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Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill

Volume 829: debated on Tuesday 18 April 2023

Committee (9th Day) (Continued)

Amendment 213A

Moved by

213A: Schedule 7, page 293, line 35, at end insert—

“(5A) The local plan must include policies designed to meet the health and social care requirements of the local planning authority’s area, including the provision of facilities to provide specialist palliative care services.(5B) For the purposes of subsection (5A), planning authorities must have regard to the requirements set out within section 21 of the Health and Care Act 2022 regarding the commissioning of certain health services.”Member's explanatory statement

This probing amendment would ensure that local planning authorities must consider what facilities are needed to provide the necessary health and social care facilities for their area including those with a terminal illness.

My Lords, this group is made up of two of my amendments, Amendments 213A and 312L. The first is a probing amendment, designed to ensure that local planning authorities must consider what facilities are needed to provide the necessary health and social care facilities for their area, including for those with a terminal illness. My second amendment builds on this to ensure that local planning authorities must regularly survey the health and social care requirements for their area when considering any future development requirements.

We know that an ageing population is increasing the demand for specialist health and care services within local communities. We also know that demand for palliative and end-of-life care is rising rapidly as our population ages. In the next 25 years, the number of people aged 85 years and over in the UK will almost double. We heard some figures around the need for housing for the elderly in previous debates, so this issue covers various aspects of how we plan for the future. In areas such as mine, in Cumbria, where we have what is known as a super-ageing population, there are even more stresses on local authorities and services to provide.

Because of this ageing population, by 2045 there will be over 136,000 additional deaths per year in the UK, compared with projections for 2023. So the demand for palliative care and end-of-life services will increase, particularly due to the larger numbers of people living longer with multiple and complex health conditions. It is absolutely critical that every person at the end of their life receives the care and support they need so that they can live the end of their life in dignity.

Marie Curie has provided some very helpful information, and I thank it for its briefing on this matter. It has estimated that, if palliative care capacity does not increase in line with projected increases in mortality, as many as an additional 14,000 people may die each year without palliative care by 2030, and as many as 86,000 additional people may be in the same position by 2040. In contrast, if capacity in the palliative care system grows to reflect this ageing population, as many as 77,000 more people every year could receive the specialist palliative care they need at the end of their lives. It makes a huge difference to how people can get the support and dignity that they need, as well as support for families in that difficult time.

We know that access to medicines out of hours can be complicated and time-consuming. For example, when Marie Curie surveyed areas in its report on better out-of-hours care, it found that only 25% of areas had a pharmacy open throughout the night that was able to dispense palliative medicines, and 68% of areas had only partial availability of healthcare professionals who were able to administer palliative medicines at night. More facilities within local communities could also relive pressure on the acute sector. Reducing unplanned admissions would reduce pressure on NHS hospitals—and we know how incredibly important that is at the moment with the extra pressures that the NHS is feeling. We know that there are around 5.5 million bed days occupied by people in the last year of life, just in England. The total cost of those admissions to the NHS is more than £1.2 billion. There are huge opportunities to improve life for people and end-of-life care, as well as to support our NHS in the work that it does.

To look at the importance of reducing health disparities for end-of-life care, the introduction of the Health and Care Act 2022 created the first ever duty for the NHS to commission palliative care services in every part of England through integrated care boards. That is very welcome—we know how important they are to local communities and families. However, we need to ensure that local planning authorities identify and allocate land and sites to help health commissioners to deliver the joined-up health and care services that we need within local community settings. By 2030, one in five people in the UK will be aged over 65 and the number of people receiving palliative care services is projected to increase from 47% of all deaths to 66% over the next decade. That is almost a 20% increase.

At the same time, the nature of care need is also changing, with an increasing proportion of people dying at home or in a care home. This will again lead to growing pressure on primary care, social care and the local community. Too many people already miss out on the care and support they need towards the end of their life, particularly those from disadvantaged groups. The most recent estimate suggests that in England, up to 25%—a quarter—of those who need palliative care are not receiving it. Out-of-hours emergency department attendance increases in frequency as death approaches. It is between five and eight times higher in the month before death than at 12 months before death. It is also more common among people living in the most socioeconomically deprived areas.

Marie Curie and others have carried out research that indicates that certain groups face particular barriers in access to palliative care, including people who are living in poverty, living alone or living with dementia, as well as people with learning difficulties, those who are homeless, those who are in prison, those from minoritised ethnic groups and LGBTQ+ people. There is much to do in this area. I know it is quite a specific area to put into the Bill, but I hope that by putting these amendments forward we can have a proper debate on something that is very important to our society. I beg to move.

My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, has raised a very important issue about end-of-life care and how the planning system can be encouraged to prepare for the needs that will arise in the not-too-distant future. It is an argument that we on these Benches absolutely support; I will just expand it ever so slightly by saying that whenever there is a big allocation for a housing site, local residents immediately say there will be a huge pressure on primary healthcare—GP services. Although the community infrastructure levy enables planning authorities to try to extract some funding from the levy for improvements to primary healthcare services, it is often not that possible when there are so many other big demands placed on the levy—highways infrastructure, education, outdoor play space and so on.

Often, certainly in my part of the country, where house prices and land values are lower, the levy is therefore also lower and is unable to support the development of essential provision for primary healthcare. It is an area that I guess we may want to explore when we get to discussion about the replacement of the community infrastructure levy. I thought I would raise it now, in this context, because whichever of the Front Bench team is responding may be able to give me an answer. With that, I clearly support the amendments.

My Lords, the two amendments in this group, Amendments 213A and 312I, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, look to ensure, as she explained, that local planning authorities should consider the health and social care facilities needed for their area when considering future development. I am sure that we can agree that it is important to ensure that we have the right health and social care facilities in place where they are needed: that is why this is already a consideration as part of planning policy, guidance and legislation.

The National Planning Policy Framework is clear that when setting strategic policies, local planning authorities should set out an overall strategy for the pattern, scale and design quality of places, and make sufficient provision for community facilities, including for health infrastructure. The Government have set out in planning guidance how the need for health facilities, as well as other health and well-being impacts, can be considered as part of the plan-making and decision-making process. Plan-making bodies will need to discuss their emerging strategy for development at an early stage with directors of public health, NHS England, local health and well-being boards, and sustainability and transformation partnerships/integrated care systems, depending on the local context and the implications of development on health and care infrastructure. The National Planning Policy Framework must, as a matter of law, be given regard to in preparing the development plan, and is a material consideration in planning decisions.

We have also set out, in the consultation on reforms to national planning policy, that we are intending to undertake a wider review of the NPPF to support the programme of changes to the planning system, and, as part of this, we will consider updates needed to reflect the importance of better environmental and health outcomes. In addition, as part of the new infrastructure levy system, local authorities will be required to prepare an infrastructure delivery strategy. This will set out the local planning authority’s priorities for spending levy proceeds.

Section 204Q(11) requires levy regulations to determine the consultation process and procedures that must be followed when preparing an infrastructure delivery strategy. This can include which bodies must be consulted in order for charging authorities to determine their infrastructure priorities for spending the levy. Such bodies could include integrated care boards to ensure that health infrastructure is considered in the preparation of the infrastructure delivery strategy. We can also make provision that integrated care boards must assist charging authorities with the preparation of an infrastructure delivery strategy. That is Clause 93.

I do recognise fully from my time as a Health Minister the importance of palliative care in the range of NHS services, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, will remember that, as part of the Health and Care Act 2022, we added palliative care services to the list of services that an integrated care board must commission, promoting a more consistent national approach and supporting commissioners in prioritising palliative and end-of-life care. NHS England has made available a number of resources, including statutory guidance and service specifications, to support commissioners in fulfilling this duty. NHS England has also made funding available to establish seven palliative and end-of-life care strategic clinical networks. These networks support commissioners in the delivery of outstanding clinical and personalised care for people in the last year of life and aim to reduce local variation. NHS England has implemented an accelerated development programme to build a community of practice and develop commissioning mentors, supported by a number of supporting guides and documents, such as the commissioning and investment framework.

I hope what I have been able to say is helpful to the Committee. I do take on board the comments made by the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock. There is not time to have a full-scale health debate. I have a wealth of information here on what is now going on to ensure that, for example, primary care is beefed up across the country; we have set out plans to recruit 26,000 additional primary care staff, and there are special incentives to attract doctors to underdoctored areas which are already proving to be a success.

In the field of social care we have made available up to £7.5 billion in additional funding over two years, which is a historically enormous increase. On the people front, the noble Baroness may recall that in the People at the Heart of Care White Paper, we set out a 10-year vision for adult social care that includes workforce reforms and funding for hundreds of thousands of training places, which of course we all agree we need. So there is a great deal going on, and I think the levers are there at a local level as well as a national level to make sure that we are not legislating for levelling up in a vacuum, as it were, in this field.

I hope I will have persuaded the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, that her amendment is not necessary, as these important matters are already being considered and addressed through national planning policy, associated planning guidance and indeed legislation.

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, for supporting my amendments. As the Minister said, she was right to draw attention to the many competing demands on local authorities and others, which can sometimes mean that joined-up health and care services are overlooked or pushed further down the pecking order than they should be. When we reach the groupings on the infrastructure levy, I am sure that we will discuss what we feel that money could or should be spent on and I imagine that these areas will be touched on again.

I thank the Minister for his helpful response. We referred again to the National Planning Policy Framework, which will continue to come up a lot and we will continue to say how great it would be if we could actually see it. It is welcome that the intention is for this overall strategy for communities to include health facilities, but social care and palliative care services are not always adequate in every community. We need to ensure that any future planning decisions, support for local authorities and so on provide the resources required to reflect future pressures that will be put on those services with an ageing population over the next few years.

In rural areas, social care and palliative care delivery are much more complex. They are often more expensive and need extra support and care. It would be good if the Government could take that into account when continuing to design those services, particularly for people in their own homes. It needs to be looked at. Just on that point, I should have declared an interest as vice-chair of Hospice at Home West Cumbria. It plays an extraordinary role in our community and I thank it very much for what it does. I also thank the Minister for his serious, careful response and beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 213A withdrawn.

Amendments 214 to 216 not moved.

Amendment 216A

Moved by

216A: Schedule 7, page 294, line 19, at end insert—

“(3A) The Secretary of State may require the local planning authority to—(a) reimburse the Secretary of State for any expenditure incurred by the Secretary of State in, or in connection with, appointing a person under subsection (3), or(b) pay any fees and expenses of a person appointed by the Secretary of State under subsection (3).”Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment allows the Secretary of State to require a local planning authority to reimburse the Secretary of State for expenditure incurred in connection with appointing a person to provide observations or advice on a proposed local plan or to pay any fees and expenses of that person.

My Lords, this group is intended to make minor, technical and consequential amendments to the reforms in the Bill connected to plan making.

Amendment 216A is a minor and technical amendment to Schedule 7. It clarifies an ambiguity in relation to new Section 15CA, to be inserted into the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 by Schedule 7 to the Bill. The amendment, which will insert new subsection (3A) into new Section 15CA, clarifies that local planning authorities may be made liable for the costs associated with observations or advice delivered by a person appointed by the Secretary of State under new Section 15CA(3), which in practice will be in relation to the proposed local gateways.

Noble Lords will note that the intention was always that, in relation to remuneration and allowances payable under new Section 15LE(2)(j) in Schedule 7, it should be possible for local planning authorities to be made liable for these costs. This amendment simply ensures clarity as to where liability for remuneration or allowances under new subsection (2)(j) may fall. The position following this amendment will broadly mirror arrangements for other relevant appointments, for example in relation to independent examination of plans and local plan commissioners appointed by the Secretary of State.

Amendments 242A, 242B, 242C, 242D, 242E, 242F, 242G and 242H set out consequential amendments required to various pieces of legislation in connection with our reforms to plan making. Through the reforms to Part 2 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, as introduced by Clause 90 and Schedule 7 to the Bill, the concepts of “local development document” and “development plan document” will be replaced by

“local plan, minerals and waste plan or supplementary plan”.

Various consequential amendments have been tabled to ensure that these changes to terminology are carried across to other legislation.

Schedule 8 already sets out minor and consequential amendments of this kind. These further changes will be inserted into Schedule 8 and amend various pieces of legislation to ensure that other key legislative provisions would continue to have effect in light of our reforms. These include, for instance, the Local Government Act 1972, the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, the Greater London Authority Act 1999, the Commons Act 2006, the Planning and Energy Act 2008 and the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009. I beg to move.

I have a query, and I congratulate the noble Baroness on so carefully explaining the long list of amendments. On the first amendment, Amendment 216A, is that a new requirement for local planning authorities? If so, then surely it should fall under the new burdens agreement between the Government and local authorities and should therefore be funded by the Government.

I am told that if it was a new burden, it would be. We do not know whether it is going to be a new burden, but if it were to be a new burden, it would be.

Amendment 216A agreed.

Amendment 217

Moved by

217: Schedule 7, page 294, line 22, at end insert—

“(4A) A local plan must conform with the principle of inclusive design, and where a local planning authority receives any observations or advice from a person appointed by the Secretary of State under subsection (3) to the effect that a proposed local plan does not conform with that principle, the local planning authority must modify the plan to ensure conformity in accordance with the observations or advice.”

My Lords, it is pleasure to open this group of amendments. I intend to speak to Amendments 217 and 302 in my name, but I also give more than a supportive nod to the double nelson in the name of my noble friend Lord Lansley. My two amendments are pretty similar in terms but address two specific areas. They simply require that, whether we are talking about local plans or planning more broadly, they should be predicated on the principle of “inclusive by design”.

Let me share a small example to make this point. A number of years ago, so-called shared space became popular among local authorities. I say “so-called” shared space, because in reality it was nothing of the sort—some might say it was a planning folly. In effect, it was where previously inclusive and accessible public realm was converted into “shared space”. Let us take a carriageway, for example. Shared space came in and removed kerbstones, road markings, pavements, crossings and lights, and then pedestrians, tankers, toddlers and buses were all supposed to share that space, with everybody paying more respect to one another. As I say, some may say that it was a planning folly. There are still examples across the country, some not that far from your Lordships’ House.

Had we had the principle of “inclusive by design” underpinning public realm, underpinning planning and underpinning—as in this Bill—local plans, we would not have had such designs which exclude so many people from the local community who were previously able to access those areas independently. Had we had “inclusive by design” as a planning principle, with everything predicated on it, we would not have had such “shared spaces” and we would not have inaccessible, non-inclusive areas across our public realms, across our cities and across our communities.

I wrote a report in 2015 on “shared space” and it saw that over two-thirds of people found it difficult if not impossible to navigate. “Inclusive by design” is a key planning principle. It is not just for disabled people or just about access; it is about the very heart, soul and fabric of our local areas—inclusive by design so that they can be accessed, enjoyed and passed through by all members of our community. That is what my Amendments 217 and 302 are all about. I beg to move.

My Lords, I am very glad to follow my noble friend and to heartily endorse and agree with what he had to say about the importance of inclusiveness and inclusion by design. In this group of amendments, I also endorse firmly the importance of design as an integral part of the planning system. As I understand it, the Government are firmly in that camp. They believe that design can ensure that we create far more fit-for-purpose places in which to live. That is what design is all about: fitness for purpose. The Government also think that they can be beautiful places. I am sure each of us has our own view of what beauty might be in this context, and I do not suspect that we can easily write it into legislation.

What is rather interesting is that we have in Schedule 7 a reference to the fact that local authorities must prepare such a design code. Of course, behind that lies—as ever in debates on this section of the Bill—the National Planning Policy Framework, which has within it the idea of what those design codes must look like. Even behind that, there is the national model design code—fine. But then let us have a look at what is in the relevant chapter of the Government’s draft National Planning Policy Framework. Here, I want to go back to the discussion we had earlier. I will not repeat it all, but it was essentially about the centrality of environmental principles, the achievement of our net-zero objectives, nature recovery strategies and biodiversity net gain. All those things are terrifically important, so you would imagine, would you not, that because design and place-making have to start from core principles, they would be reflected in the National Planning Policy Framework when it considers what well-designed and beautiful places need to be, but that is not how it works at all.

Before I expand a little more on chapter 12 of the draft National Planning Policy Framework, let me just say that it is not me saying that environmental principles are central to this issue. The Royal Town Planning Institute, together with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and friends from LDA Design, whom I know well—I declare an interest; my son-in-law works for them—worked on a document called Cracking the Code, which was published a year ago, about the national design code and the question of how that should reflect environmental principles. Let me quote one paragraph from the report:

“Design codes should have a critical role to play in planning for the future of places and ensuring that opportunities to maximise development’s contribution to net zero and nature recovery are locked in from the outset, through strong spatial development frameworks and strategic design requirements. Codes can outline ways for developments to combine net zero and nature recovery with place making and encourage unique and innovative approaches to green and blue infrastructure and the role of landscape.”

So, they captured the whole centrality of the environmental argument in a paragraph.

The practicalities of this are immediately evident. If you are designing new towns now, which will be built mostly in the 2030s and will be lived in through the 2060s, 2070s and 2080s, you have to think about what a carbon-free public space—and, for that matter, private space—looks like. What does the transport look like? What does the heating look like? How do people live? How do they move around? There is no point designing places that do not take full account of those changes that are in prospect.

You would find all that in the National Planning Policy Framework, would you not? There is brief reference somewhere here to the environment, but not much. What there is, however, is a list of the things that the design codes and design processes should reflect. It includes visually attractive, good architecture; sympathy to local character and history; a sense of place; optimising the potential to sustain development in the future; safe, inclusive, accessible; promoting health and well-being. These are all admirable, and there is then a full paragraph on trees, but I cannot find anywhere else any reference to nature recovery, biodiversity, environmental principles or the processes for how design can contribute, and is central, to the mitigation of and adaptation to climate change.

It might be covered in the national model design code, but I do not think that is how it looks at the moment. The purpose of this document last year was to say, “Put it into the national model design code”. Logically, if you are going to do that, you have to at least signal its importance in the National Planning Policy Framework. Otherwise, all your guidance —because, technically, that is what it is—simply does not cohere together. What we have discovered, which is at the heart of many of these arguments, is that in large measure we do not yet know—we are still to debate this—how far what the Government say in the National Planning Policy Framework will be national development management policies and, by extension, cannot be varied from in local plans. So we have this inexorable relationship between things that we do not know and how it is going to turn out in the future.

Amendment 222 is very simply saying, because we do not know and cannot find evidence of the centrality of these environmental principles to the national model design code or the National Planning Policy Framework, let us put them in the Bill. All I am doing in this context is saying that, at this stage, I want to know that they will be central to the design approach—and if they are not, they ought to be. I hope that Ministers will be able to reassure me on that point.

My Lords, I rise to offer Green support for all these amendments. On the amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Holmes, it is worth reflecting that if you design a space, a community or a building that is accessible and welcoming to everybody, that will be a really good building for any person to enjoy. This is the same principle that applies to accessible public transport and many other areas.

I mostly want to speak to Amendment 222 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Lansley. I commend him both on tabling this amendment and on his excellent introduction to it. He was perhaps reading the mind of the Committee on Climate Change, because he must have tabled this amendment before its report about three weeks ago, which really stressed the nation’s utter failure to prepare for the climate reality that is now already locked in—what is now known in shorthand as adaptation. Another Member of your Lordships’ House, the noble Baroness, Lady Brown, said:

“This has been a lost decade in preparing for and adapting to the known risks that we face from climate change”.

It is very clear that what we should be doing now is making sure that we design, build and deliver buildings, infrastructure and communities that are actually fit for—as the noble Lord said—the next century. To take a practical example of this, the APPG on Wetlands has done a great deal of work and spread the word about how crucial wetlands are. We think about all the issues the Government keep facing all the time on sewage and what is spilling into our rivers and oceans. Sustainable urban drainage systems and just the smallest-scale wetlands—something that I have seen NGOs presenting with—can be a way of enriching biodiversity and addressing the kind of issues that this amendment does. They also create a much more pleasant environment for people and do something to tackle all the issues we have with water distribution in our country.

It is not just the Committee on Climate Change. Yesterday your Lordships’ House gave strong support for the amendment to the Energy Bill saying that we absolutely have to deal with retrofitting—with the adaptation that is necessary for existing homes. That very much addresses this amendment as well.

I will offer one constructive suggestion to the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, and something to think about. We have now got to the stage where pretty much everyone, including the Government, is talking about the climate emergency and about biodiversity in nature. These are just two of the very big issues we face in terms of the planetary boundaries. A year or so back, the Stockholm institute concluded that we have exceeded the planetary boundary for novel entities, which is shorthand for pesticides, plastics and pharmaceuticals. I suggest that the next step—which everyone will be talking about in a few years, but we can get ahead of the curve now—is to say that we need design codes that ensure we are living within all the planetary boundaries, which includes things such as geochemical flows and protecting fresh water: a whole range of issues that come under the planetary boundaries model. If we are indeed to be able to survive and thrive on this poor, battered planet, we have to design to live within those planetary boundaries.

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Holmes, is quite right to raise the issue of accessible and inclusive design. Everyone benefits where design is accessible and inclusive for everyone, so all planners and all local plan strategies should bear that in mind as a prior consideration. The noble Lord has our complete support.

We must say two things to the Government that the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, has said several times today. We need the content of both the National Planning Policy Framework and the national development management plan before we get to Report, otherwise we will have to include in the Bill content that may later appear in either of those two important plans. We cannot operate in this vacuum of lack of knowledge and information about the content of two absolutely fundamental building blocks of strategic planning. We need to keep raising that—I think it was also raised today by the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor of Stevenage—and I hope the Minister has heard the pleas from across the Committee.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Holmes of Richmond, not just for his amendment but for his continued work to ensure that we keep issues of inclusivity at the forefront when considering all aspects of the Bill, particularly planning. Levelling up must relate not just to tackling inequalities between the regions and places in the UK but to ensuring that no group is excluded from opportunities that are open to the rest of us. That is why the amendments in this group are so important.

We absolutely support the principle behind the noble Lord’s Amendment 217 and will definitely support the consideration of observations and advice relating to inclusive design as local authorities go through their plan-making process. But for the sake of practicality, if this amendment is accepted, there may be a need for further guidance about whether local authorities could be exempted on individual developments if they are able to demonstrate adequate reasons for that. I certainly do not suggest that they should be able to do so on many grounds—they would have to be very exceptional circumstances—but if that was not included, there may be examples, such as where heritage assets are involved in the development or something like that, where there would need to be some consideration of other factors. But it is a very good amendment, as is Amendment 302, which is an unequivocal statement, which we absolutely support, to ensure that inclusive design is enshrined in the Bill.

It was very interesting to hear the noble Lord, Lord Holmes, talk about the absolute nonsense that was shared space. I remember kicking against it when some developments came forward. Clearly, the key to all this is consulting all users, and all likely users, of a space before designs are finalised so that, as you go through the planning process, you take account of everything that needs to be considered. Building that fundamental principle of inclusivity into the planning process from the outset is an incredibly helpful amendment to the Bill.

On Amendment 222, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, we have had extensive discussions in previous groups in Committee about the importance of ensuring that, throughout the Bill, adaptation to and mitigation of climate change, net-zero carbon emissions, nature recovery and biodiversity are at the heart of its purpose and intent. Indeed, levelling up cannot be achieved unless that is the case. Therefore, that must also apply to design codes, so we support the amendment.

The noble Lord, Lord Lansley, referred to the importance of design being not just around physical beauty. That made me think of some examples where we have to be careful—we may come on to this in later discussion on the Bill. Beauty being in the eye of the beholder is, I think, the best phrase to cover it. Often, we are not careful enough about attempts to turn areas into things they never can be. I certainly feel that, having grown up in a new town. Attempts to put Victorian-style canopies on a mid-20th-century town centre are, in my mind, just as bad as plonking down glass and concrete structures in a medieval high street. We must be very careful that we do not let architects—I hope there are none in the Chamber today—run away with themselves with these things.

Presumably, you can design beautiful places which have devastating impacts on the environment, exclude users, and work only for humans, and possibly their pets, and do nothing for biodiversity. I could be mischievous and say that we have had too many decades of that already, so it is time we built into both the planning legislation and the design codes the key principles that buildings must be designed to take account of all the issues that the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, mentioned and all the principles of inclusivity that the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Holmes, sets out. I hope that if these amendments are not accepted today, something like them will find their way into the Bill eventually.

My Lords, this group of amendments concerns requirements relating to design, as we have heard. Ensuring that the planning system creates more beautiful and sustainable buildings and places is a key objective of this Government. I quite accept that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but it will be for local people to decide on design, and I think local people know their area better than anybody. This is demonstrated through the measures set out in the Bill for mandatory design codes, as well as those measures undertaken in response to the findings of the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission, which include updates to the national design policy and new guidance on how to prepare design codes in 2021.

I begin by addressing Amendments 217 and 302, tabled by my noble friend Lord Holmes of Richmond, which focus on the principle of inclusive design. Amendment 217 would introduce a legal requirement for local plans to conform with the principle of inclusive design. It would also require local planning authorities to modify their local plans where they have received relevant observations or advice in relation to this from a person appointed by the Secretary of State. Amendment 302 would introduce a legal requirement for local planning authorities to ensure that planning and development must be predicated on the principle of inclusive design.

The Government agree that ensuring that development is designed to be inclusive for all is essential to meeting the aims for sustainable development. That is why the National Planning Policy Framework already makes clear that local planning policy should ensure that developments create places that are healthy, inclusive and safe. This means local planning policies and decisions that promote social interaction and accessibility, and which enable healthy lifestyles.

This is supported by the National Design Guide and the National Model Design Code, which illustrate how well-designed, inclusive and healthy places can be achieved in practice. Both documents advise local authorities on how the 10 characteristics of well-designed places can inform their local plans, guidance, design codes and planning decisions to create successful neighbourhoods that contain a rich mix of people, including people with physical disabilities and those with mental health needs. Through local design codes, local authorities should consider a wide variety of housing tenures and types in the design of new developments to meet a range of different needs, such as housing for older people, as we have spoken about at length today, and supported housing to meet the needs of vulnerable people.

Furthermore, the Bill will require all local planning authorities to prepare local design codes at the scale of their authority area, either through their local plan or as a supplementary plan, giving them significant weight in decision-making. The national model design code asks that, in preparing design codes, consideration must be given to how new development can promote inclusive design by creating buildings and spaces that are safe, social and inclusive, with an integrated mix of uses that are acceptable for all.

My noble friend Lord Holmes of Richmond was particularly interested in shared spaces. The national model design code recognises that streets should be designed to be inclusive and should cater for the needs of all road users as far as possible, in particular considering needs relating to disability, age, gender and maternity. However, there is also the Manual for Streets, which seeks to ensure that streets are designed to be accessible and inclusive. The DfT is updating this guidance, which will form part of a suite of guidance across DfT and DLUHC to secure better outcomes for communities. I hope that my noble friend Lord Holmes of Richmond will understand that we are clear that this is already being addressed through national planning policy and supporting guidance on design, and that this is not an amendment that we feel is necessary.

Before discussing Amendment 222, tabled by my noble friend Lord Lansley, I want to make it clear that I have heard the concerns of a number of noble Lords, over most of the afternoon, around the publishing of the NPPF. All I can say at this time is that it has been out to consultation, as we all know, with the public and stakeholders, and more details and more announcements will be made in due course. I have heard the views of the Committee and I will take them back and discuss this further with officials.

I remind the Minister that, on day two, she made similar noises about a draft of the statement of levelling-up missions. She did not make a promise but said that she had heard the call for those too to be in front of noble Lords before Report. I hope she can add that to her shopping list when she talks to officials after today’s session.

I will. I will look back at Hansard and ensure that we get exactly what the noble Lord wants. To tell the truth I thought he had already got it, but I believe what he says and will see that he gets it.

The Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill would require all local planning authorities to prepare authority-wide design codes as part of their development plan, either as part of their local plan or as a supplementary plan, as I have said before. The Bill already includes the obligation, found in the new Sections 15C and 15CC of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, as inserted by Schedule 7, that local plans and supplementary plans must be designed to secure that the development and use of land in the authority’s areas contributes to the mitigation of, and adaption to, climate change.

In addition, the National Planning Policy Framework sets the policy expectation that plans take a proactive approach to adapting to and mitigating climate change. It makes it clear that local plans and decisions should contribute to and enhance the natural and local environment. The national model design code provides guidance on how local design codes can be prepared to ensure well-designed places which respond to the impacts of climate change, through ensuring that places and buildings are energy efficient, minimise carbon emissions and contribute to the implementing of the Government’s biodiversity net gain policy.

I understand and agree with the importance of this subject matter. We are clear, though, for the reasons I have set out, that this is already being addressed through the Bill, national policy and design guidance. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, will understand that this is not an amendment that we feel is necessary.

I hope I have said enough to enable my noble friend Lord Holmes of Richmond to withdraw his Amendment 217, and for other amendments in this group not to be moved when they are reached.

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who participated in this group of amendments. I particularly thank my noble friend the Minister for her full response. Green spaces, inclusive places: we can achieve this and deliver it through statutory design if we so choose. I think we will certainly return to some of these issues, and more, when we get to Report in the autumn, but for now I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 217 withdrawn.

Amendments 218 to 224 not moved.

Amendment 225

Moved by

225: Schedule 7, page 318, line 12, at end insert—

“(1A) A local planning authority must have regard to the content of any relevant neighbourhood priorities statement in the exercise of its planning functions.”Member’s explanatory statement

This means local planning authority must have regard to the content of any relevant neighbourhood priorities statement in the exercise of its planning functions.

My Lords, we have a number of amendments in this group, and there are a number of issues that I want to visit in this group, so I apologise if this takes a few minutes.

Looking first of all at my Amendment 225 to Schedule 7, this amendment would mean that local planning authorities must have regard to the content of any relevant neighbourhood priorities statement in the exercise of their planning functions. If we turn to the Bill, we see that Section 15K introduces a new neighbourhood planning tool, the neighbourhood priorities statement. According to the Bill’s Explanatory Notes, these statements will

“allow communities to identify their key priorities for their local area, including their development preferences”,

with the intention of providing

“a simpler and more accessible way”

for communities to participate in neighbourhood planning.

The provision is clearly a response to the fact that the vast majority of the 1,061 neighbourhood plans that have been made to date have emanated from the more affluent parts of the country, where people have the time and the resources to prepare and implement them, rather than from less affluent areas and more complex urban environments. But we welcome the fact that the Government are engaging with what is a real problem.

Although we certainly welcome the intent behind this, providing community groups with the power to make these neighbourhood priorities statements does raise a number of questions. First, how much flexibility will community groups have in formulating these neighbourhood priorities statements, given that proposed new Section 15LE makes a particular statement about this? Subsection (3) states:

“Regulations under subsection (2)(1) may provide for the form or content of a neighbourhood priorities statement to be determined by the Secretary of State”.

Are they then a replacement for neighbourhood plans where those are unlikely to be created, or are they a precursor to the development of full neighbourhood plans? Perhaps in different areas, they could be both. It would be good to have some clarification of what is meant by that.

We need to understand the status of the neighbourhood priorities statements in order to understand their purpose and what the Government intend by them. Will they be documents that community groups can put together, but that local planning authorities can ignore entirely if that is what they decide they want to do—or do local planning authorities have to treat them seriously? The policy paper that sits alongside the Bill says that local authorities will be obliged to take them into account when preparing local plans. That sounds great, but, again, can the Minister define what is meant by this, and what exactly the impact is of any neighbourhood priorities statement in an area that already has a local plan?

I turn now to a number of amendments we have tabled to the clauses on neighbourhood plans. Statutory neighbourhood plans became part of the system in 2011, as noble Lords will appreciate, when they were introduced under the Localism Act as a formal part of the development framework. To the extent that they enable communities better to shape development in any given area, we know that neighbourhood planning can increase public engagement, reduce the number of objections to planning applications and boost housing supply over and above local authority targets. Other noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, have referred to this in previous debates. We welcome neighbourhood plans—it is just a question of how we then move forward with them.

The clauses on neighbourhood planning are pretty straightforward, but we do have a few amendments that we feel could improve them. My Amendment 229 probes whether neighbourhood development plans could include housebuilding targets. We have of course discussed housebuilding targets already today and in previous debates, and we know that the Conservative manifesto pledged to continue to increase the number of homes being built. It referred to the need to

“rebalance the housing market towards more home ownership”.

Much of that is included in the missions for this Bill and in the metrics.

The manifesto also said that the progress towards the target of 300,000 homes per year would continue. As noble Lords are aware, concerns about meeting those targets have been raised time and again in this House. The Public Accounts Committee and the then Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee also expressed concern and asked for greater clarity on how these targets would be met. Of course, the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, who is not in his place at the moment, has a particular interest in this matter.

Looking at the metrics to the housing mission, we see that this refers to how, in the section:

“Is this mission ambitious, specific and achievable?”,

it says that, to achieve the desired outcomes:

“This mission is also underpinned by a commitment … to ramp up housebuilding to address the underlying affordability issues that first-time buyers face”.

Yet, as we have heard, the Government have abandoned their national housebuilding targets because certain members of the Conservative Party down the other end did not like them very much.

I have referred to metrics in previous debates: if the metric is dependent on something that has been promised, and that promise is no longer existent, how is that metric then properly relevant to delivering that levelling-up mission? How is abandoning that target going to help deliver the ambition of this mission? Would the Minister therefore agree that my Amendment 229, which would allow neighbourhood development plans to include housebuilding targets, would be a positive way to move things forward in this area?

My Amendment 230 would enable neighbourhood plans to require that development in areas of historical, cultural or environmental sensitivity is in keeping with the surrounding environment. I suggest that this amendment is pretty self-explanatory. We believe it is important that planning and development respects the historical, cultural and environmental sensitivities of an area. I am sure the Minister would agree with that. We are not attempting to stop anything new, vibrant or exciting being developed in a community; it just means that any local sensitivities are properly taken into account when development takes place.

My Amendment 231 is to probe the impact of neighbourhood development plans on national parks and AONBs. Over 320,000 people live in our national parks, and they are also home to 22,500 businesses. We know that many more people live and work in AONBs. A former chair of National Parks England, Carl Lis, warned in an interview in 2020 that

“young people and national parks staff are being forced out of some of the most scenic parts of the country by high prices, driven in part by exclusive holiday homes”.

He said that more affordable housing should be built in England’s national parks to help communities that have been excluded by spiralling prices, driven mainly by second homes.

He also said that the Government should take action on land banking by developers in protected areas, such as near where I live, the Lake District, and in also places like the South Downs and the Peak District. It is called this because property speculators hoard plots with planning permission for years and years to maximise their profits. I would be very interested to hear the thoughts of the noble Baroness on this, particularly in light of the Secretary of State’s recent announcement about Airbnbs and holiday lets.

I have an article here that says:

“Gove confirms measures in levelling up bill to tackle Airbnb conversions”.

Clearly, this has a greater impact on our national parks and AONBs and the properties that will be available for local people—particularly affordable properties. Could the Minister provide some information about the promise to the other place that the Secretary of State made? He said that the Government would be

“bringing forward some planning changes to the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill, which are intended to ensure that we have restrictions on the way in which dwelling homes can be turned into Airbnbs”.—[Official Report, Commons, 21/3/23; col. 192.]

As we are discussing this now, within the Bill being referred to, we would be very interested to know at what stage those amendments are likely to appear and how that is going to tie in with the fact that it was published as a consultation paper on 13 April. That consultation paper sets out proposals to create a new class of C5 short-term lets. Is this what the amendments will be addressing? It is vital that we understand properly, while we are debating these issues in Committee, what the Secretary of State is actually proposing here.

I will reference an article by Simon Ricketts from Town Legal. He has looked into the details of the consultation, and he draws attention to one of the things in the proposal—I will quote this, because it is important that, if the Secretary of State makes announcements about new amendments while we are in Committee, we look at what was said. The announcement says:

“The government has listened to calls from local people in tourist hotspots that they are priced out of homes to rent or to buy and need housing that is more affordable so they can continue to work and live in the place they call home”.

I absolutely agree with that. It continues:

“The proposed planning changes would support sustainable communities, supporting local people and businesses and local services. The proposed planning changes would see a planning use class created for short term lets not used as a sole or main home, alongside new permitted development rights, which will mean planning permission is not needed in areas where local authorities choose not to use these planning controls”.

It is really important to be clear about what the Government mean by a “short-term let” within this consultation and any proposed amendments to the Bill.

One thing that the consultation paper says on this is:

“The term ‘short term let’ can encompass a range of activity associated with a dwelling. Some short term lets may be let out for a limited period while the owners themselves go on holiday. Others may be properties that provide for a series of lets for holidays … or very short term overnight sleeping accommodation including renting an individual bedroom while the owners are in situ”.

So this new amendment could cover a situation where a property is let for a limited period when the owner is away, where the owner remains in situ and rents out a bedroom, or where a property provides for a series of lets to holidaymakers. However, the proposed wording for the new short-term let C5 is:

“Use of a dwellinghouse that is not a sole or main residence for temporary sleeping accommodation for the purpose of holiday, leisure, recreation, business or other travel”.

I have to say that I find all of this quite confusing, and it is important that we properly understand it, so I will put the Minister on the spot and ask whether she can help unpick some of this so that we understand exactly what these amendments, which we will presumably see fairly soon, actually aim to achieve and what they will mean. If she does not have the detail in front of her, I would be happy to have not a letter but perhaps a follow-up meeting to discuss this, because we need to understand what the Secretary of State is referring to. I apologise for taking some time on this, but it is important that we understand what is happening here.

The final amendment I will speak to in this group, Amendment 233, would mean:

“The Secretary of State must prepare and publish an annual report on the uptake of neighbourhood development plans”.

We have said in previous debates that we have concerns about the uptake of neighbourhood plans. As I mentioned when I introduced my amendment on the new neighbourhood priorities statements, all the evidence suggests that the vast majority of neighbourhood plans made to date have emanated from the most affluent parts of the country, which have the time and the resources for plans to be prepared and implemented.

I understand that the Government accept that this is a problem and that not enough are coming through from the less affluent and more complex urban environments, and I assume that the idea behind the neighbourhood priorities statements is that they are a means of addressing this—we welcome that the Government are looking to do this. But, in our view, those statements cannot be the only means of doing so. We believe that more could and should be done outside the legislative process to expand and support community involvement in planning decisions. One example could be that the Government could perhaps strengthen and expand the neighbourhood planning support programme.

We also believe that the objective of boosting the take-up of neighbourhood plans in deprived and urban areas should be included in the Bill, because it is so important. Amendment 233 would achieve this by inserting into the Bill a requirement that there is an annual report on uptake, and it would include what steps the Government are taking to increase this. I hope the Minister agrees that this amendment is a practical way forward to focus attention on this issue, as well as to provide evidence that can then be used constructively to increase uptake in the areas that most need to benefit from it.

I am aware that there are other amendments in this group. However, as I have been speaking for some time now, instead of commenting on them—which we are broadly supportive of, on the face of them—I will listen with interest to the rest of the debate. I beg to move.

My Lords, I will speak to the amendments in my name in this group. I start by briefly reminding noble Lords that I am a member of the Marple neighbourhood forum, which is drawing up a neighbourhood plan which we hope will go to a public referendum later this year at some point.

I turn back briefly to the situation in 2010, when, whatever the rulebook said, the statutory planning and development programme across England was reduced, in essence, to a two-stage process, where the developer proposed something and the community opposed something. It was a very polarised process. The neighbourhood plan process was put in place to reverse that, so that it became a situation where the community proposed and the developer developed. It has been a remarkably successful plan over the subsequent 10 years that it has been in place.

At the time, there was huge scepticism about the idea of neighbourhood plans. Officials in the department did not like it; I hope that Ministers do not face that backdrop now. The RTPI did not like it, and developers all thought that it would be the end of the world for them. Some critics thought that it would be a complete dud and a dead letter that no local community group would be prepared to take up to carry out the work, with the threat or risks, if you like, that come from consulting the community and facing a public referendum at the end of it. It is interesting that those critics have melted away because the criticisms have melted away. They have not proved to be a nimby charter; in fact, they have proved the reverse—to be a successful way of promoting additional housing allocations. It has to be said that that was not their primary purpose; the primary purpose was to restore planning to what it should have been in the first place, which is a co-operative way of developing good outcomes for local communities that are forward-looking and forward-facing to meet the needs of the future.

One of the criticisms which perhaps has some truth, but not all that much, is that neighbourhood plans are for rich, posh, rural areas. However, the very first one signed off was actually in London, so it certainly was not rural. In fact, there are 16 neighbourhood plans within Greater London at the moment, and I know that in my own metropolitan borough there are at least three in progress. On the other hand, I note that nearly every town in Wiltshire, plus the city of Salisbury, which is one of the biggest local councils in the country, have neighbourhood plans either done or in process at the moment. So the evidence is that they can flourish very successfully in rural, suburban and urban areas.

Clearly, from the point of view of the debate we are having today, the most significant fact is that, coincidentally and counterintuitively, they also give more homes, which are developed more quickly than through the standard planning process. The developer wins and the local community wins, the local planning authority and councillors avoid all the political distractions of the planning fight, and the Government get more homes that they want. I apologise to noble Lords because I know I can get very defensive about neighbourhood plans when I think people are trying to tread on them or disparage them, so I hope I will be excused for defending them very stoutly.

There should be more neighbourhood plans across the country, and that brings me first to Amendment 235, which I and my noble friend Lady Scott of Needham Market have tabled and which is supported by the National Association of Local Councils—that is parish and town councils around the country. NALC reports that a minority of local planning authorities have in fact been deliberately obstructive of the establishment of neighbourhood plans—maybe that is a mixture of professional pride from planners and the capacity to engage with local communities. For some councillors it represents some kind of notional loss of control or influence if they might be usurped by a local community’s neighbourhood plan. In some cases, even if they are not outright hostile, they have very much stood back and watched, hoping that nothing much would happen to upset their overstretched and very stressed planning operation in their rather cosy planning world.

Whatever the Minister may be inclined to say about the amendments in this group, if she were to accept this, and place a duty on local planning authorities to facilitate neighbourhood plans, she would get an immediate boost of neighbourhood plan applications, and therefore an immediate boost to her housing targets. It would also be helpful to hear what other plans the Minister has to facilitate and encourage neighbourhood plans much more widely.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, has just outlined and drawn our attention to the streamlined process that appears in the Bill, which certainly we welcome. Maybe the Minister could make it clear how that affects existing neighbourhood plans that have not yet got to the point of referendum, examination or sign-off. Is it the case that, if they are on one track they are stuck with it, even if the other would be quicker or simpler, or is it possible to change? Maybe the new system could be spelled out to us a bit more clearly—what exactly is being saved? As the noble Baroness asked, is this an addition to or a supplement of some of the processes that there are at present? Whichever way round it is, it is essential for the Government to back neighbourhood plans, at least as one of the solutions to the conundrum they face about how to get extra housing.

Amendment 236 is also supported by NALC and signed by my noble friend Lady Scott of Needham Market—who would have been here but for the change of the date of this Committee, which meant unfortunately she is away today. It seeks to protect those neighbourhood plans that are awaiting sign-off during the transition period between the current planning regime, as it is unamended by this Bill, and the new regime that will be introduced, one way or another, when the Bill is introduced. Those plans are in some jeopardy if they are about to go to a referendum, or even to a public examination at the end of the process, and all of a sudden the goalposts are changed and they can no longer be presented without going back through the whole process.

That would be particularly difficult for neighbourhood forums to handle, because they are one-task volunteers, set up and drawn together by the local neighbourhood plan process. It would not be easy for parishes, but at least they have an enduring public existence, which means this is just one aspect of their work. For both of them, a measure of reassurance and certainty is required that their work so far has not been in vain.

We have proposed in Amendment 235 a simple transition amendment. If the Minister feels that it is not the right transition amendment, we would of course be very open to hearing a better version from her—but I hope that she will at least acknowledge that that double jeopardy must be avoided if the integrity of the process is not to be undermined in those areas. I do not know the exact scope of that, but there would probably be about 300 or 400 neighbourhood plans that were at an intermediate stage that would be subject to such disruption.

I move on to two other amendments proposed by me. Amendment 232 is an amendment to Clause 91 to leave out new subsection (2C), which says, among other things:

“The neighbourhood development plan must not … include anything that is not permitted or required by or under subsections (A1) to (2A).”

I want to examine in a little more detail the words “not permitted or required”. Both this amendment and the subsequent one, Amendment 234, are examples where the drafting of the Bill is unfortunate at best and possibly worse, because it seems as though they are efforts to limit and clip the wings of what neighbourhood plans are capable of delivering for their local communities. As I have explained already, that would materially slow down and damage the Government’s own wish to reach housing targets.

My question is about what exactly new subsection (2C) on page 98 means. With

“anything that is not permitted or required”,

it seems to me that there is an important element missing from that list. Assuming that it actually means what it says, as the provision seems to have a double negative in it—but let us skip that for the moment—let us suppose that a community develops a proposal that the Secretary of State has not thought of, and let us suppose that it is not on his non-exhaustive list of permitted things. When can innovative and imaginative new approaches fit in, if you have to check first whether it is a required or a permitted function?

What is the process for adjudicating whether a proposal that a neighbourhood forum wishes to make meets this vague and ill-defined limitation? I fear a ministerial reply that says that it will all be covered in regulations. From the point of view of an amateur community-led neighbourhood forum, that translates into more impenetrable red tape, and a general perception that the powers that be—the Ministers and whoever they are in Whitehall—would much rather you never started, because it is so confined and for that matter so foggy that it is just never going to be worth the effort.

A local planning authority has a general power of competence to cover this situation, of course. If it is not required or permitted, and if it is covered by the general powers of competence, they can do it. My question to the Minister, apart from what on earth it means, because the actual wording seems faulty, is what harm this provision seeks to prevent. Is it a purely hypothetical harm which, if I may say so, her officials have dreamed up as being something to bung in, or has the Minister got even one example by way of illustration of where this has gone desperately wrong because the wrong things have been taken into account?

If the Government’s support for neighbourhood plans is genuine, are they making them a more daunting prospect for local communities by accident, in which case I suggest this is something they need to consider? I have already set out my view that there is more to come in the Bill about how neighbourhood plans should be encouraged without having chunks of the Bill that are hostile, at least in outcome if not in intention, to the development of neighbourhood plans.

That brings me to Amendment 234 in my name. This addresses what I have described as the better-than-average paradox of policy-making. The target is always to be better than average. Hospitals: I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, will be familiar with the fact that they all have to be above average. Schools: they have all got to be above average. Police forces: they have all got to be above average. The turnaround times on ministerial correspondence: they have all got to be better than average. Such policy ambitions are bound to fail; that is dictated by the immutable laws of mathematics and there is no referendum that will ever set us free from that. It is not possible for everybody to be above average. It is not possible for every neighbourhood plan to be above average.

The success that people like me are claiming, and that the department itself is claiming, for neighbourhood plans is that, on average, they allocate more land than their local plans do; it is not that every one of them allocates more than the local plan does. So, Ministers find themselves chasing the same paradox once more: let every neighbourhood plan set out an above-average figure. It appears on page 99, at new paragraph (ea), which essentially says there is no way at all that a neighbourhood plan could ever have a housing target that was less than that in the relevant local plan or, indeed, in the relevant national allocation. Should the proposition of the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, find favour, it would obviously be a Whitehall amount that they would have to accommodate in the neighbourhood plan area.

The interesting thing is that the Bill is inconsistent about that because, turning back to page 98, I objected to new subsection (2C), but new subsection (2B) says that you must take careful account of the contribution

“to the mitigation of, and adaption to, climate change”.

I have not spoken against that; I think it is a very sensible overarching principle for neighbourhood plans to have. So, what happens if a neighbourhood plan is covering an area that, just coincidentally, happens to be wholly on a flood plain? Do they take any notice of (2B) or of (2C)? In other words, what I am saying is that to have an absolute prohibition on a neighbourhood plan dropping below an arbitrary total, which may or may not ultimately have come from someone sitting behind a desk in Whitehall, will sometimes be in conflict with real life and with the real environment where neighbourhood plans are.

That is just a simple example of why trying to do this—micromanaging to produce an above-average outcome for everybody—is going to fail. Neighbourhood plans are, in essence, a voluntary, community enterprise. They have shown themselves to be more adept at finding out what is sustainable in their local community than the local plan makers and the headline target makers in Whitehall. The Government’s housing targets have been the beneficiaries of that specialised local knowledge and commitment. That has been achieved without bloodshed or diktat, and it has been the result of thousands of local conversations leading to sensible outcomes.

If Ministers are so impressed with that that they now insist that all those voluntary decisions have to be compulsory, they are putting another inhibition on the required expansion of neighbourhood plans, and they will rapidly push communities back on the defensive. We shall get back to where we were, where the developer proposes and the community opposes, and the whole process will get logjammed again. I believe Ministers should look again at both these provisions, or they may find that the neighbourhood plan goose stops laying the golden eggs of increased housing provision.

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Stunell is the expert on neighbourhood planning, and there is nothing I can add to what he has just expounded. I also agree with what the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, said. In particular, my noble friend raised important questions about the statement by the Secretary of State last week about future planning proposals that will affect this Bill.

Finally, my Amendment 227 is just an extension of Amendment 231 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, about development plans within national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty. The amendment in my name would enable neighbourhood development plans to limit housing development in those vital areas of the country entirely to affordable housing—and affordable housing in perpetuity—so that there is a stream and supply of new housing in those areas that is appropriate, relevant and affordable, if “affordable” is the right definition. In this case, it means affordable for local people who live and work in those areas; evidence of that has already been given by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock.

My Lords, neighbourhood planning has been a great success story. I went into it with my council, probably at the same time as the noble Lord, Lord Stunell, and it was difficult to begin with, because it was very new and communities did not understand it. What I think is good about neighbourhood planning now is that all that groundwork has been done by many councils across the country, working with many communities. Therefore, for new councils and new communities coming on, I think it is going to be a lot easier as we move forward.

I thank noble Lords, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Stunell, who is obviously a guru on neighbourhood planning, for their support. As I say, I am also fully in favour of it, as can be seen by what has happened in Wiltshire. It has been a great success story; it has given many communities a much greater role in shaping development in their local areas and ensuring they meet their needs.

The Bill retains the existing framework of powers for neighbourhood planning while at the same time providing more clarity on the scope of neighbourhood plans alongside other types of development plan. However, we recognise that the take-up of neighbourhood planning is low in some parts of the country, and we would like to see more communities getting involved. This is why the Bill introduces neighbourhood priorities statements. These are a new tool, and they will provide a simpler and more accessible way for communities to participate in neighbourhood planning.

On Amendment 225 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, perhaps it would be helpful if I set out some detail about the intended role of neighbourhood priorities statements in the wider system. A neighbourhood priorities statement can be prepared by neighbourhood planning groups and can be used to set out the community’s priorities and preferences for its local area. The provisions in the Bill allow communities to cover a range of issues in their statements, including in relation to the use and development of land, housing, the environment, public spaces and local facilities.

Neighbourhood priorities statements will provide a formal input into the local plan. Under new Section 15CA of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, inserted by Schedule 7 to this Bill, local planning authorities will be required to “have regard” to them when they are preparing their local plans. This will be tested at examination. While some communities will use them solely to feed into the local plan process, we also expect that they will operate as a preliminary stage to preparing a full neighbourhood plan or a neighbourhood design code. In these ways, neighbourhood priorities statements will feed into the planning process. Furthermore, they may also act as a springboard for other community initiatives outside the remit of the planning system.

Amendments 227, 229 to 232 and 234 deal in different ways with the scope of neighbourhood plans. On Amendments 227 and 231 in the names of the noble Baronesses, Lady Pinnock and Lady Hayman of Ullock, we acknowledge that delivery of affordable housing within national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty can be a challenge and that neighbourhood plans can play an important role in supporting provision. However, I do not agree that these amendments are necessary. Clause 91 specifies what matters communities can choose to address within their neighbourhood development plans. It does not prevent communities including policies relating to the provision of affordable housing in the plan area. All policies in neighbourhood plans, however, must meet the statutory tests, known as the basic conditions, before they can be adopted, including that they must have regard to national policy.

I draw the Committee’s attention to specific measures we have taken to address this issue. Paragraph 78 of the National Planning Policy Framework sets out a rural exception sites policy. This allows for affordable housing to be delivered on sites that would not otherwise be developed in order to meet specific local need for affordable housing, the majority of which will be required to remain permanently available to those with a local connection. In 2021 the Government published planning practice guidance to further help bring forward more of these sites in future.

Furthermore, I point to our decision to allow local authorities and neighbourhood planning groups in designated rural areas to set and support policies to require affordable housing from a lower development threshold. The threshold can be five units or fewer, compared with the threshold of 10 units in other areas. We will consult on how the small sites threshold should work in rural areas under the infrastructure levy.

I turn to Amendment 229 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock. Under the reformed planning system, it will continue to be the role of the local planning authority to set a housing requirement number for neighbourhood plan areas as part of its overall development strategy. As under the current system, where neighbourhood planning groups have decided to make provision for housing in their plan, the housing requirement figure and its origin would be expected to be set out in the neighbourhood plan as a basis for their housing policies and any allocations that they wish to make. The allocation of housing has not changed; the neighbourhood takes the planning housing requirement from the local plan. As the noble Lord, Lord Stunell, has said, across the country we have seen neighbourhoods adding to that number rather than taking away from it.

I thank the Minister for responding very positively. I wonder whether the Minister could say, if that is the case, why she feels it is necessary to have such a prohibition on dropping below that threshold when local circumstances might very well dictate that a sensible outcome is to drop that total—not out of nimbyism but because, for instance, you do not want the houses to be underwater?

I listened to the noble Lord’s example of them being underwater, but my response would be that they would not be in the local plan if it was on a flood plain, and it would not have been allowed through national planning policy either. So, I cannot see that there needs to be a conflict and, as we have mentioned throughout the many hours we have spent discussing this Bill, housing numbers are critical, and I think it is correct, as it is at this time, that neighbourhood plans can add to the number of houses but they do not take away from those numbers.

Moving on to Amendment 230, also in the name of the noble Baroness, I do recognise that many communities want to use their neighbourhood plans to protect their local environment. Existing legislation and the changes within Clause 91 of this Bill already allow neighbourhood planning groups to include policies in their plans to ensure that development in areas of historical, cultural or environmental sensitivity is in keeping with the surrounding environment; therefore, this amendment is not necessary.

Moving on to Amendment 232 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Stunell, Clause 91 will provide more clarity about what communities can address in their neighbourhood plans. The changes in subsection 3(2C) of Clause 91 specifically will ensure that the requirements that apply to neighbourhood plans are consistent with our approach to local and strategic plans in that they must not repeat or be inconsistent with national development management policies set by the Government—I hope that is clear.

The introduction of national development management policies is designed to help plan makers produce swifter, slimmer plans by removing the need to set out generic policies concerning issues of national importance. National development management policies are likely to cover common issues already dealt with in national planning policy, such as green belt and flood risk management. National development management policies would not impinge on local policies for shaping development, nor direct what land should be allocated for particular use.

Turning to Amendment 234, also in the name of the noble Lord, the purpose of subsection (2) of Clause 92 is to ensure that neighbourhood plans complement and widen the plans framework. In particular, it means that neighbourhood plans cannot include policies that reduce the amount of housing development—as we have said—proposed in the development plan as a whole. For example, a neighbourhood plan could not include a policy that, if followed, would prevent development coming forward on a housing site allocated in a local plan. This is consistent with how the current system operates but makes it more explicit in legislation.

Turning to Amendment 233 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor of Stevenage, I fully agree with the noble Baroness that more can be done to increase the uptake of neighbourhood planning, particularly in urban and deprived areas. However, I do not agree that this amendment is necessary to achieve this goal. The Government are already taking action to increase uptake in these areas. As I have previously mentioned, new Section 15K inserted by Schedule 7 to the Bill introduces neighbourhood priorities statements, which will provide communities with a simpler and more accessible way to participate in neighbourhood planning. This new neighbourhood planning tool will be particularly beneficial to communities in urban and more deprived areas, which may not have the capacity to prepare a full neighbourhood plan at that particular time. It may also provide a stepping stone to preparing a new full neighbourhood plan.

Furthermore, noble Lords may be interested to hear that we are currently running a pilot in underrepresented areas, including Birmingham and Chorley, to test whether giving more support to neighbourhood planning groups in the early stages of the process can help to get more neighbourhood plans in place. We are seeing encouraging results from this pilot, and this will inform our thinking on future support for neighbourhood planning.

Turning to Amendment 235 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Stunell, while I appreciate that he is keen to see local planning authorities play a positive and supportive role in the neighbourhood planning process, existing law and government guidance already set clear requirements and expectations on their role in supporting neighbourhood planning groups and the communities they represent. Paragraph 3 of Schedule 4B to the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, as amended, states that a local planning authority must give such advice or assistance to neighbourhood planning groups. Furthermore, the Government’s planning guidance makes it clear that local planning authorities should fulfil their duties and take decisions as soon as possible, within statutory time periods where these apply, and should constructively engage with the community throughout the whole process.

Turning finally to Amendment 236, also in the name of the noble Lord, we agree with the need for transitional arrangements to limit any disruption to communities preparing a neighbourhood plan. As part of the Government’s recent consultation on our proposed approach to updating the National Planning Policy Framework, we set out proposed transitional arrangements for introducing changes to neighbourhood plans. We propose that neighbourhood plans submitted for examination after 30 June 2025 will be required to comply with the new legal framework. This will provide communities preparing a plan under the existing framework with a generous amount of time to get their plan in place. “Made” neighbourhood plans prepared under the current system will continue to remain in force under the reformed system until they are replaced.

With those explanations, I ask the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, to withdraw her Amendment 225 and for the other amendments in this group not to be moved when they are reached.

No, I have not. I did listen with interest to the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, on the issues of Airbnb and short-term lets. I think that was a little out of scope of this group of amendments. I do not have as much detail as I would like on this because it was in an earlier pack on short-term lets, and actually things have moved forward, so I suggest that I write and we have a meeting, which I will open to any other interested Peers at the time.

Sorry, I have been making quite extensive notes on all this. I hope I can read my own writing in a moment.

I thank noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. These issues are critical to how this part of the Bill moves forward. The noble Lord, Lord Stunell, mentioned that neighbourhood plans have been very successful, despite the considerable scepticism at the time that they were launched. We absolutely agree with that, but, again, it is really important that we deliver more homes in these areas. I thought that his point about neighbourhood plans awaiting sign-off, how they would interact with the new proposals and that practical way of moving forward with community groups that have started doing some really good work on this, was very important. His idea about that transition was a point very well made. I know that the Minister has taken all of this on board, and we very much appreciate that.

The noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, said her amendment was an extension to my Amendment 231 about national parks and AONBs. While I absolutely support her desire to see more affordable housing in those areas, I am not sure that restricting it to just affordable housing is the way forward. You need a mixed tenure to encourage social mobility, to encourage families to move in and so forth. However, having affordable housing as a strong priority needs to be looked at.

To come back to the comments that the Minister made, I absolutely agree with her that it has been a success story, and where it has worked well it has worked really well. I was pleased that the Minister acknowledged that take-up has been low in some parts of the country, and it was very interesting to hear about the pilot schemes she talked about, in places such as Birmingham. It will be interesting to look at the outcomes. There are always lots of pilot schemes and then nothing ever happens, but, if they are successful, it would be great to see how the Government will then pick it up and run with it, and roll it out in other parts of the country. From a personal point of view, I am interested to hear more about that as we go forward.

It was good to hear more about the role of the neighbourhood priority statements, and to have it confirmed that there will be formal input into local plans and that they could operate as a preliminary plan, as a step on the way to a full plan. All of that was really good to hear.

One thing I would like to pick up a bit more is the issue of rural exception sites. It seemed that the Minister said that we do not need to have the amendments around national parks and AONBs because we have the rural exception sites, which are small sites that are used for affordable housing. I refer the Minister to concerns from the CPRE that the system is open to abuse. If this is what the Government see as the future of developing affordable housing in areas such as national parks, it is important that the opportunity for abuse is understood and that those loopholes are closed.

If noble Lords bear with me, I will refer to an example that the CPRE has put forward from Mid Sussex District Council. It is looking at a particular developer which has been seeking to persuade Mid Sussex District Council to treat two of their sites as rural exception sites for planning application purposes. In each case, the developer was offering to build at least 85% affordable homes. The problem is that neither site had been identified as appropriate for development. In neither case had this developer identified that its proposals would satisfy a local housing need, and the developer had not consulted with either the council’s housing department, the parish council or local residents. The CPRE is saying that the danger of abuse lies in the risk that, once the principle of development in rural locations has been established, a developer can then seek to exploit that fact to obtain permission for a far larger commercial development of market homes there. That is what happened in Lower Horsebridge, which is a village of 60 homes near Hailsham. The developer got permission for 32 affordable homes, and then returned with a revised application for 110 market homes, which was given planning permission.

I do not have any problem with rural exception sites; they do some really good work. However, if this is what the Government are going to rely on for that kind of development, it is really important that we look at how that loophole can be closed, so that developers cannot use them for their own advantage in that way.

Finally, my noble friend Lady Taylor of Stevenage has reminded me that the localism commission, under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, has some really good recommendations about how to build community capacity around local development plans. Perhaps as we go through the Bill it would be worth looking at the work that has been done there. Having said all that, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 225 withdrawn.

Amendment 226 not moved.

Schedule 7, as amended, agreed.

Clause 91: Contents of a neighbourhood development plan

Amendments 227 to 232 not moved.

Clause 91 agreed.

Amendment 233 not moved.

Clause 92: Neighbourhood development plans and orders: basic conditions

Amendment 234 not moved.

Clause 92 agreed.

Amendments 235 and 236 not moved.

Clause 93: Requirement to assist with certain plan making

Amendments 237 to 239 not moved.

Amendment 239A

Moved by

239A: Clause 93, page 100, line 20, at end insert—

“39B Infrastructure providers’ assistance with plan making(1) If an infrastructure provider receives a notification under section 39A(1) which would have an impact on that providers’ investment plans that provider must notify its relevant regulatory body.(2) Regulations made under section 39A(3) may include provision relating to the powers and responsibilities of relevant infrastructure regulatory bodies, to enable them and their regulated providers to meet the reasonable requirements made for infrastructure providers by a plan-making authority.(3) “Infrastructure provider” includes providers of transport services, water and sewerage providers, flood-prevention and drainage providers, power supply and distribution providers, and telecommunications providers.”Member's explanatory statement

This amendment would require infrastructure providers to notify their regulators about Local Plans affecting their investment intentions and empower the Secretary of State by regulation to enable the regulators to support the required changes to infrastructure investment arising from Local Plans.

My Lords, at this late hour I shall be brief. The point of this amendment is to raise with my noble friends on the Front Bench an issue which I imagine is one that the Government themselves have been aware of and wondered what precisely they should do about it. I remember a White Paper a few years back that specifically referred to it.

The issue is that, in many cases, the availability of infrastructure investment, particularly by utility companies, can significantly impair the potential for local authorities to proceed with their local plans. I freely confess that I am using Clause 93 and perhaps slightly extending its remit somewhat. This is not simply about plan-making; this is about enabling local authorities in their plan-making process to trigger a possibility for the Government to amend the structure of the regulatory environment for utility companies in order to meet the development planning intentions of their local authorities. That is probably stretching it too far but, if not by this mechanism, I hope Ministers will be able to help us to look at whether we can do this in the Bill.

There is a central issue: you want to have strategic planning—I think we all do; I will not rehearse that argument again—but that absolutely requires investment by utility companies. Many utility companies are in a position where their investment for speculative development—that is, that which has not received planning permission—is outwith their regulated pricing structure. Essentially, if they are going to do it, they will do it with additional debt, and now many of them are taking on a great deal of debt in any case—we saw in the price review that the water companies are expected to absorb a substantial amount of debt. A balance is constantly being struck between the amount which can be added to people’s domestic bills and the amount that is required for longer-term future investment.

At the moment, the utility companies are often resisting making such investments in anticipation of development. How do we overcome this? We have a particular case at the moment around Cambridge. The Greater Cambridge local plan is effectively stymied at the moment by the Environment Agency saying that there are not water resources available in our area to support it. There is a plan for a reservoir at Chatteris, but unless and until the investment in transfer networks has also taken place and there is local infrastructure to support the particular development proposals, the plan cannot go ahead.

The purpose of the amendment is, very straightforwardly, to say that, if local authorities can ask bodies of a public nature—and of course, utility companies are bodies with public functions—they should be able at the same time to require those infrastructure providers to notify their regulatory bodies about the requirements to assist with plan making and, if necessary, for the Secretary of State to then to make regulations that can change the nature of the regulator’s control of their ability to respond to the requirements of local authorities.

It is a device, I admit, but it is a device to try to tackle what I think is a current and practical problem, and I hope it might commend itself to my noble friend. I beg to move Amendment 239A.

I have just a quick question. It is a really interesting amendment, and I was wondering how the noble Lord saw the role of the regulator fitting in to all of this.

I was hoping that where this occurs, the Secretary of State—not just the Secretary of State for Levelling-Up, of course, but all Secretaries of State—would consult the regulators about whether and how they can accommodate this and, if necessary, use the power here to make regulations that might impact on, for example, water, electricity or transport legislation.

My Lords, I thought it was a very interesting amendment, and it reminded me of when I was a very young councillor, a very long time ago now, on Southwark Council, and we were attempting to finish off the development of Burgess Park. We had all sorts of problems with the statutory undertakers of various facilities in the area in terms of getting them to do their work. I see the point he is making. We had the devil’s own job to get the various organisations to co-operate with the council. We needed to improve the park, and we were having all sorts of problems with BT, the water companies and everybody else. We really struggled. Development of the park was held up because we were not getting that co-operation. Comparatively, that is quite small scale, but it is the same sort of thing. We wanted to build a better amenity for the community, but it was held up because of less than helpful work from some of the statutory undertakers in the area.

The amendment has merit, and I hope we will get a reasonable response from the Minister. I was obviously sorry I was not in earlier, because I heard that leasehold came up. I am very disappointed that I did not get in on that. I will not miss my chance on that when it comes up again. The amendment raises an important point. I see lots of development going on in London, and the role of the regulator with the statutory undertakers is important.

My Lords, as I just said when I asked for that clarification, this is a really interesting amendment. One reason I am particularly interested in it is that, not only before being elected to the other place was I a local councillor for some time, but my job was working on major infrastructure development—in my case, particularly in the energy and water industries. So I see this from both sides. There are a number of issues around investment intention and delivery, how developers work with local authorities, how they work with the regulator and how, often, it can be not as straightforward as you would expect to deliver a major infrastructure project in industries such as electricity and water, for example.

One of the reasons I asked about the role of the regulator and how that would work is that an issue we found when developing new projects—for the national grid, for example—was that if you are going to spend a lot of money on large investment projects, you need it to be signed off by the regulator, which needs to agree the need case for that particular investment. The problem is that the need case can change. A project that I was working on stopped and started over and over again for about 10 years because the national grid would apply to the regulator, Ofgem, which would say, “Yes, you need X amount of supply, go ahead and build that pipeline, get your substation sorted”, and so on. We would do all the community consultation and work with the local authority, then 12 months later the national grid would put its financials and the need case to the regulator, which would say, “Well, now this has happened, you don’t need it any more”, and everything would be put on ice.

One of the issues around planning for major infrastructure is how you stop the huge waste of money with all the stopping and starting of projects. I know that this amendment does not particularly look at that, and I know that we will come to NSIPs later in the discussion, but this amendment gives us an opportunity to start considering how we make the development of infrastructure much more efficient and how we make developers, local authorities and their investment intentions work together in a much more constructive fashion during the planning phase.

I welcome the fact that this amendment has been tabled, because these areas are not discussed enough unless you have been involved in this and seen the tripping points and how money is wasted. We talk a lot about how, if a utility provider has to spend money to do something, the money goes on bills, but if things were dealt with more efficiently in the first place, including by the regulator and in the relationship with local authorities, maybe we would save money instead.

My Lords, this excellent amendment, probing how we link national planning, regional strategic planning and local planning by including planning by private companies whose role is regulated by government, poses a very interesting question. I will give a couple of practical examples.

In my area on the M62 corridor, National Highways —or Highways England, another of the forms it has taken over the years—has a plan to create a link road from the M62 to the M606. To my knowledge, that has been in the local plan for 25 years. It has prevented the development of a brownfield site because of the land that it would take and the consequences that followed from that.

It was in the latest five-year plan from National Highways for its infrastructure, and all of a sudden, having done some costings—I think that was at the heart of it—it suddenly withdrew its intention, within the five-year plan and no further, to create or even begin to plan for that important link road, which, I have to say, has very significant consequences for the whole area. That is because its purpose was to take traffic off what I think is the most congested motorway roundabout in the country, the Chain Bar roundabout at junction 26 of the M62 in West Yorkshire.

The removal of that leads to huge consequences for other developments in the area, including the brownfield site but also other development which would lead to more traffic congestion on the roundabout. When I say congestion, I will just cite what happened—and it happens every week, really—last Wednesday, when it was reported to me that it took an hour and a half to get round the roundabout because it was absolutely gridlocked. So I am talking about serious congestion.

Talking about and creating a plan for utilities prior to development is absolutely important. Looking at it from the other end of the spectrum, I spent 10 years as a non-executive director of Yorkshire Water, so I know a little bit about the planning that water companies undertake. I absolutely hear what the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, said, but he will know, because he mentioned it, about the price review and the five-year plan that has to be submitted to the regulator. There are also the capital allowances that go with it, and the pricing review aligns with the capital plan that water companies do. So we are talking about very long-term planning. I would suggest that you would have to think probably seven years ahead for what would be in the pipeline at the end of it.

A hugely important issue has been raised, because it is not just the area of the Fens that the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, mentioned in terms of water shortage but the south-east and the east of England, where water supply is restricting housing development. He is absolutely right in those terms. All I would say on that score is that the north of England has a good supply of water, and we are willing to sell it, at a cost, to those areas of shortage—actually, that does not work either, because it is very difficult to move water around the country. I will listen carefully to what the Minister has to say—I always do—but this is a fundamental issue about strategic planning on a national scale, so it would be worth hearing what has been said.

I thank noble Lords. It will be just a very brief intervention from me. I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, for raising what is a very important issue, having been involved with two very long-term major projects in my role as council leader and having seen how difficult it is to tie in the provision of major infrastructure, which is generally done at the national level because that is the way that the operators and the regulators work, with what is going on at the local level.

At the heart of this is the need to create a very smooth path for the provision of infrastructure, so that, when there are interruptions to the process along the way, the system can cope. If we do not do that, we end up with disconnection between the development itself and the provision of infrastructure, with one holding the other up. In our case, in the east of England, as the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, said, water is an issue, so we have to think about that. One of our major developments related to a greenfield site that had not been developed—it still has not; we have been working for 27 years on that one. When we started, we would not have thought about solar or wind energy, but now we have to think about those things, so there must be flexibility—and of course we also have new forms of infrastructure coming in, such as broadband.

This is a key amendment that points us towards looking at how we deal with the infrastructure of developments as we go through the planning process, linking the bodies that work at national level, national infrastructure funding and so on with local development. How will that work and fit in with this system? We have talked a lot about how the various bits of the planning system fit together, and a probing amendment on this issue is extremely helpful; I am very grateful to the noble Lord for tabling it. If the Minister does not accept it today, I hope she will give it some thought as we go through the rest of the Bill.

I just want to make one final point—I am going down memory lane now. When I was a very young councillor, one of my first roles was as chair of Southwark Council’s highways committee. There were various issues to deal with, such as the work of the statutory undertakers. I found it very frustrating. The council would resurface a road, and along came the water board to dig the whole road up and put the new water infrastructure in. That was a very small thing, but even so, you would spend all this money, and it all went to ruin.

The Horne report, as I think it was called, came out in the 1980s. It tried to deal with this matter, and legislation followed to try to achieve better co-ordination. That was at a very local level, whereas the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, was talking about bigger stuff. But at all levels, different bodies have different responsibilities and should co-ordinate the work they do where they can in order to bring things together.

I look forward to the Minister’s response.

This has been a very interesting debate. I remember when I was a council leader how frustrating it was when utilities dug up my lovely roads the week after and did not tell me they were doing it. However, things have probably changed slightly since we were in those positions.

I thought it might be interesting to reflect on what Clause 93, which is where this comes from, and which introduces a requirement to assist in plan making, actually says. The Explanatory Notes state:

“The clause is intended to support more effective gathering of the information required for authorities producing”

a range of plans, including local plans. It achieves this through placing

“a requirement on specific bodies”

with public functions

“to assist in the plan-making process, if requested by a plan-making authority”.

This could consist, for example, of providing information to the relevant authority, or assisting in identifying appropriate locations for infrastructure. That is important, because that is the first push by government to require these companies to work with us.

Amendment 239A addresses legislating for subsequent regulations regarding the link between infrastructure providers who become aware of significant implications for their services as a result of plan-making activities, and a requirement to inform the relevant regulator in order to make provision for any necessary investment. I applaud my noble friend Lord Lansley for raising this issue, as it is an important aspect of joining up the planning system and the provision of suitable infrastructure. However, we believe the amendment is not necessary—wait for it—because the relevant regulations could already consider matters such as notifying regulatory bodies of infrastructure providers. Those regulations will, of course, follow after the passage of the Bill.

Regarding the amendment’s provision for meeting the reasonable requirements identified in a plan, we must be careful in drawing up such regulations that provisions do not cut across or duplicate the provisions of the other multiple legal and regulatory frameworks that govern the operation of the kind of infrastructure providers that my noble friend has in mind. Therefore, while I have a good deal of sympathy with the general point raised, the Government cannot accept the proposed amendment, but will want to be mindful of these considerations while drafting any relevant regulations. I hope that, with that explanation, my noble friend will withdraw the amendment.

I am grateful to my noble friend, because thinking about those regulations is exactly the right thing to do. If my noble friend is correct and the scope of Clause 93 will allow such regulations to extend beyond the infrastructure providers to the relationship between those providers and the regulatory bodies, that would be extremely helpful.

I am grateful to all who took part in the debate. The noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, illustrated with her reference to PR24, the current water price review just published, that this does not necessarily relate to the structure of local plan-making. Water companies might say, “This is all very well, but we know what our price constraints enable us to fund in the period 2024-25, and the local authority is presently consulting on a local plan process that extends to 2040”.

Interestingly, PR24 has a broader structure for the water companies and their investment programmes out to 2050, because of the net-zero implications. I have been reading carefully and rather laboriously through PR24 and all its component parts. What you do not find is an appreciation of what the infrastructure requirements would be linked to, mapping the potential scale and location of development, because generally speaking local authorities have not done that; generally they map their development plans out to 2030 or 2035, and occasionally 2040, but not 2050. I remind the Committee of my role as a chair of the Cambridgeshire Development Forum. We said to all these bodies, “Why don’t you now structure your plan up to 2050, because otherwise you are not really thinking about the whole thing?” I can get away with saying that because the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, is not in her place; she would tell me off for treating 2050 as the target, when it should clearly be 2025.

For the moment, we have the alignment of planning, which is absolutely critical here, but when it comes down to it, very often the local authorities are already in an awkward position. They would like to make specific allocations of potential development sites but they are constrained from doing so because infrastructure providers cannot guarantee that they would be able to meet a requirement in that location and on that timescale. So should they do it or should they not? If my noble friends says that regulations might be able to unlock the potential for that pledge of investment by utility providers, I would be immensely grateful for that. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 239A withdrawn.

Clause 93 agreed.

House resumed.

House adjourned at 10.44 pm.