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Amendment No. 63 makes only part of the change which I wish to effect in Clause 17, though I acknowledge at once that the set of amendments which the Government have put down have the same objective in principle.
In Committee, the Opposition pressed that the decisions of an authority when exercising its functions under the Bill should be guided by the planning law or planning decisions applicable to its area. That was accepted by the Government, and I am grateful for their having set down a series of amendments to put it into effect, but I think that my amendments would make matters a lot simpler. If my amendments were made, the clause would read in this simple way:
In exercising their functions on or after the first appointed day of bringing development land into public ownership and of developing that land themselves or of making it available for development by others, every authority shall act in accordance with the development plan for its area and with any planning permission in force in respect of the land.
That is a simple statement, without complication, saying merely that when exercising their functions under the Bill local authorities should take into account, have regard to—whatever phrase one wishes—the development plan for the area and the planning permissions in force in respect of the land itself.
To a great extent, the Government amendments meet the same objective, and I think that my only objection is that they are rather more elaborate, with rather more escape provisions for a local authority to escape from paying full attention to the development plan and planning permissions in force in respect of the land. I refer in particular to Government Amendment No. 70 and paragraph (c) thereof.
Amendment No. 70 seeks to direct local authorities to look to the delevopment plan and to planning permissions, as indeed do my amendments, but it also adds paragraph (c):
any other considerations which, on an application for planning permission for any relevant development on the land, would be material for the purpose of determining that application.
That widens the sphere and does not pin down local authorities to look at the development plan.
If we extend the considerations to local authorities too far under the clause, the danger is that the local authority is both the acquiring and planning authority. If it pays attention to an existing development plan or to existing planning permissions in respect of land, the danger of its deciding via planning functions in respect of the acquisition of land is reduced. I am anxious to divide those functions as much as possible. There is a danger that if a local authority has the right to acquire land for development—and later in the Bill there is the duty to acquire it for development—and if it also has all the planning functions, it may well be judge and jury in its own case and consider more the question of profitability and acquisition than the question of planning amenities.
I had hoped that the Government would accept my simple statement—namely, that in exercising those functions they should act in accordance with the development plan and with the planning permission relating to the land. It is a simple statement, it would simplify the Bill, and would oblige the acquiring authority to pay full attention to the planning law affecting the area.