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Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill

Volume 832: debated on Wednesday 6 September 2023

Report (6th Day) (Continued)

Amendment 201

Moved by

201: After Clause 95, insert the following new Clause—

“Definition of affordable housing(1) Within 90 days of the day on which this Act is passed, a Minister of the Crown must publish the report of a consultation on the definition of affordable housing.(2) Within 30 days of the publication of the report, a Minister of the Crown must by regulations update the definition of affordable housing as set out in Annex 2 to the National Planning Policy Framework.”Member's explanatory statement

This amendment means that the Government must update the definition of affordable housing following a consultation.

I apologise but, given that we are running over what we thought was the anticipated time for starting, and given the large number of topics to discuss today on Report, I respectfully remind all participants to have a brevity objective in mind, as required in the Companion for Report stage.

As I was saying, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Stunell, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, for their support for my Amendment 201. My amendment inserts a new clause for the definition of affordable housing. It asks that, within 90 days of when the

“Act is passed, a Minister … must publish the report of a consultation on the definition of affordable housing”.

Following the publication of that report, within 30 days, the definition must be updated in the National Planning Policy Framework. The reason we have put this forward is because we feel that the current definition in the National Planning Policy Framework is simply not fit for purpose.

Earlier today, we passed the amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Best, on social housing. He is not in his place, but I point out that getting that sorted out is part of managing our problem with affordable housing. So, in many ways, although they are not in the same group, these amendments in fact work together. The noble Lord is also the chair of the Affordable Housing Commission, and although he is not here, I pay tribute to the important work that he has done with that. The Affordable Housing Commission has produced an important report on this issue, Making Housing Affordable Again, which I urge all noble Lords with an interest to study.

When we consider affordable housing, we need to look at a number of issues, the first of which is to ask who has a problem with it. What the commission did was to divide the overall picture into four different groups: struggling renters; low-income older households; struggling home owners; and frustrated first-time buyers. So this issue affects a very large proportion of our population, including people who are trying to find themselves a decent, secure home. The way that housing affordability is currently defined and measured is as rents or purchase costs that are lower than in the open marketplace; we believe that that definition is both misleading and confusing. It is a crude definition, which is not helping to solve the problem. It brings “affordable housing” to a level that is way beyond the means of many who need a home.

The commission offers a new definition of affordability, which views the issue from the perspective of the household and not from the marketplace—as the current definition does. What can people pay for their housing without risking financial and personal problems? Who is facing these problems of unaffordability, and exactly what is the scale of the problem?

The NPPF definition of affordable housing is made with reference to various housing products, from social rent to low-cost home ownership. Even if eligibility is bounded by local incomes, except for social rent, of course, affordable housing remains market-led, rather than being defined by personal income. This has led to a number of local authorities being extremely sceptical about their ability to deliver the affordable housing their areas need.

A cursory glance at the affordable rent level shows that in many areas a three-bedroom, affordable-rent property cost £400 per week. This is clearly way out of the pocket of many people in this country. I suggest that the Government look at what the Affordable Housing Commission is calling on them to do. We believe it provides a good starting point for solving the housing crisis we are in.

First, it suggests a rebalancing of the housing system so that there will be affordable housing opportunities for all by 2045. Affordable housing should be made a national priority and placed at the centre of a national housing strategy. The safety net for struggling renters and home owners should be improved. A new definition and alternative measures of housing affordability should be adopted which relate to people’s actual income and circumstances, rather than just to the market.

We agree with the Affordable Housing Commission. Will the Minister accept that the current definition is not fit for purpose? In order to help the very many people who are struggling either to buy or rent a home, will the Government put into the Bill a commitment to act to change the definition so that affordable housing actually means what it says?

I have spoken on this issue a number of times. Others are saying what we are saying. The Affordable Housing Commission is saying it. People who understand the system and have identified how it can be changed for the better are offering concrete, constructive ways in which things can be improved. I hope that the Minister can accept my amendment as a starting point on this journey to improve the current situation. If I do not have her assurance that this will be the case, I will test the opinion of the House on this matter.

My Lords, I have added my name to Amendment 201 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock. As she clearly set out, there is a complete absence of focus on what is and is not affordable when it comes to government policy-making. That policy is in desperate need of overhaul and a recalibration. This amendment puts that overhaul firmly on the agenda. It is a fitting addition to the Bill. I hope that the Minister will accept it. If not, I and my colleagues will strongly support the noble Baroness in pressing it to a vote.

In Committee, I made the case as strongly as I could that the highly desirable objective of the provision of affordable housing, which is shared on all sides of this Chamber, is not being achieved in real life. It has failed by a wide margin, as the noble Baroness has just set out. At present, about half of affordable homes—the ones which are given capital letters by policy-makers—are supposedly delivered through planning obligations placed on developers. The reality is that in many parts of England this is being completely undermined by basing the calculation of affordability on a figure of 80% of the open-market price of that property on that site or, for renters, of 80% of the market rent. The noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, gave one practical example of the consequence of this for renters.

Amendment 201 calls for a review. The Minister may reply that all government policies are under constant review, but when she replied in Committee, I got the impression that any such review of this policy has not been particularly diligent. It certainly has not been timely or purposeful. This amendment would put that right and task the Government with producing a review and publishing it, with recommendations for a change, on a short, fixed timescale.

In Committee, I drew noble Lords’ attention to the experience of my noble friend Lord Foster, who unfortunately cannot be with us today, in his local area of Southwold in east Suffolk. A so-called affordable estate, built with £1 million of government subsidy, is so out of the price range of people on median incomes there that its homes have proved unsaleable and the developer has been released from the planning obligation. The homes are now going on the open market. This is not in inner London; it is 100 miles away. In Southwold, the price/median earnings ratio of the affordable homes, at 80% of full price, is still 13:1, reduced from 17:1 for full-price homes. Obviously, that is completely out of the reach of those seeking an affordable home.

I am sure that the Minister will know of similar circumstances in many other places. It is certainly true in Cheshire and Derbyshire, for instance—they are known to me—and is quite possibly so in Wiltshire as well. Far too often, affordable homes as delivered by planning obligations are nothing of the sort. I sometimes think that saying this out loud is seen as swearing in church. Nobody seems to confront this obvious truth. This Levelling-Up and Regeneration Bill is exactly the place to begin putting that right. It must be the case that when median incomes in a locality are not sufficient to buy such homes, it is misleading to describe them as affordable, wrong to put them on the credit sides of the affordable homes balance sheet and deceitful to boast that their provision makes a worthwhile contribution to fulfilling an election promise.

Amendment 201 would kick off that process of reform, but my Amendment 201A and its consequential amendment, Amendment 285A—they are also in this group—would go further by setting out the principles that should underlie that review. Those principles have been set out by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman. They include the principle that affordability must be defined by reference to the income of the purchaser or renter, not solely by the inflated price on the open market. My amendment does not specify the mechanics or precise formula for that. The Affordable Housing Commission certainly provides a professionally generated one, while two others were quoted in Committee. We all know how it can be achieved, but the vital point of any government review must be to take into account the obvious truth that the current measuring stick is not solving the problem of affordability but is instead costing the Treasury a hatful of cash, which is being wasted and at the same time leaves many families stuck in wretched housing conditions.

There is a second part to my Amendment 201A, which I believe would help to close the yawning gap between open market prices and affordable home prices. It would disapply the current exemption in the Freedom of Information Act for the disclosure of viability calculations used by developers when haggling with local planning authorities over their planning obligations. At present, commercial confidentiality can be exploited to leverage cuts in affordable home provision, and it often is. Transparency would ensure that there was no temptation to inflate falsely the figures of costs that are deployed in those negotiations. It would also be likely to lead, over time, to less profligate bidding and purchasing of land by developers. Simply by removing that commercial exemption in this specific situation, at nil cost to the public purse, more affordable homes will be provided by developers. It is a no-brainer and one that I hope the Minister will find irresistible.

If levelling-up is to proceed from an election slogan to real delivery, it has a long road to travel. On that road, an essential milestone will be a proper affordable homes policy. Amendments 201 and 201A would provide the Government with that milestone. I hope that they pass today.

My Lords, I rise with pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Stunell, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, to speak to Amendment 201, to which I have attached my name. Essentially, I associate myself with everything that they said. I will seek not to repeat them but just make a couple of additional points.

Democracy demands clarity. We all know that we are heading into a general election, in which discussion of affordable housing will be right up there at the top of the agenda. We need to set out a definition about what we are talking about, if we are to have a sensible debate about our housing policy future.

For any noble Lords who have not seen it, I recommend the excellent briefing from the House of Commons Library—if I am allowed to recommend that—on the definition of affordable housing in July this year. One of its top headlines is:

“No agreed definition of affordable housing”.

It notes that the most commonly used framework is that of the National Planning Policy Framework, used by local planning authorities, which takes in social rent, as well as a range of so-called intermediate rent and for-sale products. As the Affordable Housing Commission of 2020 concluded, “many” of these so-called affordable homes are “clearly unaffordable” for those on middle or lower incomes.

This being the House of Lords, we should look for a second at the historical framework of this. If we go back to 1979, we see that nearly half of the British population lived in what were clearly affordable homes—they lived in council homes, with council rents. That reality is not that long ago. We have since seen the massive privatisation of right to buy, and a move towards treating housing primarily as a financial asset, rather than as homes in which people can securely, comfortably, safely and healthily live. That is what brings us to this point today. This amendment is not going to fix that but it would at least set out the clarity of terms for us to be able to talk about this in a practical kind of way.

I looked at the Green Party policy for a sustainable society. It starts with the absolute foundation, stating that it is

“a universal human right to shelter which is affordable, secure and to a standard adequate for the health and well-being of the household”.

That is why we are now saying today: right homes, right place and right price. We need to think about what that price means. In the Green Party we have set out very clearly what we believe the right price is. On purchase, we should be looking to move towards a situation where house prices are not more than four times average salaries. On rent, where the real extreme levels of suffering are now, there should be a living rent—a definition backed by many of the NGOs. Genuinely affordable housing means that median local rents would not take up more than 35% of median local take-home pay. That is what I would set out.

I could perhaps have put down an amendment to set those figures out, but that is not what I have done. What I have said instead is that we need to set out the terms of this debate, as this amendment does. I strongly commend Amendment 201 to your Lordships’ House.

My Lords, the noble Baronesses, Lady Hayman and Lady Bennett, and the noble Lord, Lord Stunell, have all spoken eloquently on Amendment 201, which I support. I thank them for tabling it.

The independent Archbishops’ Commission on Housing reported in March 2021, and your Lordships’ House may recall the debate that the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury secured on 24 March 2021, on the subject of housing. I simply wish to highlight a few points from that which I believe are relevant to the debate on this amendment.

The first is that the object of central government policy and of legislation should always be the ready provision of good housing—homes in which people want to live, in areas capable of flourishing. Too often, sadly, that is not the case, and we build among the smallest dwellings in Europe. Secondly, we require a bipartisan approach that enables a consistent policy to be followed across decades, and not one that is beholden to the sort of interests that have so limited housebuilding. It is worth remembering, as has already been mentioned today, that the last year in which we achieved house- building at the current target of 300,000 was 1969, over 50 years ago. Thirdly, we require a definition of affordable housing that relates specifically to income. Without this, any policy on affordable housing will fail. I support Amendment 201.

My Lords, Amendment 201 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, relates to the definition of affordable housing. The amendment proposes a consultation on the definition that currently appears in the National Planning Policy Framework. We have had good debates about these issues, both today and in Committee, and I recognise the strength of feeling around the importance of ensuring that affordable housing meets the needs of those who require it.

I can reaffirm the Government’s commitment to delivering more houses for social rent. We are carefully considering the consultation responses to our proposal to amend national planning policy to make clear that local planning authorities should give greater importance in planning for social rent homes. A large number of the new homes delivered through our £11.5 billion Affordable Homes Programme will be for social rent.

Nevertheless, it is also important that the definition of affordable housing in the NPPF provides local authorities with sufficient flexibility to plan for the type of affordable housing that is needed in their area. The existing definition includes a range of affordable housing products for those whose needs are not met by the market. Those needs will vary depending on people’s circumstances and in different housing markets.

I am also mindful of the point made during our debate in Committee by my noble friend Lord Young of Cookham, about the trade-off between the level of discount that a type of affordable housing provides and the number of such homes that can be delivered.

We all agree that we need to consider this issue further. That is why we have committed to a wider review of the national planning policy once the Bill has received Royal Assent. That will include the production of a suite of national development management policies. This work will need to consider all aspects of national policy—and that includes the way that affordable housing is defined and addressed—and would be subject to consultation. I look forward in that consultation to hearing all the views from the sectors which have been mentioned this afternoon. I think we all agree on this.

What we do not agree on is how we should process this particular issue that we want to deliver. I therefore hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, feels able to withdraw her amendment at this stage.

Amendments 201A and 285A from the noble Lord, Lord Stunell, raise two important matters relating to affordable housing. The first matter is how affordable housing is defined for the purposes of this Bill. The approach has been to link this to the definition of social housing in the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008. This definition encompasses both rented and low-cost home ownership accommodation that is made available in accordance with rules designed to ensure it is made available to people whose needs are not adequately served by the commercial housing market. While I understand the noble Lord’s argument that affordable housing should be defined more tightly, I am eager to avoid depriving local authorities of sufficient flexibility to determine what is most appropriate to meet the needs of their area.

However, the Government are taking action to secure the delivery of more social rented homes, as I have said, for which rents are set using a formula that takes account of relative local incomes. A large number of these new homes, as I have said before, will be delivered through our £11.5 billion Affordable Homes Programme and will be for social rent.

We are also carefully considering the consultation responses to our proposal to amend the national planning policy to make clear that local planning authorities should give greater importance in planning for social rent homes. The noble Lord, Lord Stunell, also raised the disclosure of information relating to the viability of affordable housing in housing developments. Although I recognise that the noble Lord is seeking to improve the transparency of this process, I do not believe that the change he is proposing is necessary. As discussed earlier on Report, the new infrastructure levy will allow local authorities to require developers to pay a portion of their levy liability in kind in the form of on-site affordable housing. This new “right to require” is designed to replace site-specific negotiations of affordable housing contributions.

While viability assessments may be used in setting infrastructure levy rates, any developer that wishes information to be taken into account must submit it to be examined in public. Levy rates and charging schedules will be matters of public record.

I hesitate to interrupt the Minister, but can she confirm that the infrastructure levy will not be operational in most of England for another eight or 10 years?

As the noble Lord knows, we have already discussed this. We will have a test and learn throughout the country and then a rollout, but with any large change in any planning system, as with the community infrastructure levy, it will take time—up to 10 years, we believe.

Levy rates and charging schedules will be matters of public record, as I said. For these reasons, I hope that the noble Lord will agree not to move his amendments.

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate and the Minister for her response. I welcome the right honourable Michael Gove to the Chamber and thank him for taking the time to listen to our debate. Clearly, he is enthralled by our discussions at the moment, and I am sure that he will take our concerns away for further consideration.

I thank the Minister for spelling out the Government’s commitment to social housing through the affordable homes programme and for the wider review that she talked of. I understand the need for flexibility that she talked about for local authorities. However, this does not change the fact that houses classed as affordable should actually be affordable and currently are not. Otherwise, what on earth is the point of having the definition?

I am afraid I have heard nothing to convince me that the Government are serious about changing the definition. On that basis, I would like to test the opinion of the House.

Amendment 201A not moved.

Schedule 8: Minor and consequential amendments in connection with Chapter 2 of Part 3

Amendments 201B to 201D

Moved by

201B: Schedule 8, page 389, line 39, at end insert—

“(8A) In paragraph 7ZA (inserted by paragraph 156 of Schedule 4), in paragraph (b) of the definition of “constituent planning authority”, for “29” substitute “15J”.(8B) For paragraph 7ZB (inserted by paragraph 156 of Schedule 4) substitute—“7ZB “(1) This paragraph applies if the Secretary of State thinks that a constituent planning authority are failing to do anything it is necessary or expedient for them to do in connection with the preparation, adoption or revision of a local plan.(2) If the local plan has not come into effect, the Secretary of State may invite the combined county authority to take over preparation of the local plan from the constituent planning authority, in which case the combined county authority may do so.(3) If the local plan has come into effect, the Secretary of State may invite the combined county authority to revise the local plan, in which case the combined county authority may do so.”(8C) In paragraph 7ZC (inserted by paragraph 156 of Schedule 4)—(a) in sub-paragraph (1), for “development plan document” substitute “local plan”;(b) after that sub-paragraph insert—“(1A) If the combined county authority are to prepare the local plan, the combined county authority must publish a document setting out—(a) their timetable for preparing the plan, and(b) if they intend to depart from anything specified in a local plan timetable in relation to the plan, details of how they intend to depart from it.”;(c) for sub-paragraph (4) substitute—“(4) The combined county authority may then—(a) where the combined county authority have prepared a local plan, approve the local plan subject to specified modifications or direct the constituent planning authority to consider adopting the local plan by resolution of the authority, or(b) where the combined county authority are to revise a local plan, make the revision or make the revision subject to specified modifications.”(8D) In paragraph 7ZD (inserted by paragraph 156 of Schedule 4)—(a) for sub-paragraph (1) substitute—“(1) Subsections (4) to (12) of section 15D, and section 15DA, apply to an examination held under paragraph 7ZC(2)—(a) reading references to the local planning authority as references to the combined county authority, and(b) in the case of an independent examination of a proposed revision, reading references to a local plan as references to the revision.”;(b) in sub-paragraph (3)(a), omit “or omitted”;(c) in sub-paragraph (4)—(i) for “joint local development document or a joint development plan document” substitute “joint local plan”;(ii) for “the document” substitute “the plan”.” Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment to Schedule 8 to the Bill makes amendments to Schedule A1 to the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 in connection with provision for development plans under Part 3 of the Bill. The amendments amend and supplement consequential amendments to Schedule A1 to the 2004 Act made by Schedule 4 to the Bill relating to the creation of combined county authorities.

201C: Schedule 8, page 391, line 34, after “6(4)(a)” insert “, 7ZC(4)(a)”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment to Schedule 8 to the Bill makes amendments to Schedule A1 to the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 in connection with provision for development plans (under Part 3 of the Bill) to reflect amendments made to Schedule A1 by Schedule 4 to the Bill in relation to the creation of combined county authorities.

201D: Schedule 8, page 391, line 35, after “6(4)(b)” insert “, 7ZC(4)(b)”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment to Schedule 8 to the Bill makes amendments to Schedule A1 to the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 in connection with provision for development plans (under Part 3 of the Bill) to reflect amendments made to Schedule A1 by Schedule 4 to the Bill in relation to the creation of combined county authorities.

Amendments 201B to 201D agreed.

Amendment 202 not moved.

Clause 99: Removal of compensation for building preservation notice

Amendment 202A

Moved by

202A: Clause 99, page 109, line 1, at end insert—

“(A1) The Listed Buildings Act is amended as follows.(A2) In section 3 (temporary listing in England: building preservation notices), after subsection (1) insert—“(1A) Before serving a building preservation notice under this section, the local planning authority must consult with the Commission. (1B) Subsection (1A) does not apply where the Commission proposes to serve a building preservation notice under this section (see subsection (8)).””Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment inserts a new duty into the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 for local planning authorities to consult the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England (“Historic England”) before serving a building preservation notice under that Act. The duty does not apply in cases where Historic England is carrying out the functions of a local planning authority.

My Lords, I will speak to this group of amendments as Minister for Heritage. I will speak first to Amendments 202A and 202B, which regard building preservation notices.

His Majesty’s Government recognise that, although building preservation notices provide a useful means of protecting buildings for up to six months while they are being considered for listing, it is important that they should not be used inappropriately or injudiciously.

Further to our debate in Committee, my amendment to Clause 99 should help to provide that reassurance. It introduces a requirement on local planning authorities to consult Historic England before serving a building preservation notice, drawing on Historic England’s expert knowledge about the historic environment to help advise local planning authorities before they issue a building preservation notice. This practice is common- place today, although not universal; the amendment seeks to solidify this practice as a duty on the local planning authority. In addition, His Majesty’s Government will issue guidance after the Bill has become law, setting out the manner in which local planning authorities need to consult Historic England. For example, where the planning authority’s view differs from Historic England’s, it should set out why it has come to that conclusion.

By tabling this amendment, the Government are showing that we have listened to the concerns raised at earlier stages yet remain committed to ensuring the best protection possible for our nation’s most loved and valued heritage.

I am grateful in particular to Historic Houses for the time and willingness they have shown in discussing this issue with me.

I turn to Amendment 271A, in my name, which concerns blue plaques. For a century and a half, blue plaques have helped people to learn about and celebrate their local heritage and to take pride in their local community. More than 900 have been erected, celebrating people as diverse as Ada Lovelace, Jimi Hendrix and Mohandas Gandhi—but only in London, for, while there are many brilliant local schemes across the country, the official scheme backed in statute is limited to London alone.

That in itself is a quirk of history. The scheme was established by the Royal Society of Arts in 1866. In 1901, it was taken over by the London County Council, then by the Greater London Council and, when that was abolished via the Local Government Act 1985, responsibility passed to the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England, which is now Historic England. The 1985 Act gives it discretionary power to operate the scheme in Greater London but not elsewhere. That limits the people and places that can be celebrated by this world-renowned scheme.

Indeed, the politician who inspired it, William Ewart, was a Member of another place representing Liverpool, his native city. He also represented Wigan, and Bletchingley in Surrey, and he died in Devizes in Wiltshire. None of those places is covered by the scheme that he bequeathed us.

I am therefore tabling an amendment to insert a new clause after Clause 226, extending Historic England’s current discretionary power to operate the blue plaque scheme across England. I am doing so with the aim of creating one cohesive scheme throughout England, celebrating links between notable figures from our past and the buildings where they lived and worked, showing that people who went on to leave their mark on the world were drawn from every corner of our country and all sorts of backgrounds.

People across the country will be able to nominate notable figures with a connection to their local area for national recognition. Officials in my department are working with Historic England and English Heritage Trust to develop this England-wide scheme, aiming to get the new plaques erected in the next few months and learning from the excellent work done by English Heritage while running the scheme since 1986 to build a scheme that can operate from 2025 when the new licence period from Historic England begins.

I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, for signing the amendment, as well as my noble friend Lord Mendoza, whom I am delighted to welcome as the new chairman of Historic England, following in the footsteps of the excellent Sir Laurie Magnus. I am also glad that this amendment has received the support of the Local Government Association and am grateful to Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson in particular for his enthusiastic engagement on this issue.

Government Amendments 301A and 315ZB are consequential. They provide that the clause applies to England and Wales and that it comes into force two months after Royal Assent.

Finally, I turn to government Amendment 284, which gives the Secretary of State the power to make regulations amending the heritage provisions in the Bill once enacted. Any such amendments will be purely technical and limited to changes which are needed to ensure that the heritage provisions in the Bill work as intended. Government Amendments 289 and 296 are consequential and provide that any regulations made under this power should follow the negative procedure.

I hope that, with that explanation and reassurance, noble Lords will be willing to support the government amendments in this group. I beg to move.

My Lords, I rise to speak to two amendments in this group. Under Section 72(1) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, on making planning decisions in conservation areas,

“special attention shall be paid to the desirability of preserving or enhancing the character or appearance of that area”.

Local planning authorities have a wide degree of discretion in deciding whether applications for development in conservation areas pass this statutory test. In my local borough, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, planning officers do not normally live in or near the relevant conservation area and routinely substitute their own opinions for the opinions of those who do, frequently in disregard of the relevant conservation area appraisal document and advice from important third parties such as Historic England.

The problem is particularly acute in the royal borough, where harmful decisions have been made in the past and then been used as precedent to justify approving further harm of a similar nature. This line of reasoning has been criticised frequently by the Planning Inspectorate and runs contrary to the advice of Historic England in its document, Managing Significance in Decision-Taking in the Historic EnvironmentHistoric Environment Good Practice Advice in Planning: 2, published in March 2015. Paragraph 28 of this document states:

“The cumulative impact of incremental small-scale changes may have as great an effect on the significance of a heritage asset as a larger scale change. Where the significance of a heritage asset”—

which, of course, includes the entirety of a conservation area—

“has been compromised in the past by unsympathetic development to the asset itself or its setting, consideration still needs to be given to whether additional change will further detract from, or can enhance, the significance of the asset”.

Regrettably, such consideration is all too often not given by planning officers in their decision reports on the exercise of delegated powers or in their advisory reports to planning committees recommending the approval of an inappropriate development without clear or compelling justification. The exercise is all too subjective, frequently a reflection of poor taste and simply wrong.

My amendment in Committee was to insert at the end of Section 72(1),

“and (in relation thereto) to any views expressed by persons living in that area”.

I believe that making such an amendment would have a significant and beneficial impact on the content of planning officers’ reports, in that they would need to include a special section identifying clearly such views of local residents as have been expressed and, as the case may be, explaining why the officers’ views should be accepted, rather than those of local residents.

I also believe that such an amendment would have a significant and beneficial impact on the approach taken by planning committees, which would need to change from an instinctive desire to accept officers’ recommendations to a real determination to understand and respect the views of local residents. If the planning officers wish to substitute their own opinions on what is good for a conservation area, the amendment would require them to explain clearly and convincingly why they seek to do so and why views of local residents should not be respected.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist, objected to my amendment on the grounds that:

“It would mean the views of conservation area residents would have greater weight than those living outside the area, which we think would be unfair.”—[Official Report, 20/4/23; col.847.]

I strongly disagree that it would be. Nevertheless, I have recast the amendment for Report to avoid this objection by requiring special attention to be paid to

“any relevant guidance given by Historic England”,

instead of

“any views expressed by persons living in that area”.

I will also speak to Amendment 204. The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea used to insert a standard condition on planning approvals in conservation areas that any replacement of sliding sash windows fronting the street should be like-for-like. The owner of a house in Moore Street put an ugly, non-sliding sash window in a breach of planning conditions. The local residents association complained to the council and asked planning enforcement to get it removed. The local ward councillor, who was also the cabinet member for planning at the time, sent them an email saying, “I have just been to see the window. It is clearly inappropriate and will need to be replaced as soon as possible”. The enforcement officer then sent an email agreeing with the complaint, and an enforcement notice was duly served. The owner then told the council that his new window was in fact permitted development, so the enforcement notice was cancelled, and the enforcement officer sent a second email saying that the council had no control over its staff. The window remains.

My proposed solution is to amend class A.3(a) of Part 1 of Schedule 2 to the GPDO, which currently reads,

“the materials used in any exterior work (other than materials used in the construction of a conservatory) must be of a similar appearance to those used in the construction of the exterior of the existing dwellinghouse”.

My amendment would add the wording:

“and, in respect of a replacement window in a conservation area, the style and colour”.

The Minister responded:

“For windows specifically, under nationally set permitted development rights, homeowners are able to enlarge, improve or alter their homes, subject to certain conditions and limitations to minimise their impact. As an improvement, the permitted development regulations allow the installation of new doors and windows. We have no plans to further restrict the ability of people to replace windows in conservation areas”.

My rejoinder to this is: what is the logic of requiring similar materials but not similar style or colour? The Minister does not explain. When granting planning permission for replacement windows in conservation areas, local planning authorities frequently impose like-for-like conditions to preserve the character and appearance of the conservation area. I sympathise with making the replacement of windows in conservation areas permitted development, provided the replacement windows appear like for like. GPDO should be amended to reflect this.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bloomfield, opposed the amendment as premature to accept in advance of a current review of planning barriers that households can face when installing energy-efficient measures, including double glazing. I do not see that the amendment would cut across recommendations arising from the review. The noble Baronesses, Lady Hayman and Lady Pinnock, both made the point that like-for-like replacement windows of wood and glass can be very expensive. I agree, and this points to a defect in the current permitted development right, which is a requirement for similar materials. In a conservation area, it is the appearance that matters, so the requirement should be for a similar style and colour, rather than similar materials. These days it is possible to buy much cheaper replacement windows, made of composite material, which appear identical to the original, so why is this not permitted? However, the existing permitted development right is subject to a similar materials condition and applies to all exterior developments other than conservatories—that is, not just windows and in all areas, not just conservation areas. Therefore, I cannot recast the amendment to replace “materials” with “style and colour”, as I would like. So the amendment has been retabled for Report. I beg to move.

My Lords, I have two amendments in this group, which I tabled as new clauses in Committee. I am again very grateful to the Victorian Society for helping us do this. I am also extremely grateful to the Minister for the amendments he introduced this afternoon; they are very welcome and very overdue. With a very ancient hat on, I remember that some of the best times I had at English Heritage was unveiling plaques—I unveiled a plaque when Yoko Ono and John Lennon had lived in Notting Hill for just the right amount of time to get a blue plaque. I think that William Hewitt will be very pleased, as will the new chair—I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Mendoza, on his appointment.

The new clauses were the subject of a very sympathetic meeting we had with the Minister before the Recess. I was very grateful to him, so I shall not reiterate much of what I said. We just need to hear what he has to say this evening.

For the record, I want to point out the anomalies that the new clauses in these amendments address. The gap in the law is affecting people and places, which is why it needs to be closed. Quite simply, permitted development means that unlisted buildings as a whole and buildings which are on the local heritage list but outside the protection of a conservation area are outside the protection of planning law. They can be demolished without challenge and without local people being able to defend them. The Minister said in Committee that Article 4 directions offer a protection: in principle they do, but they are rarely used. The way in which planning departments have been stripped out means that this already onerous business is hardly ever used, because there are not the people there to do it.

Amendment 204A would bring the demolition of all buildings within the scope of planning law. Amendment 204B sets out a more limited case for bringing all buildings which are on the local heritage list but outside a conservation area within the scope of planning law. This is an anomaly because, essentially, nationally listed buildings already have this protection, but it does not apply to other buildings, including locally listed buildings, as I said, which are not in a conservation area. There are other anomalies in this situation; one has to seek planning permission, for example, to “significantly amend” a building but not to knock it down. A third anomaly is that a building can be demolished while a decision is being taken. I will come back to that shortly.

I do not apologise for trying to find a simpler way by which all non-designated heritage assets can be listed and protected; frankly, we are just too casual about demolition and about reference to the local community or the impact on the local setting or character, or the environment as a whole. I argued in Committee that it was better to repurpose and reuse good and useful buildings, however idiosyncratic, than to demolish them and to involve the local community in the planning process.

It is not an arcane argument. I am sure that at the top of the Minister’s mind at the moment is the furore over the Crooked House. That is how people feel about local buildings. The Crooked House was not nationally or locally listed, but the case has raised the game—it has raised a lot of precedents about how the planning system works. Clearly, local people thought that there should have been more protection and that they should have been involved—but they were not. It was on the local list, nor on the national list. There is no protection for buildings that are simply caught up in the necessary procedures; it was under consideration for listing, but that did not help the situation. So this is a case in point. Put bluntly, were Amendment 204A to be in force now, the Crooked House could not have been demolished, but, since it was not locally listed, neither was it helped by local designation.

As I said in Committee, demolition is the nuclear option; it is just ironic that it is the one with the least involvement of the local community. Bringing demolition of all non-designated assets into the planning frame would ensure people get their rightful say in what happens in their local area. It would not prevent demolition but, critically, it enables demolition to be discussed in the context of local and master planning, which is exactly where it should be. That is within the spirit of the Bill, which is all about local engagement and involvement and better planning processes.

My second argument in favour of the catch-all amendment concerns climate change and the waste of embedded energy in the buildings that we knock down. I think that that case has been reinforced in recent weeks; it is clear that the Government are retreating from some of their convictions about net zero. I should also say, in response to the Minister in Committee, that, although national planning policy does support a transition to low carbon, the problem is that the policies in the NPPF do not apply to permitted development.

Amendment 204B is a more restricted amendment. We know of local buildings that may be humble or vernacular or even not very prepossessing but are well loved because for local people they have memory, meaning and character. Sometimes these are bleak places.

The local heritage list is still very much a work in progress and is very patchy. Few of us know which buildings are on the local list or even if our local authority has one. That is something that the Minister might want to address today. A local list has the unique ability to reveal the biography of a place—the buildings with particular character and history that show economic and social evolution. These buildings, which are special to the community, can be demolished without planning permission if they are not in a conservation area. Many of our post-industrial towns would not be in conservation areas—they would not have any protection—and yet these buildings have profound attachment when it comes to the way people feel about them, whether they are libraries, doctors’ surgeries, community halls or cinemas. They make up the character of a place.

My second amendment is a modest proposition. It attempts to make rational what is irrational and partial at the moment. It would remove all locally listed assets from permitted development and bring them within the protections of the planning system.

Finally, I ask the Minister and his colleagues to consider the need for an independent and public review of the way in which permitted development as a whole is working. My knowledge and experience of it is that it is creating many more contested situations and perverse consequences than was intended. I understand that the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities may have an internal review taking place. Can the Minister tell me whether that is true and, if so, could we have a few more details? Or perhaps he and his colleagues would prefer to write to me.

I am very grateful for the close attention that the Minister has given these amendments, and I very much look forward to what he is going to say this evening.

My Lords, I rise briefly in support of my noble friend Lord Northbrook’s two amendments, which I have also signed. Before doing so, I congratulate the Minister on his Amendment 271A to extend the world-class and world-renowned blue plaque scheme to the whole of England. Let us hope that Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales will be able to do the same under their legislation. It is a superb move and is long overdue.

As my noble friend pointed out on Amendment 203, under the 1990 planning Act, local planning authorities must pay special attention to the desirability of preserving the character and appearance of an area. Unfortunately, although there are some outstanding examples of planning authorities that follow those guidelines very carefully, practice across the country overall is intermittent to say the least.

For example, in King’s Lynn in my former constituency of North West Norfolk, the local planning authority has done a superb job in maintaining the Georgian fabric of the town. I think the Minister has been to King’s Lynn, so he would have seen the historic heart of that town and how the planners have worked tirelessly to preserve the character of the town centre. They are to be applauded, but there are other examples from around the country where, as my noble friend pointed out, adherence to this important legislation is a mixed picture.

I reinforce what my noble friend said about Historic England, because I am a great supporter of it. I join in the congratulations to my noble friend Lord Mendoza on being appointed to his new role, and I pay tribute to the work done by Sir Laurie Magnus, who did an excellent job over a number of years.

I looked at the governing statute of Historic England, which goes back to one of the first Bills I was involved with in the other place, in 1983—the National Heritage Act. I looked at that legislation again and one of its main statutory tasks is to protect the historic environment by preserving, and then listing, historic buildings, but another of the tasks in that legislation is to liaise with local government. Local government should listen to Historic England.

I urge the Minister to look at this amendment which, as my noble friend pointed out, is a slight adjustment to the original amendment that was put down but is all the better for it. I hope that the Minister, in light of the recent attention that was paid to the positive work done by Historic England and the help it gave on the blue plaque scheme, for example, will look at this amendment positively and support it.

The key thing with the other amendment, as far as windows are concerned, is not to focus too much on similar materials but, as my noble friend pointed out, a similar style and colour. Again as he pointed out, there are examples—I have seen plenty in my old constituency—of where new windows have been put in listed buildings using composite materials, but you would have to be an out-and-out expert to tell the difference. I support my noble friend’s amendments and very much hope that the Minister accepts them.

My Lords, I will speak to three amendments in my name—Amendments 261, 262 and 263. These are probing amendments, on which I hope the Minister can give some clarification, as this is very much a Pepper v Hart moment, where ambiguity over wording in the Bill could cause some problems.

Historic environment record services are vital not only in not protecting our historic environment records but for developers, because an understanding, at an early stage, of issues around the historic environment reduces the cost of development.

Amendment 261 is a probing amendment to establish whether the Government’s interpretation of “maintain” adequately covers existing provision of HER services, which are shared between multiple authorities or outsourced to third parties. We have heard concerns from various HER services that they would need to change the way they currently deliver services as a result of this clause. We are confident that that is not the Government’s intention. An example is that Greater London’s HER is maintained by Historic England on behalf of all London boroughs; the Government would need to confirm that this service model is acceptable in order to reduce the risk that the Bill destabilises otherwise good provision. We would like the Government to confirm that their intent is for all models of service provision, including those where HER services are shared with other authorities or bought in from third parties, to be deemed to meet their obligations to “maintain” an HER.

Amendment 262 makes provision for a dispute resolution procedure should disagreement arise over competing interests from authorities. This is particularly important at the moment because, while HER services have to be supplied, local authorities are making cuts wherever they can. This could lead to confusion around the definition of a responsible authority. Dispute resolution may therefore be needed to resolve, for example, city council X cutting funds to its HER service and making the argument that county council Y is the responsible authority and should pick up the shortfall. Such situations may occur in the future if there is a shortage of money. We would like the Minister to confirm that the Government intend to set out, in guidance, processes to deal with any situation that may arise between authorities—for example, competing claims over which is the responsible authority.

Amendment 263 expands the definition of “relevant authorities” to include district councils, where no other authority provides an HER service. At present, there are at least seven lower-tier authorities—for example, Oxford City Council, Colchester City Council and City of Lincoln Council. Under the current definition of “relevant authority”, the county authority would appear to be subject to the responsibilities in this clause, despite not currently or historically delivering services in these areas. This could cause a breakdown in existing provisions or lead to disputes over who should deliver or pay for these services. I hope the Minister will confirm that the Bill’s intention is to include lower-tier authorities within the definition of “relevant authority”.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his Amendments 202A and 202B, which were partly a response to my comments in Committee. I am particularly grateful that he and his team have listened to the concerns that I expressed, not least those made by the CLA and the Historic Houses Association. I pay tribute to those two organisations for their quiet persistence. I certainly appreciated the opportunity to discuss this with the Minister and his officials.

I declare that I am a member of the CLA and was once a member of its heritage working group. I also own several listed buildings. I am glad to say that I have never been in receipt of a building preservation notice, which is the subject of these amendments, but I have had long professional involvement with heritage matters. I am particularly grateful for the support of colleagues in this House and others outside.

Clause 99 removes one of the few safeguards available to property owners faced with a building preservation notice, where the issue of the notice has been found to be ill-founded and, as a result, the owner suffers loss. It is easy to see how works in course of execution, whether groundworks internally or works to the roof, could be critically compromised, and the building with it, by the immediate and complete cessation of works that a building preservation notice demands, potentially for many months. If the notice is not well-founded, the owner can suffer serious and gratuitous loss.

Here I observe that local authorities often do not have in-house heritage expertise. It is often subcontracted to external contractors, who may provide so many days a month. That underlines why these amendments are so important, as the local authority would have to go to Historic England or to the commission to make sure that it was taking the correct approach.

Were it not for the fact that, to date, the existing listing of buildings under Historic England and DCMS oversight and the operation of the building preservation notice regime have functioned pretty well and achieved a good deal of confidence, this situation would be of significant concern. I am particularly glad that the Minister has made it clear that this should be in the Bill as a further safeguard. But the safeguards, such as they are, will now rest extremely heavily on this procedure, because the one other safeguard that would normally be present—compensation for a misconceived notice—is no longer there.

This whole arrangement, to some extent, defies the normal rules-based approach of our western culture, namely that a person shall have a right to the reasonable enjoyment of their property and shall not be deprived of that by the state without good reason, and then only subject to a right to challenge, access to an impartial adjudication process and compensation for the loss, where this rises out of the exercise of the administrative power. These are all embedded in human rights legislation.

Let me make it clear: listing on its own is fine. Creating this situation in which there could be serious consequential disruption, without compensation and without any recourse, is certainly not. Without some safeguards, the uncontrolled, arbitrary and potentially oppressive exercise of non-recourse powers beckons, with all the mistrust that that involves. Should the new arrangements not work as well as in the past—I certainly hope they will—it is on the cards that the courts will become involved, and then we will be back to square one. A great deal depends on collaboration, trust in the process and a deft hand being played by those wielding administrative powers.

It is axiomatic that the person with probably the greatest knowledge of the heritage value of a property may be the owner, who self-evidently cannot be consulted, for fear of tipping them off that a building preservation notice may be in prospect. This is a paradox we have to live with. We will need clear and consistently applied protocols, avoiding the temptation to rely on some spurious tip-off from a malicious third-party source, as well as a process for ensuring that the building subject to a notice is not thereby frozen in a vulnerable state or unsafe condition.

I understand that there was no external consultation with stakeholders on the measures first brought in by the Bill. But, going forward, I am particularly pleased by the Minister’s confirmation about guidance being brought forward, and I hope he will be able to reassure me that not only local authorities but organisations such as the CLA and the HHA will be part of that consultation process. We need to minimise avoidable risks to buildings themselves and the interruption of affected owners’ commitments. We have avoided this in the past, for the most part, and I hope we continue to do so.

I had considerable sympathy with the points by the noble Lord, Lord Northbrook. I have been appalled at some of the quite unconscionable alterations that have been carried out to buildings, often in conservation areas, where you cannot believe that somebody could have thought it appropriate, or indeed that it did anything other than degrade the whole area by putting in singularly unmatching materials. Some of these are done by bodies that should know better; I can think of a parish council or two that have done things to village halls that, frankly, destroyed a great deal of the ambience and appearance of the building.

With regard to materials for windows, the quality, for instance, of softwood, which might have customarily been used in Victorian times, is now nowhere near what it should be. You are on a rotational treadmill of having to replace things that rot prematurely. Why not use modern materials? I certainly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Bellingham, that with some of these you have to be an expert to know the difference in what you are looking at.

My final point relates to Amendment 204A; I will put in just a little word of warning here. I absolutely understand the point that is being made here: demolitions can and do create an awful degree of blight and are a loss to the community. But planning, as far as I know, applies technically, subject to certain derogations, to any building, structure or engineering works, many of which are there by virtue of permitted development or may be small or transient in nature. I do not want to have absolutely everything caught; there would have to be at least some sieving process. One thinks of commonly used utilitarian buildings in farmyards; farms generally do not fall within planning. I would not want a farm to suddenly have to go through hoops in order to knock down some scruffy 1960s hoop-frame barn and replace it with a tidier-looking portal-frame structure of more use and value. One just needs to be very careful about that.

There is a lot of good in this group of amendments, and I am very glad that we have been able to discuss them this evening.

My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, has made a very important point about Amendment 204A, which I will speak to, as well as Amendment 204B tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews. I spoke on those amendments in Committee, and wish to do so again. The point that the noble Earl made is important because Amendment 204A calls for a public consultation. I think there would need to be one, given the potential scale and scope. I think that point has been taken; there have been discussions as to whether you might take 1948 as the date. It could be that you take a much earlier one, in the Victorian or pre-Edwardian period; you might wish to consider that. There needs to be a debate about that very issue, so I take the noble Earl’s point.

Nevertheless, I strongly support the principle behind Amendment 204A and the detail of Amendment 204B, as I did in Committee. It is particularly important now because of the huge public interest in the way that demolition is permitted development, enabling buildings of local historical value to be knocked down. The example of the Crooked House pub has really energised public opinion, and I very much hope that we hear something from the Minister that would be helpful in preventing that sort of situation arising. That would lie in Amendment 204B, because it would

“remove permitted development rights relating to the demolition of a heritage asset which has been placed on a local planning authority’s local list of assets which have special local heritage interest”.

It is clear to me that, in the case of the Crooked House, that would apply, but of course it would have to be placed on the local list.

I am grateful to the Minister for the meeting we had just before we went into recess, when we discovered that quite a lot of local planning authorities do not have local lists. Of course, you need to have a local list if you are to use it. One of my motives now in supporting Amendment 204B is that it may encourage many more to have local lists because, as the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, said, not everything that you want to protect will be nationally listed. It is not like that, and yet many buildings have strong local support.

This is a way forward that would not be a bureaucratic scheme but would give local control. It could be led by civic society; it would not have to be done by the planning departments. The authorisations and so on with committee approval would have to be done by them, but you could use voluntary organisations to do a lot of the work in identifying the buildings that should be protected.

The point here is that we have a dysfunctional system. The noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, said that we have a gap in the law. We do. The current system is dysfunctional, and I think the general public have now acknowledged that fact. I hope the Minister is going to take advantage of the huge opportunity that he has now been given and that, when he replies to the House, we will hear something hopeful.

My Lords, I add my support, as I did in Committee, to Amendment 204A by the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, and, with a little more reluctance, to Amendment 204B, which is a compromise that is better than nothing but not as good as the original amendment.

We discussed this amendment considerably in Committee. I spoke on it then and do not intend to repeat what I said. However, it is important to remember that what we are talking about are not buildings and structures that are listed or currently protected but those that fall outside the normal protection system, though they nevertheless have streetscape value and are important, given their location and interaction with the buildings that surround them. They are also buildings that people feel emotionally attached to and which have a historic significance in the local community.

Why are those buildings under threat? Because if you are a developer and you buy a property that is going to be more valuable if you can rebuild it, the first thing you will do is to knock it down. You then have a vacant site—ideally, from the developer’s point of view, in an eyesore location—and you can then go to the planning department of a local authority and say, “I want to build this building that you do not like but which would replace an eyesore that I have created. Give me my planning permission, please”. Sadly, that happens all too often.

The noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, mentioned the Crooked House pub in the Black Country. Curiously enough, I know the Black Country rather well. That type of building is very common in the Black Country—there are a lot of them that look like that. A lot of those have been destroyed, but they have a local community value for the very closely structured communities in the Black Country that have been there for several hundred years.

As I understand it, the Crooked House pub was up for listing. It is quite clear that, if you are a developer and you buy a building that is up for listing, you are likely to get it cheaper than if it were not up for listing, because other potential purchasers will look at it and say, “I won’t be able to do what I want to do to maximise its economic value if it’s listed”. So you as a rogue developer buy the property; then, under permitted development, you knock it down so it cannot be listed. You have bought it cheap so, when you redevelop it, your profits are that much bigger. The current system actually encourages you to behave in an outrageous manner. That is the problem.

Do not get me wrong. We are not talking just about rogue developers or people who have tried to make a fast buck; often, we are talking about people who do not understand better. However, we are also talking about people who do. Noble Lords may have seen reports of a church, St John’s, in Werneth, in Greater Manchester, which was knocked down by Oldham Council earlier this year. It was a church from 1844, by a known architect, Edwin Shellard. It was a rather fine building, although it was perhaps not listable, and it was certainly a redundant church. Oldham Council decided that perhaps it might be vandalised and that it would be responsible if people went into the church and hurt themselves. Rather than repurpose the building by converting it into flats, or at least keeping its community value, the council saw to it that a building that had been there since the middle of the 19th century was bulldozed overnight with no need for permission, consideration or consultation.

In case noble Lords think I am picking out examples that are unique, there was another church, St Anne’s, in Hastings. This was a completely different case. It was a redundant church that was built in the 1950s, and so the suggested cut-off date in the amendment of 1948 would not apply. This fine church, which had also been designed by very highly respected architects, the firm of Denman and Son, was bulldozed with no need for planning consent or consideration. It was lost to the community, when it could perfectly well have been repurposed.

We need change. I am not talking—and I do not think anyone is—about stopping buildings that should be knocked down being knocked down, such as farm buildings. What we are asking for, and what the amendment tries to do, is to make sure that, before a building is destroyed, someone has given it some thought and decided whether it should be destroyed. This could be done through the planning process or in any number of different ways, but it should not be up to one person, driven by economic benefit to themselves, to take the decision to destroy something that has a value in a community. That is what we are asking for: a decision should be taken, rather than there being no decision and letting chaos reign.

My Lords, I declare my interests as set out in the register as the new chairman of Historic England and as provost of Oriel College, Oxford, which is in the middle of applying for enormous amounts of planning permission and listed building consent to do a great deal of work. I thank noble Lords for their good wishes, particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, as a former chair of the commission when it was known as English Heritage.

I did not speak in Committee so I will keep my remarks brief. On Amendment 202A, building preservation notices are used relatively sparingly, as I understand it, but they are a powerful tool to protect against damage and destruction of local heritage, particularly when the building itself could be listed. They are almost like an immediate but temporary listing in order to give the local planning authority some time to sort it out.

I hope that the addition of this clause will allow local planning authorities to continue to consult Historic England so that this tool will not be used vexatiously or overzealously but will be used where it is absolutely necessary. I am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, for pointing that out. Dialogue with local planning authorities is something that Historic England does a great deal of.

In terms of the amendment that my noble friends Lord Northbrook and Lord Bellingham spoke about, there is already a great deal of engagement between Historic England and local planning authorities. They already pay a lot of attention to the advice that Historic England publishes. However, my understanding from much of this debate is that there is even more that we can do. I am very happy for Historic England to work with officials at the department to ensure that we can do more to help local planning authorities make the right decisions and be acquainted with all the published advice that they need to be aware of.

On a happier note, the Minister’s amendment to allow the blue plaque scheme to be extended throughout England is a wonderful and very simple amendment. I hope that it goes through. It is a fantastic scheme run excellently, so far, by English Heritage, as the Minister said, for 150 years. As he said, there are plenty of other schemes around the country from place to place, but they are not consistent. So, would it not be wonderful if we had a consistent scheme, judged by the same criteria, allowing members of the public to nominate people they care about in the places that they love to allow deeper involvement in the heritage and history of our country? I think that from 2024 people will be able to nominate in their areas to encourage a greater connection to place, which we know is so important. It has been described here. The “Crooked House” is a fantastic example of a building that was not listed—it was being considered for listing—but meant so much to so many. That is not unusual. People really care about the heritage of their places.

I will briefly pay tribute to Sir Laurie Magnus, who chaired Historic England for a decade, going beyond his allotted two terms because of Covid. He chaired the organisation in an exemplary fashion, with his customary passion, verve, brio, courteousness and deep care and attention to the heritage of England. I know we are all very grateful to Sir Laurie. He has obviously now gone on to much more glamorous things as the Prime Minister’s Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interests. Of course, we wish him well with that very serious task. I thank noble Lords, and I will now sit down and be quiet.

My Lords, I will briefly comment on two of the amendments. First, the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, introduced Amendment 204A so powerfully. I share others’ strong preference for this amendment, rather than the weaker Amendment 204B.

I want to emphasise the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, about embodied carbon. These structures that were built in the past are there for us. Knocking them down and building something again has environmental costs, which we have to start to take seriously. Along that line, I want to pick up a phrase used by the noble Earl, Lord Lytton. He spoke about how we might want to knock things down and replace them with tidier looking buildings. I ask your Lordships’ House to think very carefully about the word “tidy” because heritage and history is seldom tidy, just as nature is not tidy. Straight lines and very even frameworks—the idea that tidiness is a virtue—has done enormous amounts of damage. It is something we really need to challenge. With a lack of tidiness, there may well be character, diversity and reality rather than something new and artificial.

My second point is to commend government Amendment 271A on the extension of blue plaques. I take this opportunity to invite the Minister to comment from the Dispatch Box and reflect on the fact that currently in Greater London only 14% of blue plaques commemorate the lives and contributions of women. I looked into this to see whether I could get a plaque for Moll Cutpurse or Bathsua Makin. Unfortunately, the buildings with which they were associated do not survive. However, will the Minister take this opportunity from the Dispatch Box to reflect on the need to ensure the encouragement of women and greater diversity in the lives which are commemorated?

My Lords, I will very briefly add to the salutations rightly directed at my noble friend Lord Parkinson for his important amendment extending the blue plaque scheme. One moment my noble friend is expounding issues related to online safety, and a little while later he brings forward a major heritage measure, which I think will have given him great personal pleasure because of his considerable interest in matters related to history.

The extension of the scheme will surely stimulate added interest on a considerable scale in localities throughout our country and extend knowledge of individuals who contributed within those localities and, in many cases, at national level too. The scheme will not be appropriate in every single case. For example, in Birmingham there is a fine memorial to Joseph Chamberlain. The noble Lord, Lord Shipley, will know it, as will the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, with whose remarks on the preservation of buildings I agree strongly.

On the Joseph Chamberlain memorial, there is a suitably inscribed plaque recording his important work. The city council has agreed in principle to a proposal from the noble Baroness, Lady Stuart of Edgbaston, and me to add plaques to Joseph Chamberlain’s two sons, Austen and Neville, who contributed greatly to the life of Birmingham and, of course, at national level. In Neville’s case, rather controversially, but he was above all the greatest social reformer the Conservative Party has ever produced. It would be right to ensure, as I think we will, that the new plaques blend in satisfactorily with the existing one. However, I think that in most cases, the blue plaques shining forth in their localities will do so much to stimulate historical interest throughout our country. For that, I salute my noble friend.

My Lords, I added my name to Amendment 271A in the name of the Minister and thank him for the meeting we had to discuss it. My Liberal Democrat colleague, Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, promoted the change in his work as chair of the LGA’s culture, tourism and sport board. I am glad the Minister recognised the role he played in bringing this amendment to the Floor of the House. This is a really good move, which is welcomed across the House, adopting the extension of the blue plaque scheme to areas outside London and to those of us who live outside London. I did not realise that they did not happen outside London because of the local schemes that have been in place. My understanding is that those local schemes can continue; there is no conflict with the extension of the current blue plaque scheme.

The noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, and my noble friend Lord Shipley have made a strong case for Amendment 204A. I hope that the Minister will accept the amendments in the name of the noble Baroness because, if nothing else, she has raised the issue throughout the passage of the Bill and, during the passage of the Bill, we have had an excellent example that highlights the reason why she has so strongly promoted these changes.

I have some considerable reservations about Amendment 202A. As it has been brought in by the Government at this rather late stage, perhaps the Minister may be able to answer my worries in a bit of detail. On building preservation notices, Historic England says on its website:

“Local planning authorities are encouraged to use BPNs to protect important buildings of value to society from being irretrievably lost or damaged without the authority first being able to consider its merits and any proposals for development”.

Building preservation notices are used sparingly by local authorities, as was said earlier in this debate. They do so only when a building of value is at risk.

Having to consult Historic England prior to serving the notice, which is what I think the amendment indicates, would surely give a developer the opportunity, as was described by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington of Fulham, to damage that building irretrievably in the space between a local authority being concerned that work was being done to damage it—the only reason it would issue a BPN—and consulting Historic England. There will be a time gap, so what can be done to ensure that the required consultation does not prevent a local authority protecting that building for the local community? It was not clear to me exactly what the Minister is proposing in his amendment, so I hope that he will not mind giving us a full explanation of how it will work.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Northbrook, for bringing his amendment, as I did in Committee, on the replacement of windows in listed buildings and in conservation areas. He knows that I agree with what he has said. There is a manufacturer of replacement window frames for historic and listed buildings, not far from this House. I have been to see them and, even getting close up in person to those window frames, I cannot tell the difference. They can be replaced looking like for like.

I look forward to the Minister’s response to the probing amendments in the name of my noble friend Lord Redesdale. I thank everybody across the House for an informative and thoughtful debate on matters of great importance to local heritage.

I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this very interesting debate. I start by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay, for his introduction and for the amendments that he introduced. It was good to see that we have the negative procedure being applied in some areas. As others have done, I too welcome the rollout of the blue plaques, but I also support the comments regarding women and diversity. I am sure that he will take those away.

My noble friend Lady Andrews, as always, introduced her important amendments eloquently and clearly. I will not go into detail but want to let the House know that we fully agree with and support her amendments and the arguments that she put forward urging the Government to accept what she believes is absolutely the right way to move forward on this. I thank the Victorian Society for its very helpful briefing on this. I absolutely agree with my noble friend that one big concern that has come across in the debate, particularly regarding the Crooked House, of course, is that we have been too casual about demolition in our society. The Crooked House demolition raised very highly up the agenda the public’s concerns when something like that happens in their local community. As the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, said, it appeared that the building was about to be listed, so it is quite shocking that it was able to happen. We need to ensure in future that buildings of such importance to localities cannot just be demolished like that.

We heard during earlier discussions on the Bill about the release of carbon when buildings are demolished. The noble Lord, Lord Ravensdale, had an amendment on this and it was mentioned by my noble friend and by the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle. Again, that now needs to be part of the discussions. Also, I really agree with the noble Baroness’s comments on tidiness. We are too concerned about tidiness and that has impacts on all sorts of areas and our environment.

My noble friend also had an amendment around the importance of the local list that communities now have of buildings that are important to those local communities. We should all applaud my noble friend Lady Taylor, because I understand that she has set up such a list. But the concerns are how little weight that then has in planning and how little understanding there is of it, so my noble friend’s amendment is important in this aspect.

The noble Lord, Lord Northbrook, introduced his amendments, which are similar to those he had in Committee, so I will not go into detail. However, he raised concerns about the approval of inappropriate developments and the importance of what local residents feel about them. That should be taken proper account of and, again, we would very much support him in that. We believe that local residents should be listened to and that there should be proper consultation.

On replacement windows in conservation areas, it is really important that we have a sensible and practical approach to this. I know that we talked about like for like and heard that other materials can be used, but that is not always the way things are interpreted, unfortunately. There is a house near to me where the windows are going to fall out because like for like insists on hardwood, and the residents cannot afford it. There needs to be more flexibility and practicality. Also, in the conservation area in Cockermouth after the flooding, households were told that they were not allowed to put in flood doors, which seems a ridiculous situation for us to be in.

In my last two comments, I thought the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, made some very good points on his amendments, particularly regarding dispute resolution, environmental record services and archives. The noble Earl, Lord Lytton, as always, made some very important points. He has enormous knowledge and practical expertise in this area.

This debate has shown that there are serious concerns about heritage and conservation, areas that could move forward quite sensibly and practically with government support. I look forward to the Minister’s response.

I am grateful, first, to all those noble Lords who expressed their support for the amendment relating to the extension of the blue plaque scheme. I am glad to see that it has had support from across the House, as it did from the cross-party Local Government Association, so I am grateful to all those who mentioned it in their contributions now.

My noble friend Lord Lexden was particularly kind. He was right to point out that one of the motivations here is to increase people’s curiosity and knowledge about the past, including untold or surprising stories. I am glad to hear of the progress that he and the noble Baroness, Lady Stuart of Edgbaston, are making with their campaigns for plaques—not blue ones, but important ones—in Birmingham to the two sons of that city and of Joseph Chamberlain, who is already commemorated. My noble friend is right that they are people of international and national significance, as well as of great local pride. I look forward to seeing those plaques added to the Chamberlain memorial.

I am also grateful for what my noble friend Lord Mendoza said about the importance of the blue plaques scheme in increasing people’s connection to and sense of pride in place. That is a very important aspect of the scheme.

The noble Baronesses, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle and Lady Hayman of Ullock, are right to point to the need for a greater diversity of stories. That is something that English Heritage has been focusing on in recent years. For instance, of the plaques that have been unveiled since 2016, more than half have been to women. The noble Baroness is right that there is a job of work to do to ensure that we are telling more untold stories of women, working-class people, people of colour, people of minority sexualities and so much more. I hope one of the benefits of extending the scheme across all of England will be being able to draw on the greater diversity of the country in telling those stories, which are always so interesting and important.

The noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, asked some questions on blue plaques. Yes, local schemes—which, as I say, have operated for many years in parallel—will be able to do so. In fact, a number of London boroughs organise their own schemes on top of the blue plaques scheme which has operated in the capital—so the more the merrier, I say.

I was remiss in not thanking the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, in my opening speech in relation to the amendment when I thanked the Historic Houses association, with which I know he has been in touch. I am grateful to him for the time and attention he has given this and for the discussions we have had on that amendment.

The noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, rightly asked a few more questions on BPNs. Our original proposal was without this further amendment recognising the need for speed in these instances. I reassure her that Historic England is adept at dealing with these and other listing and heritage matters quickly when the situation needs, and there is an expedited process for listing when something is believed to be at risk. One of the advantages of having Historic England’s chairman in your Lordships’ House is that my noble friend Lord Mendoza will have heard those points and be able to reflect them back to Historic England, which already works quickly. That point will be carefully considered in the production of the necessary guidance. I hope that addresses her concerns on BPNs.

I turn now to the amendments in this group tabled by other noble Lords. I am very grateful to my noble friend Lord Northbrook for tabling Amendment 203 and for the correspondence we have had on this issue this week. His amendment seeks to require that, in meeting their statutory duty under Section 72, local planning authorities should have regard to any relevant advice produced by Historic England. I agree that this should be the case, but it is already something that local planning authorities do, and the Government’s planning practice guidance points them to Historic England’s advice.

My noble friend Lord Bellingham is right to remind us that Historic England has a duty to liaise with local authorities, and I hope he will be reassured by what our noble friend Lord Mendoza said about the frequency with which it does that. When our guidance is next reviewed, I am happy to ask officials to consider whether the links to Historic England’s advice could be strengthened. I hope that, with that assurance, my noble friend Lord Northbrook will be content not to press his Amendment 203.

Amendment 204, also in my noble friend’s name, relates to replacement windows in conservation areas. An existing permitted development right allows for enlargement, improvement or other alteration to a dwelling-house. That is subject to a condition that the materials used in any exterior work—other than those used in the construction of a conservatory—must be of a similar appearance to those used in the construction of the exterior of the existing dwelling-house. That applies to replacement windows in conservation areas. The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, in his housing speech in July, launched a consultation which included a proposal to apply local design codes to permitted development rights. He also announced that the Government will consult this autumn on how to better support existing homeowners to extend their homes. On top of that, the Government are undertaking a review of the practical planning barriers which house- holders can face when installing energy-efficiency measures.

Although I am grateful to my noble friend for raising this issue, I hope he will understand that it would be premature to accept his Amendment 204, as it would curtail the scope of any legislative recommendations that the review might set out in due course. Additionally, powers to amend permitted development rights already exist in primary legislation. For these reasons I cannot support Amendment 204 but am happy to reassure my noble friend that we keep permitted development rights under review.

I turn now to Amendments 204A and 204B, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews. I am grateful to her, the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, and my noble friend Lord Carrington of Fulham for their time discussing these issues just before the Summer Recess. Amendments 204A and 204B would mean that works to demolish affected buildings would require a planning application. The noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, were right to raise the issue of the Crooked House pub, which has underlined the importance of local heritage to communities. I hope they will understand that, with the active police investigation into the fire, I cannot comment extensively. However, I know how loved and admired the building was, not just in the Black Country but more widely, and what a powerful reminder it is of the importance of our built heritage to local communities.

I can reassure noble Lords more broadly that the Government recognise the importance of local pubs, especially historic ones. That is why pubs are specifically excluded from the permitted development right which grants planning permission for the demolition of most other buildings in England. That means that an application for planning permission for their demolition must be submitted in advance to the relevant local planning authority for consideration.

More broadly, the Government recognise the need to protect historic buildings and other assets which are so valued by local people. We intend therefore to consult on options for changes to this permitted development right to ensure that local planning authorities have the opportunity fully to consider the impacts on the historic environment, and we will make further announcements on this shortly.

I hope the noble Baroness will be pleased to hear that we will seek views on two options that she raised in Committee and in our discussions before the summer: an exemption from the right for buildings built before 1948 or an exemption for buildings which are locally listed, meaning that local planning authorities would need to consider the specific circumstances of each case. I stress that it is a consultation, and so I cannot pre-empt the conclusions we might draw from the views put forward, but I hope she will be reassured that we are looking keenly at the issue that she and other noble Lords have raised in their amendments. With that, I hope she will not press her amendments today.

The amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, relate to Clause 220, which introduces a new statutory requirement for all local authorities to maintain a historic environment record. These records are important sources of information for plan-makers and applicants, as well as being a source of information for the public and other government bodies. The Government’s intention is that the variety of ways in which local authorities currently make provision for historic environment records will continue as now. Existing local government legislation allows local authorities to arrange for the discharge of their functions by other authorities. This means that they can share or outsource their services, including the provision of historic environment records.

The measure will need to be implemented by local authorities to ensure that an up-to-date historic environment record is maintained for their area, allowing public access to help increase understanding of the historic environment. It will also ensure a consistent and quality standard of digital records is maintained to assist plan-making and decision-taking. This should be supplied at the upper tier by the county councils or, where there is no county council, by the district.

Amendments 261 and 263 seek to ensure that the different arrangements that currently exist for providing historic environment records can continue in the future. I assure the noble Lord that that is absolutely the Government’s intention. We believe that Clause 220 as currently drafted achieves this.

The noble Lord’s Amendment 262 seeks to make provision for a dispute resolution process. With the provision of historic environment records, there will already have been discussion and agreement between local authorities about the coverage and responsibilities. This established approach is likely to continue, and our guidance will help to minimise the scope for any disagreements.

I hope that, with those reassurances, the noble Lord will be happy to leave his amendments as probing ones. With gratitude to the noble Lords for their support for the government amendments in this group, I commend them to the House.

I thank the noble Lord for what he has just said. It is an important step forward to get a consultation on the two propositions and the two sets of dates that might apply with Amendment 204A. That is very important and very good news, and I am very grateful. Can the noble Lord say anything about the timetable? I presume that he is talking about the normal 12-week public consultation period. Is there anything we can pass on to the community about preparation for such a consultation? Could the Minister write to me about whether there is a consultation within DLUHC on permitted development as a whole? It would be very useful to have that information.

I will happily write to the noble Baroness with the information she seeks, including confirmation of the timelines for the consultation, which I expect will meet the normal provisions. I am afraid I cannot give her a date, but we will do it shortly—if I am able to give any greater finesse to her in writing, I will do so gladly.

Amendment 202A agreed.

Amendment 202B

Moved by

202B: Clause 99, page 109, line 2, leave out “of the Listed Buildings Act”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on the amendment made to line 1 of Clause 99 in the Minister’s name.

Amendment 202B agreed.

Amendment 203

Tabled by

203: After Clause 99, insert the following new Clause—

“Conservation areas: guidance from Historic EnglandIn the Listed Buildings Act, at the end of section 72(1) insert “and (in relation thereto) to any relevant guidance given by Historic England”.”

My Lords, I am grateful to noble Lords who contributed to the debate on my amendments, particularly my noble friend Lord Bellingham and the noble Earl, Lord Lytton. I am also grateful for the general support from the Labour and Lib Dem Front Benches. I listened very carefully to the Minister and was very encouraged by the fact that local planning authorities should have regard to relevant Historic England advice, and that the Government’s planning practice guidance points them to this. I am especially pleased that, when the guidance is next reviewed, my noble friend Lord Parkinson will be happy to ask officials to consider whether links to Historic England’s advice could be strengthened. On that basis I am happy not to move my amendment.

Amendment 203 not moved.

Amendment 204

Tabled by

204: After Clause 99, insert the following new Clause—

“Permitted development: replacement windows in conservation areasIn the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 (S.I. 2015/596), Schedule 2, Part 1, Class A.3(a), after “conservatory)” insert “and, in respect of a replacement window in a conservation area, the style and colour”.”

My Lords, again, I listened very carefully to the Minister’s reply. Particularly important was what he said about the Secretary of State for Levelling Up’s housing speech on 24 July that launched this consultation, which includes the proposal to apply local design codes to permitted development rights. I also note that the Government will consult this autumn on how better to support existing homeowners to extend their homes, and the promise to keep permitted development rights under regular review. On that basis, I will not move my amendment.

Amendment 204 not moved.

Amendments 204A and 204B not moved.

Clause 100: Street votes

Amendment 205

Moved by

205: Clause 100, page 111, line 5, at the end insert—

“(g) such other area as may be specified or described in regulations made by the Secretary of State.”Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment confers a regulation-making power on the Secretary of State to specify or describe other areas to be excluded from the remit of street vote development orders.

My Lords, I beg to move Amendment 205 and will speak to the seven other government amendments in this group. In doing so, I thank your Lordships’ Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee for its scrutiny of the Bill, which has informed these amendments in my noble friend’s name.

Amendments 205 and 206 will replace the Henry VIII power to add to, remove from or amend the list of excluded areas under new Section 61QC with a power to specify or describe additional excluded areas in regulations. Amendments 207 and 208 will replace the Henry VIII power to add to, remove from or amend the list of excluded development under new Section 61QH with a power to specify or describe in regulations additional excluded development. Amendment 211 removes the power to make regulations excluding the application of Schedule 7A to the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 in relation to planning permission granted by a street vote development order. This power will permit modification only of the application of statutory biodiversity net gain requirements. These amendments address specific recommendations made in the report of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee.

In addition, to address the general points made by the committee, Amendments 209 and 210 will also remove the remaining Henry VIII power in new Section 61QI to add to, amend or remove requirements from the list of requirements that planning conditions requiring a Section 106 obligation must meet, with a power to prescribe additional requirements in regulations. Amendment 213 specifies that the three new regulation-making powers replacing the Henry VIII powers will be subject to the affirmative procedure.

I hope these amendments demonstrate the seriousness with which the Government take the question of appropriate delegation and the recommendations of your Lordships’ Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. I commend them to the House.

My Lords, I will speak to Amendments 212 and 214 to 216 in my name. Earlier today, I spoke on what I regard as the most important clause in the Bill, and I will now speak briefly on what I regard as the least important clause, which is perhaps why there was a mass exodus before we reached this group.

We return now to the subject of street votes, on which I expressed my views forcefully in Committee. The ensuing debate on my amendments exhibited little enthusiasm for this policy—indeed, there was a large degree of suspicion and scepticism from those who spoke, all of whom had a background in local government, which would have to operate the policy.

I think it would be fair to say that a number of key questions remained unanswered, as the policy was clearly work in progress. For example, neither in the debate nor in the letter that my noble friend subsequently wrote was he able to say what a “street” was, what the policy might cost or who would pay. It turned out that a short-term tenant in a property would have a vote, but the owner would not. A street vote could overturn a recently adopted neighbourhood plan or district plan, and there would be no requirement for affordable housing. Many questions were answered with the reply that this was a matter for consultation.

My noble friend Lord Howe shipped a fair amount of water when he wound up the debate on 20 April. He wrote to me after the debate on 10 July and, although I would never accuse my noble friend of insincerity, when he ended his letter by saying that he “looked forward” to considering this measure further with me as we moved to the next stage of the Bill, he may have had his tongue in his cheek.

In a nutshell, the policy of allowing street votes to determine planning applications was shoehorned into the Bill at a late stage: on Report in the other place. It was fast-tracked from the bubbling vat of a think tank into primary legislation, with no Green Paper and no consultation with the LGA, the TCPA or the public. On the way, it displaced the placeholder in the Bill for the abolition of the Vagrancy Act, which, by contrast, had been extensively consulted on and had all-party approval.

Not only is the policy heroically unready for legislation, but it sits uneasily with the thrust of the Bill, which is to inject certainty into the planning process. The LGA has opposed it and it was panned by the DPRR committee, which wanted whole sections of the clause removed—which has not happened, although I welcome the changes that my noble friend has announced.

I was confused by the explanatory notes to government Amendments 205 and 206, which seem to contradict each other. Amendment 205

“confers a regulation-making power on the Secretary of State to specify or describe other areas to be excluded from the remit of street vote development orders”.

Amendment 206

“removes the power to add, amend or remove an area which is excluded from the remit of street vote development orders”.

I am sure there is an explanation and I would be happy to get it in a letter, but the amendments, however interpreted, reinforce the original objection of the DPRRC, which said of these clauses:

“A common thread runs through them all: in each case, we consider that the power relates to matters that are too significant in policy terms to be left to be determined by regulations”.

The power in one of the amendments could, in effect, designate the whole of England as excluded from the remit of street vote development orders and at a stroke cancel the policy.

On the principle of the Bill, neither in the debate nor in his letter to me did the Minister address a fundamental flaw, and I pose the question again. Take a suburban road, which we will call the avenue. On either side are detached houses with long back gardens, with access to the garden by the side of the houses. Parallel to the avenue, on either side, are two other roads. Their back gardens back on to the back gardens of the houses in the avenue; this is not untypical in many suburbs. Under this proposal, residents in the avenue can decide in a majority vote to allow those who want to build in their back garden a bungalow, or indeed a two-storey house, to do so. This will clearly have an impact on the residents in the parallel roads, who will find their privacy affected as there will be a new home overlooking their garden—but, crucially, they have no vote. Also, those residents in the avenue who voted no will also find that their gardens too have intrusive development next door, without the opportunity they have at the moment to object and have the issue decided by a planning committee.

Street votes could feed into and inform the democratic planning process, but they should not bypass it. I think there are priorities in planning, including all the new duties in the Bill, other than asking planning authorities to cope with this. But on the basis that nothing will happen in the short term because the policy is simply not ready—and, if and when it is piloted in a few areas and found not to work, it will wither on the vine—I do not propose to invite the street in which I am now speaking to vote on my amendments.

My Lords, in the interests of balance, and despite the eloquence of the noble Lord, Lord Young, I am rising briefly to support street votes and commend the Government on staying with it. As we have heard, it is a Marmite proposal, and I agree with the noble Lord that there are many questions to be answered. It feels very strange that I will oppose Amendments 212 and 214 to 216 from the noble Lord, Lord Young, as my respect for his housing wisdom usually sees me eagerly doing a nodding dog impression in agreement. On this occasion it was my noble friend Lady Pinnock who was doing so, but I suspect we are definitely coming at this from very different angles. I wish to be clear that we on these Benches have very mixed views about street votes and that there are legitimate concerns that they are not compatible with the hierarchy of plans that the Bill proposes, that they just do not fit, or that it is a daft idea that will never take off. There are also legitimate concerns about how it will work in practice.

Like many here, I have sat in too many meetings being screamed and shouted at for daring to allow homes to be built that apparently nobody wants and will bring chaos to the neighbourhood—noble Lords can imagine the scene. This is in a town where the self-same people complain that house prices have driven their children out of the town and that they just cannot afford to live here; that was my fault too, apparently. They then complain about the number of flats being built that apparently no one wants to live in. I have come home from such meetings in despair, and we have to work with the population at large to change that narrative. In that development all the flats are now lived in, and very nice they are too, with mixed tenure from market sales through to social rent. What was it really all about?

There is an old adage: if you do what you always do, you get what you always get. I believe that street votes are an attempt to break that negative cycle. Can it really do any significant harm to let this one fly and just see what happens? Pilots are certainly a very good way of doing that. If nothing comes of it, we have lost nothing, and if anything starts to happen it is learning for the future. It is progress—positive public engagement in development, which has to be welcome. I do not believe that any more harm can be done—probably far less than that already done by permitted development rights, for example.

I have long been a supporter of the key principles behind street votes, an attempt to deliver more homes and better places in sustainable ways that are supported by local communities, which is the key aspiration. As an encouraging signal, we have seen what success neighbourhood planning has been in some areas, probably even a few, delivering popular new homes that meet the needs of the community. I believe that street votes might possibly continue this tradition, enabling popular and high-quality homes where they are most needed and helping to ease the housing crisis in a small but significant way by positively engaging residents.

However, I welcome the Government’s concession in their amendments. The Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee report was right to point out that Henry VIII powers are not appropriate for this case. For example, it is plain that a Minister should not be able to exempt development from biodiversity rules without the consent of Parliament, and I am glad that the Government have listened. In the current anti- development climate, where the nimbies appear to have gone bananas and build absolutely nothing anywhere near anybody, anything that might just get some people to become “yimbies” has to be worth a try.

My Lords, the discussions and continuing concerns in relation to the proposals in the Bill on street votes once again make the strong case for pre-legislation scrutiny. As the noble Lord, Lord Young, outlined, these proposals seem to have been fast-tracked straight into the Bill without any consultation with the sector that might have avoided some of the many concerns we now have. We note that the government amendments are already starting to recognise some of the complexities inherent in the proposals for street votes, which were explored in great detail in Committee. Considerable questions remain to be answered about the process, finances and other resources, and the relationship with other elements of the planning system.

First, let me be clear that we understand and support the idea behind the proposal of greater public engagement in planning matters, on which I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Thornhill. Our concerns are about the detail. Why could that engagement not be advisory to planning, rather than a formal planning process in its own right? There does not appear to have been any assessment of the cost and resource implications of street votes, which could be considerable—for example, additional cost to the local planning authority under new Section 61QD relating to support for the process of street votes. New Section 61QE is the provision for organising the prescribed referenda, and we all know how expensive it is to hold a referendum. New Section 61QK allocates financial assistance for street votes and could, for example, result in hefty consultancy fees, particularly bearing in mind that it is likely that many street vote processes will rely on external consultancy support if they are to prepare papers to a standard that will meet the test of an inquiry in public. The provision for loans, guarantees and indemnities in relation to street votes projects is in the Bill; how and by whom will the due diligence be done on these? That in itself could present a major burden to local authorities.

Lastly, Clause 101 of the Bill makes provision for developments that come forward from the street vote process to be subject to community infrastructure levy. As it has taken local authorities some years since the implementation of CIL to become proficient in negotiating these agreements, and they could take considerable time and expertise, just who is going to undertake that work? Secondly, there is the potential for this to place even further burdens on the Planning Inspectorate, where there does not seem to be, at the current time, enough capacity to deal with current workloads.

We were very grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Howe, for his letter addressing the concerns we expressed in Committee—concerns raised by the noble Lord, Lord Stunell, on the relationship with neighbourhood plans, and the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, on the definition of a street. I think the noble Lord, Lord Young, clearly outlined how that may get complicated, and I have my own concerns about the finance. In relation to the considerable concerns on the financial and resource aspects, we feel it would have been far more helpful for those who have been promoting street votes to have carefully assessed the impact before the proposals came forward. The letter of the noble Earl, Lord Howe, stated:

“The Government is aware street votes will require local planning authorities and the Planning Inspectorate to perform functions in the process, and that these will result in new burdens and associated costs. The extent of these costs will be clearer as we develop the detail of new regulations. New burdens on local planning authorities will be assessed and addressed in accordance with well-established convention, and costs incurred by the Inspectorate will be taken into account as we determine future budget allocations”.

We have to ask: is the considerable additional funding that may be needed to meet these costs really a priority in a time of such considerable budget and funding pressures, both for the Government and for local government? I note that the Local Government Association continues to oppose these proposals.

I add my thanks to those on the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, who have looked at this in great detail and at least undertaken some of the scrutiny that might have been useful before the proposals went into the Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Young, outlined that there are many questions still remaining on this. He ably set out a very clear example of how the flaws in the thinking behind the proposal might impact on local people. The noble Baroness, Lady Thornhill, spoke about the relationship between these orders and other neighbourhood and local plans which will be made.

I note that the noble Lord, Lord Young, wishes to strike the clauses out of the Bill. He made a very cogent case for doing so. I think his term was “heroically unready for legislation”, which I will not comment on, but it was a good term. If the Minister does not take the advice of the noble Lord, Lord Young—and that may be so, as I understand that the Secretary of State has been convinced of the merits of street votes—can I make a strong plea that there is some engagement with the sector about the detail of how street votes will work before we go any further with this?

My Lords, I am naturally sorry that I have not been able to persuade my noble friend to give his support to the clauses in the Bill that would allow for the introduction of street vote development orders. We firmly believe that this policy has the potential to boost housing supply by helping to overcome resistance in communities to new housebuilding, which can be a major barrier preventing us from building the homes we need. I was most grateful for the support expressed for the policy by the noble Baroness, Lady Thornhill. She was quite right in her remarks. Local people often feel that development is imposed on them and that they have little say on what gets built and how it is designed. That can lead to local opposition to new housebuilding and can discourage people from bringing development forward. Street vote development orders will help to address that issue.

As a country, we build very few new homes in our existing suburbs. Research by the Centre for Cities in 2020 found that over one-fifth of neighbourhoods outside city centres have built no new houses since 2011, while half of these suburban neighbourhoods have built less than one home each year. There is, therefore, a huge opportunity to make better use of our existing urban land to develop the homes we need, particularly in low density suburban areas. We can more effectively take advantage of this opportunity if we incentivise residents to support additional development in these areas. This is where street votes can really help.

This policy will provide the means for residents to work together and decide what development is acceptable to them, and to shape that development so that it fits with the character of their street. After a street vote development order has been made, it will mean that home owners can develop their properties with much greater confidence that their neighbours will be supportive of what they are doing, providing the development complies with the terms of the order. The value of property may increase as a result of a street vote development order, so there is a strong incentive for home owners to work with their neighbours to prepare one. There may also be benefits for those who do not own their property, including environmental improvements in their street and a greater choice of accommodation in the area. Prescribed requirements, including on what type of development is allowed, as well as detailed design requirements such as floor limits, ceiling heights and plot use limits, will help to ensure that we have the right level of safeguards in place and that impacts on the wider community are managed appropriately.

I accept that this is a new way of doing things and that we need to get the details right, which is why in Committee I pledged that, before we implement this policy, we will work closely with a wide range of stakeholders across the sector, including local government, and seek the views of the public to inform these regulations. I know there are a range of important matters of interest to noble Lords, such as the precise definition of a street area, who is eligible to vote in a referendum and the relationship with the development plan. The noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, mentioned other points. These are all issues that we intend to detail in regulations following a public consultation. This will enable us first to test our proposals with a wide range of stakeholders, so that the policy can deliver good outcomes for communities. Delegated powers will also allow government to make changes to matters of details, if required, to ensure consistency with changes to broader government policy.

I hope, on that basis, noble Lords—particularly my noble friend—will give these clauses a fair wind.

Amendment 205 agreed.

Amendments 206 to 211

Moved by

206: Clause 100, page 111, leave out lines 6 to 8

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment is connected to the amendment in the Minister’s name inserting new paragraph (g) into section 61QC(2) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (as inserted by Clause 100), and removes the power to add, amend or remove an area which is excluded from the remit of street vote development orders.

207: Clause 100, page 115, line 14, at the end insert—

“(f) such other development as may be specified or described in regulations made by the Secretary of State.”Member's explanatory statement

This amendment confers a regulation-making power on the Secretary of State to specify or describe development to be excluded from the remit of street vote development orders.

208: Clause 100, page 115, leave out lines 15 and 16

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment is connected to the amendment in the Minister’s name inserting new paragraph (f) into section 61QH of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (as inserted by Clause 100), and removes the power to add, amend or remove development which is excluded from the remit of street vote development orders.

209: Clause 100, page 115, line 40, at the end insert—

“(d) satisfies such other requirements as may be specified in regulations made by the Secretary of State.”Member's explanatory statement

This amendment confers a regulation-making power on the Secretary of State to specify further requirements that must be met before a street vote development order under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (see sections 61QA to 61QM, inserted by Clause 100) may be made subject to a condition that a person enter into an obligation under section 106 of that Act.

210: Clause 100, page 116, leave out lines 1 to 3

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment is connected to the amendment in the Minister’s name inserting new paragraph (d) into section 61QI(4) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (as inserted by Clause 100), and removes the power to add, amend or remove requirements that must be met before a street vote development order under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (see sections 61QA to 61QM, inserted by Clause 100) may be made subject to a condition that a person enter into an obligation under section 106 of that Act.

211: Clause 100, page 118, line 3, leave out “or excluding”

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment removes the power to make regulations excluding the application of Schedule 7A to the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 in relation to planning permission granted by a street vote development order.

Amendments 206 to 211 agreed.

Amendment 212 not moved.

Schedule 9: Street votes: minor and consequential amendments

Amendment 213

Moved by

213: Schedule 9, page 400, line 26, leave out “61QC(3), 61QH(2) or 61QI(5)” and insert “61QC(2), 61QH or 61QI(4)”

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on the amendments in the Minister’s name amending Clause 100 to change the scope of the regulation-making powers under new sections 61QC, 61QH and 61QI (as inserted into the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 by that Clause).

Amendment 213 agreed.

Amendment 214 not moved.

Clause 101: Street votes: community infrastructure levy

Amendment 215 not moved.

Clause 102: Street votes: modifications of the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2017

Amendment 216 not moved.

Consideration on Report adjourned until not before 8.35 pm.