiry-by-design process run by the Prince's Foundation for the Built Environment. I was a member of the partnership board which was chaired by my noble friend Lord Shutt of Greetland.
Issues and questions raised by our amendments include the designation of neighbourhood forums. We question the concept in the new Section 61F(5)(a)(ii) of the Town and Country Planning Act of a neighbourhood forum set up solely for,
“promoting the carrying on of trades, professions or other businesses”.
There is a government amendment to this effect. The question is whether this will mean businesses giving themselves planning permission via a neighbourhood development order. What is the role of residents—both those living in the area, however few they may be, or residents living just outside the area, who may be many—who may be affected by nuisances caused and decisions made?
My noble friend Lord True has already referred to the membership of neighbourhood forums. We are concerned that their membership must be inclusive and their internal processes democratic, so that everyone who lives in the area and all councillors representing the area can take part in neighbourhood planning, and to make sure that the forums are representative of all social and geographical parts of the local community. Similar amendments deal with this issue. This is a central issue for us in this part of the Bill. It is absolutely crucial that we do not end up with neighbourhood forums that are run by a local clique for their own particular purposes. In what ways does the Bill guarantee this? What extra prescribed conditions for possible designation of an organisation or body as a neighbourhood forum are intended in new Section 61F(6)? In particular will narrow profit-making bodies be allowed to set up as neighbourhood forums? These are crucial matters, and I look forward to the Minister’s reply.
On parish councils as neighbourhood areas, new Section 61G(3) says in the case of a parish council the specified area,
“must be one that consists of or includes the whole or any part of the area of the council”.
So a neighbourhood area, for neighbourhood planning purposes, can be the area of a parish council or a part of the area of a parish council. Can two or more parish councils combine to form one neighbourhood area? This is an obvious question in relation to small parish councils that are simply not big enough to do the job on their own. And what happens in areas that only have parish meetings?
Neighbourhood development orders effectively give planning permission outside the normal system. We will be talking about these orders quite lot in the coming hours. What can be done to create democratic legitimacy in areas without parish councils? Is there not a serious democratic deficit if self-appointed neighbourhood forums are able to make neighbourhood development orders and indeed neighbourhood plans? This is a critical issue for us—the democratic deficit at the neighbourhood level in areas that are unparished. I look forward to the Minister’s reply.
My Lords, my Amendment 148AZZC relates to what the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, has been saying, which I generally support, but is much narrower. It reflects concerns shared by the Royal Town Planning Institute and relates entirely to the purpose of setting up a neighbourhood forum, and hence making a neighbourhood plan.
At Report in another place, the Government amended subsection (5)(a) of new Section 61F so that an organisation can be designated as a neighbourhood forum if,
“it is established expressly for either or both of the following purposes—
(i) furthering the social, economic and environmental well-being of individuals”—
I abbreviate a bit—and,
“(ii) promoting the carrying on of trades, professions or other businesses”.
There was very little discussion of the government amendment in the other place.
The purport of “either or both” is that the neighbourhood forum and any consequent neighbourhood plan could be set up purely with the sole purpose of carrying on trades, professions or other businesses. There is no reason for that not to be one of the purposes, but government guidance and most ideas of planning take account of economic, social and environmental aspects of sustainable development. A neighbourhood plan should surely not address one activity alone.
The Government may want to think again and adopt something along the lines of my amendment, which makes it clear that the purpose of the neighbourhood forum is to further the social, economic and environmental well-being of the residents, including carrying on businesses if need be, but would not allow this at the expense of the other factors.
My Lords, I have five amendments in this group and will deal with them extremely briefly, because they are really all addressed to the same issue. I do not find at all clear the relationship between a neighbourhood area that may consist wholly or largely of residential properties and one that has an established business in it. My noble friend has tabled a very important group of amendments to establish that there can be neighbourhood business areas. That is certainly a very considerable advance. But when one is dealing, as one does in Schedule 9, with definitions of bodies that can be neighbourhood areas and areas that they can cover, can that include a neighbourhood area with a business? Can they form a neighbourhood area? Is all that in fact now covered by government Amendment 148AE, which comes in a future group? I and others are not at all clear on what will be the interaction where there are combined communities of businesses and residences. Those must cover a very large part of the country, which might form themselves into neighbourhood areas. I get the impression that the Bill has been designed on the assumption that they are all going to be residential properties, when of course they are not. They may well be small businesses as well. It would be very helpful if my noble friend could indicate how these can work together and form a neighbourhood area.
I disagree with my noble friend Lord Greaves—we are moving into an entirely different area here. Quite a lot of local plans have developed around the country, and I will not weary the Committee by reading out a list of them. It seems important that if one is going to have all this new bureaucracy to try to surround this whole area, which is what we are getting in the Bill, the question is whether it can be made to work as successfully as quite a lot of the local plans have been working. I entirely support the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord True, but if my noble friend on the Front Bench can give us some indication of how the various components of what a neighbourhood plan would be can work together, that would be extremely helpful. A number of bodies outside will read her words with very great care.
My Lords, in what people will no doubt regard as my characteristically generalist way, I rise not to move some clever amendment or ask some difficult questions but simply to express my support for what I take to be the basic thrust of my noble friend Lord True’s amendment, which goes to the heart of one of the tensions in the Bill. This is called the Localism Bill, and it is supposed to promote localism, but all too often we find that localism means what the Secretary of State wants it to mean rather than what people think it means locally. If I am right, I think that my noble friend is saying that there is a risk that the proposed neighbourhood forums—in the case of authorities that do not really want them to work—will simply be formulaic arrangements with box ticking and meetings where they can say who has attended. That is a risk, at any rate; we have all seen it happen. Meanwhile, however, perfectly good working arrangements in authorities such as those of my noble friend are made to be scrapped in favour of doing this other stuff. In other words, if you have a vehicle with four purpose-built wheels that work perfectly well, the Bill would appear to force you to replace them with the Secretary of State’s bog-standard design wheels. I do not see what is to be gained by that. It is not consistent with localism and we need the additional flexibility that my noble friend seeks.
I declare an interest as chief executive of London First, a business membership organisation including infrastructure providers in its membership. I support Amendment 148C, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, which seeks to exclude development associated with nationally significant infrastructure from the scope of neighbourhood development orders. This refers to infrastructure which gets, or would have got, planning permission via the Planning Act 2008.
A signal box next to a railway track is perhaps a good example. It may not constitute nationally significant infrastructure in the sense that the track does, but the signal box is integral to the running of the railway. If a neighbourhood plan had the ability to set land-use planning policy for the area containing the signal box, the plans could affect the running of the railway. It is therefore important that in drawing up neighbourhood plans and the associated development orders, development that is ancillary but integral to the working of nationally significant infrastructure is excluded from the scope of neighbourhood planning.
My Lords, I follow the noble Lords, Lord Jenkin and Lord True, in expressing some concern about the relationship of the various amendments and clauses that will ultimately emerge, particularly in relation to neighbourhood development areas and business areas—if I might use that shorthand term. It seems that we could have a situation in which, under the later amendment that the noble Baroness will be moving, a business area could be declared on the basis that it is wholly or predominantly a business area, which sort of makes sense, I suppose. However, another amendment refers to a situation in which there might be two referendums in the same area because there is a business area and a neighbourhood development area, which implies that it is not just a business area, or that there is some sort of overlap.
I think of a situation in the ward I represent where you have a business area—a shopping street—on either side of which there are two distinct residential communities, both of which regard the shopping area as common, as it were. However, each has its own separate issues which might encourage it—this would no doubt be welcome—to seek area status in a development forum for each residential side of the road, as it were. I do not see how this fits together, particularly having regard to Amendments 148ZA and 148ZB, which the Minister will move later. I mention this at this stage to give her a little time to think, or be advised about, the relationship between these issues. It seems to me that this could lead to considerable confusion because, on the one hand, business areas are supposed to stand alone whereas, on the other hand, other parts of the Bill suggest that they will not stand alone. You might then have competing neighbourhood forums sharing, as it were, a business area. It would be helpful to have elucidation of this rather complex situation and how it might work on the ground as I fear that it will confuse rather than clarify the situation for those occupiers—be they residential or business occupiers—who want to progress with the development of a plan for the area as they see it.
My Lords, I thoroughly agree with my noble friend Lord Newton of Braintree. Good existing relationships ought to be encouraged but where they do not exist the idea that we should have to go the whole hog and create neighbourhoods as set out in the Bill will be a very difficult thing to do, particularly in cities. Where I come from in Hampshire, localism at present consists of the parish council saying, “We’d like this”, and the district council ignoring it. Therefore, I look forward to the full variety of localism down in Hampshire. However, I understand that Richmond may well be a happier and more coherent place under my noble friend’s management. Certainly when it comes to cities, as we will see in some of my later amendments, I very much support the idea that there should be a proper recognition of what you might call interim, less formal neighbourhood arrangements than are set out in the Bill. Beyond anything else, they will be a great deal easier to manage and a great deal less expensive. If the local community can get what it wants without having to go through the whole process of putting a plan together, agreeing it, having it inspected and going out to referendum, but can just do it by means of conversations with councillors and local meetings, that seems to me entirely preferable.
As regards some of the points raised by my noble friend Lord Greaves, I say go for parishes. We have a well set-out system in an Act passed by the previous Government to enable parishes to be created in urban areas. If you use that, you will have the democratic structure you are looking for.
My Lords, having listened to the other speeches that have been made on amendments in this grouping, it is clear that this is a thoroughly valuable grouping. I am speaking to Amendment 148AZZA, which was prompted by the Heritage Alliance. I was prompted by the UK Association of Preservation Trusts and the Heritage of London Trust. The amendment is supported by a rainbow alliance in all four corners of the Chamber. This has had one slightly untoward consequence in that, as my noble friend Lord Clement-Jones and I have waited on about four different occasions over the past 10 days to move this amendment, he eventually ran out of time and asked me if I would take over the gist of his speech. That was a helpful and constructive suggestion, except that I have mislaid the merged article. There will therefore be a slight quality of improvisation to my remarks.
The heritage sector has been arguing for a local approach for the past 11 years, since the publication of Power of Place in 2000—a report that was facilitated by English Heritage and represented the views of a wide part of the heritage sector. It was followed by A Force for Our Future, published by the DCMS and the then the DTLR, which included the observation:
“There is a very large body of research that demonstrates the great economic sense of conservation-led regeneration. As stated by the Government, ‘policy-makers need to regard the historic environment as a unique economic asset, a generator of wealth and jobs in both urban and rural areas’”.
That report was followed in 2004 by Recharging the Power of Place: Valuing Local Significance, published by the National Trust, the CPRE and Heritage Link—which underpins what is now the Heritage Alliance as a whole.
Heritage is a limited resource, and international organisations such as the International Council on Monuments and Sites, once remarkably led by the late Bernard Feilden, recognise it as a fourth component of sustainable development. When the Prime Minister, on 23 November last year, made his speech on the Government’s agenda for well-being, he indicated that the historic environment was a major contribution to people’s sense of well-being. Power of Place research by MORI showed that people consider that,
“the historic environment represents the place in which they live”.
Power of Place and successive reports have had an important effect on the way in which the historic environment is perceived as being local as well as national.
The heritage sector is concerned to achieve a balanced approach to public and private financing of neighbourhood development plans and orders. The Government’s emphasis on economic growth as their particular imperative is totally understood, and is to be welcomed and supported. However, heritage is not a psychological addiction or obsession; it has a practical perspective in these matters.
When I began subscribing to life membership of the various heritage societies some 40 years ago, I recall the chief planning officer of the City of Bath, when criticised for the fact that he had caused to be knocked down a large number of Georgian artisan dwellings, said that he would be happy not to have done so if the city fathers had provided him with a number of Georgian artisans to occupy them, and that since they were not available the redevelopment had to occur. In Northern Ireland, planning regulations were massively relaxed during the Troubles, simply as a stimulus to economic activity. I therefore recognise that there are occasions when you have to eliminate some of the rigour that you would normally have.
However, in the past 25 years, both the Landmark Trust and the Heritage Lottery Fund, in the money that they have poured into the infrastructure of our heritage, have created a great deal of enjoyment and pleasure, as well as constructive economic activity. The churches are a superb exposition of the development of the British, especially English, vernacular tradition in which our heritage has unrolled harmoniously over the centuries. The essence of the amendment to which I am speaking on behalf of the Heritage Alliance is to make sure that there is a consideration of cultural well-being in addition to the considerations that the Government have placed in the Bill.
My Lords, I have no brief from anyone, but I declare an interest in that I am chairman of a very small chamber of commerce. My comments come from my professional experience, and I speak in support of the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord True, who seems to me to have asked a fundamental question about how the decision-making process unfolds which will be of particular importance to our unparished urban areas. A considerable while ago, the Government of the day introduced a class B1 use into the planning system in a town and country planning use classes order. One characteristic of class B1 was that it was intended to be compatible with a residential activity. We all know that urban centres are not segregated, with residential here, shopping there and industrial in some other place—yes, if it is a modern, purpose-built, designed from scratch settlement, but in places that have evolved over many centuries we do not start from there in the majority of cases.
So uses are cheek by jowl with each other. Residents in flats in inner-city areas, some of which may be quite smart and sought after, do not like the sound of bins being emptied in the wee hours of the morning when the local hotel waste has to be taken out or the shop bins cleared from a service yard. We need to bear in mind that in the same areas, there are late-night activities associated with their economic well-being. I can think of many inner-city areas where there are flats, offices, shops and nightclubs that open into the wee hours of the morning and, yes, the odd rowdy drunk being turfed out in the early hours with much noise to boot.
The noble Lord, Lord True, talked about the danger of trying to find a “one size fits all” solution. There is no one size that can be made to work; there is no common template. Where does that leave us? I think it means that powers have to be in place at local level so that the appropriate measures can be brokered to suit the circumstances that arise. We do not know what that mix will be.
I learnt a salutary lesson many years ago about the creeping effects of urbanisation. It related to a town which I shall not name where, over the years, the post-war industrial area, with its rather small, tatty and relatively substandard buildings, had progressively been encroached on by redevelopment which involved the construction of residential properties. Because it was in an area where companies commonly operate 24 hours a day in one shape or form, every time there was a planning application to build an extension, replace something or do anything that required planning consent, a condition was put in about hours of work. Progressively, people in the industrial area found that they were constrained in their hours of work, because no provision had been made to settle the difference between the aspirations of the redeveloped areas turned over to residential use and the pre-existing industrial and commercial activities. If we are not careful, that produces a very unpleasant form of blight and uncertainty that helps no one. There must be local democratic ways to deal with the brokering of such arrangements.
I fear that there is no silver bullet to deal with the issue, but for all sorts of practical reasons I agree with the thrust of what the noble Lord, Lord True, and others have suggested.
My Lords, so as to avoid the risk of upsetting everyone, I promise to be very brief. I want to make a totally different point, having had my attention drawn to it by the amendment of my noble friend Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, with which I have some sympathy. I should like to know—this is in the Bill—how it can be established that a body is expressly for the purposes of,
“furthering the social, economic and environmental well-being of individuals living, or wanting to live, in an area”.
What does that mean? I imagine that everybody would like to live in certain parts of London. Certainly in my county there are villages where everyone would like to live. What does this mean?
My Lords, we have Amendments 148AZZD and 148AZB in this group, but before I touch on them perhaps I should say how much I agree with the noble Lord, Lord True. I think that he very much set the tone for this debate, and the noble Lord, Lord Newton, and others have supported him. We need a system which is flexible, and everyone should not be forced to follow the horrendous bureaucracy included in these provisions.
Our Amendment 148AZZD is consistent with those of my noble friends Lady Whitaker and Lord Whitty and also consistent with the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, whose improvisation is always a joy to the Chamber. I very much agree with his addition of the word “cultural” to one of the considerations for well-being. Amendment 148AZZD simply reiterates the point that my noble friend Lady Whitaker made—that there are concerns, particularly expressed by the RTPI, that the inclusion of the words “either or both” could mean that a local plan might be focused only on business and not have the rounded sustainable development approach. I am bound to say that concerns over that are particularly reinforced by anxieties generally that the Government are shifting the definition of sustainable development. We could be reassured on that point if we had sight of the NPPF, which I understand is very close to publication —or it was last week. That may be one point on which the noble Baroness can enlighten us when she comes to respond.
Amendment 148AZB is aligned with the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Cotter, which has not been spoken to. Frankly, I am not enamoured of our wording but the amendment seeks to ensure that when membership of a neighbourhood forum includes individuals who work in the area, they should, like individuals living there, reflect the type and size of businesses in the area to prevent possible domination by large businesses.
Picking up a little on the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Newton, who asked what on earth is meant by “wanting to live” in an area, perhaps the Minister can help us with the definition of neighbourhood forums being open to individuals who work there. What does that mean? Clearly, if someone has a place of work in a particular area and turns up there every day, that is clear cut and straightforward, but what about a jobbing plumber who may spend part of his time working in the area and part not, or a window cleaner who has part of his round in the area and part not? Indeed, what about someone delivering those free newspapers that we get these days? Would they be included as working in the area? What about someone who works on a construction site which may be in existence for two years, possibly when the neighbourhood forum is part-way through its work? Once work is finished on the construction site, do all the workers on it cease to be members of the forum? There are real issues of definition here which simply add to concerns about bureaucracy and we deserve some answers on them.
I turn to some of the other amendments that have been spoken to. As I have indicated, we very much support the thrust of what the noble Lord, Lord True, said on his amendment. We obviously support the government amendments which provide the opportunity to withdraw designation from a neighbourhood forum, although how rare that will be remains to be seen. I have indicated that we certainly support the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, in adding “cultural” to the requirements.
The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, took us through some of the democratic deficit in his terms and what needed to be done to try to redress that: forums should be open to all individuals and must have all-elected members. We absolutely support that. He also has Amendment 148AZZJ which says that organisations must have zero or minimal charges. That is important because you could have people squeezed out of membership by someone ratcheting up the charges.
There are a number of detailed points on some of the other amendments but the broad thrust of them is to make these arrangements more democratic and more inclusive. We are certainly supportive of all that. I think that the Government should take this collection of amendments seriously and address the issue of why everyone should be forced down the same route that is prescribed in the Bill when, at the moment, there is good practice which could be developed in other ways by a range of local authorities.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for their contributions on this immense number of amendments now before us. At the outset, I shall apologise because I know that one or two of them have not been spoken to, but I shall probably reply to them on the basis that I find this system of numbering confusing. Trying to work out my notes against all this ZZZ-ing has been almost impossible. If I overstretch the mark and reply too often or not enough, please forgive me and we shall sort it out at the end.
I think it is reasonable to start with the government amendments. My replies to the other amendments are clustered under various headings, and if I do not respond to them all I shall try to pick up the points that were made.
The government amendments, which are 148AA, 148AB, 148AC, 148AD and 152B, address the issue of what happens if forums fail to continue to meet the conditions and criteria and empower local councils to remove the designation of a forum in these circumstances. That is what noble Lords have pointed to.
Amendments 148ZCA and 148ZMA are intended to remove the ability of neighbourhood forums to bring forward neighbourhood planning proposals. We agree that, where they exist, parish councils will be the appropriate body to bring forward neighbourhood planning proposals. Where parish councils do not exist, we do not think that communities should be prevented from having a say in the future of their areas. Therefore, our proposals for neighbourhood forums are a pragmatic solution with safeguards in place. Those are the government amendments in this part.
Amendment 148ZZZEA, in the name of my noble friend Lord True, would allow local planning authorities to bring neighbourhood development plans and orders into effect. To achieve this, too much of the power to lead on neighbourhood planning, we believe, would be transferred back from the community to be shared with the authority. I know that my noble friend has already set up his own plans and way of operating. I say to him that neighbourhoods do not have to set up forums; if they do not want them, they do not have to have them.
Government Back-Bench Amendment 148C seeks to expand the definition of development which is excluded from neighbourhood planning. A number of noble Lords have raised this issue, which I will talk about in more detail a bit later on. Our position is that we have excluded development types and classes which, due to their scale and complexity, are inappropriate to be given planning permission through a neighbourhood development order. These include nationally significant infrastructure projects and county minerals and waste applications, which are far too big for a neighbourhood to consider. These amendments would constrain the ability of communities to develop detailed, ambitious neighbourhood plans if they choose to do so. We believe that Amendment 148C would inappropriately widen the range of development that is excluded from the scope of neighbourhood planning and thus constrain the ability of communities to develop detailed plans with major-scale proposals if they choose to do so.
Our neighbourhood planning proposals are founded on the principle that communities should have a greater say in the future of their areas. Government Back-Bench Amendments 148ADB, 148ADC, 148ZC and 148ZD would go against that principle by allowing major infrastructure owners and operators, such as Network Rail or British Gas, to bring forward neighbourhood planning proposals.
Government Back-Bench Amendment 148AZZFB removes the requirement for neighbourhood forums to have a minimum number of members. In response to concerns raised in Committee in the Commons regarding the legitimacy of a neighbourhood forum, especially about the number of members, we amended the Bill to increase the minimum membership requirement for forums from three people to 21 and to ensure that membership is drawn from across the community. This amendment would remove those important safeguards. Our expectation and hope is that a forum of 21 people will not be just a forum of 21 people; the intention is to involve the whole neighbourhood. There will be a leading group in the forum, but it will not be exclusive and cut out other residents who live in the area—after all, it is their area and they need to be talked to. A number of people will bring forward plans and then discuss and consult on them.
Amendments 148AZZJA, 148AZZHA, 148AZZHB, 148AZZH and 148AZA, and opposition Back-Bench Amendment 148AZB, would impose more restrictive requirements that a local planning authority would consider in deciding whether to designate a neighbourhood forum, and consequently the criteria against which prospective forums would be judged. For example, Amendment 148AZZHB would include new criteria for looking at whether the forum's membership is drawn from all sections of the community within the neighbourhood area.
Amendments 148AZZG, 148AZZFA, 148AZZF, 148AZZFAA, 148AZZFAB and 148AZZFAC would change the membership conditions that a group must meet to be a neighbourhood forum. They would require the membership of a prospective neighbourhood forum to include at least one individual who lives, and one who works, in the neighbourhood area, and at least one who is an elected member of a local authority for the area. The effect of these amendments would be to increase the potential for individuals to stop a valid group being designated as a forum by resigning their membership or refusing to join in the first place. We expect all those people to be involved, but to have this laid down would be restrictive and open to potential difficulties.
Amendment 148AZB responds to concerns about business involvement in forums. However, the amendment is unnecessary as provisions in the Bill will mean that local councils should consider the desirability of designating a forum whose membership is drawn from different sections of the community in the area. That would include businesses—and, indeed, small businesses. We consider that there are important safeguards already in the Localism Bill to ensure that neighbourhood forums have an open and inclusive approach to their membership, and we have sought to secure membership across the neighbourhood area and from all sections of the community. The amendments would mean that a very small minority of individuals in a neighbourhood area could frustrate the development of neighbourhood planning proposals by declining to join the neighbourhood forum.
Amendment 148ABZA would debar companies and other bodies that operate for profit from being designated as a neighbourhood forum. Our position is that we do not want to impose any unnecessary restrictions on organisations that want to put themselves forward to create neighbourhood forums. Local planning authorities will have discretion on which body or group to designate as the neighbourhood forum, but we certainly feel that businesses that work in a neighbourhood will have a role to play.
Amendment 148AZZGA seeks to remove the power for a local planning authority to designate as a neighbourhood forum groups or bodies which do not fulfil all the requirements in the Bill, but which meet alternative conditions prescribed by the Secretary of State. This power ensures we can cater for new and changing circumstances without having to amend primary legislation specifically to allow community groups that may have been inadvertently excluded legally to take forward neighbourhood planning in a designated neighbourhood area.
Amendment 148ABZB would remove the restriction that a parish council or neighbourhood forum can bring forward only one set of proposals at a time for neighbourhood development orders. However, we consider this a sensible restriction. The amendment would give rise to a situation where a parish council or neighbourhood forum could submit a plethora of proposals, one after the other, some completely incompatible with others, before any decisions, either at examination or referendum, had been made on earlier ones.
Amendment 148ZN would allow a neighbourhood forum to be designated for a neighbourhood area which includes a part of a parish council area. This would cause confusion and possible duplication as the amendment would create two qualifying bodies in the same neighbourhood area. Where there is a parish council, we believe it is the right body to plan for the neighbourhood. I was asked earlier whether two parish councils could come together to form a neighbourhood area, and the answer is that they can. If I am not right about that, I will come back on it.
Government Back-Bench Amendments 148AZZA and 148AZZE respond to concerns that neighbourhood forums could have a sole purpose of promoting business in an area—certainly, one of the amendments was in relation to that. Amendment 148AZZE would prevent a neighbourhood forum having an express sole purpose of promoting business in an area.
Amendments 148AZZD and 148AZZC also try to limit the opportunity for neighbourhood forums to have an explicit sole purpose which relates to the promotion of business in a neighbourhood area. Amendments 148AZZD and 148AZZC would require neighbourhood forums always to have a purpose related to furthering the well-being of those who live or want to live in the neighbourhood area concerned, regardless of the suitability of this given the local context.
I want to make clear that businesses will not be able to override the interests of residents in neighbourhood planning. Neighbourhood planning is based on building consensus rather than an adversarial approach. The involvement of business in an area that is not a business neighbourhood must help to contribute to that. All forums must be open to those living in the area. In designating a forum, local councils must consider whether the purpose of the forum reflects the character of the area. In a conservation area, you would probably want to see members of conservation societies involved; in an area where there is heritage, you would certainly want to see heritage societies involved; and in a specific business area, you probably want to see somebody from that. In some areas, the forum may wish to focus on the promotion of business in the neighbourhood—for example, in an industrial estate or commercial centre.
Regardless of the forum's purposes, any neighbourhood planning proposals will need to meet the basic conditions for neighbourhood planning, whether it is a business neighbourhood area or a neighbourhood forum. They may include being appropriate in having regard to national policy and being in general conformity with the strategic policies of the local plan. Wherever there is a neighbourhood plan, it has got to be in conformity with the local development plan and with the national planning frameworks, which I have been advised will be ready for consultation soon.
Residents will always be able to have a say in the development of proposals at independent examination and in the referendum at the end of the process. It will be very much in the interest of the neighbourhood forums to see that they have consulted with the people who live in their area and given them an opportunity to comment and be part of what is being proposed. Otherwise, if they put it to a referendum they are not going to win it, which would probably not be quite what they had in mind. Where proposals will affect people living on the periphery of a neighbourhood area, it will be possible for the local authority to extend the referendum area to include those people in the vote.
Amendment 148AZZB would potentially reduce the clarity provided by the Bill about the legitimate purposes of neighbourhood forums. It would allow a forum to be set up with the express purpose of furthering the well-being of individuals with “an interest” in the neighbourhood area concerned. This amendment would counter the Government’s amendments to the Bill at Committee which sought to provide clarity on the legitimate purposes for a neighbourhood forum, in response to opposition concerns.
Amendment 148A would allow neighbourhood forums to be designated in parishes where the parish council has not achieved certain quality standards. We recognise the value of quality standards, such as those provided by the National Association of Local Councils. However, we are not persuaded that they should form a prerequisite for parish councils to undertake neighbourhood forum planning.
Amendment 148ZM removes the ability of parish councils to prepare a neighbourhood plan for anywhere other than an area that is exclusively within their own parish boundaries. The amendment means that parish councils would not be able to prepare a neighbourhood plan for any land that sits just outside their parish boundary. This amendment would remove the ability for parish councils effectively to respond to their communities’ wishes, while also restricting the ability for neighbourhood boundaries to reflect natural neighbourhood boundaries.
Amendment 148ADCA would allow an application for a neighbourhood area to be made by two or more parish councils. I was asked about this earlier on. Our provisions on the designation of neighbourhood areas are very flexible and are designed to respond to local circumstances—for example, to allow larger parishes to be divided into two or more neighbourhood areas. Equally, the neighbourhood area could be extended beyond the parish boundary in the case of a smaller parish and there is nothing to prevent two or more parishes joining together in a single neighbourhood area, with the important condition that all the involved parish councils give their consent. The way we see the process working is that one parish council would be nominated to take the lead.
Amendment 148AZZJ adds a new factor to the Bill by requiring local authorities to consider, when designating a neighbourhood forum, specifically whether a forum is charging “a zero or minimal” subscription fee. In line with the community-led principles of neighbourhood planning, we do not feel that it is appropriate for central government to dictate the way a forum should run its finances, as Amendment 148AZZJ would do. The requirements in the Bill that neighbourhood forums must meet are deliberately limited in order to maximise the range of new and existing groups of individuals who can put themselves forward to develop neighbourhood plans, while ensuring that they have an open approach to their membership and draw their membership from different sections of the community. With those assurances, I hope that noble Lords will feel able not to move their amendments.
I was asked a number of questions which I will try to respond to. The noble Lord, Lord True, made very clear his difficulties with this aspect of the Bill. As I think I have made clear, no neighbourhood needs to have a forum but if it wants to have one it can. Presumably if it did that, it would work very closely with the local authority. The local authority run by my noble friend Lord True will probably give whatever help is needed.
On the question of combinations of neighbourhood forums, my noble friend Lord Jenkin asked me about the difference between “residential with business” and “business with residential”. I think they are precisely that: the neighbourhood forums should be all-encompassing in being representative of what is in their neighbourhood. If a neighbourhood is largely residential but has some business component in it, we expect that business component to be represented on the forum and at least have a say in how the neighbourhood plans are formed. Most business areas usually have residential areas attached to them somewhere, but areas that are substantially business areas are still required to look to the residential nature of the area around them and ensure that that residential voice is also involved in the forum. Only if they were fully business areas would they be able to draw up their own plans.
The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, asked me whether neighbourhood forums would be able to support their own neighbourhood development plans. They would have to put the plan out to a referendum in the normal way to those who would then take part and decide whether they thought they were suitable.
My Lords, if they were included in the area, they would be part of that business forum. If it was decided that, percentage-wise, the area was more business than neighbourhood, they would still have to be involved in that. If they were outside that forum, they could make their own forums, but if they were in the business forum area they would have to be included rather than be the totally driving force. Does that answer the question?
My noble friend Lord True asked about the extent to which the regulations would lead to a one-size-fits-all approach. We think it is important that local communities put these forums together in a way that suits them, although the forums will have to be put together in conjunction with the local planning authorities. Those planning authorities will be able to see their plans at the neighbourhood level through the development plan documents, but those documents will influence the neighbourhood plans.
The noble Lord, Lord Beecham, asked about the designation of the neighbourhood forums. I think I responded to this. The local planning authority will be responsible for designating a neighbourhood area and deciding whether it is a business neighbourhood. It will be left to the local authority to decide whether there is a majority of business people or a majority of local people. The Bill does not allow for overlapping neighbourhood areas, which provides certainty as to which area you are in and which policies apply. As I said, if you are in a business area you are in a business area. Neighbourhood areas outside it will need their own forums.
I think I have responded to most of the questions that I have been asked, and I hope that with those responses noble Lords will not press their amendments to a vote.
My Lords, perhaps I may pick up on what my noble friend has been saying. I am puzzled as to how business gets involved when a parish is the foundation for neighbourhood planning. A particular example would be this. What happens to the strawberry and cherry growers of Kent? Noble Lords may have a view of strawberry fields and cherry orchards in Kent as they remember them from their youth, but if they went there now they would see polytunnels full of Poles, which tend not to be popular. Well, the Poles are popular locally, but the polytunnels are not. It would be very difficult, under a neighbourhood planning regime, to get permission for a new strawberry field and the polytunnels involved if there was no business influence at all in a neighbourhood planning environment run by a parish council.
My Lords, I have a few brief points. I agree with the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, in the debate. Other parts of this Bill and other legislation are probably going to lead to an impetus in some areas for the creation of new parish councils. But it is true to say that over three-quarters of the population of England do not live in a parished area, so there is a serious problem of the democratic deficit here.
I am extremely grateful to my noble friend the Minister for her detailed answers to questions I and other Members put to her, but this issue is so complex that I shall have to take her responses away and read them. We will do that, and perhaps we will have the whole summer for it. However, I am not sure that the Government have yet really got a grip on the question of the democratic credibility and legitimacy of neighbourhood forums. The amendments I put down to take away the limit of 21 were not because I want to go back to three, but because I think that 21 is far too small.
My Lords, I hesitate to interrupt my noble friend because I know that he has great experience of these matters. However, we are trying to make progress. I know that there are things that he might wish to pursue later, but the Minister has just given an extremely lengthy response which all colleagues will want to read. Perhaps I may suggest that we move on at this point and that these matters can be considered at a later stage. My noble friend may have further questions for the Minister on another occasion. I know that we are in Committee and not on Report, but I know also that the mood of the House is to move on.
Perhaps I may say that the mood of the House on this side is not to delay the Bill but to make sure that we do have proper scrutiny of what is a very long and complex Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, will answer for himself, but I think he has been done an injustice.
My Lords, we have had a lengthy debate, but this is one of the most fundamentally important aspects of the Bill and it is the first time that we have had an opportunity to put forward proposals and discuss it. I totally respect what my noble friend has said, so I shall seek to be brief in responding to the debate, as I sought to be brief when opening it. However, this is an extremely important matter and, again, it is the first time that we have had an opportunity to grapple with it.
Like other noble Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for her lengthy response, which I will study carefully. However, I hope she will forgive me if I say that she skated a little briefly over the fundamental point of whether there should be a permissive regime or not. As I heard it, there were two responses. One was that the proposal that I put forward might take the process a little further away from the community. My fear is that the process in this Bill will take it further away from the community, which is why I put forward in my amendment the proposal that the default position should be that all members of a local community take part. In responding, my noble friend quoted the Government’s guidance to the Bill, which states that everyone will have a chance to get involved during the process but that one group will lead it in each neighbourhood area. I have to ask why. Who thinks up these ideas? Are not local councillors, elected representatives, the people who should lead the process of forming and reconciling local opinion? Why cannot the local authority simply facilitate these matters? I question whether we need these bodies all over the place.
On my noble friend’s other response, I ask her to consider with her officials before Report her statement that local authorities do not need to set up neighbourhood forums. The Bill states that if a local authority does not set up a neighbourhood forum it must give reasons to an organisation or body applying to be designated as a neighbourhood forum. So a process exists whereby a group can ask to be a neighbourhood forum and require an answer from a local authority, which under new Section 61F(12)(d) of the Act, is then subject to regulations from the department about how the local authority must respond to that group. That might be one representative group in an organisation in an area which differs from another one. There must be some response; there are other regulations, so the response must be made in full council. I do not know whether the officials who drafted the Bill know how often full councils meet or the procedures around them. I ask for some further consideration of that central point between now and Report.
It is not necessary to impose the forums in urban areas. As the Local Government Association said—this is not a personal view—there is a risk of bureaucracy. I do not want to labour the point further, but it is one of the most important points that we have come to in the Bill. I ask the Government to reflect on the wide support that my amendment received across the Committee from almost every Peer who spoke, by which I was hugely encouraged. Having heard what was said, I intend to pursue the matter at a later stage, unless we can reach some more productive agreement during the summer. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 148ZZZEA withdrawn.
Debate on whether Clause 101 should stand part of the Bill.
My Lords, when I put down this clause stand part debate, I might have anticipated that the previous group would cover a great deal of the ground that I want to refer to, so I shall be extremely brief. I shall begin with a bouquet to my noble friend on the Front Bench. It is very helpful that she has sent us in her document her letter to the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie of Luton, of 13 July setting out the purpose and thrust of the many government amendments which have been tabled. However, that is the end of my bouquet, because the fact that, on this part of the Bill alone, my noble friend has tabled well over 30 amendments illustrates what I have been referring to during the passage of the Bill; that is, that the Government are trying to micromanage the whole process. I remember hearing my right honourable friend the Secretary of State proclaim that the localism legislation would be the end of top-down micromanagement. I just wonder how it has all crept into this Bill in the way that it has.
I shall say two things about this. The first is that I have been sent a large number of amendments by the Local Government Association, which is as appalled as I am by the extent of the detailed bureaucratic interference by central government. It has asked me to table a list of amendments—I have 40 of them. I simply said, “I am not going to waste the time of the House by tabling these amendments. I will send the list of the amendments to my noble friend, so that she can see what they are getting at”.
More positively, I have had a discussion with my noble friend’s honourable friend Greg Clark, the Minister of State in charge of the Bill, and he has agreed—I am very grateful for this—to a meeting with me next week, together with representatives of the local government associations, to see what can be done to try to remove much of this top-down micromanagement, of which we have heard a great deal in the last hour and a quarter. The Local Government Association has sent him a long list of what it thinks could be properly removed from the Bill without affecting its main general thrust of localism and devolving power down to local authorities and local communities.
Happily we have enough time before Report for the Government to ponder these matters. I hope we will see many amendments which do not add to the complications, of which we have heard so much, but remove substantial chunks of the Bill, leaving more to be decided by elected local authorities without the detailed prescription with which we have been furnished. I could give a number of examples from this part of the Bill of an absurd amount of detailed prescription, but I will not do so. This is a clause stand part debate, with which a large number of amendments have been grouped, and I do not wish to weary the Committee further.
Your Lordships know my views on this and I am trying to do something about it between now and Report. I recognise that my noble friend is doing her best to reply to a mass of amendments, but these have been provoked by the fact that there is a great deal of top-down micromanagement even in this part of the Bill. Of course noble Lords will table amendments—as I did myself—if they want to change this or they want to change that. It should not be there—and that is the point that I seek to make.
I apologise for getting a bit hot under the collar about this but I know my views are shared widely across the House. I hope my noble friends will recognise that I do this with the best of motives to try to improve the legislation with which we have been confronted.
My Lords, as the noble Lord knows well, his remarks are shared by myself and my Liberal Democrat colleagues. We wish him well in his efforts to reduce a great deal of the prescription and the size of the Bill. My Amendment 148ADEA also seeks to remove unnecessary prescription and regulations and to reduce the size of the Bill. I was not sure whether the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, wanted to remove the whole of Clause 101 to Room 101 but, in practice, it is the unnecessary prescriptive parts that we would all like to see go to Room 101.
I have one general question under the clause stand part debate about the funding of local planning authorities. It is clear that, as set out in the Bill, neighbourhood planning will result in extra burdens, extra costs and a need for extra resources for local planning authorities. The Government have given a guarantee to local authorities recently that any extra burdens will be funded. What guarantees are there that the extra costs on planning authorities due to neighbourhood planning will be funded, and in what way will this be done?
The amendments in relation to neighbourhood areas are probing amendments and are not to be taken literally; they are merely to probe the issues. They probe why it is desirable to designate the whole of a parish council area as a neighbourhood area and in what circumstances it may be appropriate not to do so. I think that the Minister has substantially answered that already. I particularly welcome her statement that two or more small parishes could join together, where sensible, to form one neighbourhood area, otherwise the process would become rather ridiculous. That is most welcome. They also probe why it is desirable to maintain the existing boundaries of a neighbourhood area if they are no longer appropriate and in what circumstances it may be appropriate not to do so. Perhaps more substantially, they suggest that,
“where an existing designation includes the whole or part of the area of a parish council any such modification may only be made with the consent of that council.”
In her very welcome statement that parishes could combine in a neighbourhood area where that is sensible, the Minister said that that would take place only with the consent of the parishes concerned. Surely, if the boundaries of neighbourhood areas that include the parish or part of the parish are to be changed, it is only sensible to do it with the consent of the appropriate parish council or councils. It would be helpful if we could have that assurance.
The amendments also suggest an additional consideration when a local planning authority is considering whether to designate an area as a neighbourhood area, which really gets to the core of the matter of whether the area is suitable for the purposes of neighbourhood planning. I was surprised that this consideration was not in the Bill. It seems to me to be the first and most important thing that should be considered. Again, I look forward to the Minister’s reply.
My Lords, I shall speak specifically to Amendment 148ADBA because it is another aspect of the problem that we have identified about parish councils and the area in which they can sit in relation to a neighbourhood plan. This amendment would remove the restriction on a parish council being part of a neighbourhood area where the rest of that neighbourhood area is unparished.
Parish councils in urban areas have existed since local government reorganisation in the early 1970s, and they can lie within wards of a local authority but may not cover the whole of that ward. As it stands, the Bill prevents such a parished area working with the unparished area when it wants to, to produce a single neighbourhood plan. This amendment simply solves that problem. However, there is a better solution, which is to turn the unparished areas with neighbourhood forums into parish councils. That would give a democratic legitimacy to neighbourhood planning which is then based on the ballot box.
The solution to this problem lies in the public services White Paper published last week. Within that, there are a set of proposals in relation to the creation of neighbourhood councils in urban areas. I noted what my noble friend the Minister said about unparished neighbourhood forums being a pragmatic solution. The difficulty is that I do not think that pragmatism goes far enough. There has to be a democratic legitimacy to neighbourhood planning, which is based on “one person, one vote” and the right to express that view.
A referendum will not be sufficient to do that because the people helping to make decisions should have a democratic base. The solution to that problem lies within the public services White Paper. It would be enormously helpful if in the next few months the aims of the Government in relation to that White Paper and neighbourhood councils could be brought together with this Bill to produce an outcome which enables unparished urban areas to have a parish council structure.
My Lords, I have three amendments in this group. They are all deigned to build greater flexibility into the Bill and make it operate more in line with the real meaning of localism as I see it and with the opinions of local people, particularly in urban areas. New Section 61G(1)(a), to be inserted in the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 by Schedule 9, allows an authority to designate a neighbourhood area only where a would-be neighbourhood forum or parish council has asked for it. That is cumbersome and restrictive.
My Amendment 148ADA would allow a local authority simply to ask local people what they consider their neighbourhood areas to be and to designate them themselves. To quote the Bill, why do they need to wait for a,
“body which is … capable of being, designated as a neighbourhood forum”,
to ask for it? Surely a local authority can do that.
Can the noble Lord help the House with a little explanation of the effect of Amendment 148ADA? It indicates that you could have a parish council where,
“the authority has conducted a survey of the residents of its local authority area asking its residents to define their own … village … and at least 5% of the households in the local authority area”.
Does that cover a local authority—be it Richmond, Newcastle or anywhere else—if 5 per cent of the population indicate what their area is in a ballot? You could have a neighbourhood forum where perhaps nobody has responded. Or does the amendment mean that there would have to be at least a 5 per cent response within each area that was to be designated as a neighbourhood area? That is rather different from the wording that is before us.
That may be the case and I apologise if the drafting is not clear. What I had in mind is a 5 per cent response across the local authority area. It seems to me that if only a very small number respond to say that they want this place to be designated as an area or village, ipso facto that demonstrates that they do not see it as an area. However, if a significant number do, then they would. Some of these may be small. My Amendment 148ADD would require an authority to take account of local people’s preferences in the survey. Perhaps I could answer the noble Lord by saying he is right—it is not a problem in rural areas but it is an urban problem. My authority, along with others, has conducted surveys. In the survey we had locally, the response level was above 5 per cent and the respondents designated 14 different areas that they defined as the area in which they live, or as their local area. The population size varied from a few hundred up to several thousand. My contention is that, prima facie, that is a community that feels it is a community and can be designated, if we go through this model in the Bill, as a neighbourhood area. Have I made myself clear?
I apologise. I am not good at drafting but I do want to press on and let the House make progress.
When people were asked to respond as to what their neighbourhood area was, those areas often overlapped, not just horizontally but vertically. People in an urban area can very easily feel attached to two geographical concepts and at different levels—a community and a town. My Amendment 148ADE challenges what I think is, again, a rigid concept in the Bill that no neighbourhood area may overlap another one. It allows people to be members of and participate in more than one neighbourhood area, if they have said in a survey that they feel part of or influenced by events and developments in more than one area. In the previous group, my noble friend was moving towards that by saying that people outside the area could participate in a referendum. However, people’s perceptions about planning may differ also within an area—two communities may have different views, say, about local parking standards but be united on back-garden development across the whole of the town, or on shops. The last thing I would contest is the guidance to the Bill, which says that there should be a strong assumption that existing ward boundaries will define the neighbourhood area. The noble Lord, Lord Shipley, also addressed this point.
Anyone who has been involved in representations to the Local Government Boundary Commission will tell you that lines drawn by the commission are frequently strongly contested and often bear absolutely no relation to community realities. Take my own small town, which is covered by parts of three different wards. The neighbouring ward contains two communities that, in the survey I mentioned, self-defined as two separate communities—Mortlake and Barnes. They saw themselves as entirely different. Barnes is actually split between two wards, while Twickenham is covered by four wards. I do not see how you can address neighbourhood planning simply in an urban area without allowing flexibility to stray across these neighbourhood areas, both horizontally and vertically, as I have put it. The concepts in the Bill are therefore potentially too rigid and problems arise only because of that. I shall not press these amendments, but I ask my noble friend to reflect on this point: we should allow communities, where we can, to define their own place, coalesce and differ for different purposes as they wish, and not to be locked into one neighbourhood area for five years. They should be facilitated in doing that by a local authority, which has the flexibility to move the pieces around and bring people together for different purposes. That would be real, active localism and not the rather rigid approach set out in the Bill at this point.
My Lords, I will be brief. First, can I say how much we appreciate the effort that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, is making to try to get some of the bureaucracy out of this Bill? We would be very interested in staying in touch with his considerations, with the LGA and the Minister, to see what progress is being made. That would certainly help the passage of the Bill when we come to Report and subsequent stages.
On the separate amendments, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord True, that we should not be in a situation whereby you can designate a neighbourhood forum only if you are asked to do so. There ought to be flexibility for an authority itself to do that, as long as there is sufficient community support. I will not go into the arithmetic of how the 5 per cent works. We support the thrust of that. The idea of two or more parish councils joining together has been supported.
The noble Lord, Lord Shipley, in seeking to deal with overlap with parish councils, made a very valid point. He is right in the sense that the best solution would be for it all to be a parish council, or more than one parish council. But even if that is not the case, I do not see why that overlap could not be part of the flexibility that is around these provisions.
The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, wanted a suitability test. I am not quite sure why that is not encompassed within the desirability test, but perhaps we should not at this hour get into the semantics of that. I see what he is seeking to achieve, and I certainly support the noble Lord in seeking to delete a lot of the regulation-making powers in the provisions.
My Lords, I thank noble Lords for their brevity in introducing these amendments. I do not think that I want to comment widely on what my noble friend Lord Jenkin said in addressing the stand part. It was not entirely to do with this part of the Bill but was a much more wide-ranging discussion on the nature of the Bill and his concerns about it. I am glad to know that he will be able to express them to the Minister who is handling the Bill, Greg Clark, and I am sure that the discussions will be well received, because Greg Clark has been very notable in consensus in the other place. Whether he will be able to be consensual with what is being said, I do not know. Noble Lords say that the Bill is trying to micromanage all the processes, but we do not think that that is what we are trying to do. It intends to provide guidance in regulations and to use a light-touch way to bring in what is in many cases, in many parts of the Bill, a new way to manage local areas and authorities.
I want to address one or two areas that were raised. The noble Lord, Lord True, has a very great deal of concerns about this Bill. There is not a lot that I can say to reassure him to make it any better. But as regards why the local authority should make decisions, I think that the noble Lord himself, as leader of a council, would be very upset if the council did not have a role in ensuring that neighbourhood forums were where they were wanted by the neighbourhood. He would be upset if they were not properly constructed in a way that the council thought was sensible, as well as the people who lived in that area. On why communities will be taking the initiative in planning their areas and on who will initiate the process of deciding a neighbourhood area, the local council will have an important role in the work of ensuring that they are coherent. On overlapping areas and ward boundaries, the latter are reasonably sensible in towns, being well understood and well designated. They largely cover similar areas and similar problems. However, I do not believe that there is any difficulty in cities. If I am wrong about this, I will be corrected and will come back on it but I see no reason why there should not be two forums within a ward, if that is the way the ward splits up.
I apologise but whatever may be true in towns, perhaps I might give a direct illustration. My wife’s ward on Braintree District Council is called Coggeshall and North Feering. The neighbouring ward is Feering and Kelvedon, and I need hardly say that North Feering almost certainly sees itself as more closely related for most purposes with Feering and Kelvedon than with Coggeshall, which is roughly two and a half to three miles away. The reason for this is that the ward boundaries have been drawn to produce reasonable equality in order to justify the numbers of councillors. They have nothing to do with the sort of things that we are talking about. Again, we are seeking flexibility, not a straitjacket.
My Lords, I confirm that I was right that wards can divide themselves or be divided into more than one neighbourhood forum, which may pick up on some of the points that my noble friend Lord Newton has made. There is a certain coherence within ward boundaries, but that coherence may be of people having more than one sense of community to come together in a forum within those boundaries.
The noble Lord, Lord Shipley, raised the point about the coming together of the public services White Paper and this legislation. I have not read that White Paper in huge depth but I am sure that somebody has. My sensible answer is to say that we will look at that to see whether there are overlaps or differences. Parish councils are going to be the main type of council in the country that has a mandate to undertake a neighbourhood plan because I gather that, by definition, most areas anywhere in the countryside are parished.
Amendment 148ADCAA is intended to allow a neighbourhood area to cover more than one parish area, where two or more parish councils make a joint application. As I think I said in reply to the previous debate, we are pretty content with that. Our position on many existing town or parish council boundaries is that they will form logical boundaries for neighbourhood planning. I appreciate that there is a great difference in the numbers that are in parish councils, but they will be able to divide themselves into one or two if they wish.
I am not going to comment on all the amendments, as I am told that we have to keep to a very tight timetable. I hope that most of my remarks cover most of the sense of the debate. Perhaps I should quickly respond to the noble Lord, Lord Shipley. He asked whether a neighbourhood plan could be produced covering a parished and a non-parished area. The answer to that is no. The Bill already allows for parishes to work with non-parished areas in preparing comprehensive neighbourhood plans covering both parished and non-parished areas. Neighbourhood forums should be able to become parish councils and we hope that many neighbourhood forums will take the opportunity of producing a neighbourhood plan to consider becoming a new parish council. The Government are required to provide resources to local authorities in respect of any new statutory duty under the new burdens scheme, so the answer to the question of whether there will be financial support is yes.
I hope that with that noble Lords will be happy to withdraw their amendments.
My Lords, I am very disappointed that my noble friend is not paying more mind to the amendments of my noble friend Lord True. Life is complicated out there. I know that Kensington and Chelsea are pretty uniform places, but even if she were to stray south of the river into Battersea, where I spend some of my time, she would find that it was very difficult to draw boundaries that will have any sense of agreement. There will be a tendency for fragments of local communities to try to grab territory for themselves in an unco-ordinated way. That will apply particularly in the deeper inner cities where community tends to be defined by origin rather than by geography. Under those circumstances, it would be very helpful to have a local authority—which after all is used to dealing with the coherence of the area and how it works—setting out at least some framework by which people can operate. They can always propose something different if they feel that they need to, but to have that coherence offered by a local authority would be immensely helpful.
As regards overlapping areas, how do you deal with somewhere like Winchester, say, which is obviously too big to deal with as a neighbourhood but needs coherence over that area when it comes to neighbourhood planning? Going back to a point that I think the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, made on the previous occasion, how do you deal with areas where there is a city or a large town which is confined within boundaries that are too tight and needs to work with its surrounding areas to expand? Under both those circumstances we are going to need to think of local flexible solutions that work with the grain of the neighbourhood and produce the right solutions for those circumstances. We are going to need flexibility. I am very disappointed that my noble friend the Minister does not think that that is required.
Clause 101 agreed.
Schedule 9 : Neighbourhood planning
148ZZEA: Schedule 9, page 304, line 20, at beginning insert “Subject to subsection (14),”
My Lords, this is a small group. In moving Amendment 148ZZEA, I wish to speak also to Amendments 148ZL and 150ZZA, with which it is grouped. All three refer to national parks. Amendment 148ZL states:
“A neighbourhood development order may not be made in a national park”.
Amendment 150ZZA states that a neighbourhood development plan can be done only,
“with the consent of the National Park Authority”.
That is in a national park, obviously. These amendments seek to ask the Government whether they have thought about the role of neighbourhood planning in national parks. Is the same model appropriate? If it is appropriate, should there be extra safeguards to prevent decisions of local residents, and/or businesses, overriding the national interest? Planning in national parks is different. National parks are different. The reason they are national parks is because they comprise very special areas. Because of this, planning is done differently and is the responsibility of national park authorities, which are a partnership between local interests—representatives of local authorities and parish councils in the area—and national interests comprising independent members appointed by the Secretary of State. National park governance is being looked at by the Government and there may be some changes. However, I do not think that that basic principle will change.
The system of neighbourhood planning set out in the Bill does not seem to cater adequately for the national interest in national parks. Neighbourhood development orders and neighbourhood development plans will have to conform to the local plan—the national park plan. I assume that that is the case, and I hope that the Minister will confirm that. However, further safeguards are still needed. For instance, a referendum of local residents on a neighbourhood development order does not allow for the national interest to be involved in the referendum decision—and clearly it cannot.
We see a conflict over planning applications in national parks. Very often the recommendations of district and parish councils are not invariably followed by the national park authority. There are good reasons for that—there has to be a balance between local and national interests because they are national parks. I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say, but this is an issue that the Government have perhaps not yet properly thought through. I beg to move.
My Lords, I think that the short answer to my noble friend’s question is that I understand that the powers in relation to national parks are extremely different from what we have been talking about. Neighbourhood development orders would be allowed in national park areas, but they would still have to be in general conformity with the strategic policies of the local plan. I also understand and appreciate that national parks may cover more than one local authority, and it would therefore depend on which area they were in with regard to the local plan. NDOs would have to be appropriate and have regard to national policy. The national policy framework would govern that, but there is an area within that that we can discuss. The situation is covered, and the fact that NDOs would have to conform with the local plans and the national policy frameworks would be enough to suggest that development orders could be formed in that area.
My Lords, I am not sure that that is a satisfactory answer. I thank my noble friend for it but there needs to be further discussion about this matter and exactly how these new types of local plan will impact on the very special areas that are national parks. There is time for further discussion and, on that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 148ZZEA withdrawn.
148ZZF: Schedule 9, page 304, line 24, after “permission” insert “to implement the policies or proposals of an applicable neighbourhood development plan or development plan document (within the meaning of Part 2 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004)”
My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendments 150E, 152ZD, 152AA and 152BA. As we have discussed, involving communities in planning for neighbourhoods is significant. It provides the opportunity for local communities to engage in shaping their local environments now and in the future. However, I reiterate the concern that others have raised about the complex provisions that have to be grappled with at a time of growing scarcity of resources to local authorities and neighbourhoods. We should also be worried about the potential lack of accountability in the preparation of neighbourhood plans.
Noble Lords may be aware that the Royal Town Planning Institute has set out other options that would not require this additional cumbersome legislation. However, we are where we are. There remains, however, a real risk that the overly complex nature of the proposed system may mean that neighbourhood planning will not be as visionary, widespread or effective as intended. However, we acknowledge that improvements have been made on Report in another place.
Our Amendment 148ZZF defines a neighbourhood development order as an order that implements an NDP or a DPD policy. This is part of the proposition to reduce the complexity of the neighbourhood planning system whereby NDOs are considered within a wider neighbourhood context.
It is suggested that this is necessary with regard to neighbourhood planning to ensure that developments consented to through NDOs and community right to build orders are based on a comprehensive understanding of issues. The RTPI understands that that may be the intention behind the provisions in the Bill, but does not believe that it is clear from the relevant clauses as drafted. The amendment is supplemented by Amendments 152ZD and 152AA, the latter requiring proposals for NDOs to be accompanied by the NDP or DPD policies they are intended to implement.
Amendment 150E again addresses an issue raised by the RTPI, which recommends that neighbourhood plans and the associated referendum should be used to express the community's priorities for investment in the area—for example, the community's priorities for any CIL or the new homes bonus. That would help to ensure that neighbourhood planning is clearly linked with sources of investment in neighbourhoods, such as proposals for the new homes bonus and community budgeting and thinking about community assets, and would make neighbourhood plans more positive and meaningful.
I will comment on the plethora of other amendments in the group in due course, but, in the mean time, I beg to move.
My Lords, I have more than a few amendments in this group. Again, I shall not refer specifically to them because that would take too long; I will just try to cover the issues in most cases.
One of the most important amendments is about neighbourhood development orders. It seems to us that neighbourhood plans can fit into the existing planning system reasonably well, especially if they have to comply with the broad aspects of the local and national planning guidance. Neighbourhood development orders seem to be more difficult, and could have a fairly disruptive effect on proper planning if we are not careful.
The lead amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, has covered the crucial question of the relationship between neighbourhood and development orders and the existing development plan and its components. I think he referred to the national policy planning framework and other national guidance. If neighbourhood development orders have to comply in a general or strategic way with existing plans, is it the same as if they were ordinary planning applications or is it in some way different? Is the degree to which they have to comply less or the same? My second question is whether neighbourhood development orders and plans can be made and adopted if the local plan has not yet been adopted. I recently received a Written Answer suggesting that just over 100 local planning authorities have now adopted a core strategy. That leaves several hundred who have not, and it is not clear how long it will take them—although quite a few more are in the pipeline and have been submitted for examination. That is an important issue, because there will be a hiatus in many places.
New Section 61E(2) in the Town and Country Planning Act to be inserted by the Bill states:
“A ‘neighbourhood development order’ is an order which grants planning permission …
(a) for development specified in the order, or
(b) for development of any class specified in the order”.
One of my amendments, Amendment 148ZZJ, probes what that means. What is the relationship of that word to the usually understood types of planning permission? People talk about full planning permission and outline planning permission. If it is an outline application, it requires a further application for the details. Even if it is a full application, there may well still be reserved matters that require a further application or, perhaps more likely, the written consent of the local planning authority. How will this work with neighbourhood development orders, which are effectively for outline permission? Does it mean that outline permission can be given for, say, housing, perhaps with details of access and nothing more? In that case, how will the detailed application be determined? Will it need another neighbourhood development order and, if not, will the parish council or even the neighbourhood forum deal with it and give consent for the details, or will it then have to be passed to the local planning authority? I cannot work out from the Bill the answers to these questions. Indeed, can the developers just get on with it, with no further permissions required? If so, that would drive a coach and horses through proper planning.
So far as concerns the area covered by a neighbourhood development order, new Section 61E(2) states:
“A ‘neighbourhood development order’ is an order which grants planning permission in relation to a particular neighbourhood area”.
Can that mean just part of a neighbourhood area? Once the neighbourhood area has been defined as a parish or an urban area with a neighbourhood forum, can a neighbourhood development order relate to part of that area rather than the whole area? Again, the position is not clear to me.
New Section 61I(5) states:
“A neighbourhood development order may not relate to more than one neighbourhood area”,
but the boundaries of neighbourhood areas may not relate to a reasonable proposal on the ground. This concerns the flexibility issue that has been talked about. Why cannot two parish councils or two neighbourhood forums co-operate to make one neighbourhood development order for an area which straddles a boundary —for example, an area of disused land, perhaps with former industrial use, old railways sidings and so on—between two clearly defined neighbourhoods where the development site forms a natural marginal border area? Would that not be possible under this system and would there therefore be a need to go for a normal planning application?
New Section 61I(4) states:
“A neighbourhood development order may not grant planning permission for any development in any particular case where planning permission is already granted for that development in that case”.
I do not understand what that means. How exact and specific do the two cases have to be? Is it referring to exactly the same area, exactly the same kind of development or exactly the same planning permission in detail, or do the cases have to be similar, and how similar? The Bill seems to be fairly vague. What happens if there is an existing planning permission and a neighbourhood development order grants permission for a different kind of development—for example, a housing scheme in a place where there is already permission for a retail development? Do the two then stand side by side, with one planning permission and one neighbourhood development order that could be taken up, or does the neighbourhood development order eliminate the existing planning permission?
What is the role of local planning authorities in examinations of neighbourhood development plans and neighbourhood development orders? The Bill says that they have a right to appear if there is a hearing but what if there is no hearing? Does the local planning authority have an automatic right to comment on the plan, engage with the inspector or examiner, and make representations and recommendations?
Setting standards for neighbourhood development orders is an area where clear rules are plainly needed. Our amendment says that the Secretary of State “must”, not “may”, make regulations here. This is one area where regulations are clearly needed, otherwise the standards will not exist. If the proposed standards for the preparation of the neighbourhood development order and other documents cover what is in any documents, as well as, under the Bill, the,
“collection, sources, verification, processing and presentation of information”,
it is crucial that this process takes place in a professional, efficient way, and it also costs money.
New Section 61I(6) states:
“A neighbourhood development order may make different provision for different cases or circumstances”.
I do not understand how that will work. Does it mean that a neighbourhood development order can cover a range of different planning permissions for the same site? It seems to mean that. Normally, you get planning permission for a particular project on a particular site in an area, so how will that work?
Finally, there is an intriguing provision in new Section 61K(4) which says that the Secretary of State may issue regulations to make provision for,
“treating parish councils as local planning authorities (instead of, or in addition to, the authorities) for the purposes of the determination of applications for approvals”.
Is this really a practical proposition? What assessment has been made of the availability of professional planning staff to support parish councils as planning authorities? Would it be a general provision or would just a few large town councils apply? What criteria would be applied? Would it make the system more efficient? I can imagine that a town council might demand that every application goes to the council rather than through the system of delegation which is typically used about 90 per cent of the time now in local planning authorities.
I also have a series of amendments calling for less detailed prescription in all sorts of ways, but that matter has been debated and argued very extensively so I shall not pursue it further.
My Lords, I have three amendments in this group. Amendment 151 is quite simple. I am interested in the Government’s views on how strong a neighbourhood plan will be. If someone has been left out of a neighbourhood plan and still wants to develop their property, will they have the same scope to go for a departure as they do at the moment, or will there be a strong presumption that the neighbourhood plan prevails?
Amendment 152ZB deals with the way in which neighbourhood plans intersect with development orders. A lot of planning permission goes through under development orders which, quite rightly, a district, a county or a borough will not have a particular interest in, but which a neighbourhood will have an interest in. Neighbourhoods are very interested in the way in which their local shopping streets develop, for example. Many things that can happen to a shopping street can happen under the general permissions given under a development order. I am interested in the way in which those two intersect.
Amendment 152 is a little more complicated than that. Rural and semi-rural parishes, where there is a lot of scope for development, will become wealthy—that is the wrong word; they will have a lot of money at their disposal as a result of this Bill. A typical parish will go round its residents and ask what they want and will also go round all the neighbouring landlords and say, “If we give you the sort of permissions you are looking for, what will you do for the community?”. That is the only way it can work, because if that did not happen, any landlord who had a deal to offer could upset the referendum by saying to people voting in it, “Why are you voting for this and giving Farmer Jones £1 million as a result of the development? If you had asked me, I would have said that you could have had £0.5 million towards the village hall, a new village shop or to subsidise the bus service and that I would require only £0.5 million if you put those houses on my land”.
Inevitably, there has to be that kind of negotiation with all the local landlords. The neighbourhood plan, when it emerges, will be a document which results in a very substantial flow of funds from landlords to the community. In what way they will provide those funds, whether by permissions or by being prepared to build things for the community or subsidise things for the community, will be a total re-establishment of relationships between landlords and the community and a much more equal appreciation of sharing benefits and burdens of development. I reckon that you would probably get the planning game settling down at about 50:50 between the landlord and the community.
Incidentally, this will render entirely unnecessary the argument that we had a few days ago about the community right to bid. Most of my noble friends were worrying about relatively rural communities. They will be in a position to buy. They will have funds potentially sitting around to buy the cricket pitch. They will not be hanging around waiting to see whether they can raise money. They will be well off and have a great deal of flexibility where such things are concerned and anyone wanting to sell local property will start to think of the local community as being a place to find a purchaser. Under those circumstances, inevitably one gets into a position where there is scope for corruption. We have to be careful that that does not occur. In a small community, people by and large know each other's business: but everything ought to be open. It is essential that when one deals with these sums of money—hundreds of thousands of pounds—everything ought to be open for inspection, so that everybody can see what deals have been proposed by landlords, what the basis is for choosing particular deals that have gone into a neighbourhood plan and what deals have been cast aside. Nothing should be hidden, everything should be open. That way, at a neighbourhood level, we will have pretty good insurance against corruption.
My Lords, I listened very carefully to what the noble Lords, Lord Greaves and Lord Lucas, said on this grouping. My conclusion is that the developer who offers the most money to the community will get his planning permission. It sounds like a Dutch auction, with very little to do with the sustainability arguments that the Committee talked about in the past two days. Perhaps I have got it wrong; I shall be very interested to hear what the Minister says in response.
I think that the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, is being entirely too untrusting of communities and of the structures in the Bill. First, the wider issues of sustainability clearly come in to the examination of the plan. A site on a flood plain, for example, which has been proposed merely because the landlord is prepared to offer 70 per cent of value rather than 50 per cent, will clearly not get through the process. Secondly, communities will make a judgment. Sustainability is a concept that has a meaning for a community that is not there in its wider application; it is how the community evolves and flourishes. There will be many aspects of that which will apply to individual sites and bear as heavily as the amount of money that may come out of the site.
Communities will take a sophisticated judgment on which plans they wish to have. They will be well aware of the advantages and disadvantages to them of putting a development in a particular location. Landlords will likewise be able to see, for example, that this is the obvious place to put houses and so they do not need to give the community as much. If the neighbouring farmer wants to have a development on his land and it is slightly more of an eyesore, he will be asking the community to accept a greater burden in having the development there, so the community will need a greater benefit. That is the fundamental of neighbourhood planning. Under the current system, the farmer gets all the benefits and the neighbourhood gets the burdens. Under this system, the benefits are shared. How great the burden is should be reflected in how great the benefit is.
My Lords, I will start with the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. Certainly, neighbourhood development orders will be effective within the terms of local development plans. These plans will designate areas for development. Although a neighbourhood development order will be able to point to where the community feels it would be appropriate to have development, it can do that only if it coincides with the local development plan. Therefore, it can grant planning permission only where it is doing that in accordance with what has already been agreed. There are also safeguards in place to ensure that proposals contribute to the delivery of sustainable development. We do not expect communities to plan for an unsustainable future. As my noble friend said, with mega-developments the money will not go directly to the community but will go through CIL, as we have discussed. That will be the charge on the development. The community then will get a proportion of that to help with whatever it is deemed to require.
Neighbourhood development orders have to be in general conformity with the strategic policies of the development plan and with national planning policies. We discussed that earlier. We want to make it clear in the Bill that neighbourhood development orders are very flexible. They can permit different types and classes of development. For example—I was asked a question on this—a community could decide that it wants to use neighbourhood development orders to give full or outline planning permission for a specific development scheme, for several types of development schemes across a wider area or to extend permitted development rights more generally across the neighbourhood area. However, that has to be done within the plans that it has already put forward and agreed with the council and the community through the referendum. Legally, a neighbourhood development order can grant planning permission under the terms. A development order can only grant planning permission for development specified in the order and could still permit a whole class of development, for example a change of use.
The Bill’s provisions seek to ensure that a neighbourhood development order cannot grant planning permission for a development that already has planning permission. I think that that makes sense. If a planning authority has already given permission for a development on a site, for example, that planning is already in place and it cannot consequently be changed unless the applicant makes changes to the plans, which then would need to be dealt with in the neighbourhood order.
I have already said that the community will decide whether it wants to use neighbourhood development orders to give full or outline planning permission.
The test of general conformity with strategic policies in the local development plan currently in place in the area covers what I said. I was asked whether the local development plan has to be conformed with, and we have said yes several times.
The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, made a short contribution about developers buying off the community. There are crucial safeguards in place to ensure that proposals contribute and are kept within the confines of regulations.
I think that that more or less addresses the questions that I was asked. I will also have to move two government amendments: Amendments 148ZA and 148ZB. I wrote 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 much further detail. However, I am happy to write to noble Lords on any detailed questions that they may have subsequently. I therefore beg leave to move my amendments, which I do formally.
Would the noble Baroness allow us to dispose of the existing amendment first? She can move her amendments when this one has been withdrawn.
I asked two questions. If a neighbourhood development order gives outline planning permission, which body is then responsible for dealing with the detailed planning permission which presumably has to follow? That was the first question, and the most important one.
My Lords, I would like to add another question. I listened very carefully to the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, as he moved a number of amendments. There is probably not time for the Minister to answer them now, but perhaps she will be able to write to us with a detailed answer to the questions relating to how a small parish council will have the resources to grant planning permission, if it is going to.
My Lords, I understand that we are under pressure of time and I am totally in support of getting this Bill through. However, that should not reduce us to the sort of Commons Committee stage format we seem to be reaching of no answers being given to amendments that have been moved and spoken to. I do not feel that I have been answered in any respect in any of the amendments that I raised. The Minister has available to her the option of agreeing to write in detail to noble Lords to cover points she has not answered. She also has the option of suggesting meetings between now and Report. I very much hope that she will avail herself of those, because otherwise I shall feel the need to speak at much greater length to make sure that my points are properly recorded.
I thank the noble Baroness for her response. The more we got into the amendments moved by the noble Lords, Lord Greaves and Lord Lucas, and some of the responses that came forward, the more complex this issue became. I am still not clear what the boundaries of the neighbourhood development order will be in all respects and why it could not be used simply as a tool to deliver the development plan policies or the neighbourhood plan policies as a more efficient and effective route of engendering neighbourhood planning. However, I will read the record and consider whether we need to return to this on Report.
The exchange between my noble friend Lord Berkeley and the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, around financial consideration is extremely important, because we are going to come on to what I think will be quite a substantial debate on Clause 124—I was going to say shortly, but hopefully at some stage before we rise tomorrow. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, made an important point about making sure that transparency is absolutely key for there to be confidence in whatever system we have.
The idea of financial inducements flowing from all of this—as I understand it, and I am not a planning lawyer—takes us down a rather sticky and difficult path. We have issues around CIL and Section 106, the application of which has been narrowed. If this is seen as an opportunity for there to be inducements beyond those related to the development, that is quite a significant departure from where we have been in planning policy since 1947. Perhaps we will have the chance to expand on this in a later debate. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 148ZZF withdrawn.
Amendments 148ZZG to 148ZZJ not moved.
148ZA: Schedule 9, page 304, line 37, leave out from “if” to “have” in line 1 on page 305 and insert “in each applicable referendum under that Schedule more than half of those voting”
Amendment 148ZA agreed.
148ZB: Schedule 9, page 305, leave out lines 5 and 6 and insert—
(a) there are two applicable referendums under that Schedule (because the order relates to a neighbourhood area designated as a business area under section 61GA), and(b) in one of those referendums (but not the other) more than half of those voting have voted in favour of the order,the authority may (but need not) make a neighbourhood development order to which the proposal relates.”
My Lords, perhaps I might ask the noble Baroness a question on this. I am sorry, I think it applies to Amendment 148ZA as well—I think I am in the right amendment here, with all these Zs. I am grateful for the explanatory letter that came with these government amendments, which touch upon issues of non-domestic ratepayers and their involvement with a referendum. Can the noble Baroness confirm that with non-domestic ratepayers we are not just dealing with businesses, we are dealing with a whole range of other organisations which would be non-domestic ratepayers, for example, charities?
Could we have clarity in respect of how many votes somebody gets? Is it one vote per hereditament, even though there might be several hereditaments occupied by the same entity, or is it one per entity, however many hereditaments are actually occupied? The amendment presupposes that there will be more than one referendum in relation to a proposition, although the noble Baroness’s letter referred to there being one referendum at the same time, although the votes will be counted separately. The proposition seemed to be that it was one referendum, not more than one referendum, but perhaps the noble Baroness might clarify that for us.
My Lords, if the referendums are on different subjects, I think that is where the duplication came from. Of course, they would be counted separately, they would be carried out on the same day, and they might even have different rules attached to them, depending on what they were about. I hope that answers the noble Lord’s question. With regard to votes, there would be one vote per listed non-domestic ratepayer and, as I understand it, there would be one vote for anybody on the electoral register. “Non-domestic ratepayer” is one business and if there was a resident it would be on the electoral register.
My Lords, I do not know if the scheme we are running can do that. I will check and I will write to the noble Lord, but my gut feeling would be that if they were in the same neighbourhood area it would probably be two if they were separately rated because it is one per listed non-domestic ratepayer. If that is not correct, I will write to the noble Lord.
I will just say to my noble friend Lord Lucas that I thought I had addressed his concern about financial inducements by saying that there could only be an exchange of money around planning on the basis of agreed local development plans and any negotiations that have been done on those to reduce CIL or Section 106. Having said that, I also agree that anything that is done needs to be transparent, and we will make sure that that is the case.
I support the government amendments but would like to make one suggestion about simplification. There should be two votes in all cases, a business and a residential vote, except where either businesses or residents are a negligible presence in the neighbourhood area. The benefit of that would be that the local authority can test the mood of both residents and business. Where they agree, the vote would be binding, but where they disagree the solution is likely to be a mediated solution rather than a yes/no vote. That is likely to represent a more sustainable solution where the residents and businesses vote differently. My plea would be for there to be a business and residential vote in most situations, with the local authority taking the casting vote. From a civic society point of view, the businesses would never override the residential vote and the default would be for the local authority to take the view.
I am sorry to add to the Minister’s burdens, but I would like a little clarification. In her recent intervention, the noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, has continued to use the term “business vote”, but as the Minister has rightly pointed out it is a non-domestic vote, which presumably includes the local authority’s own buildings, and indeed government offices, so she might be casting votes up and down the country. However, I have a difficulty—it might just be me, I must confess—with Amendment 148ZB. The latter provision in Amendment 148AE requires an authority in effect to consider whether a business area should be designated as a neighbourhood area, but Amendment 148ZB talks about a situation in which there are,
“two applicable referendums under that Schedule (because the order relates to a neighbourhood area designated as a business area under section 61GA)”.
Am I correct in thinking that there are two applicable referendums because they relate both to a business area and to a residential neighbourhood area? I do not quite understand the reference to “two applicable referendums”. If there are to be two applicable referendums, I come back to the question that I posed earlier about a business area that might adjoin two separate residential neighbourhood areas. I do not understand how this will work for referendums and how proposed new subsection (5)(b) in Amendment 148ZB will operate, because there might conceivably be three referendums: one for the business area and one for each of the two adjoining residential areas. If I am correct that that might occur, the outcome will be somewhat complicated.
Frankly, I do not expect the Minister to be able to give an answer off the cuff, although she may do, in which case I will nominate her for a Nobel prize for understanding daft legislation. I would be very grateful if she could indicate that she will write to me and perhaps place a copy of the letter in the Library afterwards.
My Lords, I have two responses to give. The first response is to my noble friend Lord Greaves, who asked about residential accommodation above business premises. Both would have votes, so there would be two votes. The second response is to the noble Lord, Lord Beecham. If he will forgive me, I will write in response to his points about the referendums.
Amendment 148ZB agreed.
Amendments 148ZC, 148ZCA and 148ZD not moved.
148ZE: Schedule 9, page 305, line 15, after “with,” insert “the Equality Act 2010,”
My Lords, in moving Amendment 148ZE, I will also speak to Amendments 148ABA, 150C and 152C in the same group. These amendments are basically about equality.
New Section 61E(8), which was inserted into the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, says that the local planning authority can refuse to make a neighbourhood development order in the event of non-compliance with “any EU obligation” or with the Human Rights Act 1998. Amendment 148ZE would add compliance with the Equality Act 2010 to these obligations. Amendment 150C makes the same stipulation about a local development plan. Amendment 148ABA states that a neighbourhood forum exercises,
“a function of a public nature when exercising functions under”,
the Human Rights Act and the Equality Act. Amendment 152C would require an equalities impact assessment on neighbourhood development orders.
At the heart of these amendments, which are based on suggestions from Friends of the Earth, which has worked on this issue with the Equality and Human Rights Commission and local planning networks and communities, are the existing unequal levels of participation in local decision-making. Local power dynamics come to play in planning as in other spheres, as any of us who are involved in local politics know. This is partly to do with resources, poverty and expectations, and the ability of people to communicate with official bodies, but it can also be to do with inequality and discrimination.
Experiences vary between different places, and they are not all bad, but there was some general commentary on the problem in How Fair is Britain?, the Equality and Human Rights Commission's first triennial review, which was published last year. This found that groups that share protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010 are currently underrepresented in local decision-making. It also identified the decline in opportunities for individuals to contribute to decisions that affect their lives as a major barrier to moving towards a fairer society.
DCLG's most recent citizenship survey found that when given greater flexibility many public bodies tend to overlook vulnerable and underrepresented groups and that certain groups, such as younger and older people, although not, I think, older people in your Lordships' House, feel consistently excluded from the decision-making process—hence the need to put this in the legislation and to underpin the whole process with equality legislation.
I have tabled elsewhere amendments aimed at entrenching the inclusiveness of neighbourhood forums and the right to be heard, which will also help to tackle this issue and which we will reach in due course. This is an important issue, and a major issue of principle, and I beg to move.
My Lords, the Minister might say that these issues are otherwise covered in legislation. If they are, fine, but if they are not I certainly support these amendments. If one needs any convincing, one can just turn to the department’s own equality impact assessment. The answer to the questions,
“Which group(s) of people have been identified as being disadvantaged by your proposals?”,
“What are the equality impacts?”,
is people from black and minority ethnic communities. Where any group within the community participates less in the preparation of a neighbourhood plan, for whatever reason, there is a risk that those plans will not reflect the needs or wishes of those people. Those needs or wishes might not necessarily be linked in any way to the particular characteristics of those groups, but nevertheless might concern matters that are properly addressed through the planning system. There is, however, evidence to suggest that members of minority ethnic communities are less likely to engage with the planning system in the preparation of a neighbourhood plan. It is vital that we address that issue, so it is important that we address these propositions in relation to the Equality Act.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, for his amendments and the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, for his comments. Our position is that the safeguards are in place in the neighbourhood planning provisions. Neighbourhood forums do not exercise a public function, so the public sector equalities duty does not apply. The Bill requires forums to have an open approach to their membership and to have sought secure membership from across the neighbourhood area, so there is more than an expectation that everyone will be represented in the area, particularly if there are ethnic minority groups living together, because there often are. Neighbourhood planning proposals cannot be approved unless they are compatible with human rights obligations, and will be subject to consultation, publicity requirements, independent examination and a community referendum.
We particularly want neighbourhood planning to be an open and inclusive process, and we want the whole community to be at its heart. I want noble Lords to know that we will set out regulations and requirements for consultation with and participation by the public to ensure that this is the case. I hope that with the assurance I have given that the amendment is not totally necessary—we do have in mind the areas that have been discussed—the noble Lord will withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I am grateful for that response, but the answer was not exactly what I was expecting. I thought that the Minister was going to say that neighbourhood forums were exercising a function of a public nature and therefore would be covered by existing legislation. However, she said that they would not be exercising a function of a public nature and so ought not to be covered by the legislation. The purpose of the amendment is to try to make sure that they are covered.
If what the Minister has said is correct, we will have a situation in which neighbourhood plans and development orders are treated differently in parishes from neighbourhood forums in unparished areas. Parish councils are covered by the duties in the Equality Act, and they could not possibly argue that in the production of neighbourhood plans and development orders, they were not exercising a function of a public nature. Everything they do is a function of a public nature. One group will be covered, but in the unparished areas of our large cities and towns, where on balance it is perhaps more important that the legislation should apply because many of the local people may be classed as disadvantaged, hard to reach and so on, it will not apply.
It is difficult to argue that promoting a neighbourhood development order, and particularly promoting and putting together a local plan, is not a function of a public nature. Putting together a plan at any level, whether it be for a district or a neighbourhood, has to be a function of a public nature. I have not been given the answer I expected and I think the response I got initially makes me even more concerned that this ought to be in the Bill to make sure that the Equality Act applies.
For the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment, but I give notice that we shall certainly want to have further discussions with the Government about this before the Report stage, and I may wish to bring the matter back then.
Amendment 148ZE withdrawn.
Amendments 148ZF to 148AZB not moved.
Amendments 148AA and 148AB
148AA: Schedule 9, page 307, leave out line 24
148AB: Schedule 9, page 307, line 31, at end insert—
“(8A) A local planning authority may withdraw an organisation or body’s designation as a neighbourhood forum if they consider that the organisation or body is no longer meeting—
(a) the conditions by reference to which it was designated, or(b) any other criteria to which the authority were required to have regard in making the designation;and, where an organisation or body’s designation is withdrawn, the authority must give reasons to the organisation or body.”
Amendments 148AA and 148AB agreed.
Amendments 148ABZA to 148ABA not moved.
Amendments 148AC and 148AD
148AC: Schedule 9, page 307, line 45, after “designations” insert “(or withdrawals of designations)”
148AD: Schedule 9, page 308, line 6, at end insert—
“(ba) suspending the operation of any duty of a local planning authority under paragraph 6 or 7 of Schedule 4B in cases where they are considering the withdrawal of the designation of an organisation or body as a neighbourhood forum,”
Amendments 148AC and 148AD agreed.
Amendments 148ADA to 148ADEA not moved.
148AE: Schedule 9, page 309, line 34, at end insert—
“61GA Neighbourhood areas designated as business areas
(1) Whenever a local planning authority exercise their powers under section 61G to designate an area as a neighbourhood area, they must consider whether they should designate the area concerned as a business area.
(2) The reference here to the designation of an area as a neighbourhood area includes the modification under section 61G(6) of a designation already made.
(3) The power of a local planning authority to designate a neighbourhood area as a business area is exercisable by the authority only if, having regard to such matters as may be prescribed, they consider that the area is wholly or predominantly business in nature.
(4) The map published by a local planning authority under section 61G(8) must state which neighbourhood areas (if any) are for the time being designated as business areas.”
My Lords, since the noble Baroness has not spoken to this amendment, perhaps I may ask a question. Would she regard Kensington High Street as a business area or are we talking about areas like Westfield? In other words, how little interaction has there to be with a residential neighbourhood before it is allowed to be a business area?
My Lords, somewhere with as much residential accommodation attached to it as Kensington High Street might not necessarily fit into the business category. We have already talked about areas which are mainly shopping areas, and the noble Lord mentioned Westfield as an example. Practically all of it is a business area rather than residential. That is more what we are talking about.
Amendment 148AE agreed.
148AF: Schedule 9, page 309, line 43, leave out “and 61G” and insert “to 61GA”
Amendment 148AF agreed.
Amendments 148AG to 148AL not moved.
148B: Schedule 9, page 311, line 4, at end insert “, and
( ) development that would be likely to harm a heritage asset of national importance or its setting.”
My Lords, this is a probing amendment which has been tabled with the intention of exploring what seems to be a striking omission in the Bill; namely, to take explicit account of the importance in the planning context of the historic heritage, including the archaeological heritage. The noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, the chair of English Heritage, has authorised me to say that she supports these amendments and would speak to them if she had been able to be here today.
She is here.
I beg the pardon of the noble Baroness. In due course I shall invite her to make her own observations.
We are told by ministerial sources that the national planning policy framework will soon be available in draft form and that it may be in hand for later stages of this Bill. But that does not help the present situation. It has been suggested in news reports that the national planning policy for the historic environment, PPS5, and in particular the requirement for pre-application archaeological assessment, will no longer apply to local planning decisions. It would be helpful to have an explicit ministerial assurance that the policy will remain in force and have statutory effect. This amendment would go part of the way towards reinforcing that.
Great unease has been caused in the heritage community by a recent speech by a local council leader, Councillor Alan Melton of Fenland District Council, who was reported in the Cambs Times on 22 June. The article stated:
“Regulations governing new developments including the need for archaeological surveys are to be swept aside from July 1 in a purge designed to get Fenland building again”.
I think he may have gone too far and perhaps may have realised that, but this is exactly the point. What are the safeguards which are not on the face of this Bill, and why are they not here?
The amendment, along with Amendment 149A, seeks to ensure that the local planning authority makes a determination as to whether a proposed development might harm a heritage asset of national importance. That it will normally do by referring to the local heritage environment record. The amendment places the onus on the developer to seek such a determination from the local planning authority before proceeding.
The matter is perfectly simple, and the issue is real. If the Minister can give explicit assurance that the amendment is not needed since legislation currently in place continues to have effect and will not be impaired by the passage of the Bill, and if she will kindly specify exactly what provisions are being cited, it will give great reassurance. I beg to move.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for so beautifully moving the amendment. I only just managed to sneak into the Chamber in time, so I was not here for all his speech. Declaring my interest as chair of English Heritage, I am happy to support the amendment.
The sites that the noble Lord talked about could be designated as scheduled monuments, but they have not been so scheduled for the simple reason that, until now, they have been perfectly well protected through the planning system. We are concerned here with the possible loss of that protection through neighbourhood development.
There are about 80,000 sites of archaeological interest of national importance that could be scheduled, compared with about 20,000 that are already scheduled. The reason for our not having scheduled all the sites historically is that scheduling is a very strict, precise and quite expensive regime to implement. Many sites of national and international importance have not been scheduled because the onerous protection system has been seen as unnecessary as long as they have sat within the planning system. Neighbourhood development orders have the potential to take them out of that protection.
The NPPF may well provide for policies to protect such sites and some policy protection in the event of a normal planning application. The problem to which we return is that we do not yet have the document. I am therefore quite anxious to see whether it is explicit in saying that neighbourhood development should not interfere with such sites. I therefore strongly support what the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, seeks in his amendment, which is expressly to exclude those sites and put the matter beyond question. That is what the community of people who have to guard and look after the sites want. It is also what every community in the country that is proud of its local archaeology would want.
These sites by definition hold a very important interest that extends well beyond neighbourhood boundaries because of their national significance. There should be no real objection to putting it beyond doubt that they cannot be affected, at least physically, by neighbourhood development orders.
If the amendment is not carried and we lose the protection that it would offer, the pressure will be on local authorities to schedule. That would be an extremely onerous and expensive undertaking, an unintended consequence of which would be that the matter was taken away from neighbourhoods and subjected to the national regime. To put it at its most simple, the system that we have works best. It is proportionate; it is well understood; it delivers the protections that are required. It would be an enormous shame if, inadvertently, the system was destabilised and the protections were lost. I have great pleasure in supporting the amendment.
My Lords, perhaps I may briefly extend my support to my noble friend. I had better confess that I am in the same boat as the noble Baroness, who got back just in time. I had sneaked off for a while, in the belief that I deserved some respite from this suffering, but I was tempted back by my noble friend Lord Renfrew, having had the same representations from the same groups as he has evidently had. I have not given them such assiduous attention as him, but I express my support for the careful consideration of the purport of his amendments, even if they are not perfect to achieve his objectives.
My Lords, I shall speak first to Amendment 152ZZA in my own name, which is a probing amendment, before turning to my noble friend Lord Renfrew’s amendments, about which I shall explain my concern.
In order not to repeat the lengthy procedures described in Schedule 10 for the making of neighbourhood development orders, which are set out as new Schedule 4B to the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, Schedule 9 inserts into the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 new Section 38C(5), which says that new Schedule 4B shall apply to the making of a neighbourhood development plan, but as modified. Paragraph (d) of that subsection refers to paragraph 8 of Schedule 4B, found on page 321 of the Bill, and states that that paragraph is to have effect as if sub-paragraphs (2)(b) and (c) and (3) to (5) were omitted. These sub-paragraphs refer to the need to have regard to preserving listed buildings and their settings, and preserving and enhancing conservation areas.
I cannot immediately understand why the Government think that in drawing up a neighbourhood plan such matters should be disregarded. My failure to understand, and therefore my query, is possibly prompted by my prior constituency experience, which was unusual. When Pevsner published his original two volumes on the buildings of inner London, the first volume was devoted wholly—apart from some buildings in Holborn—to what later became my former constituency of the City of London and Westminster South, while the second volume was devoted to what was in 1950 the 42 other constituencies in inner London; in other words, there was a major concentration of listed buildings in my former constituency. Such listing considerations weigh very heavily in my former constituency’s localisms. I would be grateful if my noble friend the Minister could explain what is intended. As I said, my amendment is probing.
I turn to the two amendments proposed by my noble friend Lord Renfrew. My noble friend is the chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Archaeology Group, in which I am simply a modest foot soldier. However, I once read Greats at Oxford, and I have done archaeology in the vicinity of the Roman wall in Corbridge in collaboration with medieval historian Maurice Keen. He and I went north together and explored mosaics of a Roman villa in a farmyard in Corbridge. I am speaking especially to Amendment 149A, but Amendment 148C is similarly connected.
My Back-Bench experience as Member for my former constituency in the years 1977 to 1979, before my party went into government, was very much influenced by concerns felt by the City of London and the Museum of London about the amount of deep-basementing that was going on and was in the process of turning the City of London into the principal continuous archaeological site in Europe, because so much extraordinarily interesting stuff was being uncovered. That work changed quite a lot of our knowledge about the city’s history. A concordat was reached between the archaeological unit at the Museum of London and the developers as a whole as to how this problem should be handled. It was that, provided there was adequate proof, the developer must always make six months available to the archaeologists to find out what they could, and the developer would pay for the entire archaeological work.
Because so much of this work was going on and was working well, there was a possibility that there would be an occasion when there was disagreement between the archaeologists and the developers. Therefore, eight years later in 1987, both sides being anxious to forestall such a problem, they created an appeal committee of three to deal with a logjam, if it were to occur, of which one member would sit on behalf of the developers, one on behalf of the archaeologists and I—because of my having once been at the Harvard Business School, because of the modest experience that I had had as an archaeologist and an ancient historian, and because I was the local MP and acceptable to both sides—would serve as the chairman. As I was also a Minister, that required permission from No. 10, which, to my agreeable surprise, my noble friend Lady Thatcher afforded me. Even more agreeably, despite the apprehensions which had prompted the creation of this committee, it never had to meet because the arrangements continued to work extremely well.
The arrangements in the City worked well because of the critical mass of the archaeology going on and because of its essential importance. However, this will not always apply across the country. The principles adduced by my noble friend’s amendments are not dissimilar to those I have described in the City, but it is very important that they should apply much more widely and by statute. That is why I support them so warmly. I have addressed my remarks to archaeology but they apply just as readily to the wider heritage scene to which my earlier Amendment 148AZZA was addressed. The fact that this goes so much more widely makes my noble friend’s amendments even more important.
My Lords, this has been a short but fascinating debate. The noble Lord, Lord Newton, said that he had left the Chamber for a respite from our deliberations, but the discussion on this amendment has given us all some relief from the turgid stuff with which we were dealing earlier. Clearly each noble Lord who spoke—the noble Lords, Lord Renfrew, Lord Newton and Lord Brooke, and my noble friend Lady Andrews—spoke with great knowledge and authority. In this job you learn something every day—and I certainly learnt something from that exchange.
If it is right that the Bill would remove protections that are in place at the moment, it must be right that amendments are put in place to address that. If the Minister in responding can assure us that that is not the case and spell it out—we need to know the detail—all well and good. Part of the problem comes back to the dear old NPPF. The Minister said earlier that it will be with us soon but her colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, last week told us that it would be very soon—we seem to be going backwards on this.
My noble friend Lady Andrews made the important point that if there cannot be satisfaction on this, the risk is that a process of scheduling will take place that would involve local authorities in huge expense. It would be a huge capacity issue for them and we should seek to avoid it. We all want to do everything that we can to make sure that heritage assets, particularly those of national importance, are preserved and that the planning system plays its role in doing that. I look forward to the Minister’s response and her justifications of why she believes that that will happen and that we do not need to change the Bill.
My Lords, we are hugely sympathetic to the whole question of heritage. The noble Baroness and I discussed this before at a very early stage. We have been working with English Heritage to ensure that neighbourhood development orders do not weaken the heritage protection. The matters the noble Baroness has raised are not unfamiliar to us and I can assure her and the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, that consultations are still ongoing to ensure that there is no slip-up and that the concerns raised are addressed.
We recognise the importance of protecting heritage and all proposed neighbourhood development orders must meet certain conditions, which we discussed earlier, before they can be put to a referendum. Most importantly, they must have special regard to the protection of listed buildings and conservation areas. In addition, every plan and order must be appropriate having regard to national policy. I appreciate that that takes us back to the NPPF, but that matter will be addressed when we have a chance to discuss it. The plan or order must also be in conformity with the strategic policies in the local plan. We have made it clear from the outset that the plans must be coherent and will then have to go to independent examination.
We believe the concerns are covered with that procedure alone. All heritage aspects would be covered under the planning conditions anyway but we shall be delighted to have further consultations with English Heritage to make sure that there is no slip-up. On that basis, with those assurances, I hope the noble Lord will be content to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I am grateful for the various contributions. I am particularly grateful that the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, was in her place and made such effective remarks about the undesignated sites, which are a major problem. I am grateful for the support of both sides of the House.
My noble friend the Minister has given some helpful general assurances, but as we do not yet know what is in the national planning policy framework her assurances are vague and do not give much comfort. I certainly do not doubt her good intentions but she did not give a categorical or detailed assurance and she did not make specific remarks in relation to the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews.
While I shall not press the amendment, I hope to do rather better on Report. It may be that the national planning policy framework will be published by then. I certainly hope so, otherwise what on earth do these assurances mean? If it is not published by then and we cannot find out how it will integrate into the Bill, we may have difficulties on Report. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 148B withdrawn.
Amendments 148C to 149AB not moved.
Amendments 149B and 149C
149B: Schedule 9, page 313, line 16, after “14” insert “or 14A”
149C: Schedule 9, page 313, line 26, leave out “section 61F or 61G” and insert “any of sections 61F to 61GA”
Amendments 149B and 149C agreed.
Amendment 149CA not moved.
149D: Schedule 9, page 313, line 32, leave out “section 61F or 61G” and insert “any of sections 61F to 61GA”
Amendment 149D agreed.
150: Schedule 9, page 314, line 17, at end insert—
“( ) after subsection (4) insert—
“(4A) If there is no neighbourhood development plan in force, such documents as the local authority considers reflects the interest of the community.””
My Lords, I shall speak also to my other amendments in the group.
Amendment 150 is, to some extent, an echo of the first amendment that we debated today which was tabled by my noble friend Lord True. It looks at ways of dealing with neighbourhood planning in cities, where it will be quite difficult to get the impetus to create communities. In towns and villages, the extent of the planning gain which will be available to the communities and the way in which they care about how their open environment is developed will produce strong motivations for communities to engage with the Bill. However, that is not so in cities. Even in areas such as Battersea it is not so, let alone the poorer parts of cities. In those areas, we need to have ways of creating communities which are more attuned to what is going on in the cities, to the needs of the citizens and to their particular cares.
Amendment 150 and, more particularly, Amendment 167 attempt to produce a structure to allow a local authority to have regard to community views on planning, which are expressed in a less formal way than that set out in the Bill. There would be none of the structure of having to go through gathering all the voices, an examination and a referendum but something much more suited to an area where there is no existing geographical community and where the community will never put together the effort to go through the procedures in this Bill because the gains are too small and its own structures are too weak. Those communities should be able to gain what they can from the direction of this Bill through their more gentle expressions of opinion, which should be taken properly into account in planning decisions. Of my two amendments, Amendment 167 is the one for which I have the most affection.
On Amendment 152ZC—an amendment is never the easiest thing to find in this Marshalled List.
Amendment 152ZC looks at how you take the structures of this Bill and produce something of interest to local neighbourhoods. Straightforward planning and dealing with planning permissions, and their outcomes, is not really what a city neighbourhood is about. It is about its environment much more generally. When it comes to the streetscape, it is a question of whether a particular street should be pedestrianised, narrowed or given a 20 miles an hour limit. It is a question of how traffic regulations are enforced. This is a particular plague in some bits of London where councils seem to have forgotten that businesses need trade and that local people sometimes need to park in order to visit shops or neighbours. Neighbourhoods have a lot of interest in the way in which traffic regulations are set out and enforced. If one had that as part of the scope of this Bill—I understand that it may be and I look forward to what my noble friend the Minister has to say—it would produce a package which gives this Bill a much greater chance of succeeding and producing the same sort of vibrant communities within cities as I am sure it will produce in the countryside and towns.
My final amendment is Amendment 152A, which picks up on a point that has been made several times; namely, that we should find ways within the procedures set out in this part of the Bill for our neighbourhoods to become parishes. They have to go through an enormous number of hoops and great effort to produce a neighbourhood plan under this Bill, which is much more than is required by the legislation for the creation of parishes, particularly given that, having created a plan and a direction for the neighbourhood, the animal created under this Bill then dies. It is a great shame that all that effort comes to nothing. The Bill should be directed at creating a parish where the people involved want some form of continuity but it should be made easy and obvious how a parish can appear out of a neighbourhood plan in an area which is not parished. I beg to move.
My Lords, I was discussing this matter when, some time ago, the Chief Whip suggested that I should sit down and that we should move on. I thought that that was a bit unfair but I will briefly make two points. The important point made by my noble friend Lord Lucas is that of linking neighbourhood planning with the formation of new parishes. Earlier, my noble friend Lord Shipley, who is not in his place, said that a mechanism to do that would be extremely valuable. At the moment, the problem with creating new parishes is that it requires a local governance review by the principal council, the district or unitary council, which can take quite a long time.
These principal councils are not always terribly enthusiastic about creating new parishes. If someone comes along with a petition or whatever, they will be forced to have a local governance review but they may not take it very seriously. There are a number of instances where there has been a clear demand for a new parish council on the ground and the principal council responsible has simply blocked it and said “No, you can’t have it”. If this new Bill is to be a stimulus for the creation of lots of new parishes, of which I am certainly in favour, there needs to be a way in which the Government can link that to this legislation, whether in primary legislation or in some other way, and perhaps change the advice that is given to councils about local governance reviews, thus making it much easier to carry out the review and to create the parishes. I say that as someone who lives in a borough which is now totally parished. The fact that it is totally parished is not entirely unconnected with my activities in the past 30 years.
My Lords, I support the spirit of my noble friend’s amendments, particularly Amendments 150 and 167, although I slightly fell out of love with Amendment 167 when I read the last few words, which refer to,
“any guidance issued by the Secretary of State as to the definition of ‘community views’”.
That might be determined more locally. Otherwise, the light-touch approach was much to be welcomed. I also strongly agree with my noble friend’s point about traffic controls, parking and so on. In my contention, ultimately, we should move towards a position where high street shops and shop owners have a decisive role in deciding how those matters should be policed locally.
My Lords, I should like to comment briefly on parishes. I can see the strength of the argument that for the purposes of these provisions we have a parish, which deals with issues around governance, probity and the democratic component. I have not thought through, which I guess we need to balance, the consequences of having parishes within an urban or a rural area where you have area committees, a district council or a unitary authority, how those sit together and the consequences of all that. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, from his experience will be able to hold forth extensively on that issue. I do not encourage him to do so on this occasion. We need to look at issues around parishes in the round and not just in relation to these provisions, but I see the benefits of parishes for the application of these provisions.
As I understood it, the thrust of the amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, were about not just having formal arrangements to input community views and the wishes of a community but that they must be collected in a variety of different ways, which must be right. I hesitate a little around issues where there are written expressions of community interests. Those must be included and taken up, and one should always be conscious that people communicate and express their views in different ways. Some are very forthright and able at doing it in written form and others are not always in that position. Therefore, we need to take account of that. But the idea that there should be a variety of informal and semi-formal ways for the views of communities to be brought to bear on neighbourhoods is absolutely right and one that we would support.
My Lords, I am not aware that there is anything to stop views being gathered up about neighbourhood plans in whatever way. However, ultimately they have to fall into some sort of structure in order for people to understand what is going on. Whatever the observations made during these discussions, ultimately they will form part of the neighbourhood plan and will have to conform with the local development plan. With all the policies in respect of neighbourhood planning there is a great deal of flexibility as to how things are done and how they are brought to bear on it. I have tried to make that clear throughout this afternoon, although I am not sure that I am altogether persuading my noble friends behind me.
We absolutely agree that community views are core to effective planning. They are embedded in the planning system already, and we expect people’s views to be taken into account in whatever way they can be. The Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 requires councils to prepare a statement of community involvement and that is precisely what it has to be—the community involvement has to be organised in a way that makes sure that all those community views are put forward on planning matters before any statement is constructed. I do not think the amendment is necessary from that point of view, because, as I say, the flexibility is there to ensure that views—however they are collected—must be taken account of.
The noble Lord also raised the matter of traffic regulations. I hear what he says and know that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, has views about how things should be done in respect of traffic in particular. However, I am not sure that traffic regulation orders could become part and parcel of the neighbourhood orders. They are, by and large, either controlled by by-laws or by national legislation and create criminal offences, so are probably not something that can just be tinkered with so that they affect only small areas. If the by-laws are used inappropriately, they can have a significantly adverse effect on the local environment, so they should be employed only when all other measures have failed. We ought not to be tinkering with them at a local level.
The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, raised the question of parish councils and their creation. That process is probably going to take almost as long as, or longer than, creating neighbourhood forums and making the representations where there are not parish councils, which would be largely in cities. I hope that with those remarks, the noble Lord will be willing to withdraw the amendment.
My Lords, I am a little puzzled, because the noble Baroness was kind enough to allow me a meeting with her officials a few days ago. I am always capable of misunderstanding things, but I had expected rather different replies from those that she has given today on the subject of how far one could reach in neighbourhood plans in order to affect things related to the local environment; such as the two illustrations I gave of the way in which streets are used, speed limits, pedestrianisation and the way in which parking rules are set out and enforced. I am clear that both those things belong with the local council but I certainly came away with the impression that neighbourhood plans could be written in such a way that they had an influence on such matters. I also came away with a much more positive view on parishing and the department’s attitude to it than the noble Baroness has conveyed today. I am puzzled by that.
Coming back to my general purpose in these amendments, we have to look carefully, if we think this is a beneficial thing—which I very much do—at how we make it beneficial within cities. There is an awful lot to be said for the amendments of my noble friend Lord True in this regard on how local neighbourhoods get designated and the flexibilities that exist as to their extent and overlap, as well as other aspects reflecting life in cities. If we are to have a process that results in a referendum, there is also a great deal to be said for saying there must be incentives for the people involved and those voting, in terms of the referendums being about things they really care about. If we go back to Battersea, what do I care about planning? The place is built up and there is no space to put anyone else. There are only little bits and pieces, which the council deals with perfectly adequately, in terms of access to light and disputes between neighbours. There is no incentive there to go through the whole process that is in this Bill. By contrast, other things about the environment and the way the council interacts with the neighbourhoods that make it up are matters of extreme concern to locals that they will pay a great deal of attention to.
My noble friend’s answers do not encompass any offer of further consultations and do not seem to incorporate the consultations that I have already had. I remain puzzled and not a little bruised as to why the Government think this is for rural communities only. I can see the advantages and importance of that, but where we need community and where coherence and community understanding are important is, by and large, in cities. Villages have pretty good communities for the most part—they can be argumentative or constructive, but villages get together at frequent intervals, in my experience, to celebrate various things or do things together. Getting them together is easy. Within cities it is much harder to do those things and it is much more important to set about creating communities. I am really concerned at the difference between the replies from my noble friend and what I had thought was the underlying direction of her department; and about the lack of interest in using the period between Committee and Report to extend this. I am also somewhat puzzled by the lack of interest from the Labour Party in how one develops communities within cities. Perhaps there is a belief that all wisdom resides in councils.
I am not quite sure why the noble Lord concluded that we have a lack of interest in developing communities within cities. I would have thought that we could demonstrate lots of places up and down the country where we have been very supportive of developing communities. I am not sure I have convinced the noble Lord here and now, but I hope to reassure him. I can see that the noble Lord is getting ticked off by his noble friends on the Front Bench—perhaps I ought to sit down or they will start on me soon.
I am disappointed that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, is disappointed. If he has had consultations that have said something different to the reply I have got, then I think I should offer to have discussions with him between now and the next stage of our proceedings.
Amendment 150 withdrawn.
Amendment 150ZZA and 150ZA not moved.
Amendments 150A and 150B
150A: Schedule 9, page 314, line 44, leave out from “if” to “have” in line 1 on page 315 and insert “in each applicable referendum under that Schedule (as so applied) more than half of those voting”
150B: Schedule 9, page 315, leave out lines 5 and 6 and insert—
(a) there are two applicable referendums under that Schedule as so applied (because the plan relates to a neighbourhood area designated as a business area under section 61GA of the principal Act), and(b) in one of those referendums (but not the other) more than half of those voting have voted in favour of the plan,the authority may (but need not) make a neighbourhood development plan to which the proposal relates.”
Amendments 150A and 150B agreed.
Amendment 150C not moved.
Amendment 150D had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.
Amendments 150DA to 150E not moved.
150F: Schedule 9, page 316, line 17, at end insert—
“( ) In preparing a neighbourhood development plan the qualifying body must—
(a) have regard to the policies set out in the development plan, approved development plan documents and other local planning policies,(b) set out in the neighbourhood development plan the ways in which the policies in the plan differ from those referred to in paragraph (a),(c) comply with the provisions of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, and(d) comply with the provisions of chapter 1 of Part VIII of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (Trees).”
My Lords, In moving Amendment 150F, I shall speak to the other three in the group in my name; they are a mixed bag. We are still on neighbourhood development plans and orders. Amendment 150F covers various issues, some of which I think we have dealt with satisfactorily, some of which we have half dealt with and some we have not dealt with yet. It covers the preparation of the neighbourhood development plan and says that it must have regard to the existing local planning documents and explain ways in which it differs from them. I think that we have adequately dealt with that matter and do not have to discuss it any further. The amendment goes on to say—and this links back to the issue that was raised recently by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville—that the neighbourhood plan must comply with the existing legislation on listed buildings and conservation areas in the 1990 Act on those matters, and comply with the sections of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 that deal with trees.
I listened with interest to the discussion about conservation areas and listed buildings and it is worth probing on that a little further. Amendment 153AKD refers to paragraphs 23 and 25 in Schedule 12, which are supposed to be consequential amendments that remove the protection normally given to conservation areas and listed buildings in the case of the neighbourhood development orders. I have only just discovered that bit of the Bill, and I could not find what they were consequential on. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, has pointed me in the right direction, because I had not spotted that bit at all.
My noble friend the Minister said, or appeared to say, that it was okay to take all these provisions out of the primary legislation. Schedule 12 does that; it specifically says that in the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990:
“In section 66 (general duty as respects listed buildings in exercise of planning functions), at the end insert—
‘(4) Nothing in this section applies in relation to neighbourhood development orders’”.
Into Section 72 is added a similar provision in relation to conservation areas, which says:
“Nothing in this section applies in relation to neighbourhood development orders”.
I will not read out what the 1990 Act about listed buildings and conservation says, but clearly it gives the protection that we all understand in relation to planning applications and planning in general.
The Minister seems to say that it is okay to take out those specific provisions in the existing primary legislation because it will be somewhere else in relation to neighbourhood development orders. She read out a duty in relation to neighbourhood development orders to pay due regard—I forget the exact words. I was not clear where that wording came from. I cannot find it in this Bill but, there again, I do not claim to have absorbed every line of the Bill. It would be interesting to know where that is. There is a discussion of the national planning policy framework that is only guidance, so the worry is that the protection for listed buildings and conservation areas in neighbourhood development orders will be in the form of guidance rather than primary legislation. That seems to be a possibility and it is what I am probing further.
I have two further questions about neighbourhood development orders. Can they propose new conservation areas within their boundaries or extensions of existing conservation areas? Can they propose the abolition of existing conservation areas or changes in the boundaries of existing conservation areas?
In the amendments, we also require neighbourhood development orders to comply with the provisions of Chapter 1 of Part 8 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 relating to trees, notably about tree preservation orders. There is also a general duty in Section 197 on planning authorities in respect of trees; it requires planning permission to include appropriate provision for the preservation and planting of trees, and there are sections relating to the replanting and replacement of trees. There are then some sections that actually deal with the preservation of trees in conservation areas. Will the local planning authority still have the powers and duties under the tree preservation and planting provisions in this chapter, even if a neighbourhood development order is made for a particular site? If so, how will the powers and duties of local planning authorities be integrated into the neighbourhood planning system and, in particular, in relation to neighbourhood development orders and plans?
I have one final question for which I did not give notice, so I do not expect an immediate answer. Will Schedule 3 to the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 on sustainable drainage systems, known as SUDS, apply to developments within a neighbourhood development order? If so, will they be regarded as freestanding applications or will they become combined applications under paragraphs 8, 9 and 10 of Schedule 3? What process under paragraph 11 will be used for determining them? I realise that that is a very technical question about an Act, which we had through this House fairly recently, and I would be grateful if I could have that in writing if the Minister does not know the answer.
Amendment 152CA refers to consultation processes for the preparation of neighbourhood development orders and when they are submitted to the local planning authority. It probes questions of public consultation and says that it must comply with the local planning authority statement of community involvement. Is that the case? The parish council or neighbourhood forum under this amendment must also adopt other means as they consider reasonable to bring the matter to the attention of local people. The amendment also says that when a draft neighbourhood development order is submitted to the local planning authority, that authority must carry out the requirement for consultation with local people, which would apply to ordinary planning applications as set out in the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2010.
How will consultations with statutory consultees be handled for neighbourhood development orders? I refer to the Highways Authority, the Environment Agency, English Heritage, other local authorities and so on. Will there be a requirement on parish councils or neighbourhood forums when preparing a neighbourhood development order, or will that consultation wait until the draft order is submitted to the local planning authority—or will it be both?
Finally, a very important amendment is Amendment 153ZF, which would extend the right to be heard, which exists in local plan-making, to neighbourhood plans. The wording is from the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 as it applies to local plan hearings. This is another equalities issue. As the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, said not long ago, less articulate people are often better making their views known in person than in writing. Schedule 10(9)(1) says:
“The general rule is that the examination of the issues by the examiner is to take the form of the consideration of written representations”.
But there can be a hearing if the examiner considers it necessary to ensure adequate examination of the issue or for a person to have a fair chance to put a case. Many people do not have the literacy skills to be able to take part comfortably or confidently in complex written exchanges, but they are much better at putting their views across in person. The purpose of the amendment is that people should have a choice. I beg to move.
My Lords, I rise to speak to Amendments 152ZA and 153ZA, which concern the design considerations in neighbourhood plans. This House contains many eminent champions of good design, including the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, and the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, who have added their names to the amendment and are in their places today. I would only say, in declaring my interest as an honorary fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects, that my experience of looking after housing projects has proved to me that poor design not only alienates and depresses those who have to suffer it but is wastefully expensive because it does not last.
Contrast the disasters of now demolished council housing from the 1960s and 1970s with the enduring popularity of the homes built many decades earlier in the garden villages of Rowntree’s New Earswick, York, and Cadbury’s Bourneville, Birmingham. Last week the president of the RIBA, Ruth Read, launched an excellent report, Good Design: it all adds up, which the relevant Minister, John Penrose, highly commended. Design matters, so it seems entirely right that neighbourhood plans should be just as mindful of the requirements of good design as the local development plans of local authorities themselves. The first of these two amendments places a responsibility on neighbourhoods when engaging in neighbourhood planning to have,
“regard to the desirability of achieving good design”.
This replicates precisely the existing obligation on local authorities which resulted from an amendment in your Lordships’ House to the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill in 2004.
Amendment 153ZA would mean that when neighbourhood plans are examined, as they will have to be under the Bill's provisions, the independent examiners would have special regard to the desirability of achieving good design. It may be argued that this issue can be addressed at one remove, through national or local government planning requirements. Publication of the national planning policy framework—when we finally see it—may shed light on the emphasis to be given nationally to issues of good design, and because the neighbourhood plan must be,
“in general conformity with the strategic”
priorities of the local development plan, good design could perhaps be implied through that route. However, the experts tell me that this is likely to be too weak a link.
Ministers in another place have helpfully accepted an amendment that requires the independent examiners to pay special regard to conservation areas and listed buildings. It seems equally important and worthy of an amendment to require the examiners to have special regard to design quality. I know that the decentralisation Minister, Greg Clarke, also favours good design and I hope that these amendments will appeal to the Government.
My Lords, in supporting Amendments 152ZA and 153ZA on the crucial aspect of the good design of the places that people live in, which has such wide support from professional and interest groups, I take comfort from the Minister’s undertaking in her letter to me of 20 June:
“We remain committed to promoting the highest standards of architecture and design”.
Indeed, this is what the Government did in also undertaking to honour the provisions relating to design in the previous housing and planning Acts. Those provisions, as the noble Lord, Lord Best, said, bound local authorities but not neighbourhoods because neighbourhoods did not come into being as the deciders of planning until the present Bill, so it is only consistent that the duty to have regard to good design should be extended to neighbourhoods, as Amendment 152ZA says.
Amendment 153ZA is consistent with the Government's undertaking and I need hardly repeat the evidence of the profound impact that design has on enjoyment, security, amenity, health and leisure. I am sure the Government would agree that communities should be enabled to make good design choices.
My Lords, I have tabled three amendments in this group. I apologise that I missed my amendments in the earlier group, because the Committee is making such breakneck progress on this Bill, but I wish to speak now. However, I support both the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Best, and the cross-reference by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, to Schedule 12 and the need to clarify the position in relation to conservation areas and the setting and general appearance of buildings, which from Schedule 12 seems not to apply to neighbourhood plans. My amendments attempt to relate neighbourhood plans to the broader planning structure, which still exists. The Government have, of course, deleted any application of regional spatial plans but there are still national policies, national advice and the local plan.
This part of the Bill, paragraph 8 of the new schedule in Schedule 10, relates to the issues which the examiner should take into account when considering neighbourhood plans. It seems to me that under paragraph 8(2), there is a weak relationship between the requirements on the examiner and the reference to national policies. We all know that “having regard to” national policies and advice containing guidance means that you can take no notice of it. Indeed, that is often the case. I am suggesting a rather stronger form of words: that the examiner should consider whether the plan “is compatible with” the national policies and the advice issued by the Secretary of State and that, in relation to the local plan in paragraph 8(2)(d), rather than the order being,
“in general conformity with the strategic policies”
of the local authority’s plan it should be in,
“conformity with the objectives and policies”,
of that plan. It seems to me that general conformity is, again, fairly weak. If the examiner were to find that the plan is in general conformity or had taken into account the Secretary of State's advice but then totally ignored it, there would be problems.
We need to place some tighter requirements on the examiner in this regard. I am all for flexibility and localism but if we are maintaining a structure of planning, there needs to be interrelationship between its various layers. My three amendments in this section, starting with—I get lost in this alphabet soup—Amendment 153ZZA, therefore would attempt to tighten up the form of wording in this section. I commend them to the Minister.
My Lords, I strongly support the very wise words of the noble Lord, Lord Best. I shall give an example by going back to some of the things that my noble friend Lord Lucas was saying about Battersea, because in 1967 I bought a small house in Kersley Street, Battersea. When I went to buy it, I was told by the Battersea authorities to be very careful because the mayor of Battersea wished to sweep away all that area. Those houses were built in about 1893 and now it is a conservation area and all that, thank goodness, and is a gem in its way.
To be honest, on this question of design, I am afraid that developers and architects of the 1950s and 1960s have an enormous amount to answer for. There has only very recently been salvation. The noble Lord, Lord Best, referred to the demolition of some of the ill considered, ill designed and ill constructed blocks which were put up in the place of extremely desirable housing for people. One thinks immediately of places such as World's End in the old days. I hope that the Minister will assure us that the Government are as united as we are in making sure that this is protected fully for the future.
My Lords, unusually, because I nearly always agree with almost everyone who has spoken, I want to express a note of scepticism which I even dare to hope might be helpful to my noble friend on the Front Bench, if she is looking for that. I am a bit sceptical about this because what is now regarded as dreadful 1950s/1960s stuff was regarded as good design at the time. This is totally subjective and I do not understand how it is going to be interpreted. In any circumstances, people will have regard to design but whether it is good design may depend on whether it is thought to be so at the moment. It may be thought a totally rubbish design in 20 or 30 years’ time, which is exactly what has happened, so what is the point of writing it in?
Perhaps I may say to my noble friend that what was lacking in those days was, frankly, design. The object was to put up buildings in a somewhat Leninist style and atmosphere, cramming people into the smallest possible space with little consideration of their welfare and long-term benefit. What we are doing now is emphasising that design should be included where it was not in the past.
My Lords, I will avoid getting into a discussion about design. However, I would like to ask a question which underlies the debate. Mention has been made of the need to be in conformity with the local development plan. I have heard that if there is no local plan in place, or no core strategy, there cannot be a neighbourhood plan or a neighbourhood development order. I have not been able to pin this down in the Bill. I wonder whether the Minister can help me on that. Given the number of local authorities which are still moving towards fulfilling the provisions of the relevant planning Act that was passed some years ago, this is a serious issue. However optimistic the Government are about the progress that local authorities will make, this is nevertheless a major consideration.
My Lords, I did not intend to intervene in this debate about design, but I have been prompted by the noble Lord, Lord Newton, to do so. I am married to an architect. Before we were married, I took my wife-to-be to meet my parents. My father was a doctor. He started needling her about architecture and design. Eventually, she turned round and said, “That, of course, is the difference between your profession and my profession. In your profession, your mistakes die, in our profession they live on”. That might be a rather flippant way of introducing a note of caution in all this. My view is that we do not allow good architecture to flourish in many respects, partly because we are hemmed in by rules and guidance on good design, which are sometimes rigidly enforced. We have to ask what sort of good design we are trying to promote. Is it, for example, the good design that the Prince of Wales has championed, sometimes controversially, or is it other aspects of good design which perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Best, and my noble friend Lady Whitaker are championing? We should debate what good design is, but what is good design in one place will not be good design in another. We have to have the flexibility to ensure that communities can respond to this and to allow good architecture to take root and flourish in this country.
My Lords, I remind my noble and learned friend Lord Boyd that however good or bad we think the Prince of Wales’s views on architecture are, he interfered in a very big planning application in respect of Chelsea Barracks. I do not think that that is right.
I was not suggesting that we necessarily follow the Prince of Wales, but the very fact that he has provoked that controversy demonstrates, if I may say so, the point that I am making—that what is good design to one person is not good design to another.
My Lords, as there was no Conservative name on Amendments 152ZA and 153ZA, I am happy to join the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford. Indeed, I will not argue the toss with him as to which of us is metaphysically adding our name, but it is desirable that it should have Conservative support. Having said that—I have said similar things on many other such Bills in the past—in the context of what my noble friend Lord Newton said, I was confronted, as then Secretary of State for National Heritage, with a decision about a building in Bethnal Green by Denys Lasdun. The building was not listed—the department had the responsibility for listing—and was threatened with demolition by the local authority. No intervention occurred because of the listed building consent issue. We had to decide in the department whether we should list it. It was in our view a fine piece of architecture and design. We eventually decided that we would, knowing that the Secretary of State for the Environment—the noble Lord, Lord Deben—would have to make the decision about listed building consent, so in that sense we transferred the problem to him. However, he had not dissimilar views to ours about architecture. Since we no longer had Chinese walls in the Department of the Environment, he took no decision on giving listed building consent. The local authority had wanted to demolish the building and the only housing association that was interested could not raise the money to take it over. However, a private property company took it over. It is now absolutely packed with private-sector tenants who think that it is a marvellous building. Therefore, it is wrong to be dismissive of buildings constructed in earlier eras just because they were not necessarily in line with taste at that moment.
I have one other thing to say before my noble friend Lord Hodgson gets up. As my noble friend Lord Greaves was kind enough to mention my name in connection with my Amendment 152ZZA three groupings ago, I shall take the liberty of going back to it, unless your Lordships’ House wishes me to move it when we come to it shortly in the proper order of the Bill. My noble friend the Minister did not give me an answer to my probing amendment at the time that we debated it three groupings ago. I was expecting her to say that she would write to me because I agree that the matter was complicated. If it is simpler for her now to say when she replies to the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, that she will write to me, I would regard that as a wholly satisfactory resolution.
My Lords, I support the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Best. He made a powerful statement about the importance of good design and referred to architecture and design. Since we are discussing the Localism Bill, I hope that my noble friend will be able to reassure me as regards the importance of using local materials and local design when building locally. When I hear about national policies I slightly fear that there will be a national standard of good design which will not reflect the building styles and building standards of different parts of our country.
One of the most depressing aspects of the present situation is that if you were blindfolded and put down by helicopter in a perfectly nice new development, whether it was in Truro, Norfolk or Newcastle, you would not be able to tell where you were because we are now building to standard designs, built by national housebuilders, which do not greatly reflect what goes on in the locality where they are based. Therefore, historic traditions of building which are different across the country are gradually being wiped out to the detriment of local pride and local community feeling. I hope that the Minister will reassure us on that when she winds up.
My Lords, I wish to speak briefly to Amendment 153. I would be very grateful if my noble friend could enlarge a little on the relevant strengths of “having regard to” and “in general conformity with”. To take a particular illustration, Hampshire has a policy that there should be no new development in the countryside. Does that mean that there is no point in neighbourhood planning in Hampshire?
My Lords, I have three amendments in this group. On Amendment 153ZC, which relates to the weight given to emerging documents, I think that that has been discussed and I will not pursue it at this point. I have been reassured that emerging documents are given weight. Amendment 153ZD is relevant to the short debate we have just had about design, which strikes me as being a rather pleasant and agreeable way of spending an afternoon in the Moses Room when the Education Bill is not being discussed there. I do not want to detain the Committee on that, but I am absolutely certain that what my noble friend Lord Hodgson, the noble Lord, Lord Best, and others have said must be right because if this Bill is about localism the vernacular should matter. Local people like their vernacular and they like building that is in keeping, whatever the design is, if that design is good. Local authorities as well as national housebuilders have failed in that respect over the years. I do not mind a little cajoling to them in the Bill, but we have to be careful because design, as I think Lewis Carroll said, is probably “what I say it is”. There is a problem there.
Amendment 153ZD is related to that because it is about how the examiner deals with neighbourhood planning orders. A case in our authority involved the Government intervening on our existing core strategy to say that it must include high-rise building. Notwithstanding that there was cross-party agreement against it and that hundreds of people protested against it, a planning inspector imposed an extension of the ugliest building in our borough on the basis that the existing core strategy provided for such buildings. The local authority, with the strong support of local people, is trying to revise its plans. It takes a long time to revise a local development framework and my right honourable friend Secretary of State has said that he hopes to accelerate it.
There will be circumstances in neighbourhood planning where local communities say, for example, “We do not want any more high-rise”. However, if an examiner looks, as that examiner did, at the previous building and says, “Your existing plan says let’s have some high-rise”, then unless we include a provision such as my Amendment 153ZD to allow a local authority to assent to an order that is not in compliance, we may find that neighbourhood planning is defeated. Perhaps I am being oversuspicious, but there might be circumstances where the will of the local community is clear and the examiner should be able to give weight to that informal opinion.
I will deal with Amendment 153ZE very briefly. It refers to the situation in London and the definition of localism. I am simply saying that if an emerging policy is not necessarily in compliance with the higher-authority policy and there is tension between the policies of the mayor and the borough as regards its neighbourhood plans, then the examiner should, in circumstances where those matters are being considered, give greater weight to the more local of the two emerging policies. I do not expect an answer from my noble friend on that or the other amendment to which I referred, but both are significant.
This has been an interesting group of amendments. I certainly support the amendments of my noble friend Lord Whitty which seek to strengthen the relationship of NDOs with national policies and the strategic policies of the local development framework.
The noble Lord, Lord True, focused on emerging policies, when the local development framework is not in place or is being revised. I certainly see the thrust of his point. How one tests those emerging policies and encapsulates them, when they are in the process of being consulted on, is an issue. However, I take his point.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, asked what happens if there is no local development plan in place. Does that preclude a neighbourhood development plan? My understanding is that it does not, and thereby hangs a potential problem. If the only level of guidance available for the neighbourhood development plan is the NPPF, assuming that we see it at some stage, it is inevitably going to be written in relatively high-level terms. That is its purpose. It proclaims the benefits of tearing up a thousand pieces of paper and condensing them into 40 or 50 pages. We shall have to see how many there are in due course. Therefore, the leeway that that gives a neighbourhood development plan is an interesting point. If we were able to embed in the Bill issues around sustainable development and its definitions, it might help.
I support the thrust of the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Best, and the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, about design issues. My understanding is that design is not just about individual buildings and their quality but about the landscape, the environment, the relationships between buildings and how the whole urban fabric works. Although there may be different views on the aesthetics of any particular building, and views may change over time, we all know and can spot situations where design has not properly been taken into account, and you get grotty buildings that the planners and architects often have no intention of living in themselves. The thrust of the argument on good design is absolutely right.
The issue is particularly pertinent because the funding for CABE has, I understand, been withdrawn and only a minority of people from that organisation are transferring to the merged body with the Design Council. Therefore, the opportunity of keeping focused on design is especially important.
The concept of trying to ensure that the neighbourhood development plan must have regard to or relate to the development plan must be right, and the concepts of sustainable development should be embodied in the neighbourhood development plan. That is why it would be good to get those provisions enshrined in the Bill in primary legislation. I hope that those comments from our Front Bench have indicated the level of support that we would give.
My Lords, in my excitement over design and Denys Lasdun, I failed to speak to Amendment 152D in my name, relating to Schedule 10. The new national planning policy framework will form an important plank in planning for localism, as well as for the wider planning system. It is therefore important that the new document continues to protect the historic environment. The current suite of policy planning guidance notes and statements is, as your Lordships will know, to be replaced by the NPPF. National policy is a vital tool in the planning processes and it expands and enlarges upon statute. The current planning policy statement 5 on planning for the historic environment was introduced in March 2010. In the short period since, it has worked extremely successfully and has been supported by the heritage and development sectors. The Heritage Alliance, to which I alluded earlier, is responding separately to the Department for Communities and Local Government on the content of the NPPF. National planning policy guidance is referred to at page 321 of the Bill at paragraph 8(2)(a) of new Schedule 4B to the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, which requires regard to be taken of the NPPG. However, this provision is not strong enough. Development could be approved under the neighbourhood development order process without the current requirement for predetermination, information and consultation. We talked earlier about archaeology. Without predetermination of archaeological work, fewer unknown sites will be identified and, as a result, such sites may be destroyed without any adequate record, and development work may be delayed with additional costs. That is why I and others on behalf of the Heritage Alliance have proposed our amendment.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for a very interesting debate. It has circled around a number of areas. Most specifically, the concentration has been on design and the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Best. We believe that design is sufficiently well taken care of and safeguarded in the planning policies. One needs to take account of the fact that design is very subjective. The noble Lord, Lord Newton, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Boyd, made that point. However, nothing within the development of a neighbourhood plan would stop neighbourhoods saying what sorts of designs they would like. It would not necessarily be binding on the inspector but it would be guidance for the future—the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, talked about predetermination —when developers were going to develop and had to hold predetermination discussions with the neighbourhood.
I think that I will resist taking it any further today by putting it more strongly in the Bill, as proposed in the amendments. I understand exactly what the noble Lord is saying; and I understand those who say that this is a very difficult area to deal with because what is good design in one person's mind is not appropriate in that of another.
The noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, asked whether we would include in the Bill the question of using local stone, and so on. No, but the response I have just made about design probably covers the same. If the local neighbourhood wanted to have Cotswold stone as the only means to use in developments, there is nothing to stop it saying in the plan that it believes that Cotswold stone would be the ideal. It would then have to discuss that with developers before any suggestion of a development order or planning permission was given. Once again, I do not think that that is suitable for the Bill, but it can be taken into account.
I absolutely understand what my noble friend is saying, but she will understand that a local community trying to get a national housebuilder to move off-plan—of its standard houses—will be very difficult. There will be inequality of arms in a local community trying to deal with a national housebuilder. The housebuilder will have its designs and will say, “This is how it works”. No account will be taken of what the locality has produced historically in either design or materials.
My Lords, that is a rather depressing view of how neighbourhood forums and neighbourhood plans will be developed. The whole point of having a neighbourhood plan is to have the local community say what they would like, how they would like it and how they would want something constructive. The local community is in a much stronger position. We have already discussed predetermination, but developers will have to go to talk to the neighbourhood before they get planning permission under a development order about how they will develop it. The whole thrust and emphasis is that they should be able to have discussions, make plans and carry them out according to what the neighbourhood wants. If the neighbourhood wants Cotswold stone and the developers do not, there will be an interesting battle of arms as to who comes out on top, but as the neighbourhood holds in its hands the development order and the planning permission, I rather suspect that it would be in a strong position.
The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, asked whether communities can promote development outside urban areas through neighbourhood planning. If neighbourhood planning is pro-growth—we want to extend communities, developments and housing—communities could use a neighbourhood plan to promote a higher level of growth than in the local plan, but it would still need to have regard to national policy. Practically all the answers that I give tonight will be that plans have to be in general conformity with either national or local policies.
They will be bound by the local development plan, and the national policy framework will impact on them through that. The local development plan must have more than regard to the national planning policy framework, and that will bite through the local authorities’ plans.
My Lords, I do not think so, because I do not think that design is part of the planning consideration, for the very reason that we discussed: design is fairly subjective. I remember that when we were discussing the Planning Bill in 2008 there was a huge discussion on design. Eventually, we came to the conclusion that it could not be a requirement because everyone saw things differently, although we would want to ensure that development was as conforming as it could be.
I am sorry to interrupt the Minister. I go back to the point raised by my noble friend Lady Whitaker. It concerns conformity where there is no local development plan or where the local development plan does not contain the policy. Neighbourhood framework plans are required to conform only to the LDF, not the national policy planning framework. Where there is no LDF, they are not required to conform. That is where the problem will lie. That was the problem identified in Amendment 152D, which I think requires further thought and answer. That breaks the link of conformity to the neighbourhood plan. That is a great weakness in the resilience of the planning framework as a whole.
My Lords, I am happy to write on that and to have further discussion, but my understanding is as I have set out. If that is wrong, I will come back to the matter.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, asked: can you have a neighbourhood plan with no core strategy in place? The answer is yes. That may cover some of what we have been talking about. The national policy would still apply and the examiner and local planning authority can consider the weight to give any local plan policies. Existing local plan policies would of course take us back beyond the local development framework to the unitary development plan if they have not got further than that, so most authorities, even the most dilatory, will have something in place. We have dealt with design and the plans. I will certainly come back on the national framework, although I think that I have now answered on that.
The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, asked about consultation with the public and the statutory consultees. Those requirements will be set out in regulation, but they will be requirements. There will be consultation both before and after the submission of the draft plan to the local planning authority with both categories. The noble Lord asked: what protection is there for listed buildings and can neighbourhood development orders change or propose conservation areas? Schedule 4B, in paragraph 8, sets out the protection for listed buildings and conservation areas where neighbourhood development orders are considered. We have already made clear that we take that very seriously. Can a neighbourhood development order propose conservation areas? They cannot change them, they can only propose them.
The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, asked about tree preservation orders. No, tree preservation orders are covered by basic conditions in relation to national and local policies. He asked: can plans or orders propose new conservation areas? One answer says yes, the other says no.
I will have to come back on that.
In answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, neighbourhood plans and orders will have to have appropriate regard to national policy, as in the past. I will try to answer the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, this time, because he gets upset if I do not. On neighbourhood planning in cities, the amendments would strengthen the requirement on neighbourhood plans and orders to meet local planning policies. Our test is general conformity with the strategic policies and the local plan. We believe that that strikes the right balance, ensuring that neighbourhood planning proposals are in general conformity with strategic local policies, giving flexibility to determine those issues that are rightly dealt with at community level. I do not think that that answers what the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, asked me and I shall write to him. I hope that I have covered reasonably satisfactorily a number of the points that were made.
Will my noble friend also very kindly undertake to respond to my point on Amendment 153ZD where neither the local community nor the council wish to have the existing policy imposed by an external authority? I should like a reply on that point but it can be a written reply and I shall be very grateful for it.
My Lords, it seems a long time since I introduced this group of amendments and it has been a very interesting discussion. I am very grateful to the Minister for dealing valiantly with questions flying at her from all corners of the Committee. I am not sure that she has satisfactorily answered all mine yet but I shall not pursue them any further tonight. I shall read Hansard carefully and take up matters afterwards.
I am not going to get involved in the design argument, other than to say cynically that good design is what I like and bad design is what I do not like. However, that is a cynical view. In many cases you can more easily recognise bad design than good design and get consensus on that, but the important point is that design and style are very different things. You can have good design in almost every style of building and architecture, and that is the crucial point that people often miss.
I said that I was not going to get involved in design and then started talking about it. I shall now shut up and beg leave to withdraw Amendment 150F.
Amendment 150F withdrawn.
Amendments 151 to 152ZC not moved.
Schedule 9, as amended, agreed.
Schedule 10 : Process for making of neighbourhood development orders
Amendment 152ZD not moved.
House resumed. Committee to begin again not before 8.33 pm.