Pavement licences

Part of Business and Planning Bill – in the House of Commons at 8:45 pm on 29th June 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Christopher Pincher Christopher Pincher Minister of State (Housing, Communities and Local Government) 8:45 pm, 29th June 2020

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that point. I will address it, if I may, when I come to new clause 6, which Meg Hillier mentioned. To speak partly to his point, and in conclusion on this, the powers are subject to the affirmative procedure for draft regulations, which will enable Parliament to scrutinise thoroughly any relevant use of the powers, because the approval of both Houses will be needed. I therefore do not think that there is a need for new clause 4, and I would invite the Opposition to withdraw it.

With respect to new clause 5, again I thank the hon. Member for Weaver Vale for its tabling, because it provides an opportunity to give reassurance that local authorities will not be overburdened by the proposals in the Bill. This new clause would require the Secretary of State, following consultation with local planning authorities, to publish a report to provide an assessment of the costs to be incurred by local authorities as part of our proposed planning measures in the context of the covid-19 epidemic.

The applications relate to both the provision allowing for applications to extend construction working hours under clause 16 and the additional environmental approval process under clauses 17 and 18. Both the new forms of application will be free of charge to the applicant, which is to encourage developers to take advantage of the provisions in order to start or resume development as quickly as possible.

For three reasons, we do not consider the cost burden of either route to be particularly onerous on local planning authorities. First, each route deals with a single issue, and the onus is on the applicant to provide sufficient information. If insufficient information is provided by the developer, in the case of an additional environmental approval application or of an application for an extension to construction site working hours, the application will not count as having been made at all.

Secondly, as I said, the measures are temporary. This will therefore only be a short-term administrative burden over the course of this financial year. Thirdly, we do not expect individual authorities to face a deluge of applications under each route. For example, our analysis shows that by 1 August 546 planning permissions for major residential developments across the country would have lapsed since 23 March, an average of 1.5 permissions per authority. Cumulatively, it is important to the economy to see those progress, but for individual local planning authorities we do not believe that the effect will be particularly onerous. Again, I invite the Opposition to withdraw the clause.

I will speak briefly to new clause 6, as many Members are watching. I appreciate that some Members are concerned about the need to ensure that any changes made under the fast-track legislation are restricted to what is proportionate and necessary. Ensuring that measures are time-limited can be an effective way to do that, but a rolling review provision across the whole of Act is not the best approach in this case.

The first reason is that two provisions in the Bill are permanent; they would be jeopardised by a rolling review of the entire Bill. The second is that part of the reason for these measures is to give the business community, local authorities and Government agencies certainty about what they need to do with certain planning activities. A cliff edge 90-day end to the processes that they are undertaking would remove any chance of the certainty that they are looking for.

The hon. Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch has many ways in which she can advance her concerns. She can use Standing Orders, in which she is a seasoned expert, to look at SO 24 debates; she can encourage her Front Benchers to undertake Opposition debates, and she can use the Public Accounts Committee to undertake inquiries. There are many ways in which she can progress her concerns other than through new clause 6.