Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill
Lord Chorley (Crossbench)
I spoke at Second Reading on this subject. I agree with both of the amendments; I do not mind which of them goes forward. As the noble Baroness said, only paragraph (e) of the amendment is different. My noble friend made a strong case, but I do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, took us through the arguments in great and thorough detail, which I shall not go over again.
In his winding-up speech at Second Reading, the Minister also touched on the subject. In his usual disarming way, he said that he had always been in favour of third party rights of appeal when he was an MP. But apparently he had a Damascene conversion on the road up Whitehall and has changed his mind. All politicians, particularly when they become Ministers, find themselves having to do that. One of the reasons he gave at Second Reading was that third party rights,
"would be inconsistent with our democratically accountable system of planning".—[Official Report, 6/1/04; col.163.]
The noble Baroness touched on that point.
I found that a strange argument to advance in cases where the local district planning authority is making a favourable decision on its own application. I think that the noble Lord who has just spoken took that point. In this House, rightly, we make a huge fuss about conflicts of interest in public authorities. If ever there was a conflict of interest, surely this must be one. Moreover, what if the planning authority is a national park? As I see it, that is not an elected body. There have been cases where national parks have made decisions in their own favour, many of which have been extremely controversial.
The Government make the point that a feature of the Bill is community involvement, about which the noble Baroness spoke. But how are communities defined in those circumstances? I do not know; I hope that the noble Lord will be able to explain. What is the local community of a national park? In one sense, it is the nation. The hallmark of a national park is that it is national, but we tend to forget that.
Again, at Second Reading, the noble Lord said:
"We tried to find a way for third party rights of appeal that were tightly limited in scope, but every time a draft was presented, we were warned by the lawyers and parliamentary counsel that if we went down that road, the chances are that we would snuff out any and every development".—[Official Report, 6/1/04; col. 163.]
But lawyers and parliamentary counsel are always saying that things are too difficult. Perhaps I may encourage the Minister, who has a very independent mind, to be bold. As my noble friend Lord Bridges said, where there is a will there is a way. I doubt the reality of the Minister's remark that we could snuff out any and every development. I look forward with enthusiasm to the Minister's reply.