New Clause 10 — Local Development Plan

Part of Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill — [2nd Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 2:00 pm on 9th December 2003.

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Photo of Mr Matthew Green Mr Matthew Green Liberal Democrat, Ludlow 2:00 pm, 9th December 2003

I think that the hon. Gentleman fails to understand the full importance of the potential of a statement of community involvement. When the council draws up such a statement, it will set out exactly the way in which the community will be involved in individual plans. It is a document in the scheme and it sets out the process. There is no mention of a statement of community involvement, but there is mention of a community strategy, which is a different issue. I shall understand if the hon. Gentleman says that he meant to mention a statement of community involvement in the new clause, which has had various incarnations as it has moved gradually towards being the same as the Government's proposal.

There is another area with which I have some difficulty. A number of councils—I mention South Shropshire council again, but only because I know it well as it is in my constituency—have been quite forward thinking in developing planning policies. There is no law that prevents that. South Shropshire council has its own separate document setting out its affordable housing policy. It also has its own separate document on policy that relates to how it deals with mast applications, which is quite a controversial issue. That is something that many councils have not done. The council uses the document to guide those who are making mast applications so that they know how they will be dealt with—central Government have not said that the council cannot adopt that approach. It is creating effective local policies in other ways, too.

My understanding of the Government's scheme is that, in effect, local development documents will be allowed to include documents that relate not only to geographical areas, not only to settlements, not only to housing and not only to areas of outstanding natural beauty, but also to specific areas such as business development land and a strategy for dealing with masts, for example. That is a great degree of flexibility, local decision making and local choice. I thought that all three parties were trying to compete with one another to show just how much they are in favour of the new localism, to use a word that comes from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. I do not think that there is sufficient flexibility in new clause 19 to allow councils to do that. There is too much structure in the clause.

I used to think, particularly back in January, that the Government had created a scheme that involved a plethora of new terms and far too many new clauses. In creating flexibility, it is difficult to have only one scheme. I urge the hon. Member for Cotswold to withdraw new clause 19 which, as I have said, moves broadly down the route that the Government have taken.

I am pleased that David Wright tabled amendment No. 27. He was right to do so. I suspect that it will not be necessary to give effect to it, but it has enabled him to raise some important issues relating to housing strategies and their close involvement with local planning. I was struck by his rightful call to see proper mixed-tenure estates, rather than divided estates. The Government need to be careful that by changing section 106, which we debated yesterday, they do not create a situation where non-mixed tenure estates are encouraged by the back door. One way to avoid that is the close involvement of housing strategies in local plans. I hope that the Government guidance will include a strong line recommending to councils that that is exactly what the Government would expect to see. We do not want all the social housing at one end of the settlement and the owner occupiers at the other end, with a high wall and protective fencing round it. Heaven forbid that we ever move down that route.