Considered in Grand Committee
My Lords, these regulations were laid in draft before this House on 2 November. If approved and made, they would roll forward the existing temporary disapplication of the legal requirements for the Mayor of London to keep his current spatial development strategy available for public inspection and to provide a hard copy on request. Of course, the strategy must be available for inspection free of charge online.
These regulations are part of a wider package of government measures to ensure that the English town planning system can continue to play its role and operate safely and efficiently during the coronavirus pandemic. The Plain English translation of the Mayor of London’s spatial development strategy is the London Plan—that is how it is referred to in local government.
The rules that authorities must follow when preparing plans, including consultation and the documents which must be made available at each stage, are set out in law. Earlier this year, in response to the coronavirus pandemic and with the support of stakeholders, the Government amended these rules. In the interests of public safety and to ensure that plans could progress through the system and support economic recovery, we made some changes.
We temporarily removed requirements for authorities to make plans and other related documents available for inspection at council offices and other places, since these offices are either closed or restricted in terms of who can access them. We also removed the requirement for hard copies of these documents to be provided on request. Documents are still required to be made available on the authority’s website.
We also published government guidance on how authorities should consider how they can continue to promote effective community engagement by means which are reasonably practicable, in particular, to reach those sections of the community that do not have internet access. Because of the current level of uncertainty about the future spread of coronavirus, we have proposed to roll these measures forward for 12 months, from the point they expire on 31 December 2020.
My officials have discussed the current measures with the Local Government Association’s planning advisory service and the Planning Officer Society. Neither organisation had heard of any issues or concerns. It is important to stress that we all hope the Greater London Authority and other authorities will be able to discharge these duties sooner than 31 December 2021.
These changes do not prevent authorities displaying documents in public buildings or sending out hard copies. We are simply continuing the existing disapplication of the former requirement while coronavirus remains prevalent. These are proportionate and pragmatic changes that have been widely welcomed by public and private sector alike. I commend this instrument to the House.
The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulescoomb, has withdrawn, so I call the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy of Southwark.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for setting out the purpose of these regulations. At this point, I always look with admiration at the skills of many Members of your Lordships’ House who manage to deliver a witty, entertaining speech on a measure of the type before us today. I do not have those skills and I have no questions to ask. I am happy with the regulations.
I have to disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy of Southwark—I think he has an immense degree of humour. I have really enjoyed my time at the Dispatch Box, and in this rather strange cubicle, because he does have a great sense of humour. Most importantly, he cares, and he wants the best legislation to come out of this place. It has been a pleasure working with him so far. I agree that this measure is very uncontroversial; we can both conclude that it is good that this is taking place and that it is proportionate.
That completes the business before the Grand Committee this afternoon. I remind Members to sanitise their desks and chairs before leaving the Room.
Committee adjourned at 6.21 pm