Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.Donate to our crowdfunder
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity to argue where powers should be imposed as a statutory duty and where local authorities should simply be given power to act in what they regard as the best interests of their inhabitants. We are having a major reform of local government and there must be an area in which local authorities are able to exercise discretion in favour of their inhabitants. They have not been able to exercise that discretion up to now because there was no power for them to do so.
Although there may be criticisms of the Bill—there will be opportunities to discuss them in Committee—the Government's proposals constitute a new attitude to road planning and design, providing new legislation to help people affected by public works, and a new approach to help people understand their rights and seek benefits to which they may be entitled in order to mitigate the effects of essential public works.
I might add, in parenthesis, that I am also conscious of the public anxieties that are often aroused by a feeling that too much of the pre-planning stage has taken place behind closed doors. This often builds up a public resentment against proposals which are thought to be cut and dried in advance. The difficulty is well known—that of trying to avoid blighting wide areas before, for example, the preferred route is chosen. However, I have a feeling that, provided the initial period of public debate of alternatives is limited, this may be a price worth paying in order to achieve earlier publication and discussion. I intended, therefore, to give urgent consideration to this aspect of public participation in planning.
I turn now to the detailed provisions of the Bill. It deals with an area of law renowned for its complexity, and I have no doubt that there will be criticisms of detail and perhaps even of some principles which will have to be followed up. But I hope that the general principle and objectives will commend themselves to the House as a whole.
Part I of the Bill creates the wholly new right of compensation where the value of dwellings and small businesses is injuriously affected—is depreciated—by physical factors caused by the use of public works, including any highway or any aerodrome. This new right is stated in Clause 1(1). The physical factors—noise, smell, fumes, smoke, and so on—are in subsection (2) and the public works are defined in subsection (3).