Land Use (Gardens Protection etc) Bill

Part of Orders of the Day – in the House of Commons at 12:30 pm on 2nd February 2007.

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Photo of Laura Moffatt Laura Moffatt PPS (Rt Hon Alan Johnson, Secretary of State), Department for Education and Skills 12:30 pm, 2nd February 2007

I thank the hon. Lady for that explanation, but the Bill is clear in its use of the phrase "special regard to". That would provide a local authority that is minded not to represent the interests of those who are in desperate need of housing with a presumption against a development. That would change the balance. Instead of there being a clean sheet in the consideration of whether a development was suitable, would local authorities be able to say no to every single development that came forward? That would cause enormous difficulties.

Change and renewal are part of community life and the Government and local government should not attempt to resist development at every turn. However, I also believe that giving local people the ability to say no is crucial. That is why, on another count, I am seriously worried about the ability to switch development to employment land.

I have had to oppose my Government's Secretary of State in relation to a local case because that was precisely what a developer wanted to do: he wanted to build on land that the local authority had rightly designated as employment land. I completely agree with the local authority that that development would be a mistake. If we are genuinely to enhance people's ability to reduce their carbon footprint and to live close to where they work—often, people regard the south-east as an attractive place to live because work is readily available—it would be a huge mistake to lose pockets of land that are earmarked for business or industrial development, which will provide employment. I am worried that the Bill, as I read it, would make that development entirely possible, or even probable, and would reduce my local authority's ability to oppose such development.

With that in mind, we should think carefully about development law and accept that the Bill is not the correct vehicle, because it would hamper local authorities' ability to ensure that development is in keeping with the area. That is often difficult to do, but to impose a presumption against development in gardens would be detrimental. I shall therefore oppose the Bill.