My Lords, before I speak to these important government amendments, I wanted to take the opportunity to express my thanks once again to noble Lords for their careful and thorough scrutiny of the Neighbourhood Planning Bill. The Government have listened carefully to the issues that have been raised throughout these debates and have brought forward amendments to address key issues.
The Bill that we now have before us is, I believe, a better Bill as a result of the scrutiny of this House and the wealth of experience that noble Lords have been kind enough to share. I thank noble Lords for their diligent and constructive approach at each stage. I am aware that a vast number of noble Lords has contributed to the debate during the Bill’s passage, but I particularly thank noble Lords on the Benches opposite, and certainly the noble Lords, Lord Kennedy of Southwark, Lord Beecham and Lord Shipley.
I thank my ministerial team in the department, my right honourable friend Sajid Javid, and particularly my honourable friend Gavin Barwell for their help and support. Furthermore, I thank my noble friend, co-pilot and Whip, Lord Young of Cookham, who adeptly led on the compulsory purchase elements of the Bill. Finally, I thank my officials, led by Simon Gallagher, Susan Lovelock, Darren McCreery and Robyn Skerratt, and the wider team, including my private office, and special thanks too to Grace Smith and Alanna Reid.
I now turn to the government amendments in this group. We had important discussions in Grand Committee and on Report about neighbourhood planning, and in particular the process for the examination of neighbourhood plans. My noble friend Lady Cumberlege led this discussion, and I am personally grateful for the way she did it. I should note that she was not the only participant making those arguments, and I thank my noble friends Lord Caithness and Lord Mawson and the noble Lords, Lord Kennedy, Lord Shipley and Lord Stunell, for their contributions. But I particularly thank my noble friend Lady Cumberlege for her continued generosity with her time, and for her commitment to working with my department constructively to ensure that the practice of neighbourhood planning continues to be in line with our collective aspiration to empower communities to develop neighbourhood plans. I am very conscious of the great pressure she has been under and the grace and generosity that has characterised her contribution to these important issues.
I want to set the amendment in the context of a number of important steps that the Government are taking to meet the concerns raised. I do so because the issues are too broad to be addressed through legislation alone. Noble Lords will recall that much of what needs to be done to address this important issue does not require legislative intervention.
First, we will amend planning guidance once we have taken into account the responses to the Housing White Paper consultation, to which I will return, to clarify our expectations of local planning authority engagement with neighbourhood planning groups before and during the examination process. Secondly, amendments to the Bill tabled in Grand Committee enable the Secretary of State, for example, to require authorities to set out in their statements of community involvement how they will provide advice or assistance to neighbourhood planning groups prior to examination. Thirdly, my noble friend Lady Cumberlege has raised the important role that local planning authorities play in supporting neighbourhood planning in their communities, so it is important that they have the necessary resources. This month, we have written to local planning authorities outlining the arrangements for our continued funding to them to support neighbourhood planning next year under the new burdens doctrine.
My Lords, I again declare an interest. I have a planning application pending at the moment. I have taken advice from the Clerk of the Parliaments and have been assured by him that the sub judice rule does not apply in my case. My other interests are in the register. I thank my noble friend for his generous words towards me, but he is absolutely right that many other noble Lords contributed to the role of examiner. Their wise words also influenced the tabling of this amendment.
Before I address the amendment, I will say a few words. At Second Reading, which seems a very long time ago, I acknowledged to noble Lords that my centre of interest was really more health and family planning than town and country planning. Your Lordships may consider that family planning is more about denial, but my experience with this delightful Bill has been the reverse. Through the work of noble Lords right across the House, we have had a very creative exercise. It has been serious; it has been informed; it has been challenging, and in many respects it has been collegiate.
The tenor has been set by the Minister and, as he has referred to him, his co-pilot, my noble friend Lord Young of Cookham. We could not have had a more courteous, more conscientious and more willing pair of Ministers on the Front Bench. My noble friend Lord Bourne has gone to great lengths to listen, to test our arguments and to assess their validity. Where possible, he has put down his amendments to improve the Bill. I have no doubt that it has taken considerable negotiation within the ministerial team, with the involvement of the department’s lawyers and others, to achieve these results. I thank him very much for it.
One of my noble friend’s amendments is before us now. It is an amendment that I wholeheartedly support. Throughout the passage of this Bill, I have banged on about the role of the examiner. Intelligent, well-informed men and women have taken on this difficult task while being trapped in a system which is rigid, excludes proper dialogue, is not inclusive and does no one any favours.
Understanding my misgivings about the current system, my noble friend has with great generosity given me considerable time to meet not only him but the department’s officials. Again, I thank him for that. His officials have been exemplary. They have been patient, have sought to understand my concerns, have been forensic and have put their considerable knowledge to finding a way through the examination of a neighbourhood plan so that we are all winners—the communities we seek to serve, the neighbourhood plan makers, the local planning authorities, the developers, the department and, not least, the examiners.
My noble friend’s talented officials have produced a flow chart which clearly sets out the procedures to be followed. It is a masterpiece. It is clear and concise, with no weasel words and no ambivalence. This is the path to follow when going about an examination of a neighbourhood plan.
The two amendments before us seek to put the flow chart into the required legislative language. Of course, that is necessary, but not all plan makers—especially neighbourhood plan makers, who are volunteers, after all—have expertise in this field, nor do they attempt to say so. The only expertise they really have is to know their communities inside out. They perhaps do not wish to pore over an Act of Parliament, trying to decipher quite what was meant. So this flow chart is an answer. I was going to ask my noble friend how he would make the chart available. Today, he has told me that he will put it on the web and make it accessible to all who need to see it. I thank him for that.
As so often with amendments, the weakness with this one is it depends on the making of regulations. When is that likely to be? When will we see those regulations? Am I right, as I believe I am, in thinking that all regulations throughout the Bill are in the negative form? Can the Minister think of some way in which he could give notice to those of us who have been involved in the Bill of when the regulations will be laid before the House? I know that it is very easy to miss them, and a trigger would be valued by many noble Lords.
In conclusion, I strongly support this amendment. It will give those embarking on a neighbourhood plan a tool of considerable worth.
My Lords, as we start Third Reading, I declare my vice-presidency of the Local Government Association. The Minister said that this was a better Bill for the work of this Chamber and I concur entirely. The value of the revising nature of this Chamber has been demonstrated in the work that took place in Committee and on Report. I pay tribute to the Minister and his officials for their willingness to meet and to listen, and for the courtesy they showed. The outcome is a much better and stronger Bill than when it came to this House. I learned from the debates we had that there is an appetite from all parts of this House to promote neighbourhood planning. There is a sense of common purpose about that which I strongly welcome.
I said at an earlier stage in the Bill that we need a plain English guide to the planning system which the general public could relate to. The noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, talked about the flow chart which will all be very helpful. Indeed, on the departmental website there is a plain English guide to the planning system in general terms. I am looking here for a plain English guide to the Bill which will become a practitioners’ guide as opposed simply to a plain English guide explaining what the Bill is about. It should go into much more detail than we currently have. I notice that the Minister talked about the plans of the RICS to create further briefing materials for the examiner of a neighbourhood plan. I welcome that but if we are seriously to promote neighbourhood planning and achieve many more areas, particularly urban ones, engaging with the process, a practitioners’ guide would be extremely helpful.
Amendments 1 and 5 are very helpful and reflect the discussions we had in Committee and on Report. I too pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, for all her work in this area. The Minister talked about her generosity with her time and that is absolutely right. The amount of time and effort that went into convincing the Ministers, their colleagues and officials that this really is important has borne fruit. These two amendments bring the process of neighbourhood planning closer to those devising a neighbourhood plan. The noble Baroness talked about the planning system being rigid, and indeed it is. There are good reasons why that is the case in terms of challenges but, equally, it needs to be a system that is understood by all those trying to engage with the process. In Amendments 1 and 5 we have the publication of a draft report by the examiner and the potential for meetings to be held about that draft. This is a major step forward and I welcome it.
I have two further points. First, there is the timing of the regulations. The noble Baroness asked about that and it is very important that we get some sense of when it is likely to be. The Minister talked about the consultation on the White Paper and the outcome of that. The consultation on the White Paper is due to end at the beginning of May but we tend to find that there is then a long period—several months—before something happens. Of course, this will be going over the summer period as well so it could be even longer than that. I think I interpreted from the Minister’s words —which included the word “swiftly”—that it is going to be faster than that. I very much hope that it will be, because so many of the helpful things that are being proposed in the White Paper need to be got on with as soon as possible. I hope that there will be a timetable that will speed up the process.
We have not quite finished Third Reading, but I want to say that the process of examining this Bill and getting it to the point where it is in a strong form to pass Third Reading is down to a great deal of effort by a large number of people. I pay tribute in particular to the Ministers, the noble Lords, Lord Bourne and Lord Young, for their support for this process, which has been hugely appreciated.
My Lords, I join the Minister and the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, in paying tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, for her very thoughtful and constructive—and somewhat exhaustive —approach to the deliberations on the Bill. It has been a pleasure to work with both the Ministers, but particularly, if I may say so, with the noble Lord, Lord Bourne. I make that point having discovered recently that he, like me, is a great fan of Leicester City; in my case, it is my second team. I rather hope we might be playing in the same league next season and I hope that will be the Premiership. In that event, perhaps the noble Lord would care to accompany me to a match, when naturally Newcastle will expect to beat my other team.
The substantive issue this afternoon is not the fate of either of those teams but the drawing to conclusion of the Bill. It has been a pleasure to work in such a constructive way with both Ministers, but principally, on the major part of the Bill, with the noble Lord, Lord Bourne. He has listened carefully and been very constructive in his approach. Indeed, the whole experience has been a vast improvement on the dreadful time we had with the Housing and Planning Act last year. That is no reflection at all on the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, who struggled mightily to retain her sanity and promote ours during the course of that legislation.
I have one or two questions about Amendment 1. Proposed new sub-paragraph (3)(d) says that a meeting should be held following the issuing of invitations, which are outlined in proposed new sub-paragraph (3)(c). Is that a meeting with an individual, or is it envisaged as a public meeting in which other interested parties would be involved? There might be a number of people who make submissions; there might be only one or two. Would that meeting be just with those who make the contact, or will it be on a broader basis? The definition of “persons” is slightly mysterious. It talks about,
“the qualifying body … the local planning authority”—
that is obvious—
“and ... such other persons as may be prescribed”.
Can the Minister indicate what is envisaged by that rather muffled description?
Then there is the question of the regulations. Will the regulations themselves be subject to consultation? The noble Lord, Lord Shipley, referred to consultation. Will the specific regulations in relation to this amendment be subject to consultation in the way that the Minister has described generally the consultation which will take place on other matters?
Having said that, and while I wait with anticipation to hear the Minister’s response, again I congratulate him and the noble Lord, Lord Young, on the way they have conducted this matter. I look forward to that degree of co-operation continuing over the secondary legislation that will follow. It is very important that the Bill should go forward into practice in a way that, frankly, we have not yet seen adequately with the Housing and Planning Act 2016. I hope that we can learn from that experience and carry the Bill forward in the constructive way that Members of all sides have sought to treat it.
My Lords, I thank noble Lords who have participated in the debate on these two amendments. First, I thank once again my noble friend Lady Cumberlege for the gracious way that she has approached this, and for her kind words in welcoming the amendment and the flow chart. I suspect that her kind words about the role of the officials in the flow chart will have its cost in terms of drinks and cakes; nevertheless, I thank her very much indeed for those kind comments. I can confirm to her and to other noble Lords that the regulations will be subject to the negative procedure which, given the weight of business we will have as a consequence of the EU withdrawal process, is welcome news.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, once again for his kind words and very much agree that this is a better Bill because of the scrutiny that has come from all parts of the House. I agree that there is support for the neighbourhood planning principle from all parts of the House and it is important that we see that to safe haven. Clearly, it is not just about the Bill. I very much agree with him on the plain English guide—I know that he made that point before very forcibly. We will certainly do what we can with the website and the flow chart. I would welcome participation and views from noble Lords as to how we can improve them. I will pass on the thanks that he gave to the RICS for the practitioners’ guide. I am sure we all hope that that will be in plain English, as it is extremely important.
I turn to a point raised by the noble Lords, Lord Shipley and Lord Beecham, and my noble friend Lady Cumberlege in relation to the timing of the regulations. Clearly, as the consultation ends on 2 May, I cannot anticipate how many responses we will have in relation to this matter. I hope that it will be quite a lot. We intend to move quickly and not to delay things, but we need to make sure that the system works well. I hope your Lordships will understand that we would want some time to take account of those views. In relation to the very fair point made by the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, about continuing the process of consultation and getting it right by discussing it with others, I would anticipate discussing the shape of what we are going to do with my noble friend and with the noble Lords, Lord Beecham, Lord Shipley and Lord Kennedy, and others, but that would not be to slow the process down. We have to get the balance right there, but I would be very happy to do that.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, for his generous invitation to St James’. An invitation from me would be to the King Power Stadium, if we are indeed in the same league next year. As he may know, I am in Newcastle on Friday of this week and when I said that I am visiting the two cathedrals, many people told me that there are actually three cathedrals—the third being St James’. I do not think I have time for it on this occasion, but I look forward very much to locking horns over football for once, rather than over politics. I am sure that would be a game we would both enjoy.
In relation to the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, about who is included under new sub-paragraph (3)(d) in Amendment 1, we want to make sure that there is an open, fair and transparent procedure. In relation to meetings, therefore, I do not think we would want to stipulate that a group should be of a particular size. It would not be just individuals, but if somebody wanted to come along from the neighbourhood group with a fair number of people, we would be looking to that. We are not prescribing anything; it is important that it is an open and transparent process. In relation to other bodies that may be prescribed, I think that other amenity groups might have an interest in the area—I will write to the noble Lord if I am wrong on this—and it could conceivably be the National Trust, if it had property there. I anticipate it would be that sort of thing.
I have dealt with the noble Lord’s point in relation to the consultation on the regulations, which will, as I say, have the negative procedure. I thank again those noble Lords who have participated in the debate on these amendments.
My Lords, this amendment is tabled in my name and that of the noble Lords, Lord Best and Lord Lucas, who have given great support on this issue during the passage of the Bill, as have noble Lords on all sides of the House. On Report, there was a very welcome commitment from the Minister to return to this issue.
I should draw attention to my interests. I advise many projects, including new settlement projects. I am a visiting professor of planning at Plymouth University, and over the years I have worked with government bringing forward policy changes.
This amendment is aimed at empowering local government communities to bring forward settlements of the highest quality, ensuring that the value that comes from development taking place is captured to create great places and deliver wonderful facilities for those places and is not captured in excessive profits for landowners or developers, and ensuring that the Government’s objectives in bringing forward the garden villages, garden towns and garden cities programme are met in terms of the delivery of what comes forward, with opportunities for small builders, self-builders and contract builders to grow and deliver in new ways better quality, more affordable homes and all the facilities in these places to create sustainable and vibrant 21st century communities.
Why have I tabled this amendment? At the start of the passage of the Bill, I made the point that in the Neighbourhood Planning Bill the Government accepted proposals that I and other noble Lords brought to the House to simplify the process of using the New Towns Act. The New Towns Act is essentially from a period when central government was much more involved in local delivery and when that was accepted. We are now in an era of localism, yet the New Towns Act gives all the power to the Secretary of State who has no capacity to hand over the role of the corporations that will be set up to deliver these new settlements to the local councils that would bring them forward. In the modern world, it is not right that in seeking to deliver a new settlement through a new town corporation to ensure that it is delivered at quality and pace to meet local needs a local council would surrender all the powers to the Secretary of State.
I do not think that the Secretary of State would want to have power over every penny of expenditure, the power of planning, because these bodies would get planning powers, and the power of controlling the assets and, potentially, of future disposals of those assets. It is far more likely that local authorities and communities will be comfortable with this process if they have not simply identified the site and taken the decision that it should be brought forward. When it comes here and the necessary process is gone through in Parliament to approve it, they should be confident that those powers will be exercised locally and that in the long run the assets will be controlled locally for the benefit of the people who live there and the wider community.
When we first debated this, the Minister understandably said that the Government needed to think about this and work it through, but the White Paper made it clear that the Government agree with this process. I have been delighted that the Government have taken forward this policy, which I was very much involved in developing. On the back of the White Paper, we came back. I have to thank the Minister for his positive response on Report and for allowing me to talk to officials in working through something that might now work positively for the Government and that could be incorporated into this Bill.
I shall briefly speak to some of the detail. The principle of the amendment is to give the Secretary of State the power to appoint one or more local authorities in the designated area of the new town to oversee the delivery of the new town and the new development corporation. This is a localising measure. It hands really strong power to communities to ensure that new towns are delivered at quality.
The functions that would be transferred to local authorities for this purpose would be set out in secondary regulations subject to the affirmative procedure, so fully respecting parliamentary process. Since new towns may straddle the boundary of more than one authority, more than one authority could be appointed. This will make it much simpler in those circumstances to bring forward and deliver proposals. The Secretary of State would be able to set out how those powers would be transferred to those local authorities, for joint exercise or divided between them. Changes to the New Towns Act may be needed to allow this to work on subjects such as asset control. The purpose of the power to modify the Act would be to make the principle of local accountability work.
Therefore, this fits with the agenda that Members across the House have outlined, to bring many more homes forward to meet local needs and to capture the value of land in order to create supplements. In that way, we would not look to the taxpayer to fund the school, build the surgery, provide for shops or build a real community. The value of the land would be put into the process of making this work.
At the moment, where projects are approved, the risk is that they are sold on through the chain of speculators, developers and housebuilders. Then, by the time that they are delivered, on grounds of viability because of the price that has been paid for the land or because of the model of the housebuilder, none of the promises made at the start to the local community is delivered. The use of the development corporation as proposed would guarantee that what had been promised to people at the start would be delivered to people at the end.
This approach would open the opportunity to use compulsory purchase powers under the New Towns Act. These could be used where necessary, but normally purchase would be done by treaty in consultation with landowners. The point would be to reach a price that allows the delivery of the quality of place that has been promised. That promised quality would then be locked in through the development corporation process, rather than being at risk of never being delivered. I am afraid that I can take noble Lords to many places where much was promised and far too little of those promises was delivered. There are places where it has been done well, but only where there has been a landowner genuinely committed to it.
That partnership would, therefore, be available. Generally, I imagine that it would be done through joint venture and partnership and agreement but none the less locking in that quality. Where that did not happen, powers would be there to achieve the quality of place that is needed.
Above all, this is about three things. One is keeping it honest and delivering what is promised. That is essential if there is to be any credibility around the delivery, not just of housing but of communities and neighbourhoods, that this approach of garden villages and towns promises.
Secondly, it is critical if we are to move from a supply of new homes inadequate to meet people’s needs that results in ever-accelerating prices beyond what is affordable. If we are to create the 250,000 to 300,000 homes each year that we need, rather than 150,000, those extra homes need to be delivered to a higher quality in places that they do not ruin. Rather than encircling existing historic towns and villages with endless bland housing estates, we need to deliver something better in places where people can accept them and where the public will support the programme. If we try to raise the numbers but deliver inadequate quality, as too often happens currently, there will simply be a public revolt and we will not get the houses delivered.
Finally, it is also critical that we understand that the big housebuilder model does not allow big housebuilders greatly to increase the numbers being delivered. They will not do so even if they wish to because of the way in which they are financed and the way in which publicly assisted companies are priced. The only way to deliver the increased numbers—and also the increased quality—is to build up new entrants, whether housing associations, growing SMEs, self-builders or overseas developers of the highest quality. They all need places to build without the current tortuous process of land options and land banking.
These are the mechanisms to deliver it. But it will happen only if we have a very clear understanding that this means delivering great places to go with the plots to build them on, not just handing this over to the people who build houses and expecting them somehow to create great places. We know they deliver housing estates, but they do not deliver the quality of places demanded by people, which is what will give public acceptability to the programme.
This amendment will be the critical factor in creating local empowerment to deliver what will be a genuine game-changer. I am very grateful for the support there has been on all sides of the House for this and to the Government for the positive way in which they have responded to the case. I beg to move.
My Lords, I will speak briefly to the amendment, to which I have attached my name. I commend the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Goss Moor, for following through on our earlier amendment and indeed for all his good work in promoting new garden villages and garden towns. This amendment is not as definitive as the one we discussed on Report, but it should achieve the same outcome, namely of placing local authorities centre stage in the creation and oversight of the new corporations that will be responsible for these major new settlements. This will greatly improve the prospects of these much-needed new communities getting off the ground.
I was delighted to hear today that the Local Government Association—I declare my interest as an LGA vice-president—is fully supportive of the amendment. If accepted, the amendment will mean it will be much more likely that a number of successful, well-designed, mixed-income new settlements will be developed over the years ahead. That would be of enormous benefit to many thousands of households, which will have great new places to bring up their families and live their lives, as well as to the nation as a whole in reducing acute housing shortages. I have every confidence that the Minister will find the amendment entirely acceptable, and if so, I congratulate the Government. Following the housing White Paper, and a number of the helpful measures in this Bill, I greatly welcome this further step in the Government’s creation of a much-improved set of national housing policies. I strongly support the amendment.
My Lords, I join the noble Lord in complimenting the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, for his very thoughtful and constructive contributions to the Bill and on this amendment. However, I have one question to put to him about it. Proposed new subsection (8) defines a local authority as,
“a district council … a county council, or … a London borough council”.
Where do the new mayoral combined authorities sit within this framework? Perhaps the noble Lord could assist me with that, or perhaps the Minister could indicate what role is envisaged for a combined authority, which will presumably by its very nature include land for development which crosses what would previously have been boundaries but are now within the new framework. I suspect the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, would wish that combined authority to exercise a role, but perhaps the Minister could indicate what the Government’s attitude would be and whether any further step needs to be taken to ensure that that outcome is fulfilled.
My Lords, I speak in favour of the amendment as well, and declare my interest in the register as chairman of the Local Government Association. The noble Lord, Lord Best, is right that the association welcomes this. It is pleased to do so, even in a version that is slightly watered down from the original. The Secretary of State should be congratulated on being prepared to cede some power: it is not very often that a Secretary of State is happy to let somebody else get on with something unless it is going to be a bad news story. I honestly believe this will be a good news story, so I am pleased that he is prepared to do it.
Like the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, though, I also have an issue with proposed new subsection (8): its definition of councils does not appear to allow unitary councils where they are the council of choice for people to be the body that makes a decision. It is fine for the districts or the counties to do that, but unitary councils outside London appear to be excluded. I am sure Newcastle or Sheffield would also want some space in this conversation. I am not sure at the moment how that could be changed, but perhaps it could be changed to “local planning authorities and county councils”. That would capture all existing councils. I urge against including combined authorities at this stage until we are sure where the constituent members of those authorities see this power resting.
My Lords, I have just come out of a meeting this afternoon. I chair the regeneration and communities committee on the Olympic Park. I have been involved with the Olympic Park from the very beginning; I think this is year 18. We have been on a very long journey. Along with a colleague I wrote the document for Hazel Blears that eventually led to the setting up of the Olympic Park Legacy Company, which of course now is a corporation. So one has watched and been involved in all the detail of what is now happening in Stratford in east London, which is a very exciting cluster development. This afternoon we have seen a new school at Here East, businesses and housing all coming together.
There are one or two cautionary lessons. First, local authorities can be very good if you have the right leadership in place to drive them, but if you do not then very different things can go on. It is all about the people, not structures. I know from experience that local authorities, if they are not so good, can be warring factors and can play lots of politics around these things that do not deliver the best quality but sometimes undermine that.
Secondly, we have learned that it is important to have the right serious business partners on the board of the corporation who, together with public sector leaders and leaders in the social enterprise sector, buy into a narrative over a long period of time; and that getting the top, middle and bottom of these institutions to buy and act out that narrative is important as well.
Ultimately, it is all about people and relationships. Our experience suggests that giving local control is very important, but I suggest that it is not just about local authorities—it is about the relationships between people in business, the public sector and, particularly, the community sector. Sometimes local authorities can talk as though they represent and understand the local community, but I have found over the years that that might not actually be true. It is about the right relationships, the right people and the right experience around the table.
My Lords, I thank noble Lords who have participated in the debate on Amendment 2. I thank particularly the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Goss Moor, for moving it, supported by the noble Lord, Lord Best. I thank them both and indeed other noble Lords for their time and commitment on this issue and for the opportunity to discuss this matter. We have discussed it both in Committee and on Report, and I have been heartened to hear the support for the measure from across the Chamber.
This amendment seeks to support the creation of locally led garden towns and villages by enabling the responsibility for any development corporation created under the New Towns Act 1981 to be transferred to a local authority or authorities, covering all or part of the area designated for the new town or village. On the point made by my noble friend Lord Porter, I think the definition is broad enough to include unitary authorities; that is certainly the intention. On a different point about combined authorities that was made by the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, of course we can create mayoral development corporations in relation to the new combined authorities—we did so with Teesside a couple of weeks ago—so that could well be part of the deal with the new authority. However, along with other noble Lords, I would want to think carefully in conjunction with the combined authorities as to whether they wanted to take that power on. I think I am right in saying, although I may be wrong, that the designated garden towns and villages do not come within the purview of what at the moment is projected as a combined authority, but it is a point well made. Therefore, I would like to go away to ponder this and give a fuller response to the noble Lord, if I may, copying it to noble Lords who participated in the debate and putting a copy in the Library.
The aim of the amendment is entirely consistent with those of the Bill. The Government certainly support it and I thank in particular the noble Lord, Lord Best, for his pre-emptive congratulations on the Government’s support. The amendment is very consistent with the approach of the Government, the department and the recently published White Paper in relation to the importance of localism.
I take the point of the noble Lord, Lord Mawson, about the importance of ensuring that all local authorities have the right attitude to these things. We hope that is accomplished through elections but the broad principle of it being done locally must be right. That has been echoed throughout the contributions on this legislation as it has gone through the House: local is better. We know that a number of local authorities—for example, those in north Essex—are interested in taking advantage of the new opportunity that the amendment would provide to support a new generation of locally led garden towns and villages, the 21st-century heirs to Letchworth and Welwyn.
I also welcome the support of the Local Government Association and the kind words of my noble friend Lord Porter for the principle behind the amendment. I am very pleased that it commands wide support throughout the House. This is a simple principle; making it work in practice will require detailed modifications to the New Towns Act, which my department will develop. We will want to keep in close contact with the noble Lords, Lord Taylor and Lord Best, both of whom I thank very much for the impetus and enthusiasm they have given this and the expertise they bring to the table. I pause at this stage to pay tribute to their work as effective champions of this issue throughout discussions on the Bill.
In conclusion, I am very pleased to support the noble Lord’s amendment, which will help to fulfil an important White Paper commitment.
My Lords, I shall respond very briefly. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Best, for all his support and encouragement, not only on this Bill but previously. I should also thank my noble friend Lady Parminter, who was in the Chamber but has had to go, for moving an amendment for me on Report that enabled this matter to be brought forward.
We have had a promise from the Minister to come back on the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Beecham. I should make it clear that the intention is absolutely that more than one local authority can be involved. We need to explore the mechanism for that and hear what the Minister has to say, but the ability for more than one authority to come together is here. I therefore imagine that in practice nothing would stand in the way of the point that was raised.
On the point of the noble Lord, Lord Porter, about unitary authorities, the intention is that they should be covered. Indeed, having worked very hard to support the creation of a unitary authority in Cornwall, I would be horrified if I had managed in any way to get the drafting wrong on that point, but I believe it is covered.
I absolutely take the point of the noble Lord, Lord Mawson, and thank him for his support. In my comments, I talked about the fact that although the mechanism is here for local authorities to take a leadership role, the expectation is absolutely for a partnership approach. I thought quite hard about how one might look at the structures of a corporation. It is very important that this is not a 1950s or 1960s view, whereby a local authority chief executive is appointed and gets on with the job. The world has moved on since then. My view has always been that you need, as we see in Europe and in the States, a master developer and a master planner; you need expertise and business experience.
I chair a joint strategic board for the Carclaze garden village, which has been many years in gestation. The key thing has been to bring together the local authority, the private sector-led development body and the landowner in a partnership. That partnership has been incredibly successful. It took the development through the recession after 2008. The developer is Egyptian-owned, so the partnership took it through the storms of the Arab spring in terms of its financing. It is now in front of planning, and I think will be delivered. That has been possible only because we have built a really strong partnership between all parties, including the private sector, so there is a very deep experience of people creating fantastic places for business reasons, as well as the very important experience of the council representing people and understanding the processes of local government. There has been a great partnership with the HCA as well.
I could not agree more with the noble Lord’s comments. That is why, although this provision uses the powers of the New Towns Act, it is very much in a 21st century setting—and that is not just about localism; it is about partnership between all the stakeholders. I also make the point that it is about holding people to promises, because too often people see wonderful designs at the stage when something is proposed, but the moment when it is allocated or an outline is commissioned, it is traded and traded and, somehow, it gets watered down and not delivered. That experience is important for business, too.
I welcome that, and I absolutely agree with the noble Lord. The Civil Service finds it very hard to understand—and I think that the noble Lord is saying the same thing—that what really matters is having people around the table from different sectors who care about the place and are going to stay on this journey a very long time. It takes a long time to deliver these things and it is very difficult, but it is all about having the right people—people who care.
In every case when I have advised on new settlements coming forward, I have advised local authorities, councillors and communities but also those promoting the project to establish the basis of the joint venture and partnership for delivery of the original objectives and to hold people to it. It is only by getting everyone around the table jointly to discuss that—again, that is the case at Carclaze—at every key stage, whether in looking at the master plan and working out how to deliver affordable housing and quality, wherever the ultimate power may lie to take the decision, that we have all been jointly involved in coming to the right conclusion. That is what these bodies achieve; they are, ultimately, about keeping it honest, but they are also about getting it delivered. The noble Lord clearly has that experience in the Olympic context, and we need that experience in each of these initiatives.
The last thing that we want is to create bland housing estates in the countryside, not great communities. If we do the former, the project will die very quickly, and public enthusiasm will disappear; if we get it right, people will clamour for what are actually the intentions of the 1947 planning Act, when people talked about stopping suburban sprawl, rejuvenating cities and towns and building new communities to meet the needs of those who could not be housed. This is about returning to those objectives and putting back under control the suburban sprawl that we see once again too often around our historic towns and cities. It is a new option and a better one.
I thank the Minister very much for his supportive comments. We have worked very closely on getting this right.
My Lords, this is Third Reading and there is other business before the House, so I shall endeavour to be brief on this matter. However, it is important. I shall seek not to repeat points that I made on Report and on previous Bills. The subject that I have been trying to deal with is the problem in parts of London in particular, but also in other high-value areas, where there is arbitraging under the current very free prior approval system and where you can switch without planning permission from office to residential, taking a very large profit—threefold or fourfold—and in so doing throwing out of premises businesses that in some cases have been established there for a very long time. I have argued for many years that this was an abuse. In our case, in my authority of Richmond—I declare an interest as leader—we have lost 30% of our office space. As I explained to the House before, in half of those cases the offices were partly or wholly occupied by businesses.
My Lords, I find myself once again in tandem with the noble Lord, Lord True. He said correctly that we have been pedalling together on this issue for, I think, about four years now—mostly against a very strong headwind, it has to be said, both under the coalition Government and the present Government. I join him in welcoming, shall we say, a slightly less strong wind, a gentler breeze, on this occasion.
I still have the view that the question of the conversion of offices to residential—which is in many cases entirely desirable, where there are redundant offices, and so on—should be a matter for the local planning authority to determine in the light of local circumstances and to get such planning benefit as may be appropriate and possible. I understand that the breeze is still too strong for us to go quite that far, but when the Minister replied to our debate on this on Report—indeed, we have debated it at every stage of this Bill—he made some sympathetic and encouraging noises to encourage us to withdraw our amendment, which we of course intended to do anyway.
I would like the Minister to clarify two particular points for me, both of which I mentioned on Report—I will not go over all the ground again. I made the point that Article 4 is usually cited as the answer to all questions on this matter, and I related the experience of my own borough. Incidentally, I should once again declare that I am a vice-president of the Local Government Association. The following is no longer a declarable interest, but I was for many years a town centre councillor, and indeed leader of the council, in a south London borough not too far from the borough of the noble Lord, Lord True, and I have seen the effect of this measure on the ground there. When my then authority applied to introduce Article 4, the Government of the day made it extremely clear that they would certainly not counsel an Article 4 direction for the entire borough. They said that to a number of other London boroughs, and no doubt other authorities too. Indeed, they would not even allow it to cover a wider area within the borough and insisted on it being very tightly drawn around the town centre. That provision has had inevitable effects since it came into operation in our town centre area. It has now spread to the district centres, where Article 4 does not apply, and where we have seen an alarming spread of offices being converted to residential use. These are not empty, redundant offices. The figures I have cited several times in this debate applied to our town centre. While we waited for Article 4 to take effect, 28% of the office space in the town centre was lost. That was not redundant space; two-thirds of the offices lost were in active use at the time and the businesses in them had to move.
I hope the Minister will tell us what the Government’s attitude now is towards local authorities that wish to introduce Article 4 over a wider area, or indeed over the whole local authority area, particularly where local authorities like mine have achieved, and indeed exceeded, the housing targets for many years. We are more than meeting government and London government requirements on housing targets. Will we now be allowed more leniency in the areas in which Article 4 may apply?
Secondly, as I have already mentioned, in the period we had to wait to implement Article 4, we lost 28% of the town centre office space. There was a reason for that. If Article 4 is introduced immediately, the local authority is liable to pay compensation, which could run to very considerable sums. Therefore my authority, and most, if not all, authorities, give 12 months’ notice of the intention to apply Article 4. It is inevitable that if you give 12 months’ notice of the intention to apply restrictions, landlords and developers with a mind to convert offices to residential use are bound to go ahead in the period before Article 4 takes effect, especially if that is as long as 12 months, as it has to be. I hope that when he replies the Minister will say something about this long period. If local authorities are still to be required to give 12 months’ notice, can he say anything about their liability for compensation to those who feel they may have a case for that compensation?
I conclude, as did the noble Lord—my noble friend—Lord True, by thanking the Minister in this place and the Minister in another place for taking a very much more sensible and realistic attitude to this issue and for listening to actual experience on the ground. I hope they will be willing to adopt measures to improve this situation. I thank the noble Lord, Lord True, for his very considerable persistence and perseverance on this issue throughout the previous four years.
My Lords, I support the amendment and I hope the Government will react sympathetically to the objectives that noble Lords outlined. We certainly are at one with them. I speak from my experience in Newcastle. It is important that the Government should see the logic of the case that is made in the amendment, and I hope they will treat it accordingly.
My Lords, I thank noble Lords who have participated in the debate on Amendment 3 in relation to office-to-residential conversion. I particularly thank my noble friend Lord True and the noble Lord, Lord Tope, for bringing before us again the issue of permitted development rights for change of use. This enables me to set out in more detail the proposal that I put before noble Lords on Report in a very sketchy form, and to which I promised to return. At the time, I spoke about the potential benefit of allowing greater flexibility over whether the permitted development right for the change of use from office to residential should apply to those areas that are delivering the homes that their communities need. I am sure noble Lords will agree that it is in everybody’s interest to ensure that we do not put future housing delivery at risk. In fairness, that point was made by the noble Lord, Lord Tope.
The housing White Paper sets out compelling evidence of why it is crucial that we fix our broken housing market—one of the greatest barriers to progress in Britain today. Noble Lords will know that in the year to March 2016, over 12,800 homes came from the change of use from offices to residential alone. However, as I said on Report, I recognise that while the national picture is positive in terms of the contribution of permitted development rights to housing delivery, in some places there have been concerns about the local impact.
We can all agree that some authorities are high performers in delivering new housing. I am therefore pleased to confirm our future approach to Article 4 directions to remove the permitted development right for the change of use from office to residential where the local planning authority is delivering 100% or more of its housing requirement. As we have set out in our recent housing White Paper, we will introduce a new housing delivery test which will measure an area’s local housing delivery against its housing requirement. It is proposed that the housing delivery test will be measured as an average over a three-year rolling period and data will be published alongside the net additions statistics in November each year. We propose that housing delivery will be assessed against an up-to-date local plan, London Plan or statutory spatial development strategy—or in their absence, published household projections—and that the first housing delivery data will be published in November this year. This will indicate to local authorities whether this additional Article 4 flexibility would apply to directions they brought forward after this date.
We are committing today that, following the publication of the housing delivery data, where an authority is meeting 100% of its housing delivery requirement and can continue to do so after removal of the right, and where it is able to demonstrate that it is necessary to remove the right to protect the amenity and well-being of a particular area—that might address the point that the noble Lord, Lord Tope, raised; there is still that continuing obligation although it may conceivably be a larger area than at present, but there is not the necessity to satisfy that test—the Secretary of State will not seek to limit a direction applying to that area.
When considering whether to bring forward an Article 4 direction regarding office-to-residential conversion, the local planning authority must demonstrate that it can continue to meet its housing requirement when the right is removed. This provides an important safeguard to ensure that local areas will continue to deliver the homes that communities need. For instance, we know that in the year to March 2016, the homes delivered under the right made a significant contribution to housing delivery in some areas.
Importantly, the Article 4 direction must continue to meet the test set out in the National Planning Policy Framework. As I say, the local planning authority must still provide robust evidence to demonstrate that removing the permitted development right is necessary to protect the amenity and well-being of the area where the right is to be removed. This could include impact from the loss of office space. I hope that is helpful to the noble Lord and to other noble Lords who have participated in the debate on the Bill. Where these tests are met, we would look more generously at the area across which the direction would apply and not seek to limit the direction. Of course, housing delivery changes over time. Therefore, local planning authorities should review their housing delivery annually and, if it falls below 100% in subsequent years, we would expect them to review the direction and cancel or modify it as necessary. The local authority may then be able to bring forward a further direction at a later date on the back of improved delivery where it had dipped below the housing delivery test.
This approach reflects the intent of the noble Lords’ amendment. It allows areas that are meeting their housing requirements local flexibility in having a greater say over where the right will apply as long as they can demonstrate that removal of the right is necessary and that they will continue to meet their housing need. It enables local planning authorities to determine such cases in accordance with their local plan, any neighbourhood plan and other material considerations. At the same time, it provides safeguards should housing delivery decline. Moreover, it does so within the existing Article 4 processes, with which local planning authorities are familiar.
My Lords, I am extremely grateful for what my noble friend has said. My great-grandfather was a baker. I am told that my grandmother once said to him, “Some of these loaves don’t look very good”, to which he replied, “Well, it’s the food they want, m’duck, not the fancy”. The fact is that of course one could quibble about the issue of compensation and the crux between the 12 months’ notice and so on. There are issues there and there will be continuing discussion between local authorities and the Government. However, it would be churlish not to concentrate on the substantial steps that have been taken. I am very grateful for those, particularly obviously in relation to the fees but also—we will study the details—for the very clear indication that some of the difficulties in using Article 4 will be removed.
As well as thanking my noble friends on the Front Bench, I thank the Housing Minister, Mr Barwell, who intervened in this matter very effectively and courteously. I do not want to destroy his career but at a meeting of some of the London council leaders earlier this week at which all three parties were represented, the change that the Minister had made was commented on, and this is one small token of it.
I particularly thank my noble friends on the Front Bench and colleagues on the Benches opposite, who have been very supportive over a long period. Having said that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
My Lords, in moving to this last amendment to be debated, I should note that this is a minor and technical amendment to correct a drafting inconsistency between Clauses 27(2) and 42(3).
In Clause 27, the Secretary of State has the power to make regulations concerning the temporary possession of land under subsections (1), (2) and (3). The Welsh Ministers, however, have the power to make regulations only under subsections (1) and (3) because none of the legislation referenced in subsection (2) is devolved. Therefore, Clause 42(3) specifies that regulations made by the Welsh Ministers under Clause 27 must follow the affirmative resolution procedure. Amendment 4 thus removes the redundant reference to Clause 27(2). I beg to move.
1: After Clause 6, insert the following new Clause—
“Engagement by examiners with qualifying bodies etc
In Schedule 4B to the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (process for making neighbourhood development orders), in paragraph 11 (regulations about independent examinations) after sub-paragraph (2) insert—“(3) The regulations may in particular impose duties on an examiner which are to be complied with by the examiner in considering the draft order under paragraph 8 and which require the examiner—(a) to provide prescribed information to each person within sub-paragraph (4);(b) to publish a draft report containing the recommendations which the examiner is minded to make in the examiner’s report under paragraph 10;(c) to invite each person within sub-paragraph (4) or representatives of such a person to one or more meetings at a prescribed stage or prescribed stages of the examination process;(d) to hold a meeting following the issuing of such invitations if such a person requests the examiner to do so.(4) Those persons are—(a) the qualifying body,(b) the local planning authority, and(c) such other persons as may be prescribed.(5) Where the regulations make provision by virtue of sub- paragraph (3)(c) or (d), they may make further provision about—(a) the procedure for a meeting;(b) the matters to be discussed at a meeting.””
Fourthly, we have resolved in the housing White Paper —I draw noble Lords’ attention to paragraph 1.43 where this is set out—that we will make further funding available to support neighbourhood planning groups from 2018 to 2020. This sits alongside the work we are doing to develop the tools and support available to neighbourhood groups through our current support package. I can also confirm that we intend to add to the existing advice on areas such as housing need and site assessment a specific toolkit to support communities wanting to use their plan to allocate sites for housing. This will, for example, provide advice on how neighbourhood planning groups can approach drafting policies that plan positively and provide clarity on where development will be encouraged or where it may be less appropriate, and on the type of evidence that may support a phased approach to housing delivery.
Fifthly, we are making it easier for those who are using their neighbourhood plan to allocate housing to get technical consultancy support. This includes access to a “health check” of their neighbourhood plan by an experienced examiner prior to submitting the plan to the local planning authority. Priority groups under the Government’s support contract can apply for a health check at no cost. All other groups can choose to use grants awarded through the support contract to pay for a health check.
In addition to these important steps, we are also encouraging others to take action. I referred on Report to the commitment made by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors to having procedural practice guidance in place by the autumn for the neighbourhood plan examiners it works with.
Before I turn to the Government’s specific amendment, I would like to return briefly to the issue of phasing raised by my noble friend Lady Cumberlege. Neighbourhood planning groups are already able to phase development so that it matches their view of how the community should evolve in response to the market. Where they do so, it must be backed up by clear evidence as to why there should be a restriction on when a specific site or sites should come forward for development. It should be evidence based, because we want to ensure that the proposals are deliverable.
We have listened carefully to the concerns raised by my noble friend, and government Amendment 1 will enable the Secretary of State, through regulations, to set out the procedure an examiner of a neighbourhood plan or neighbourhood development order must follow. It adds to the existing non-exhaustive list of matters that regulations may address, which is set out in paragraph 11 of Schedule 4B to the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. In exercising the power, the Secretary of State will be able to make regulations that place a duty on examiners to provide information to, and to hold meetings with, neighbourhood planning groups—the qualifying bodies—local planning authorities and others, and on the examiners to publish their draft report with their recommendations. The amendment, set alongside existing matters that regulations may already address, would give my ministerial colleagues the power to achieve what my noble friend and other noble Lords have pressed for.
We are consulting in the housing White Paper on what changes may be needed to ensure that consultation and examination procedures for all types of plan-making are appropriate and proportionate, and I draw noble Lords’ attention to paragraph A.20 where this is set out. The consultation closes on 2 May.
This amendment strikes the right balance between enabling reforms that can improve the dialogue between neighbourhood planning groups and examiners, while allowing for any future improvements to procedures to be informed through the White Paper consultation by those who will understand best how the current arrangements are working in practice. More than 350 communities have had direct experience of the examination process. Local planning authorities will have worked with these communities and will have been responsible for arranging the examinations of the neighbourhood plans and any contracts with the examiners. There will no doubt be others with relevant experience, not least the examiners of neighbourhood plans. It is important that the examination process remains fair and open to those with an interest but does not become adversarial. Again, the housing White Paper consultation provides an opportunity for people to express views on how we might best achieve that balance.
My noble friend Lady Cumberlege has previously spoken warmly of the work my department has done to explore what a possible model for the examination process could look like. I have considered what additional material could be made available as a contribution to the debate on the changes that may be needed to the examination of neighbourhood plans. Today I have published a discussion document on the Government’s website, GOV.UK, that contains a possible model for how examinations could be improved. This is expressed in the form of a process flow chart—I know that my noble friend believes that this flow chart system is helpful; I do too. The document is in the form of an edition of Notes on Neighbourhood Planning, a regular series of bulletins from my department published on the Government’s website and sent to more than 1,500 organisations and individuals that have signed up to receive it. I would welcome representations from noble Lords on this possible model, alongside other contributions to the housing White Paper consultation.
Amendment 5 seeks to replicate the changes proposed in Amendment 1. Amendment 5 applies in circumstances where a neighbourhood planning group seeks to update an existing neighbourhood plan in the streamlined way proposed under Clause 3 and Schedule 1 to the Bill. This will ensure consistency for those examining a new or updated neighbourhood plan.
I want to leave your Lordships in no doubt that we are taking this matter very seriously, and to reassure noble Lords on the timing. It is right that we then take time fully to consider responses to the White Paper consultation, including the impact that reforms may have on voluntary and community bodies and on businesses. These amendments give the Government the powers to act on the issues raised in our debates. Clearly, that would be our intention. Noble Lords must allow us to continue to consult more widely to hear more views, so that we can be sure we have the right process. If there is consensus as a result of our consultation, we can move swiftly to prepare regulations from the commencement of this legislation. That would be our intention. I beg to move.
Amendment 1 agreed.
2: After Clause 14, insert the following new Clause—
“Development of new towns by local authorities
(1) The New Towns Act 1981 is amended as follows.(2) After section 1 insert—“1A Local authority to oversee development of new town(1) This section applies where the Secretary of State is considering designating an area of land in England as the site of a proposed new town in an order under section 1.(2) The Secretary of State may, in an order under section 1, appoint one or more local authorities to oversee the development of the area as a new town.(3) But a local authority may only be appointed if the area of land mentioned in subsection (1) is wholly or partly within the area of the local authority. (4) The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision about how a local authority is to oversee the development of an area as a new town.(5) Regulations under subsection (4) may, for example—(a) provide that a local authority is to exercise specified functions under this Act which would otherwise be exercisable by the Secretary of State, the appropriate Minister or the Treasury;(b) provide that a local authority is to exercise such functions subject to specified conditions or limitations;(c) provide that specified functions under this Act may be exercised only with the consent of a local authority;(d) make provision about the membership of a corporation established under section 3, including the proportion of the members of the corporation who may be members of or employed by a local authority;(e) modify provisions of this Act;(f) make different provision for different purposes;(g) make incidental, supplementary or consequential provision.(6) In subsection (5)(a) the reference to “functions” does not include a power to make regulations or other instruments of a legislative character.(7) Where two or more local authorities are appointed in an order containing provision by virtue of subsection (2), the Secretary of State may in that order provide—(a) that a specified function is to be exercised by a specified local authority, or(b) that a specified function is to be exercised by two or more specified local authorities jointly.(8) In this section—“local authority” means—(a) a district council,(b) a county council, or(c) a London borough council;“specified” means specified in—(a) an order containing provision by virtue of subsection (2), or(b) regulations under subsection (4).”(3) In section 77 (regulations and orders)—(a) in subsection (2), after “which” insert “, subject to subsection (2A),”, and(b) after subsection (2) insert—“(2A) A statutory instrument containing regulations under section 1A(4) may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.””
Amendment 2 agreed.
3: After Clause 14, insert the following new Clause—
“Local authorities meeting housing targets to be permitted to override prior approval
(1) Where a local planning authority can show that—(a) the exercise of prior approvals for the conversion of offices to residential is having a detrimental effect on the local economy, including the expulsion of, or non-renewal of leases to, businesses to make way for residential development, and(b) the relevant local authority is meeting its housing targets and can show reasonable evidence that it will continue to do so,the local authority concerned may, notwithstanding any regulation or provision to the contrary, require any future application in any part of, or the whole of, the local authority area to seek full planning permission and may bring any part of the adopted local plan, or relevant neighbourhood plan, into consideration in determining that application.(2) A local authority may recover all permitted planning fees and costs in relation to any application for a development determination by prior approval, as if the application concerned were subject to all procedures of a normal planning application.”
I have been very grateful, in pursuing a way out of and a resolution to this injustice, for the support from the noble Lords, Lord Tope and Lord Shipley, on the Benches opposite. This started about four years ago, when they were my noble friends, although I hope that they are still my friends. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy—he is understandably not able to be in his place—who is also a London councillor and gave a great deal of support.
The amendment before the House is not intended to be perfect or to be included in the legislation. I reiterate in the absolute strongest terms my sense of gratitude towards my noble friend on the Front Bench and to his colleague, my noble friend Lord Young, for the way in which they and their officials have conducted themselves on this legislation. Following our debate on Report, my noble friend gave hope that if I took away the amendment, he would give consideration with colleagues to addressing the two key issues that are highlighted in this amendment—or at least two of the key issues. The first is the inability of the local council to address this problem. We discussed the difficulties with Article 4 and I am hopeful that we may get some suggestion that those difficulties could at least in part be addressed. Second is the fact that local authorities lose an enormous amount of money when a developer goes round through the prior approval route, as they do not have to pay planning fees. I gave the figures in a debate at a previous stage—hundreds of thousands were lost to my authority alone, where it would have been a clear open and shut case for the developer to get planning approval because the offices were clearly not of strategic purpose. Subsection (2) of the proposed new clause refers to that issue.
I bring this back before your Lordships, having been encouraged to believe that when my noble friend responds he might give me some hope, short of seeking to take a legislative route through your Lordships’ House today, that there may be some meaningful and positive response from the Government to help local authorities address this issue and for redress—sadly, the stable door has been open for a long time—to lift the fear that some small businesses still have of this threat coming their way. I beg to move.
The noble Lords also raised concerns on Report about planning application fees but, before I move on to that, I want to respond to a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Tope, about the compensation payable and the 12-month notice period. National permitted development rights are set at a level which the Government believe is generally appropriate across the country, and only in exceptional cases should local authorities find it necessary to restrict these rights. In many cases, local authorities can avoid a compensation liability, as the noble Lord said, by giving 12 months’ notice of their intention to introduce an Article 4 direction. So they could proceed with an Article 4 direction without notice but, in those circumstances, they would be liable to compensation, and we are not proposing to alter that provision.
I turn to the loss of planning application fees where an Article 4 direction is in place and the impact that this has on local authority resources—a matter on which my noble friend Lord True and the noble Lord, Lord Tope, have also focused. I am pleased to be able to respond to the concerns on this front as well, and I can today commit to a further measure to support local authorities.
We will bring forward regulations to allow local planning authorities to charge the statutory planning application fee where permitted development rights are withdrawn by an Article 4 direction. We believe that this is an important step in recognising the resource commitment for authorities in determining planning applications in areas where the permitted development rights have been removed for sound policy reasons. This will further support timely local decision-making in bringing forward development quickly in accordance with local needs.
Noble Lords will be aware that we have committed to a 20% uplift in application fees from July where the funding is to be used to support the planning function of the local authority. I can confirm that this uplift will also apply to the fee for prior approval. We believe that this approach in respect of Article 4 directions provides local flexibility for areas that are meeting housing need, while ensuring the continued delivery of homes under the right. As I committed to do on Report, I have set out this approach today and I have also set it out in a letter to my noble friend. I am not sure whether that letter has reached him but I will place a copy in the House Library. This will be supported by detailed guidance, which we will provide nearer the time.
In closing, I thank both my noble friend Lord True and the noble Lord, Lord Tope. I have a graphic image of the two of them on a tandem coming through south-west London and initially facing a strong headwind but now heading for the sunny uplands with a gentle breeze. It will be an image that is with me for some time. However, I thank them for the reasoned, constructive and patient way in which they have approached this issue—particularly my noble friend Lord True, who I know has been absolutely determined in relation to this issue over a considerable time and has approached it with great courtesy and great patience. However, in the light of the commitments that I have made, I respectfully ask him to withdraw his amendment.
Amendment 3 withdrawn.
Clause 42: Regulations
4: Clause 42, page 38, line 26, leave out “27(1), (2) or (3)” and insert “27(1) or (3)”
Amendment 4 agreed.
Schedule 1: New Schedule A2 to the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004
5: Schedule 1, page 48, line 7, at end insert—
“(3) The regulations may in particular impose duties on an examiner which are to be complied with by the examiner in considering the draft plan under paragraphs 10 and 11 and which require the examiner—(a) to provide prescribed information to each person within sub- paragraph (4);(b) to publish a draft report containing the recommendations which the examiner is minded to make in the examiner’s report under paragraph 13;(c) to invite each person within sub-paragraph (4) or representatives of such a person to one or more meetings at a prescribed stage or prescribed stages of the examination process;(d) to hold a meeting following the issuing of such invitations if such a person requests the examiner to do so.(4) Those persons are—(a) the qualifying body,(b) the local planning authority, and(c) such other persons as may be prescribed.(5) Where the regulations make provision by virtue of sub-paragraph (3)(c) or (d), they may make further provision about—(a) the procedure for a meeting;(b) the matters to be discussed at a meeting.”
Amendment 5 agreed.
Bill passed and returned to the Commons with amendments.