Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill

– in the House of Lords at 3:35 pm on 1 March 2004.

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On Question, Motion agreed to.

Clause 20 [Independent examination]:

[Amendment No. 76 not moved.]

[Amendment No. 76A not moved.]

Clause 21 [Intervention by Secretary of State]:

[Amendment No. 77 not moved.]

Clause 22 [Withdrawal of local development documents]:

[Amendment No. 78 not moved.]

Clause 23 [Adoption of local development documents]:

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Conservative

moved Amendment No. 79:

Page 13, line 15, leave out "(other than a development plan document)"

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Conservative

My Lords, in moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 80 and 81. In Committee, I promised the Minister that I would return to the binding nature of the planning inspector's reports. Clearly, my position has not changed; here we are again.

I fundamentally believe that taking away the right of a local authority to question the inspector's report and, instead, to make it bound to it lock, stock and barrel, is wrong, however innocent a provision the Minister believes it to be. The local development documents will be produced locally, they will be consulted on locally and they may have an impact locally. It must be right, therefore, that the final decision on whether they are implemented is in the hands of the local authority. Issues of democratic accountability underlie this matter, and they lead me to believe that this must be the case.

We have had a very considerable quantity of representations on this matter from a number of organisations—including the Local Government Association—that remain extremely concerned about the whole process of the inspector's report being binding in relation to the local development documents.

The Local Government Association is concerned that there will be no final democratic accountability in this situation. There are known instances in which the inspector has made a fundamental error in the judgment. The Local Government Association wishes—as we do—to see this aspect of the plan reduced in line with the amendments that we have tabled. Amendments Nos. 79, 80 and 81 would remove that binding status. We see no reason why subsection (1) should differentiate between local development documents and local development plan documents.

Amendment No. 79 would remove the phrase,

"other than a development plan document".

That goes hand in hand with our Amendment No. 81 that would remove subsections (2) to (4) and ensure that all local development documents, including development plan documents, could be adopted by local authorities as originally prepared, or as modified, without being obliged to adopt the recommendations of the independent examination.

Amendment No. 80 leaves the local planning authorities to decide whether or not to modify the local development documents and to take into account the independent examination. Any modification is therefore down to the discretion of the local planning authority, rather that the inspector having the last and compelling word on the matter.

That is a wholly sensible review of the Bill and a wholly sensible amendment to it. It is one that is widely sought throughout local government and the various bodies that have taken an interest in planning and sent us briefings on it. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Shadow Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Local Government & the Regions

My Lords, this group of amendments includes Amendment No. 80, to which my name is attached, and Amendment No. 83, tabled by us. As the noble Baroness said, they go hand in hand with the first of her amendments, which would delete the provision that states in terms that the local planning authority must not adopt a development plan document unless it does so in accordance with one of the previous subsections. They provide that the document must be as originally prepared, if the inspector recommends that it be adopted; or with modifications recommended by the inspector. That comes to the same thing: subsection (4) provides that the inspector's report should be binding; the amendments remove that provision.

When we debated the matter in Committee at the end of January, the Minister's resistance to changing the clause boiled down to the scope for delay if the inspector's recommendations were not adopted. He said that,

"inspectors' binding reports are a key to speeding up the plan making system and enhancing community involvement in it ... If a further inquiry into a modification is needed, that process can take six months or longer".—[Official Report, 27/1/04; col. 147.]

I am not sure that I follow the argument that the binding report would advance community involvement; that is a different view of community and of the role of the local authority to mine. Perhaps I shall be struck by lightning for saying this, but if a few months—six to cite the Minister—is needed for a further inquiry, is that a disaster if it means reaching the right outcome?

There is a fundamental difference of view between us about the democratic process: whether the inspector is likely to be regarded as the creature of the Secretary of State. I accept what the Minister said—either in Committee or on our first day of Report; I forget which—about the independent nature of the inspectorate and about how inspectors inspect the inspectors. That is why I used the phrase about being "regarded as the creature of the Secretary of State".

Even leaving that aside, the Government are enthusiastic for localism. The terminology with which all three Front Benches lived during the passage of the recent local government Act is all about freedom and flexibility. But in this instance, it seems that the local authority is not to be allowed to be responsible for its own decisions.

In preparing the local development document, the local planning authority must have regard to its community strategy and, indeed, those of its neighbours. One might say that local development plans are the spatial expression of the community strategy. As I said last time, one has to hold one's mouth straight to get some of those expressions out. There may be quite some scope for the inspector to skew the community strategy by his interpretation and application of it in spatial terms.

The Minister also explained that authorities must act on recommendations that are soundly based, but what if the local planning authority takes the view that they are not soundly based? What are we left with? Judicial review, perhaps, but that will take a lot more time than the process advocated by the noble Baroness and me. Of course, an application for judicial review must be made within six weeks of the decision, but that is not the same as a determination of the issue.

The Minister also said that the inspector could only recommend—or perhaps the term was "make"; I think that it meant "make"—a substantial change to the development plan document if people had had an opportunity to make representations or if it had been considered at the public examination and recommendation or debate supported it. But if the matter is controversial—and we are discussing such matters—there are likely to be views on both sides. We are not discussing clear-cut situations. If the inspector thinks that the development plan document should be significantly changed in some other way, the Minister said that the examination in public would have to be reconvened or the issue referred to the local planning authority.

At the weekend, I looked to see how that was prescribed. I may well have missed it, because the regulations are necessarily—this is not a criticism—detailed and complex, but I could not see where that was provided, certainly not in the Bill. It may be somewhere in the Bill where I did not recognise it, or in draft regulations where I have not spotted it.

In any event, I return to the fundamental issue. The nub of the argument is that development plan documents are a matter for the local planning authority, subject to the Secretary of State's nuclear option under Clauses 21 and 27. The amendments tabled by the noble Baroness and me together do not just improve the Bill, which we all seek to do, but necessarily rebalance where decisions and responsibilities lie. I support the amendment.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Regeneration and Regional Development), Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister) (Regeneration and Regional Development) 3:45, 1 March 2004

My Lords, I understand why the noble Baronesses have returned to the matter on Report; there are strong feelings about it. However, they are partly based on a misapprehension.

We have been clear from the outset that one of the key elements of our planning reforms is for the recommendations of the independent inspector, following an independent examination, to be the final stage of preparing the development plan document. The noble Baronesses have a different position. By implication from the amendments, the opposition parties want to retain the status quo. The two speeches that we have just heard encapsulate the fact that, taken together, this group of amendments would remove the important innovation of binding inspectors' reports on development plan documents.

At the same time, however, through Amendment No. 79, they would muddle up the provisions for adopting local development documents that are not development plan documents—in other words, supplementary planning documents. That is because there is no independent examination of the supplementary planning document. That list of documents and how they interact with one another will probably be the subject of a team meeting later in the week, if I explain that inadequately today. But the fact that such reports are not subject to independent examination could cause confusion. A local authority could not take account of the inspectors' recommendations on such reports, because there would not be any—that is the whole point.

The picture that has been painted is that of the local authority's legitimate wishes versus the uninformed wishes of a creature of central government, with the community's views squeezed out. That is not a fair picture of what we propose. First, the key feature of the new system is front-loading. The planning authority will reach decisions on key matters early in the plan-making process. The local planning authority will start by identifying and taking interested parties' ideas and views on all the potential options, and will then decide what it thinks best for its area. Its job is to devise policies and proposals for the development plan document for the area, fully involving the community in the process. Representations made to the authority on its preferred options will be considered by the local authority. No inspector will be involved at that stage. From that consideration, the authority will prepare its development plan document to submit for independent examination.

We believe that the local authority is well placed to do that. It knows its local area best. The procedures that we are introducing will ensure early debate and decisions. There will be a strong disincentive for anyone to put off raising controversial proposals in the hope that they will have a better chance of succeeding if sprung on people at a late stage. That applies equally to local authorities or others, such as developers, or if an authority wishes to avoid coming to a difficult or potentially unpopular decision. It will not be able to do that under the proposed system.

Secondly, the investment by the community and others in making representations on a development plan document, and participating in the independent examination will now always be worth while. There will be a positive action, and people will put investment into it. No longer will the community and others face the unjustifiable position in which all its input is taken forward through the inspector's recommendations and then ignored by the authority, which can do something entirely different. That would undermine our intention to give communities a greater say in plan-making and secure buy-in.

Finally, the independent inspector's job is to determine whether a development plan document satisfies the legal requirements on its preparation and whether it is sound. The starting point will be that the development plan document that the authority has submitted is sound unless there is evidence that it is not. Anyone seeking a substantive change to a development plan document will need to show that it is unsound without the change and that the change will render it sound. That includes the inspector as well. Therefore, changes that the inspector recommends will not simply be his view rather than the local authority's. The changes will be needed to achieve a sound plan and be tested against the criteria for soundness that the plan itself must meet.

If, as a result of his consideration of soundness, the inspector believes that the development plan document ought to be changed significantly, that can happen only if the examination is reconvened, or if the development plan document is referred back to the planning authority for further consideration. If there is still insufficient evidence for the inspector to recommend a change that he thinks should be made to a development plan document, he will not be able to recommend that change in his report. If that happens, the inspector will be able only to advise the authority of his view that it should revise its development plan document or prepare a fresh one to take the matter forward. Those principles will be set out clearly in the final version of planning policy statement 12.

The binding inspectors' reports are a key mechanism for speeding up the plan-making system. They are not a procedure for keeping the public out or for keeping out anybody who has views on a plan—far from it. They are pulled in early in the system to get their five pennyworth, as it were. They are also a device for making sure that major changes are not sprung on the public at the last minute. We think that the system will be faster. We want the process to be fairer, but we also want it speeded up.

I shall give some examples of when an inspector may consider that a development plan document meets the test of soundness. The plan must generally conform with national or regional policy. That is self-evident. Secondly, the plan must be supported by a sound evidence base. It is important for the authority to provide that. The local planning authority must comply with its own statement of community involvement, and it must undertake a suitable sustainability appraisal and a strategic environmental assessment.

The amendments are in direct contradiction to our policy on the issue, and I hope that they will not be pursued. I also hope that I have explained—albeit briefly, because we discussed the matter in Committee—that it is not our intention to use the binding statement to undermine the local authority. It is a test to ensure that the plans conform to the legal requirement, which ought to be possible for a local authority to produce anyway.

They will benefit the public; they will allow earlier involvement in the process; and they have the added advantage of ensuring that either a local authority or a developer cannot spring something major, new and controversial on the public at the last minute, when there is no time for it to be considered. In that sense, this is not a question of the creature of central government versus the democratically elected local authority. It is not that kind of arrangement, and I hope that I have explained the position sufficiently to persuade the noble Baronesses to withdraw the amendments.

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Shadow Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Local Government & the Regions

My Lords, I want to ensure that I understood the Minister correctly when he said that the procedures for reconvening an examination in public are to be a matter of regulations, and that I was not wrong in thinking that they are not on the face of the Bill.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Regeneration and Regional Development), Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister) (Regeneration and Regional Development)

My Lords, there is a process to be used when the development plan needs to be changed significantly, and those principles will be set out clearly in the final version of planning policy statement 12. There will be no arguments about it. It will be written down. It will not be based on a hunch, a nod or a telephone call, but will be clearly written down in that policy statement.

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Conservative

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply and for endeavouring to persuade us so far that this is a matter simply to speed up the adoption of the document. Throughout the proceedings of the Bill, we have tried to make it understood that we are deeply concerned about the fact that the Secretary of State appears to play a significant role in all the policies from the regional spatial strategy through to the final acceptance of development plans.

Despite what the Minister says, I do not see that for a local inspector to make recommendations that are then binding on the local authority does anything other than stamp the Secretary of State all over this aspect of the process.

The four amendments are all related to the binding inspector's report. Amendment No. 79 may be deficient to some extent, but all four would withdraw—

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Regeneration and Regional Development), Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister) (Regeneration and Regional Development)

My Lords, before the noble Baroness continues, I should like her to answer a question if she intends pressing the amendments. What would happen if a local planning authority refused to adopt a development plan with the inspector's recommendations? The inspector will have listened to the evidence and given some recommendations. The authority would be denying a sound up-to-date development plan document, which could be a disservice to its community when it has had an independent check on the soundness of the document. What would be the position, if that is what the noble Baroness is advocating, and the local authority decided to dismiss the inspector's views completely?

Photo of Lord Bradshaw Lord Bradshaw Shadow Minister, Transport

My Lords, I have a case in point to relate. A planning inspector was appointed to inquire into a structure plan relating to housing in the Didcot area. He decided that 3,000 houses should be in one part of the town rather than another. The full county council took the inspector's report and on the evidence reached a totally different conclusion, which I believe was the right one. I think that the inspector was not really cognisant of the affairs of the area, and his judgment was based on what I would call a textbook version rather than an actual version of what happened. The county council chose the adopted structure plan in the end.

Photo of Lord Marlesford Lord Marlesford Conservative

My Lords, am I not right in saying that, ultimately, the Secretary of State can overrule both the local authority and his own inspector—for example, in the famous case that I believe was in Sussex?

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Regeneration and Regional Development), Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister) (Regeneration and Regional Development)

My Lords, the Secretary of State's powers in this Bill are essentially a longstop. Under Clause 21, there is a power to call in and approve the development plan document. But, essentially, it is a longstop power, which would be required only if there was a failure at the local level.

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Conservative

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, for his intervention, in which he clearly made the point that there are occasions when the inspectors' recommendations are wrong. As matters stand under the Bill, there is no going back on that. The recommendations would have to be implemented, although my understanding is that the inspectors represent the Secretary of State in their role.

I think that there is not a great meeting of minds in these areas. Our three amendments and that put down by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, hang together as regards the binding inspector's report. So when we read Amendment No. 79, we must read through to the end. On that basis, I wish to test the opinion of the House.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 79) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 138; Not-Contents, 125.

Division number 1 Private Parking: Ports and Trading Estates — Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill

Aye: 136 Members of the House of Lords

No: 123 Members of the House of Lords

Aye: A-Z by last name

Tellers

No: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Conservative 4:12, 1 March 2004

moved Amendment No. 80:

Page 13, line 19, at end insert—

"(c) any recommendations made by the person appointed to carry out the independent examination of the document."

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Photo of Lord Carter Lord Carter Chair, Draft Disability Discrimination Bill (Joint Committee), Chair, Draft Disability Discrimination Bill (Joint Committee)

My Lords, if Amendment No. 81 is agreed to, I cannot call Amendments Nos. 82 and 83 on grounds of pre-emption.

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Conservative

moved Amendment No. 81:

Page 13, line 20, leave out subsections (2) to (4).

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 82 to 84 not moved.]

Clause 24 [Conformity with regional strategy]:

[Amendments Nos. 85 to 95 not moved.]

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Conservative

moved Amendment No. 96:

Leave out Clause 24.

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Conservative

My Lords, Clause 24 is perhaps one of the most controversial in the Bill. The new powers it gives rise to are centralising to the point of control freakishness. It puts into law the requirement for local authorities to adhere to government policy by having general conformity to the regional spatial strategy, which sets out the Secretary of State's policies.

As a result the Government will have a level of control over local councils not seen before in planning terms. When the local authorities draw up their plans for public consultation, there are opportunities for representations to be made by members of the public. That is an essential part of the planning system. Yet the local authorities' plans will have to be in conformity with the regional spatial strategy. The consultation process during the drawing up of that strategy is limited and by invitation only. There is consequently a consultation deficit.

If we take the example of airport development, the Government said in their recent White Paper that they wished to see a second runway at Stansted airport. That policy would be laid out in the regional spatial strategy. At that point, the local authorities will have to cater for an extended airport, including making provision for the thousands of additional houses required that are also in the sustainable communities plan. But that is all presupposing that the airport and/or housing will materialise, prejudging the result of a future planning inquiry.

The essence of Clause 24 brings a raft of questions to the fore. Clearly conformity with the regional spatial strategy where it is the overriding document is causing concern. For that reason I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Regeneration and Regional Development), Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister) (Regeneration and Regional Development)

My Lords, I will check with Hansard and I do not want to make a meal of this, but the noble Baroness gave the game away with her final sentence. She referred to the "conformity" but did not use the phrase "general conformity". The whole of her speech was based on the assumption that the provision is much more narrow and precise than it actually is. We covered the matter in Committee; I understand that we are in a new area, but the test is of "general conformity" and not "conformity". That means that it is only where a local development document would cause significant harm to the implementation of the regional spatial strategy of the spatial development strategy—I shall read that again, because it is underlined and I must get the words right.

The test is of general conformity and not conformity. That means that it is only where a local development document would cause significant harm to the implementation of the regional spatial strategy of the spatial development strategy should the local development document be considered not to be in general conformity. That is the end of the underlined section of the brief.

We shall make the policy clear in the final version of PPS12—thank heavens for that. The point I am trying to make, in more colloquial English, is that we have to read the clause in the sense of the opening line of Clause 24(1),

"The local development documents must be in general conformity with—" followed by paragraphs (a) and (b). It is not a precision test, as the noble Baroness implied.

If colleagues do not want local plans to be in general conformity with strategic plans, we can have a debate and perhaps vote on that basis, but not on the basis of conformity with strategic plans—it is general conformity. The point is that the principle of general conformity is long established. It is nothing that we have invented. It is the relationship now as we are before the Bill between the structure plans and local plans and between the Mayor's spatial development strategy and the London boroughs' unitary development plans.

General conformity serves an important purpose. It links the regional—I shall leave out London, as there is no sense in repeating it—level to the local level, ensuring that the strategies are translated into policies at local level so that they can be effectively delivered. As the detailed policies at local level will reflect the broader strategic direction established at the regional level, it reduces the risk of contradiction and uncertainty for people using the plan.

If we take the spatial nature of strategic plans for example—heavens above, the example I have is the London plan. The London plan, for example, covers land use planning issues, but it also deals with waste management, social inclusion, energy saving, tourism and sustainability. The effect of those strategic policies will be greatly reduced if there is no requirement at local level—where of course they will be implemented and where people will see the practical impact—for the policies generally to conform with them.

The point is generally to conform with the policies, not a specific, narrow targeted area. People need to have the clearest possible idea of the likely outcome of a planning application. The supplementary planning documents will also be covered by the general conformity principle. That will assist people before they start their planning.

This is not new or something that we have invented. It operates now reasonably successfully. I do not see transferring it to the new system as a problem. On the other hand, if the provision made a change and stated that documents had to be in conformity with the plans, I would have a view to share with the noble Baroness and I probably would not be standing here proposing such a clause, because it would lead to great difficulties.

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Conservative

My Lords, I said the words "general conformity" when I spoke to the amendment. Perhaps I swallowed the first word a little, but I hope that the Minister heard me.

I was interested to hear the Minister say that this is how things have been done in the past. However, we have not had regional spatial strategies in the past, nor have we had the very wide policies coming from those strategies—and we shall return to the position in London in later amendments.

General conformity will be hard to define. What part will conform and what part will not? If the Minister says that it simply has to "take account of" then why does not the clause say that? Or if "consideration" must be given, why does it not say so? The words "in general conformity with" acknowledge specifically that the document will have to relate extremely closely to the regional spatial strategy.

I shall not take this matter any further today. I hear what the Minister has said, but for the purposes of this debate, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 25 [Revocation of local development documents]:

[Amendment No. 97 not moved.]

Clause 26 [Revision of local development documents]:

[Amendment No. 98 not moved.]

Clause 27 [Secretary of State's default power]:

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Conservative

moved Amendment No. 99:

Page 15, line 14, after "are" insert "significantly"

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Conservative

My Lords, I return to the question of whether the amount of intervention—in my notes I have the word "interference"—from the Secretary of State is of concern to us. Amendment No. 99 seeks to qualify when it might be appropriate for the Secretary of State to become involved in the new development planning process.

At the moment, the wording of Clause 27(1) is decidedly vague on when the Secretary of State will or may intervene. The subsection reads:

"This section applies if the Secretary of State thinks that a local planning authority are failing or omitting to do anything it is necessary for them to do in connection with the preparation, revision or adoption of a development plan document".

How is such failure to be judged? What criteria is the Secretary of State to use when assessing whether there has been failure or omission? We believe that there would have to be a very good reason for the Government to call in a development plan document. I do not believe that it is reasonable for the default power to come into effect if there is a minor failing on behalf of the local authority.

The amendment has been tabled to ask the Minister to spell out more clearly how he envisages the default power will work. Perhaps he could give examples of circumstances in which he would think it advisable for the Secretary of State to exercise his power under the clause. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Regeneration and Regional Development), Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister) (Regeneration and Regional Development)

My Lords, although I shall cite a few examples for the noble Baroness, the short answer to the amendment is that the Secretary of State has a duty to act reasonably at all times. It is unnecessary to qualify the reference in Clause 27 by adding the word "significantly". If a local planning authority failed to prepare a development plan document for an insignificant reason, the Secretary of State would not intervene. This is not something that he would do on a whim.

The noble Baroness asked me for examples. We make no bones about the fact that the power is deliberately wide and not restricted to any particular circumstance. There are numerous circumstances in which a local planning authority could fail to carry out its plan-making functions correctly, some of which I shall set out.

It could be a failure to prepare a development plan document to deliver the requirements as set out in the regional spatial strategy. It could be where a plan clashes without sufficient justification with national or regional policy. As I said in Committee, we accept that sometimes there will be clashes and contradictions because of local circumstances, but where there is insufficient justification, there would be a problem. It could also be where a plan causes harm to other areas, such as to an adjoining local authority area. It could be where a local planning authority fails to deliver the development plan document as set out in its local development scheme, and where the local planning authority fails to adopt development plan documents after an examination.

These are instances where the Secretary of State would wish to use the default powers. I do not deny that they are sanctions, but they would be operated only on the basis of the Secretary of State being reasonable at all times. If the Secretary of State were to operate unreasonably, there is always the possible threat of judicial review. Further, I am absolutely certain that good legal advice from within government would be offered to the Secretary of State before he sought to use these powers, so that he could not be accused of acting on a whim, being party political against a particular authority, or reacting to a personality clash. Good reasons would have to be given. The examples I have given are the kind we envisage.

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Conservative

My Lords, I am absolutely fascinated by the Minister's response. One of the examples he mentioned would be a failure to conform to the regional spatial strategy. We have just discussed at length how that is to be only a "general conformity". Now we must refer back to exactly what kind of conformity to the regional spatial strategy is required. If the local authority does not conform, or generally conform, it will be open to the Secretary of State to intervene because it has not done so.

It appears that Amendment No. 96, which I moved prior to this one, touched the edge of a problem here. The position is exactly as I said it was: the general conformity is in fact a conformity. Having said that, and having listened to the Minister's response on the other matters, I make no further comment. However, I am fascinated by his first response. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 100 to 103 not moved.]

Clause 28 [Joint local development documents]:

[Amendment No. 104 not moved.]

Clause 33 [Urban development corporations]:

[Amendment No. 105 not moved.]

Clause 35 [Annual monitoring report]:

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Conservative

moved Amendment No. 106:

Leave out Clause 35.

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Conservative

Amendment No. 106 proposes that Clause 35 should be left out of the Bill. The clause requires local planning authorities to report annually to the Secretary of State on the implementation of their local development schemes, and whether the policies set out in the local development documents are being achieved. The clause also provides for the Secretary of State to make regulations prescribing what information an annual report must contain, the period it must cover—presumably one year—when it must be made and the form it must take. I really cannot see what useful purpose this clause or an annual report serve. We have here expressed, once again, the theme of the Government keeping an eye on local government.

The clause would ensure that every 12 months, each planning authority writes to the Secretary of State setting out how it has progressed on its local development schemes, detailing how the policies in the local development document are being achieved. The reports will be more of those glossy documents with which we are all becoming so familiar, the expense of which must now be mounting into the zillions. Every single public authority is producing annual reports in all directions. I am in the health service and I know how many annual reports in the form of glossy documents are being produced.

How much and what will the Secretary of State do with such annual reports? I understand that the whole purpose of the development plan process is to keep things moving and to hold reviews regularly. To produce an annual report simply marks yet another interception in the life of planning officers, who at the best of times are few and far between and will now have to set to and produce yet another monitoring document—because that is all it will be. Further, most annual reports tend to put a glossy face on what is being done. This will be another example of that practice.

The requirement will be an onerous burden, time-consuming, producing yet more administration and costly. I would prefer to see the provision removed, but if the Minister feels that it is vital perhaps he will justify its inclusion. In other areas of legislation, I know that my noble friends have argued that the Secretary of State should draw up an annual report on the workings of new legislation, such as the licensing Bill and the extradition Bill. The Government have answered that that would be burdensome and expensive. We ought to turn the turtle over and say that if it is expensive for the Secretary of State and the Government, it is expensive and unnecessary for others as well.

Photo of Lord Marlesford Lord Marlesford Conservative 4:30, 1 March 2004

My Lords, one knows that the Government pay lip-service to reducing the administrative burden and the causes of unnecessary expenditure, and so on. How is it—I think that I can understand how it is—that Ministers let this clause slip by when the bureaucrats inevitably wanted to put it in? The bureaucrats want as much paper as can be produced on everything all the time.

This is an additional burden. It is not a report to the people but to the bureaucrats in the department, who will be fully aware of what each local authority is doing. It is quite unnecessary and as the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, said, there is a real shortage of staff, partly because they are scarce and partly because of resources. There is a real shortage of competent planning staff in local authorities. It is intolerable that the Government should propose something so totally useless and ultimately bureaucratic. I hope that the Minister will have no problem in accepting the amendment.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Regeneration and Regional Development), Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister) (Regeneration and Regional Development)

My Lords, I am persuaded that the measure is red tape; there is no question about that. One has only to look at it and ask oneself what purpose it would serve and how much it would cost. I hope that there would not be glossy reports—there would not have to be. It is probably red tape, though I would not say "burdensome" red tape because I do not actually know.

If that was all that I had to say, then clearly we would accept the amendment. However, there is a problem. I remember saying this in Committee, so it cannot be new to the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham. The monitoring requirements in the clause and the regulations are not new. The work is being done now by most local authorities. All that the measure does is to formalise that practice, making it part of the new system and the effective implementation of the new development plans.

That being said, I have to resist the amendment. I cannot rewrite the Bill on my feet—I am not the planning Minister—so I must be careful here. I am making the case for keeping the clause in the Bill because it does not impose a new burden. The work is already done by most local authorities. I would like to try to satisfy noble Lords, perhaps by letter, that it is not a new burden for most local authorities because they are already doing it now. If we had invented the practice from scratch it would, as the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford says, be a lot of red tape occupying planning officers when there are better ways for them to spend their time. However, it is not a new burden or requirement and so I must resist the amendment. I will seek further information for Third Reading.

Photo of Lord Marlesford Lord Marlesford Conservative

My Lords, to remove existing burdens is a merit in government. The Minister ought to remove the clause now with the proviso that the matter should be looked at again, so that, if we really think there has to be something like this measure, we can bring it back again.

Photo of Lord Cobbold Lord Cobbold Crossbench

My Lords, the purpose of the Bill is to simplify the planning process and this is a wonderful opportunity to do that.

Photo of Lord Avebury Lord Avebury Shadow Minister, Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs

My Lords, will the Minister say either now or on Third Reading whether local authorities will be able to submit this information electronically to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister?

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Regeneration and Regional Development), Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister) (Regeneration and Regional Development)

My Lords, if they cannot then we will have failed with e-government. I am getting in real trouble here. I have no authority to accept the amendment. What is more, there are some things that I might go to the stake for, but I am not going to the stake for this. I take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford. I am arguing the case for the status quo while he is arguing that this is a chance to get rid of some red tape. The local authorities do it now when they are not required to do it. One has to ask oneself why they are doing it. There is probably a good and useful purpose for which this work is carried out. It is important to monitor the best practice and what is actually happening.

When we were debating another provision of the Bill I referred to a list of 29 local authorities which had not completed a development plan in 14 years. A small minority are not conforming to best practice. The rest are doing the work and on that basis the measure will not impose an extra burden. I will make it my business to check that it does not and get confirmation that local authorities will be able to deal with these plans electronically. That way there would be no excuse whatsoever for publishing a glossy report.

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Conservative

My Lords, I always like the Minister when he is just about tempted to foul up his own notes and everybody else's. I am grateful to him because he is honest enough to acknowledge when things are getting ridiculous. I suppose that I ought to take comfort from the fact that "annual report" does not have a capital A and a capital R, which would imply a glossy report.

At the moment local authorities make annual returns to the department on the number of planning applications being dealt with, the time they have taken, and so on. However, at present, they certainly do not report on the implementation of the local development scheme, because it is not there. As I understand it, there is no requirement for a return on the unitary development plan. It may be that there is, but if there is not, there is no justification for putting this extra burden on local authorities because there will be a new framework for documents. Indeed, some local authorities' report on the local development scheme might simply be to say that they have not done it, because for the first three years they will not have to.

It would be helpful if we were to return to this matter. I agree that it is not the most important part of the Bill, but it is an important aspect. If we were to return to it at Third Reading, perhaps the Minister might be in a position to say either that he believes that the whole thing is a bureaucratic nightmare or that the detail that will be required justifies the use of the description "annual report" rather than "annual return". I will come back to this matter, but in the mean while I thank the Minister for having shown some scepticism about it as well.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 36 [Regulations]:

[Amendment No. 107 not moved.]

Clause 38 [Development plan]:

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Shadow Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Local Government & the Regions

moved Amendment No. 108:

Page 20, line 28, at end insert—

"( ) For the purposes of any area in Greater London, the development plan prior to the publication by the Mayor of London of a new spatial development strategy in accordance with section 341(1)(b) of the Greater London Authority Act 1999 (c. 29) (alteration or replacement) is the unitary development plan adopted in accordance with the principal Act."

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Shadow Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Local Government & the Regions

My Lords, this amendment is grouped with Amendments No. 110 and with Amendment No. 110A, which is in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham. It takes us back to London. In Committee I moved a similar amendment to the effect that although the Mayor's spatial development strategy—called the London Plan—will become the regional spatial strategy, it should not do so yet.

The amendment provides that the unitary development plans prepared by the boroughs will remain the development plans for each borough until the Mayor publishes or adopts an alteration to the London Plan; in other words, not the London Plan that has just been published. It is a good read but it is also a big read. Talking of glossy documents, I noticed that it costs £50 to buy. One would have to be jolly interested in it. If one tried to download it using e- government, I suspect that one would crash quite a lot of computers in the process. I do not dispute that it has got some good stuff in it but it does not contain the policies that the London boroughs had during the process of the creation of the London Plan or treat what was happening within the context of the Bill.

The Minister's response to the amendment on the previous occasion was that the plan would be published before the Bill commenced. It has now been published, but that is not the point I seek to deal with today. There is no opportunity for the local authorities to be re-consulted on the London Plan now that the Bill makes its status clear, unlike every other region in the country which will have an opportunity to be consulted on the new regional spatial strategy. Noble Lords may wonder whether that is fair—although, in a sense, fairness is not the whole issue. We are also talking about effectiveness, whether or not the right policies emerge from the whole area of work and whether there is clarity in that.

The Minister also said that making regional plans a part of the development plan is,

"an important part of strengthening the strategic planning role. It is just as applicable to the Mayor's strategy as it is to a regional strategy".—[Official Report, 27/1/04; col. 187.]

He further said that the Government were not fundamentally altering the existing relationship between the spatial development strategy and unitary development plans. Since then I have seen certainly one letter which confirms this. He said in that letter that the Government were making the position clearer.

The Minister told the House that the strategy under the Bill would not replace Part 1—that is the boroughs' strategic policies in unitary development plans—and that the Bill does not affect the scope and content of the strategy. There is an overlap between the Part 1 policies of many boroughs' unitary development plans and the Mayor's strategic policies. While the London Plan is the most recently adopted document, I assume that it will have greater weight than the boroughs' unitary development plans. I am fearful that this will lead to more complexity and confusion in the process. Many of the London boroughs raised objections to the plan at the time but they were not aware of the status being proposed by the Bill and did not consider the level of detail included in the draft London Plan or the possible conflict that might occur.

I am aware of the different approaches taken by the London boroughs. Some have gone ahead with modifications to their current unitary development plans; others decided to hold back until the Mayor's London Plan was published; and some went ahead with modifications on the basis that the new legislation would be in effect, or certainly anticipating the new structure of local development frameworks and so on.

So what is emerging from the boroughs is very varied indeed. I have seen a number of such examples in my role as a member of the Greater London Assembly.

Perhaps I may give one example of an area of difficulty—that of car parking standards. Noble Lords who have been involved in local government will know that the area of car parking standards can be very contentious. The London Plan policy states that UDP policies and transport local implementation plans should adopt the maximum parking standards set out in the annex, where appropriate, taking account of local circumstances and allowing for reduced car parking provision in areas of good transport accessibility. The parking standards in the annex are in many cases different from those of the London Borough of Camden, which prepared this note for me, and for other London boroughs as well.

The policy refers to local circumstances and reduced levels of car parking provision but this is open to interpretation and is therefore a source of potential conflict. The London Plan specifically identifies what is called the central activities zone, which includes part of Camden, as being particularly well served by public transport. Camden is fearful that this can be interpreted to mean that other parts of the same borough, where there are different levels of transport accessibility, are included and regarded as suitable for low levels of parking. I hope your Lordships will regard this as but one of the many examples where problems could arise.

The Minister argued that the Government are not fundamentally altering the existing relationship and that currently the spatial development strategy can still be a material consideration. He also referred to the Mayor's powers of refusal. To me, this can be turned around and amount to an argument that the amendment I am proposing is not the problem for the Government that has been suggested.

I understand that the Mayor has been advised that now that the London Plan is published, borough unitary development plans and local development documents should conform with it. That is exactly the problem we are seeking to avoid. It does not seem to be truly consistent with what we have heard before but it certainly spells out in words of one syllable the position we fear will lead to confusion. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Conservative 4:45, 1 March 2004

My Lords, I rise to support the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and to speak to our Amendment No. 110A. I should briefly like to explain the rationale behind our withdrawal of Amendments Nos. 109 and 111 and the substitution of Amendment No. 110A instead. We believe it to be more sensible to follow the current structure of the Bill by considering the issues for London under subsection (2) and then the issues for the rest of the country under subsection (3). Our earlier plans would have knocked out subsection (2) and then removed "other" from subsection (3) so as to take the issues of London and the remainder of the country together.

The Bill proposes to change the status of the Mayor of London's special development strategy—known as the London Plan—so the situation in London will be consistent with the Government's proposals for the rest of England. The London Plan will now have to be a formal part of each borough's unitary development plan when previously the UDP would only have to be in general conformity with the London Plan. This is despite the announcement in the planning Green Paper of 2001 that the Government do not propose any change to the Mayor's role in the arrangements for planning in London.

It is wrong for the Government to argue that the change in London is necessary for the sake of consistency. The situation in London is unique and this makes it unsuited for the planning system the Government are establishing for the rest of England. There will be no regional spatial strategy in London, which will instead have a very much more detailed draft London Plan prepared by the Mayor. It is a highly prescriptive document that will inevitably conflict at times with unitary development plans. I can give one example of this already. The Mayor is very keen on high-rise buildings and certainly there are boroughs in London—of which mine is one—where high-rise buildings are not part of the expectations in the unitary development plans. As matters stand, the local authority would have to conform to the Mayor's requirements. One can see room for all kinds of mischief there. The Mayor might like a nicer tower block somewhere in the centre of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, with its fine conservation documents and its low-rise buildings, would find that extremely unpalatable.

We are told that when a conflict does arise between a borough's plan and the London Plan, the more recent document; that is, the London Plan, will have the greater weight. That would mean that the carefully considered unitary development plan, which is a result of months of consultation with local communities, can be overridden by the London Plan. Indeed, the unitary development plans in London were adopted only some five years ago. What is more, there is every chance that the planning application process will become more complicated and take more time. That is the very reverse of what we understood the whole of the Bill to be about. Each planning application will have to be considered in relation to both the local development plan and the relevant policies in the London Plan. Any appeal procedure that results from the refusal of a planning application will consequently also be far more complex.

The amendment would retain the present relationship between the spatial development strategy and the unitary development plan in London boroughs. Under the present arrangements, the unitary development plans have to be in general conformity, but we now know that general conformity with the regional spatial strategy is actually conformity with the Mayor's spatial strategy. Section 304 of the Greater London Authority Act 1999 amends the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 to reflect the setting up of the revised administrative arrangements for Greater London. Section 344(2) states that Part 1 of the unitary development plans should be in general conformity with the spatial development strategy for the time being in force; and that Part 2 of the unitary development plans should be in general conformity with Part 1 and, in the case of a London borough council, with the spatial development strategy.

All of that means that London boroughs will now not merely have to pay attention to but be governed by the London development plan. That was never foreseen and it was an eventuality for which unitary development plans were never developed. Under the current London Plan, they simply cannot be maintained.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

My Lords, it is an interesting group of amendments. It contains amendments which would achieve slightly different outcomes. I can understand why the issue is important for London, but there have been some fundamental misunderstandings and perhaps some confusion too about how the system will work. I am pleased in the first instance, however, that the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, appears to agree that the Mayor's spatial development strategy should be part of the development plan. That is an important point of principle. Making the plan that sets the strategic planning framework for the region a part of the development plan is an essential part of affirming its status and reduces uncertainty and ambiguity. That applies just as much to the London Plan as it does to the regional spatial strategies in other parts of the country.

However, I am disappointed that the noble Baroness believes that the recently published London Plan should not be part of the development plan. If it is right that future versions of the London Plan should be part of the development plan, I cannot see quite why the current published plan should not be as well. Making the London Plan part of the development plan is not a proposal that we have suddenly sprung on everybody. After all, the Bill was introduced on 4 December 2002. We wrote to the London boroughs in January of last year, before the examination in public of the draft plan, to draw their attention to that. The practical consequences of making the London Plan part of the development plan will be limited. We can perhaps discuss that in greater detail later on.

I do not accept that the boroughs would have made significantly different representations on the draft London Plan even if they had known from the beginning that it would be part of the development plan. I do not accept the view that the current London Plan contains too much detail to be a strategic development plan. Where the panel report concluded that policies were insufficiently strategic, that was taken into account in a final version of the plan, but there is absolutely no reason why the London Plan should not contain strategic development control policies. After all, London has a history of detailed strategic guidance; for example, the regional planning guidance on strategic views in the capital and on the River Thames. That reflects the particularly close interdependencies of a city compared to a much larger region. The Mayor of London is charged with preparing eight statutory strategies that must be consistent one with another. That necessarily means that the London Plan should contain a substantial number of policies. It does not mean—as has been borne out by examination in public—that they are not appropriate for the strategic development plan in London.

Amendment No. 110A would mean that the Mayor's London Plan would never become part of the development plan. As the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, explained, we have had a two-tier development plan in all other parts of the country in the form of county structure plans and local plans. From what I have heard, noble Lords opposite have not been enthusiastic supporters of changing those arrangements and have made common cause in arguing for a retained, strengthened position for the counties. I can understand their political stance on that issue, but I am not quite so clear why they should object to a two-tier development plan in London, but not elsewhere. The noble Baroness said that there did not need to be consistency, but consistency is an important element of the argument and the approach—

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Conservative

My Lords, will the Minister accept that the difference between the London Plan and the regional spatial strategies is that the London development plan was consulted on and went through all its processes long before the Bill was promulgated? The London Plan has been drawn up against a completely different background. The consultation with the London boroughs was carried out against the background of the Greater London Authority Act 1999 and not against that of the Planning and Compensation Act 1991. There is a difference. The London boroughs had drawn up their unitary development plans. Consultation took place against that background and not against that of the London development framework.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

Yes, my Lords, I accept that point. I think that I made it at the outset and explained that the Bill had been with us for some time. We consulted on it and published a Green Paper. It was understood where we were coming from in bringing the legislation forward. It is not a great shock.

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Conservative

My Lords, the Minister misunderstands me. The London development plan was consulted on well in advance of the Bill being put forward. Perhaps the Minister did not misunderstand me.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

Yes, my Lords, I understand the point. I accept, too, that London is different from other regions, but not in its need for a strategic planning framework with development plan status. I hope that we could all accept that that was an essential building block of any sensible regional strategic planning system.

It is perhaps the case that concern lies more with the practical consequences. That seems to be the issue which the noble Baroness has raised more recently, but it should not prevent us from making progress with that important move.

The concerns that have been expressed are not well founded. By making the London Plan part of the development plan, we are increasing clarity and reducing ambiguity. Ultimately, we are not fundamentally altering the existing relationship between it and unitary development plans. The practical consequences of the change will be limited.

It is perhaps worth reminding the House that, under the provisions of the Greater London Authority Act 1999, borough unitary development plans must already be in general conformity with the London Plan. If the Mayor considers that the unitary development plan is not in general conformity with the published London Plan, he will provide a written opinion that will set out the respects in which the plan is not in such conformity. That will be treated as a duly made objection. That is very similar to the arrangements included in Clause 24.

I turn to the arrangements for planning applications. Under the current arrangements, the London Plan can still be a "material consideration" when a London borough considers a planning application. The weight given to the policies in the London Plan will in some cases be significant. Making the London Plan part of the development plan does not mean that boroughs will be suddenly faced with a different set of issues to consider when dealing with planning applications. The same basic principles still apply.

The Mayor already has the power to direct the refusal of a planning application of potential strategic importance, if he considers that to grant permission would be contrary to the London Plan or prejudicial to its implementation. I wonder whether the objection to making the London Plan part of the development plan may be less one of principle or even practicality and more of—dare I mention it?—politics. If so, it is no good reason to amend the Bill in that regard.

A democratically elected Mayor for London has produced the London Plan following extensive consultation and an examination in public. Our view is that London needs a spatial framework. It is absolutely right that it should have development plan status. For those reasons, I urge the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Shadow Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Local Government & the Regions 5:00, 1 March 2004

My Lords, that was interesting indeed. I shall answer the last point first. The examples that I was given—there were more than the one that I cited—and the work in briefing both the noble Baroness and myself were led by a borough under the control of the same party as the Mayor. We are not talking party politics; Camden is a Labour borough and the Mayor is a member of the Labour Party. It is perfectly obvious to any observer that there is considerable discussion between him and members of the Labour Party about what goes on in London. No one is playing politics. I have been told that boroughs understood from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister that the Bill would not alter the relationship between them and the Mayor. They may have been wrongly informed or misunderstood, but they worked on that basis.

As the Minister said, the GLA Act allows the Mayor to make objections to unitary development plans, which he said was not very different from the clause. Clause 38(5) is quite different, stating that, if there is a conflict, it,

"must be resolved in favour of the policy . . . in the last document to be adopted, approved or published".

The Minister also pointed to the Mayor's right of refusal. Of course that applies, but surely the point about that is that the Mayor is not left exposed with a London Plan of several hundred words that is worth nothing. He should actually have the tools to do what he wants. What we are doing is not frivolous or seditious.

The matter between us is whether it is the current London Plan or the next version that will kick in. The practical consequences are important. I am pulled in two directions over such an issue. In my role as a Member of the London Assembly, I do not regard it as axiomatic or automatic that I should oppose the Mayor in everything that he does. I cannot separate the different bits of my political life, but I regard the role of the Assembly as one of constructive criticism. I want to see planning in London work well, effectively, and not so confusingly that developers can run rings round the planning authorities by pointing out differences between documents and saying, "You've got it wrong. We're able to go in the direction that we want".

I take what the boroughs of all three political complexions have said to me on the matter. Unless their fears were well founded, why would they make the points that they have made? I would like to test the opinion of the House.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 108) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 137; Not-Contents, 131.

Division number 2 Private Parking: Ports and Trading Estates — Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill

Aye: 135 Members of the House of Lords

No: 129 Members of the House of Lords

Aye: A-Z by last name

Tellers

No: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.

[Amendment No. 109 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Shadow Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Local Government & the Regions 5:15, 1 March 2004

moved Amendment No. 110:

Page 20, line 29, at beginning insert "Thereafter,"

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 110A not moved.]

[Amendment No. 111 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

[Amendment No. 112 not moved.]

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Conservative

moved Amendment No. 113:

Page 21, line 12, leave out paragraph (c).

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Conservative

My Lords, Clause 38(l) states:

"A reference to the development plan in any enactment mentioned in subsection (7) must be construed in accordance with subsections (2) to (5)".

Subsection (7) goes on to list the relevant enactments which include,

"this Act . . . the planning Acts . . . the Land Compensation Act 1961 . . . the Highways Act 1980".

I moved a similar amendment during a previous stage of the Bill and I asked the Minister then what other Acts would be involved, because they are referred to. He kindly referred me back to those that I had already mentioned and have just repeated. In the interim have there been any further thoughts regarding what the other Acts were? For the benefit of some enlightenment, I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Regeneration and Regional Development), Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister) (Regeneration and Regional Development)

My Lords, I shall try to provide enlightenment. Clause 38 defines the development plan in terms of the new and simplified hierarchy of plans and documents created by the Bill. It applies the definition to existing legislation. Under Clause 38(1), if any of the Acts mentioned specifically in Clause 38(7)—for example, the Highways Act 1980—refer to the development plan, then the development plan means what it says in subsections (2) to (5) of Clause 38. The same applies if there is a reference to the development plan in,

"any other enactment relating to town and country planning".

The broad reference in Clause 38(7)(c) is mainly to ensure that future legislation relating to town and country planning will be caught by those requirements. If the Bill listed enactments individually, the list would become exclusive and could be added to only by changing primary legislation. Clause 38(7) ensures that the principal current enactments are listed in terms, all other legislation containing the relevant reference is caught and the development plan is defined in one statutory provision—Clause 38.

I shall state a few facts. Regarding whether this makes life difficult for lawyers, we do not wish to be unhelpful but, if one uses electronic search facilities, one can search the UK statutes database. Such a search shows that there are 2,025 references to "town and country planning" in over 200 enactments. Furthermore, there are 295 references to "development plan" in around 30 enactments. It may be that there is a reference to the development plan in an enactment falling within Clause 38(7)(c), where that enactment does not relate to town and country planning. If so, then the construction provided for in the Bill will not apply—but that is something to be determined on consideration of the relevant legislation.

I hope that I have given the noble Baroness the enlightenment for which she was asking.

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Conservative

My Lords, the best enlightenment would come from saying that we probably need a consolidation Act if all that legislation is floating about. I now understand why they were not all listed on the face of the Bill and I thank the Minister for his clarification. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Baroness Maddock Baroness Maddock Shadow Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Local Government & the Regions

moved Amendment No. 114:

Page 21, line 16, at end insert—

"( ) Planning authorities may set targets in their development plans in respect of the proportion of the building's energy requirements on an application site to be supplied by renewable sources obtained on the same application site."

Photo of Baroness Maddock Baroness Maddock Shadow Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Local Government & the Regions

My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 114, I declare an interest as a non-executive director of a heating company.

The amendment would enable local authorities to better carry out their duties in promoting sustainable development through the efficient use of energy in new developments. I am grateful to the Town and Country Planning Association for the formulation of this amendment. The World Wildlife Fund, the Building Research Establishment, solarcentury, the Somerset Trust for Sustainable Development, Queen's University Belfast and Oxford Brookes University held a sustainable housing forum. From that forum, there was a call for the Government to make clear that the planning system should be a central element in meeting sustainable development and particularly carbon dioxide emissions reduction targets.

Since then, there have been several examples of where local authorities have difficulty in this area. For example, extensive legal opinions were necessary before the London Borough of Merton unitary development plan could be adopted. The policy in that plan was the establishment of a target of 10 per cent of building energy needs to be met from renewable sources on site. This may not be the perfect amendment, but its purpose is to clarify that, in the interests of sustainable development, such a policy is lawful and should be supported.

In the Government's consultation paper, Planning Policy Statement 1: Creating Sustainable Communities, four main aims for sustainable development are set out. The last two of those are effective protection of the environment and the prudent use of natural resources. Section 1.21 states:

"Policies should reflect a preference for minimising the need to consume new resources over the lifetime of a development by making more efficient use or reuse of existing resources rather than making new demands on the environment; and for seeking to promote and encourage, rather than restrict, the development of renewable energy resources. Consideration should be given to encouraging energy efficient buildings, community heating schemes, and the use of combined heat and power in developments."

It is not often that the interests of two things that one is doing in the House come together. I am on the European Union Select Committee, which is investigating climate change. I am sure that the Minister will know that Woking Borough Council has an extremely good record on reducing carbon emissions in a whole range of ways. Last week, Allan Jones, the energy services manager in Woking, came to the Committee. I am grateful to him for his good definition of sustainable energy. I will quote it to the House:

"Sustainable energy is anything that enables energy supplies to be made sustainable, either now or in the future, by putting in place such energy systems or infrastructures necessary to achieve a renewable energy future. A prime example of this is combined heat and power where the fuel may initially be a low carbon fuel such as natural gas which can be replaced later by a renewable fuel such as biogas, biomass or even hydrogen as used in fuel cells. The important issue here is the heat, chilled water and private wire networks serving buildings on local sustainable community energy systems which enables the easy replacement or refuelling of the primary energy generators some time in the future when fossil fuels become scarce or non-existent. Combined heat and power is particularly important since 70% of the UK's non transport energy needs are thermal and most renewable energy technologies are intermittent electricity generation only".

The importance of that for planning is that the proximity of new and existing industrial and commercial sites to each other is vital. A community-led approach to such projects would be needed. Local authority understanding of that concept and pro-active assistance in developing it are important.

Woking adopted the borough local plan on 27 August 1999. There were three important policies in that plan connected with sustainable energy use. Policy BE6 was energy conservation:

"The council will expect proposals for new development to take account of the need to conserve energy through appropriate location, design, layout and landscaping", policy CUS8 was renewable energy:

"Proposals for the development of renewable energy sources will be considered favourably where there would be no material harm to the environment by reason of location, appearance, noise and traffic generation, nor result in the loss of land protected by other policies in the Plan", and CUS9 was combined heat and power:

"The developments of combined heat and power stations that meet both the operational demands of the technology and the environmental policies of Local Planning will be permitted".

Those are in the local plan. In practice, no developer has implemented any of those policies. The only people who have implemented any are the council and the public-private joint venture energy services company. However good everyone's intentions are, the problem remains that councils are often challenged when they try to implement such policies. I know that from my own experience. The heating company that I am involved with is in Southampton, and planners get edgy when we put forward proposals and ideas in 106 agreements to try to get sustainable energy into a development—they say that they will be challenged and that they cannot do it. It is important that we get a lead from the Government on this to ensure that when people follow what we all believe to be right, they are backed up in law and that they are able to do it. It is vitally important, if we are to tackle climate change, and if we really want sustainable development. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Marlesford Lord Marlesford Conservative

My Lords, we all believe in the sustainable use of energy. We all believe that it is desirable, taking a careful balance of costs—including environmental costs—versus benefits in the greater use of renewables. The greatest contribution that can be made and has been made to the better use of energy has been through the development of building regulations over the years, which have been extremely successful. A remarkably few years ago anything went, and there were wildly inefficient methods of heating houses. Now, building regulations require proper insulation standards, double glazing and so on.

That is the right way to go. The noble Baroness's proposal is several steps too far. It is impractical and undesirable. Although I can see where she is coming from, I would not propose to have another overall target and an interference with the best methods that developers may feel that they want to use. The right way forward is further development with building regulations and not something like this. I oppose the amendment.

Photo of Lord Chorley Lord Chorley Crossbench

My Lords, I rather agree with the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, but from a slightly different angle. The amendment talks about renewable resources, but 99 per cent of CHP schemes have nothing to do with renewable sources. The noble Baroness referred to the interesting things going on at Woking, which some of us know about, where CHP is used. Again, efficiency, which the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, talked about in terms of building regulations, is not covered under the amendment. The amendment focuses on a minute bit of sustainable energy and not on the wider picture. Frankly, it does not seem sensible.

Photo of Lord Howie of Troon Lord Howie of Troon Labour 5:30, 1 March 2004

My Lords, I support the noble Lord on the issue of building regulations. That is the way to go about the change, rather than using the law. The idea underlying the amendment and the attitude is a bit like motherhood and apple pie. The weakness of the approach is, simply, that renewable energy sources, desirable though they may be, have one overwhelming weakness; that they do not produce much energy.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

My Lords, my response will be somewhat inadequate in matching up to the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock. I have a brief speaking note while the noble Baroness spent some time talking about the desirability of sustainable energy, renewables, the role of the local authorities and how the authority in Woking is tackling climate change. I was most impressed by what it is trying to do and I hope that other local authorities join it. I am sure they are because Woking cannot do it on its own.

The point most importantly made is that this is not the place to deal with a detail of policy—important though it is in encouraging the better, sustainable use of energy and getting local authorities, providers, builders and so forth in the right mindset. I am drawn towards the points made by the last three speakers in this short debate.

We believe that the issues are best covered in guidance so that planning authorities can best set their own targets through their own plans and can vary them according to the type or size of development. Draft planning policy statement 22, which was published for consultation on 5 November, covers planning policy in relation to renewable energy. The public consultation period for that paper ended a few weeks ago and the responses are currently being analysed.

Proposals for bringing renewable energy and buildings within the scope of PPS22 along the lines proposed by the noble Baroness have been made in the context of this consultation. The Government will consider those proposals most carefully alongside the other responses they have received. We will soon be making an announcement about the results of that consideration.

I am grateful for the amendment being tabled because it is a useful and timely reminder. I agree with the points made by the noble Lords, Lord Marlesford, Lord Chorley and Lord Howie, because they are right in saying that this is not the place to make the change. It is much more appropriate in guidance and we can take it on board in that respect. Furthermore, being in guidance it will have more flexibility.

I hope that the noble Baroness felt happy and satisfied in making good campaigning points in her argument, but will accept that the issue is best resolved in another way. We will all make more progress if it is and it is better that the issue is dealt with more flexibly.

Photo of Baroness Maddock Baroness Maddock Shadow Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Local Government & the Regions

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who intervened for some of their comments and I thank the Minister for his reply. Various criticisms were made. The wording of the amendment is that "planning authorities may", so no one is forcing them to act.

Several noble Lords failed to recognised that if one is trying to carry out a community heating scheme of whatever type, it cannot be done through building regulations on individual buildings. In my view, in order to achieve the efficient use of energy, we need to go down that road when buildings are built close together. Criticism was made of combined heat and power not being renewable energy, but the point I made on the Woking scheme was that the advantage of having a community heating scheme based on CHP is that as new technologies are introduced the fuel can be changed. The other important point is that under such a scheme the electricity continues to be available.

The complaint people make about renewable energy, particularly wind farms, is that the power is there only when there is wind. Allan Jones told me that, interestingly, in Woking their scheme is so efficient that during a power cut when an out-of-town shopping centre lost its power, the shops in the centre of Woking retained theirs because they were on the circuit of the CHP scheme.

It is an important issue and I understand what the Minister says. I am pleased that the Government are looking at the matter seriously and I hope that PPS22 will enable local authorities, when they put it into their plans, to ensure that it happens. That was the point of raising the issue. People wanting to introduce such a scheme have come up against problems in making it stick and in getting people to carry it out. With those comments, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 39 [Local development orders]:

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Shadow Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Local Government & the Regions

moved Amendment No. 115:

Page 21, line 24, leave out from "with" to "sustainable" in line 25 and insert "the objective of achieving"

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Shadow Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Local Government & the Regions

My Lords, the amendment was part of a long group on the nature of sustainable development which your Lordships discussed in Committee. The noble Lord, Lord Chorley, said that the amendment makes the clause an,

"operational rather than a pious hope".—[Official Report, 29/1/04; col. 330.]

I am grateful to him for that and it was precisely why I spoke to the amendment then and why I am moving it today.

The Minister said:

"A plan itself cannot achieve a sustainable development . . . It sets out a framework, but it is the actions that follow which lead to sustainable development. That is why we used the 'contributing to the achievement of' wording".—[Official Report, 29/1/04; col. 333.]

I take the point that planning is not all, but it is more than just a framework: I would say that it is the bedrock. I agree with the Minister that the actions which follow lead to sustainable development. That is in part why I am moving the amendment. The clause referred to the exercise of functions by any person or body exercising the particular functions. I believe that they should do so not just with a view to contributing to the achievement of sustainable development but with the objective of it. "Contributing" is inadequate.

Unless the regional spatial strategy in the development plan documents establish the right bedrock, not only will we not achieve sustainable development, but we run the risk of allowing unsustainable development. I would like to think that every objective is automatically achieved but I do not believe that that is the case in life. Nor do I believe that that is what the word would mean were it to be included in the Bill. I make sustainable development the objective with the hope, though not necessarily the confidence, that by doing so it will always be achieved.

I agree with the statement in the recently published consultation on PPS1 that sustainable development is the core principle underpinning planning. Therefore, I again draw your Lordships' attention to what I believe is the correct expression of that statement within the Bill. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Regeneration and Regional Development), Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister) (Regeneration and Regional Development)

My Lords, when we debated this amendment in Committee I said that we would look at the issue further, which we are still doing: the clause is receiving ongoing consideration. However, I am able to tell the noble Baroness and the House that I hope—which means I expect—to be able to bring forward an amendment at Third Reading which will go some way to meet her concerns without opening up every planning decision to a challenge. In the light of that I hope that we can let the case rest now and we will have a substantive debate on this issue at Third Reading.

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Shadow Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Local Government & the Regions

My Lords, we will certainly have a substantial debate because if the Minister is unable to find the words I will be back with this amendment. It will save us time today another 10 minutes. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Conservative

moved Amendment No. 116:

Page 21, line 25, at end insert "and economic regeneration"

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Conservative

My Lords, in moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 119.

These amendments provided for a very useful and interesting debate at the previous stage. I return to the two amendments that I put forward, seeking to have them put on to the face of the Bill.

Since our last debate, the Government have produced a consultation document, PPS1, that sets out their interpretation of "sustainable development". I find it curious when we have had so much discussion on sustainable development that this matter comes to consultation only at this stage. It would have been helpful if that document had been around earlier. However, I re-tabled my original amendments to give the phrase proper definition. I maintain that it is crucial to get a definition on to the face of the Bill and not leave it to secondary legislation.

My first amendment provides that development should contribute to the achievement of economic regeneration. We all believe in the benefits of economic regeneration, and it is through the planning system that local economic regeneration can be achieved successfully. It is surprising that regeneration does not get a statutory footing in the Bill; we believe that it should.

We discussed the new clause quite extensively at the last stage. It was demonstrated that sustainable development was open to very broad interpretation. On the one hand, it can be perceived as a term that has environmental connotations, and on the other hand it refers to economic viability. The term can quite literally be interpreted as having meanings that are the opposite of each other. It is not good enough for the Government to give a vague explanation and say that a balance has to be struck. The term is too subjective.

Far more importantly, it is unsatisfactory for there to be no definition in the Bill at all of "sustainable development". There is a substantial subheading under Part 3—"Sustainable development"— but there is still no explanation of what sustainable development encompasses.

At the previous stage I put forward a new clause, which we debated, and I return to it because it seems that a definition that was accepted not only in this country but by the United Nations as far back as 1972 could form a proper basis for understanding what sustainable development is about. It is a definition that clearly has stood and will stand the test of time. The definition is quite encompassing and makes clear what would fall within the term "sustainable development".

Although I hear what the Minister said about considering this matter further, I am not sure that he took into account that these amendments actually define sustainable development. I am therefore putting these amendments forward. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Cobbold Lord Cobbold Crossbench 5:45, 1 March 2004

My Lords, both amendments are concerned with the definition of sustainable development. I have not changed my view that sustainable development is a subjective concept and impossible to define objectively. However, since our earlier discussions we have had the draft of planning policy statement 1. Paragraph 1.13 sets out the Government's current definition of aims of sustainable development; these give some guide as to what the Government are expecting. There is also the element of flexibility in the fact that they appear in the guidance, which enables the concept to evolve with time and particularly with local needs. The question of economic regeneration is also dealt with in the draft document—in paragraph 1.22. So I am satisfied for the time being that we understand what the Government are getting at and we will have an element of flexibility for reaction in different circumstances.

Photo of Lord Chorley Lord Chorley Crossbench

My Lords, taking Amendment No. 116 first, I said in Committee that I did not particularly object to it but I did not feel that it fitted happily into this part of the Bill. That more or less remains my view. If anything, I am rather more adverse to having Amendment No. 116 included than I was then. For example, I do not know why the amendment talks about "economic regeneration"; if it talked about "economic development" that would be more sensible. "Economic regeneration" suggests that something that was not there is now happening. Perhaps that is a pedantic point.

The other difficulty with having "economic regeneration" in this part of the Bill is that there are certain types of economic development or activity that are totally unsustainable. That is why it is not very comfortable to have it linked to that part of the Bill.

I was in favour of Amendment No. 119 in Committee and am even more in favour now; that is, the 1972 Stockholm conference definition of sustainable development, which is still much the best definition that I know. It is better than the Brundtland definition, which introduced the word "need", which my noble friend Lord Cobbold rightly criticised in Committee. The word "need" opens up a whole new ball game for debate; as my noble friend said, it is highly subjective.

A World Bank report on definitions of sustainable development listed at least 57 varieties of definition. In my view, the simple, straight, first definition of Stockholm is still the best. It is important to put it in the Bill because it gives statutory recognition to a basic framework which can be and has been built on in the guidance in the form of PPS1. At the same time—"guidance" being more flexible than enactments—it allows for changing attitudes and for development of the concept as needs change, as they will. So I very much support Amendment No. 119, but not Amendment No. 116.

Photo of Lord Avebury Lord Avebury Shadow Minister, Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs

My Lords, can the Minister explain how the concept of sustainable development applies to one particular aspect of planning that he mentioned earlier; that is, waste management? Are there overall considerations of sustainable development that apply to the types of waste management used in the regional spatial strategies and the local development documents that flow from them?

The Government have published studies that compare different methods for disposing of waste. They are prejudiced, if I may put it that way, against landfill and are trying to reduce it. The effect of that is that other types of disposal of waste will have to be considered—either pyrolysis, which is supposed to be effective at reducing emissions from the incineration of waste, or recycling, which, so far, has not proved very attractive to local authorities.

The cost of developing recycling plants is enormous, and the Government are not giving local authorities any assistance with the capital cost. The rate at which local authorities recycle their waste is far less, perhaps, than the Government would like. For sustainable development, the ideal is that the maximum amount of waste—household and other types—should be recycled. That is the principle behind some European directives, such as those that prohibit the disposal of refrigerators and electrical and electronic apparatus, all of which must be recycled.

That is the direction in which we are going. Should it be encouraged in any way by the planning system? Should there, in regional spatial strategies and the local development documents that flow from them, be some ground rules that point waste disposal strategies in a particular direction? That does not appear in the Bill, and it would be an interesting illustration of how the sustainable development principle was interpreted in practice. Can the Minister say something about that?

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Regeneration and Regional Development), Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister) (Regeneration and Regional Development)

My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, that it would be interesting, but, somehow, I suspect that it will not get into the Bill. I am not briefed to answer his specific points. The point that the noble Lord made that waste should be minimised in the first place in the design and packaging of products should be self-evident. In many ways, waste management should be part of the original design, before we ever get to recycling.

When I had a job in the real world as a production engineer, modularisation was not around. There were some items that we did not repair: we just threw them away and gave people a new one. That was in the old days of loudspeaker manufacture, which I was involved in in the 1960s. Today, simply to get the cost of production down, everything is more and more modularised, and repair becomes impossible anyway. In order to reduce the price and get economies of scale, they must build recycling techniques into the design. More and more, that is the way it goes. There are some motor cars—I shall not mention names—for which it is claimed that 95 per cent of the vehicle can be recycled. That is genuinely so and has been independently tested. That is in the design of products, before we get to waste management and decide whether to use holes in the ground.

I have some notes on the matter, and I hope that I can give some responses to the points made. I shall not use them all, because we will come to the issue. As I have implied, I shall table an amendment to this important clause at Third Reading. Because of the issues that have been raised, we tend to think that it is easier to describe what is meant by "sustainable development" in guidance. We could come up with a definition now, and, in three or four weeks' time, we could all agree something slightly different. I shall not argue the case between the 1972 Stockholm definition—as in the amendment—and the 1980 definition. I take the point that the use of the word "needs" in the 1980 definition opens up a can of worms.

We have produced planning policy statement 1. The matter is referred to not only in paragraph 1.13. I also refer noble Lords to paragraph 1.22, which sets out objectives that planning policy should seek to achieve. The first two are to promote regeneration and regional, sub-regional and local economies and to promote communities that are inclusive, healthy, safe and crime-free. There is a list of four of five other objectives in that fairly long paragraph.

The language has been carefully drafted, but it is not legally watertight in the sense that it would have to be, if it were in the Bill. I return to the point that I made at Second Reading: it has proved difficult to get a legal definition that we can be content with and does not open up a can of worms and prevent development. However, we have considered the matter again, and I am fairly confident that, by Third Reading, I shall be back with an amendment.

The nuances that one wants cannot be put in a Bill. They must be put somewhere where we can use more flowery language and more words and the parliamentary draftsmen have not been able to use their techniques because of the difficulties. Our view is that guidance is the right place for a definition, not primary legislation. We can be much clearer about what we mean by sustainable development, if we do not try to encapsulate the meaning in just a few words that will be argued over by lawyers and others whose objectives for particular developments might be different from those of local authorities, developers and the Government.

On the other hand, we want to make sure that there is sustainable development, so there is a dilemma for the Government and for both Houses. At the end of the day, it is our responsibility to get it right, and it is not possible to do that by accepting either amendment. I rest my case not only on the document that we put forward but on the basis that the Government will come back and tweak the clause. I hope that that will send the right signal, which is an important aspect of the legislation, without any unintended side consequences.

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Conservative

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his rather brief reply. I understand that the Government want to tweak the clause, but they are still not responding to the problem of not having an easily recognisable definition of sustainable development in the Bill.

I am not particularly bothered about Amendment No. 116, which relates to economic regeneration, but I have become deeply attached to my new clause. It has been tested out with parliamentary counsel. It has been tested legally, and it would be perfectly acceptable and cover all the nuances that the Minister wants.

I shall not extend our discussion of Amendment No. 116 any further, but I give notice now that I shall try to get Amendment No. 119 into the Bill and shall move it at the appropriate stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Baroness Wilkins Baroness Wilkins Labour

moved Amendment No. 117:

Page 21, line 25, at end insert—

"(2A) For the avoidance of doubt "the achievement of sustainable development" mentioned in subsection (2) includes implementing policies which ensure that housing and local environments meet the highest standards of accessibility and inclusion so that all potential users, regardless of disability, age or gender can use them safely and easily."

Photo of Baroness Wilkins Baroness Wilkins Labour

My Lords, it appears that this amendment makes it snow in London, as it did again last night. Fortunately, the snow has melted, but I must apologise to your Lordships for being unable to speak to the amendment, which I tabled for Committee, as ice and snow prevented me getting out of the house. Accessibility is subject to many forces, including the weather.

The amendment would put accessibility, inclusive housing and an inclusive environment at the heart of the definition of sustainable development. If the structured environment is to change, if we are to provide housing that embraces people, whatever their state, and if we are to create a country that makes a reality of the equality of opportunity for which our policies strive, accessibility and inclusion must be the default position in all development. They need to be seen to be as essential as the provision of light and air. Access requirements need to be enshrined in the planning law, not tagged on as an afterthought.

It will require a major culture change in the thinking of planners, developers and builders for inclusivity to be central to the planning system. That is why the coalition of organisations which back this amendment, including the Disability Rights Commission, the Town and Country Planning Association, Habinteg Housing Association and John Grooms is pressing for accessibility and inclusion explicitly to be defined on the face of the Bill as part of sustainable development. I look forward to the tweaks of the clause that the Minister has outlined.

The guidance published on 24 February in planning policy statement 1 is welcome. But it will not in itself end the huge variation in the ways that local planning authorities address access to the built environment. Draft PPS1 is certainly heading in the right direction, and is helpful in relation to disability access, but the emphasis on the achievement of an adequate supply of accessible, inclusive housing and an accessible local environment as a central goal in the planning system needs to be placed up front.

The fear of the organisations behind this amendment is that the guidance will not ensure that disability access policies get the priority that they deserve and that planning inspectors will not have a detailed enough understanding to assess whether or not strategies and schemes have adequately addressed access and inclusion. It will be left to planning authorities to determine their priorities according to regional and local conditions. If they feel that they ought to consult disabled people, they will. If not, then their spatial strategies or development schemes are likely to overlook access yet again.

I hope that the Minister will be able to assure me that the Government will go further to ensure that inclusive housing and inclusive environments are enshrined as central goals of the planning system. Do the Government intend to insist that planning authorities and regional spatial strategies follow the Greater London Authority's lead in requiring all new homes to meet lifetime home standards and setting targets of 10 per cent of new homes to be designed to be wheelchair accessible?

What is planned now will create our environment for the next 50 to 100 years. There needs to be a major shift in awareness and culture if we are to build a society that is accessible for all. The Bill provides us with the opportunity to do so. I hope that my noble friend can give me greater assurance that this will be placed on the face of the Bill and that we shall seize this opportunity. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Shadow Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Local Government & the Regions 6:00, 1 March 2004

My Lords, in previous debates on the Bill, I said how strongly I feel that the issue of access should be regarded as part of sustainable development. I would find it hard to put it in as the only item spelled out in any detail. I hope that the Minister will tell us that whatever he brings back at Third Reading—although it may be a bit early for him to anticipate that—will extend not just to the general concerns that we all have but to pinning down how the issues that the noble Baroness has raised can be addressed through the planning process. We are all interested in the mechanism, not in fancy, warm words. It is much more important than that. Therefore, I support the noble Baroness, although I am not sure whether this is the time that we shall achieve it. I am optimistic that the Minister will help us to do so by the time that the Bill leaves the House.

Photo of Lord Lucas Lord Lucas Conservative

My Lords, I am delighted to support the spirit of this amendment. Clearly, the provision should not be on the face of the Bill as there are far too many complications to deal with in a simple amendment in primary legislation but it gives us a great opportunity to talk about it.

The opportunity to make our built environment, and our environment generally, open to people with disabilities, to people of all ages and all facilities, depends on us doing it when we are doing new build. It is as we renew something in a major way that we have the chance to make this happen. It is a project for 100 years. It is certainly a project for 50 years. We must take a very long-term view on it in order to make it happen. Making changes to existing structures in a piecemeal way is very expensive so we have to be absolutely sure that when we do significant new build or significant refurbishment these matters are taken into account. To my mind, that means that they have to be at the heart of the planning system. It has to be something that, beyond a certain level of significance in a development, people cannot avoid taking into account and which they are encouraged to take into account for even quite small developments. I hope that we shall be able to get something very constructive. We have got so many very constructive things out of the Minister that I feel embarrassed about asking for another one. I would be delighted if we were able to move in that direction and produce something in secondary legislation that met all the wishes of the noble Baroness, Lady Wilkins.

Photo of Lord Marlesford Lord Marlesford Conservative

My Lords, wherever possible we all support the view that buildings should be friendly to people who are disabled but I underline "wherever possible". It is a matter of horses for courses. If one were to read what is proposed by the noble Baroness literally it could mean that any building of more than one storey had to have an elevator in it so that people who are unable to use stairs could use it. It is clearly impractical.

On this general point, and on the role of government in legislating on this subject, it often strikes me as appalling that unrealistic obligations are pushed on to small schemes and small people—restaurants, for example—and that huge schemes or public schemes sail ahead with absolutely no concern for disabled people. The best and most obvious example to all of us is that of the London Underground system. It is staggering. Virtually no resources are used to improve access for the disabled. That is a much higher priority than this although, having said that, there will of course be housing for special needs of every sort, which is to be required and welcomed.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Regeneration and Regional Development), Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister) (Regeneration and Regional Development)

My Lords, I agree with the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford. I refer to a mass transit system for moving hundreds of thousands of people. Have I upset the noble Baroness? I will finish on that point; I was just saying that I agree with the noble Lord's final point that the London Underground is a good example of a mass transit system that does not—

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Shadow Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Local Government & the Regions

My Lords, the Minister tempts me too much. We inherited the London Underground, but it was the Government's PPP project that has left us with an inadequate scheme for improving it. I am sorry that I could not resist that when we are talking about where responsibility lies.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Regeneration and Regional Development), Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister) (Regeneration and Regional Development)

My Lords, that was all I was going to say anyway.

I fully accept the reasons why my noble friend could not be here previously but the one great advantage of the way the Bill is progressing is that I now come with more weapons in the armoury than I had before; a flurry of documents has been published. I emphasise that planning policy statement 1, published last week, is a consultation draft. It is not the last word. I draw attention to the middle sentence of paragraph no. 1.19, which states:

"Planning policies should address accessibility for all to jobs, health, housing, education, shops, leisure and community facilities".

It makes it clear that development plans should be clear and comprehensive, with comprehensive and inclusive access policies. If the development does not address these issues, it cannot be sustainable. That would be our view. That can be put more easily in the guidance than in the Bill.

A point was made about planning authorities, planning inspectors and others involved in the system. They sometimes make assumptions that the issue of access for disabled people is a matter for building regulations and not for planning. I agree. That is why we need to make it clear that we put such a high emphasis on design in Planning Policy Statement 1.

Good design must take account of all the needs of members of society, including people with disabilities. That is made clear in paragraph 1.29. As I said in a previous debate, I will be coming back at Third Reading with a bagful of goodies that will include the point relating to design that I made in response to noble Lords from all four parts of the House. That matter is actively being dealt with as we speak. We will be coming back on that. I cannot say in what form that will be, but I am sure it will be a form acceptable to the House.

I wish to make it clear that this is a consultation draft. Officials have welcomed discussions with the Disability Rights Commission and others on early drafts of Planning Policy Statement 1. Now that it is out in the open, there will be other comments and we are more than ready to listen. We need to look at it and ensure that we have made it clear for the policy makers outside. When we say that it is in the guidance and the planning policy statement, that will not be just a throwaway line. We must make sure we have made it absolutely clear.

The noble Baroness, Lady Wilkins, also mentioned the Lifetimes Homes standard being a requirement. I hate having to say things like this but it is in my briefing that an announcement will be made shortly about how the Government intend to take this forward. That is a wholly positive statement. We are on the case, and can come back to it at Third Reading. I hope that "shortly" means between now and Third Reading, otherwise I shall need to have a better explanation then than I do now.

I am not claiming in any way that the statement we published in Planning Policy Statement 1 has overtaken events—my noble friend could not be here in Committee or during the other debates. It is a consultation draft. The Government have put it on the table. We are more than prepared to listen and change the draft, if consultation brings that about. Some parts can be strengthened or extended to make sure that we get clarity and good information and guidance to those who will make the decisions in local planning authorities.

I hope that that is sufficiently positive. It is intended to be positive. I hope that my noble friend will withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Baroness Wilkins Baroness Wilkins Labour

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who spoke in support of the amendment. I hope that I am not disappointed by my noble friend's reply, and that his bag of goodies will include something that will be helpful to disabled people.

The current built environment and the state of accessibility to housing for disabled people leaves so much to be desired, and there is so much to be done, that the planning policy guidance needs to be greatly strengthened in order for it to be crystal clear to developers that this is an issue that they have to address. They cannot ignore it. I look forward to more hope later, but for the moment I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Lord Best Lord Best Crossbench 6:15, 1 March 2004

moved Amendment No. 118:

After Clause 39, insert the following new clause—

"DIRECTOR OF SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT PLANNING

(1) A local planning authority's duties under the Local Government Act 1972 (c. 70) with respect to the appointment of officers shall (without prejudice to the generality of the provisions of that Act) include the duty of appointing a fit person to be the director of sustainable development and planning of the authority.

(2) The officer appointed under subsection (1) shall have overall senior management responsibility for the functions set out in section 39."

Photo of Lord Best Lord Best Crossbench

My Lords, the addition of this clause is supported by the Town and Country Planning Association and the Royal Town Planning Institute. It would require there to be an officer in local planning authorities with senior management responsibility for sustainable development and planning matters. Please note that the word "and" is needed in the title of this new clause.

The clause is intended to boost the status of planners in local government. Planning has become of ever-greater importance in determining the character, prosperity and quality of life in every area. The Bill ushers in further responsibilities by introducing a new statutory framework for planning related to sustainable development—Clause 39—which has not existed before.

As we know, the granting or refusing of planning permission on behalf of the council can create or remove millions of pounds of land value at the stroke of a pen. Advising councillors and communities on these sensitive matters would seem to justify the employment by the local planning authority of a statutorily recognised officer. This should not be confused with a statutorily protected post, which gives the officers some extra protection against dismissal from their position.

Statutory recognition is of a lesser order, but none the less signifies a status currently accorded to directors of social services, chief education officers, council solicitors and the chief officers responsible for finance. The Government have announced their intention to legislate for a statutory director of chidren's services.

Undoubtedly, it would help senior officers concerned with planning to hold their own with these colleagues if their position carried a similar status. As we all know, there is constant haggling over priorities and resources between the various chief officers and heads of departments. Planning deserves to be represented by an individual at a similar level to these other senior staff.

Not long ago, I led a DTI foresight group's visit to the Netherlands to look at their planning system. Planners there have not suffered the loss of reputation which has afflicted the planning profession in the UK—no doubt as a result of major mistakes back in the 1960s. In the Netherlands, to say that you work for the planning department is a proud boast; seldom is that the case here.

Properly, the Government seek to up the game of planners with a £350 million injection of resources for—in the words of the Minister—the "culture change agenda". The Deputy Prime Minister has asked Sir John Egan to review ways in which recruitment, retention, training and professionalism of planners can be enhanced. His report will be published soon. To boost these efforts, the proposed new clause would be more than helpful to government in attracting high quality people into planning and keeping them there. It sends out a signal and it costs nothing.

The wording of the clause is not controversial. It follows the wording of Section 532 of the Education Act 1996, which covers similar ground. Giving such public recognition, esteem and authority to senior planners can do nothing but good in helping the delivery of the Bill's objectives. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Conservative

My Lords, our names are in support of the amendment. When it was first tabled I found it curious, because in my authority the executive director of planning is just that. He is on the executive board of the authority and is in precisely the capacity that the noble Lord, Lord Best, has suggested should be the case in all other authorities. It never occurred to me that this might not be the situation across the country. It is abundantly clear that it is not.

That is reprehensible. It must be proper and right that somebody who is not only properly qualified but also properly experienced in planning matters should be at the head of that department. If this requires a statutory framework for it to be taken for granted that that is the case in all local planning authorities, I support that. I am delighted to support the amendment.

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Shadow Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Local Government & the Regions

My Lords, I take the points that have been made about the status of planners and the difficulties of recruitment and retention. As it happens, I was in Holland on Friday and met some people in the Amsterdam planning department, including a young man who was well qualified but was assisting with work on an informal basis. When we explained the difficulty with recruitment in this country, he said, "Where do I look? How do I come over? How do I get a job?". We explained the reality of the cost of living in London, but that was his immediate response. In London, we depend on some good planners from Australia and New Zealand, in particular, to ensure that staffing problems are not exacerbated—or, as I read in a wonderful malapropism in a report last week, "exasperated".

Having said that, we find it difficult to support the amendment. I examined the provisions of the Local Government Act 1972 to find out what local authorities had to do when appointing officers and deciding on their establishment. It had never occurred to me to consider that before. Section 112(1) of the Act states that,

"a local authority shall appoint such officers as they think necessary for the proper discharge by the authority of such of their . . . functions as fall to be discharged by them".

As the noble Lord, Lord Best, said, there are certain specified officers whom authorities must appoint, but, otherwise, the clause ended a previous obligation to appoint listed officers. That existed 30 years ago, and I wonder whether it would be right for us to seek to reverse the trend, as that change was from a centrally imposed obligation about who needed to be on the establishment to greater discretion.

Perhaps more importantly, would it reverse the entirely proper trend, or objective, of mainstreaming the sustainable development duty? The noble Lord, Lord Best, said that that is exactly what is intended to be achieved by the post. One could view that either way. In any event, we need to be better convinced than we are about intervening in the exercise of a local authority's autonomy in that or any other area. On the terminology of the new clause, I wondered what was in the noble Lord's mind when referring to the appointment of a "fit person". One would hope that no unfit person would be appointed.

Perhaps the Government can help me with something that was troubling me last night. However Clause 40 ends up—whether the provision states "with a view to contributing to sustainable development", or whatever—will the monitoring officer of an authority have a role if that duty is not complied with? My experience is the same as that of the noble Baroness. I should expect there to be a director of planning; I should also expect directors of other departments to have sustainable development very much in their sights. But will the monitoring officer have a role in ensuring that that duty is exercised?

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Regeneration and Regional Development), Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister) (Regeneration and Regional Development)

My Lords, I welcome the noble Lord, Lord Best, retabling the amendment. I have a wealth of notes about what we have done to raise the esteem of planning, resources and skills. Sir John Egan is considering those issues generally. But what noble Lords really want to know is what the Government are going to do about it.

There is also the point about giving local government discretion to appoint its officers. Certain officers—finance officers, I suppose; and I think that there was another one.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Regeneration and Regional Development), Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister) (Regeneration and Regional Development)

Yes, my Lords, the monitoring officer. That came out of the poll tax legislation, if I recall correctly—the Local Government Finance Act 1988.

We have an idea whose time has come. We want to discuss it with the Local Government Association. We will contact it before the end of the week to discover its views; we have not done so yet. No one here spoke on behalf of the LGA as such. Education and social services are slightly different, because their services are directly related to individual persons. I understand the case for having someone designated in those areas. Nevertheless, their title does not always include social services; that varies between authorities. Housing is another such example.

However, given the thrust of the Bill and the climate of cultural change that we want, we intend to explore that matter with the Local Government Association. I shall write to noble Lords on the precise question about the monitoring officer's role, if that is acceptable. In view of that positive response, I hope that the noble Lord will not pursue his amendment.

Photo of Lord Best Lord Best Crossbench

My Lords, I underline planners' appreciation of the Government's other efforts to enhance their status. In the light of those positive comments and the thought that the Minister's bag may contain one more such goodie, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Conservative

moved Amendment No. 119:

After Clause 39, insert the following new clause—

"MEANING OF SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

Sustainable development is development which preserves or enhances the human and natural environment."

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Conservative

My Lords, I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Shadow Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Local Government & the Regions

My Lords, I have checked that this is debatable at this point and should like to make a short explanation.

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Shadow Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Local Government & the Regions

My Lords, I do not think it is an ego trip. As a matter of courtesy to the noble Baroness and your Lordships, I should like to say a word or two about why we will not be supporting the amendment—which I should have thought might be welcome to the noble Lord.

Photo of Lord Hanningfield Lord Hanningfield Conservative

Perhaps the noble Baroness will change her mind, then.

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Shadow Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Local Government & the Regions

My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, said, the Minister may persuade me to go through the other Lobby.

The Minister has already told us that he will come back to this issue on Third Reading. We obviously want to see what that offer will include. Attached as I fear the noble Baroness is to the amendment, life has moved on since the definition was composed. We could debate the issue at great length, which I shall not do, but it implies that other matters are excluded. I am now much more accustomed to thinking of sustainability in terms of the pillars of environment, social improvement and economics. Although I understand that the human environment could be construed as extending to those, it is not obvious that it does so. Each of those matters—and, indeed, the conservation of natural resources—is sine qua non.

The definition in Amendment No. 119 is not as extensive as it should be. I am quite attracted by the Government's attitude and approach, which is to allow for flexibility as thinking moves forward and to ensure that any definition is not so inflexible as to be exclusive and unhelpful rather than helpful.

I apologise if that was an improper intervention. I thought it right to explain it just before the vote.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Regeneration and Regional Development), Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister) (Regeneration and Regional Development)

My Lords, I shall reply to the noble Baroness and start by apologising to her.

I am new to this place. I have been here less than three years, and I cannot get used to the idea of grouping amendments, having a debate on the group and then coming back to them now before a vote. I am used to the workings in the other place, where there is more order. If I explained what we had just done to people in the other place, they would think we were barmy. We have debated that group of amendments.

I realise that that may be the rules, or should I say that there are no rules here. That is the point. I am told that there is self-regulation. I cannot get used to the idea, but I am grateful for the support of the noble Baroness and her friends.

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Conservative

My Lords, I wish to test the opinion of the House.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 119) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 69; Not-Contents, 143.

Division number 3 Private Parking: Ports and Trading Estates — Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill

Aye: 67 Members of the House of Lords

No: 141 Members of the House of Lords

Aye: A-Z by last name

Tellers

No: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Conservative 6:42, 1 March 2004

moved Amendment No. 120:

After Clause 39, insert the following new clause—

"REASONS FOR EXERCISE OF POWERS BY SECRETARY OF STATE

The Secretary of State must provide reasons for the exercise by him of any of his powers or duties under Parts 1 to 3 of this Act."

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Conservative

My Lords, Amendment No. 120 proposes a new clause which states that wherever the Secretary of State exercises any of his powers or duties under Parts 1 to 3 of the Bill, he should publish his reasons. If it is important for a local planning authority to publish reasons, it is even more important for the Secretary of State to do so. The Secretary of State is significantly further removed than the local planning authority from those who would be affected by a decision. Hence, the need is greater still for the publication of any decision that he makes. That would allow some insight into the factors that have led to a certain decision being taken. Where there is a grievance, publishing reasons would open the door to discovering whether the grievance was well founded.

Throughout discussions of the Bill, we have made it very clear that we regard planning as a matter for local authorities, which would have the experience and local knowledge to take decisions on those matters. In particular, regional functions, local development and development, covered by Parts 1 to 3 of the Bill, are areas where surely local discretion is a better way forward than excessive involvement by the Secretary of State.

While we appreciate that there may be circumstances where the Secretary of State has a role and should exercise his powers, in the interests of transparency it would be beneficial for him to give his reasons in circumstances where he exercises those powers under Parts 1 to 3 of the Bill. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Regeneration and Regional Development), Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister) (Regeneration and Regional Development)

My Lords, in earlier debates, particularly in Committee, we made it clear that our approach throughout Parts 1 and 2 is that for the more significant substantive powers of the Secretary of State it is right to place a duty in the Bill to give reasons when he proposes changes to draft revisions of, for example, regional spatial strategies. It is appropriate that they should be in the Bill because they are very substantive powers.

A requirement for the Secretary of State to provide reasons for the exercise of any and every power in the first 39 clauses is not consistent with our approach. It would not be sensible or practical. Nevertheless, as I indicated in Committee and earlier discussions, we want to ensure that the Bill fully reflects our policy of giving reasons. Work is under way on that issue at present. We expect rather than hope to bring forward amendments at Third Reading. I therefore hope that that will satisfy the noble Baroness.

Parts 1 and 2 are one issue, but the amendment also extends to Part 3. That is a matter which, currently, we are considering. I therefore hope that the noble Baroness does not press us again. A reminder was useful: but we are working on it and, it is to be hoped, we will come back at Third Reading with an amendment that will find favour because it goes to the heart of the issue. As much as possible, whatever the decision, we want the Secretary of State to give reasons so that people understand what has happened.

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Conservative

My Lords, I am extremely grateful for that reply. In his wisdom, I hope that the Minister will see the benefit of including this up to and including Part 3. From what he said, I take it that this matter is under consideration. For the time being, I withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Lord Lucas Lord Lucas Conservative

moved Amendment No. 121:

After Clause 39, insert the following new clause—

"HIGH QUALITY DESIGN

(1) This section applies to any person who, or body which, exercises any function—

(a) under Part 1 in relation to a regional spatial strategy;

(b) under Part 2 in relation to local development documents;

(c) under Part 6 in relation to the Wales Spatial Plan or a local development plan.

(2) The person or body must exercise the function with a view to contributing to the achievement of high quality design in the built environment.

(3) For the purposes of subsection (2), the person or body must have regard to national policies and advice contained in guidance issued or prescribed by—

(a) the Secretary of State for the purposes of subsection (1)(a) and (b);

(b) the National Assembly for Wales for the purposes of subsection (1)(c)."

Photo of Lord Lucas Lord Lucas Conservative

My Lords, first, I apologise on behalf of the noble Lord, Lord Rogers, who is in Shanghai. Perhaps he is recruiting some more town planners for the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. I know that he would like to be here, and I shall make an inadequate substitute. Therefore, I shall not take long.

By and large, all my arguments were made in Committee where I was pleased to receive support from the Minister. I have been pleased by what he has said since. I think that I have even detected the Deputy Prime Minister saying some helpful things in the newspaper. So I am very optimistic that, if not today, at Third Reading we shall get something that will address the problem: that something is put in legislation to give local authorities the ability to withstand some extremely large and powerful contractors, and dare say to them, "No, take this away. Make it better". That is the position that we all want to achieve. I have great faith that that is what we will see.

I suppose that in a different system where there was a free market in housing and housing supply was occasionally greater than demand, which has not been the situation for a long time, developers might compete on the basis of good design. Under the current situation, there is no hope of that. We are operating in a shortage situation and always will be controlled by planning. I suspect that there will always be something of a shortage, particularly in some kinds of housing. Therefore, it is very important that design is in our system to control what housing is produced. It needs to be there in a way that gives local authorities the ability to stand up for it in what can be extremely difficult arguments, as many noble Lords said in Committee. When looking at buildings around us, we all know that those arguments have been lost on too many occasions. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Maddock Baroness Maddock Shadow Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Local Government & the Regions

My Lords, as in Committee, I support the noble Lords, Lord Lucas and Lord Rogers, in highlighting the importance of design in the new planning process. Since our previous debate I have had the opportunity to look at the Consultation Paper on Planning Policy Statement 1. There are many things with which I agree in paragraph 1.27 headed, "Sustainable Development and Design". Earlier, I spoke about sustainability and, in particular, energy.

I especially agree that quality design,

"is a key element in achieving sustainable development", and that,

"Good design is not just about the architecture".

We have touched on other issues today. The consultation paper states that good design is about functionality and the impact of a building,

"on the overall character, quality and sustainability of an area including resource efficiency (for example energy consumption).

For me, that is a very wide area.

I also agree with the statement:

"There should be no acceptance of ill-conceived designs which do not contribute positively to making places better for people", which was an underlying theme in our last discussion.

One of the things I feel sorry about is that in many local authorities design is not high enough on the agenda when considering developments. In other areas we see that despite the difficulties one faces when one tries to improve the design of a planning application, some local authorities manage it well. That can be seen by going around.

In another guise I was the Member of Parliament for Christchurch for some years and I admired the way the local planners had vision about how they wanted the town to be. In planning applications they involved local architects in creating a good quality of design in the buildings. Yet I have been to other places where it is obvious that no one could care less about their environment.

Over the years, having spent a great deal of time living in and visiting Scandinavia, I have become convinced that the majority of people's well-being is affected—not all people; I have made the point before that some people see nothing around them—by their surroundings. They certainly contribute to my sense of well-being. Many years ago I stayed in an awful bed and breakfast while in Cambridge visiting my first husband when he was a student. It was a dark place with a horribly dark bathroom, and I felt miserable when I stayed there.

In proposing the importance of design in the planning system, none of us thinks that particular architectural styles must be imposed. That is not what it is about; and I am sure the Government do not think that is what it is about. The places that we find attractive and that have endured over the years are usually those that have been well designed and planned. I can think of two that I mentioned on the previous occasion: first, brick flats in Millbank, built by London county council in 1901. They endure today and are still a pleasant environment in which to live. Secondly, going back even further, Lord North Street, which I walk down every morning, is the same. It is an important issue.

I picked up some of the Minister's earlier comments that it is to be hoped that at the next stage the Government will come forward with something that will satisfy our desire to see design become an important part of the planning process, not just in some of the best authorities but everywhere.

Photo of Lord Alli Lord Alli Labour

My Lords, while I have come late to the debate, I speak as one who recognises good design as important and as an important part of the planning process. As my noble friends Lord Rogers and Lady Blackstone could not be in their places today, I am happy to add my support from these Benches to the amendment.

Design should always be at the heart of the planning process; much was said about that in previous debates. The Minister himself advocated that route. Noble Lords have argued previously that design should feature in the Bill, and I agree. That would send out a clear and loud message that poor design quality is unacceptable. We should give local authorities that want to raise the quality of their built environment something that gives them the necessary confidence and support to challenge planning applications on design grounds.

Less confident planning authorities are often fearful of taking on developers on design grounds, not least for fear of litigation. A clear reference to design in the Bill would go a long way. Far from being a burden on planning authorities, such a duty to consider design quality would be of enormous assistance.

I am not advocating a definition of good design. Although I think that I would be a good judge of good design, such a definition does not belong in the Bill. That would be too inflexible. Useful guidance can be provided through policy guidance by government. A primary legislative duty backed up by genuinely useful guidance is just what planners and communities need. I hope that the Minister will aid our quest in ensuring that good design features in the planning process.

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Conservative

My Lords, at a previous stage I made a small intervention to say that in my experience one was usually guided by the fact that design is subjective and therefore could not really be tested. I always thought it extremely strange that one should not be able to suggest that particular designs were appropriate for particular neighbourhoods and areas. The noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, said that we should not be able to interfere in architectural design, but in some cases it is important that we should be able to do so, if a bad neighbour is building in a particular setting.

Photo of Baroness Maddock Baroness Maddock Shadow Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Local Government & the Regions

My Lords, I did not make myself clear. I said that when talking about design we are not imposing a particular architectural style. It is not about saying that it always has to be a certain way. It is not a straitjacket, but that does not mean that architecture is not an important consideration.

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Conservative

My Lords, perhaps I did not express myself clearly. As I understood it, the point was that the architecture was important but it could not be the prime mover. Architecture can be and is important. The question of the internal design of a building is a different aspect, but the environment design is fundamental. We should look at what has happened to some of the large estates; for example, in my borough we have spent a long time trying to unscramble some of the vagaries of the 1960s. We have been left with large local authority estates with winding corridors and ill-lit places with many spooky corners, where no one is particularly comfortable. It is important that such areas can be taken into account.

I support this move because it is different from those prevalent in the past. It would change attitudes in planning and therefore I support it.

Photo of Lord Hanningfield Lord Hanningfield Conservative

My Lords, I wanted to bring in the Sustainable Communities element. I have spoken privately to the Minister about it, as in Essex we are concerned with the Thames Gateway, Harlow and so on—big regeneration projects where design is important. I know that the Government are keen to build houses quickly in many such areas. Essex County Council is very involved in the regeneration and redevelopment of Basildon; it has a team of people there.

County councils are often the only bodies with the people and resources to do that. In largely removing county councils from the planning process the Government might be shooting themselves in the foot over some of the design issues and the speed of development. Will the Minister comment on how soon we will know what is in the Government's mind about Third Reading? We might want to table amendments at Third Reading and we need to know the Government's position. Will he comment on the speed and the sustainable communities? It might not be the type of development and design that we would like, if there is not enough time to think and plan it and the right resource and the right type of people to help us do it.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Regeneration and Regional Development), Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister) (Regeneration and Regional Development)

My Lords, I take the final point, although I cannot be specific about the dates of Third Reading—we will fix them as quickly as possible. We had an interesting debate in Committee in which I said that one way or another we would include design in the Bill. I cannot at this moment give chapter and verse on how that will be achieved. Three or four options are being discussed with the planning Ministers. We have some ideas about how we can bring it successfully into the Bill. I am optimistic that we will find an acceptable provision; it just has to get through the red tape and machinery of government. We will give as much advance warning as possible.

The noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, is right about the Sustainable Communities Plan. It will be involved in many parts of the country with some of the larger developments and in the housing renewal areas covered by Pathfinders. The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment will be involved; that is part of our policy and why it received a substantial increase in its resources in the spending round. Although the sums were relatively small, they marked a gigantic advance in resources. We are determined to ensure that the sustainable communities programme will be sustainable and thus, by definition, will incorporate good design. Almost by definition, poor design is not sustainable.

We shall come back to this at Third Reading, although long before that we shall indicate what the Government intend to do so that colleagues can better understand the position. I shall be happy to put the proposal in the context of the sustainable communities programme and the other documents recently published to emphasise that this is a crucial part of what we are doing.

Although we are doing this anyway, given the strength of the debate in Committee, it has become clear that a provision ought to be put on to the face of the Bill. However, that is to be done while arguing at the same time that other issues should not be so included, and we think that we have a formula that enables us to do that.

Photo of Lord Lucas Lord Lucas Conservative 7:00, 1 March 2004

My Lords, I shall not hold my breath until Third Reading, but the fact that we will have something at least a few days before and thus have a chance to digest and talk about it in order to decide how to address it is extremely valuable.

I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken, in particular my friend the noble Lord, Lord Alli, who is new to the debate. On such occasions it is most helpful to receive support from behind the Minister, who cannot turn that far round without getting a crick in his neck. I shall rely on the noble Lord and his noble friends to be present at Third Reading to cheer on their noble friend on the Front Bench.

I hope that the provision will be strong. I know that the draft of PPS1 is sensible, stressing that one should not seek unreasonably to impose a style. But there are times when that has to be done. If there is a concept of how a city centre should look and work, it will require forms of design that can fit within some form of tramline so that the whole thing works together. There is a difference between the city centres of, say, Newcastle upon Tyne and Hull which makes it obvious how much the spirit of a place is rooted in its design. Newcastle demonstrates an integration of style and layout that makes the place a pleasure to be in, both uplifting and grand. The same is much more difficult to say of Hull, which had the bad luck to be bombed flat in the war and rebuilt quite soon afterwards.

Not every local authority will produce such a vision, but where authorities do so, and it is one presumably shared by the local populace, it is very important that they should be able to have a say in how their town or city will look. One of the features of the past 20 years has been how cities such as Newcastle have reinvented themselves through design, developing an enormous spirit of place and time. Part of that process is the very important right to have the choice, when deciding how a place should look as it grows, to say, "No, that style does not fit this place. We want something in tune with our overall vision". I hope that we shall see a strong provision along those lines, and I look forward to seeing it. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 40 [Local development orders]:

[Amendment No. 122 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Shadow Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Local Government & the Regions

moved Amendment No. 122A:

Page 23, line 7, at end insert "and must provide reasons for that direction"

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Shadow Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Local Government & the Regions

My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 122A, which may provide the Minister with another opportunity to give the House good news. The amendment seeks to provide that if the Secretary of State or the National Assembly for Wales think that a local development order made under new Section 61B is unsatisfactory and give a direction for it to be modified, they should give reasons.

I prepared this amendment before I received a welcome letter from the Minister saying that, as he had indicated previously, the Government are sympathetic to this point. However, I am not sure that I am reading the note correctly because it mentions "revoking" an order. It may be that I am being overly optimistic. At the time the Minister wrote that he thought the Bill should be amended to take the point on board and would table amendments to that effect at the next opportunity. His Amendment No. 123A seems to achieve that. I had hoped that the amendment would extend to cover the point raised in Amendment No. 122A; that is, the direction for modification and not only the revocation. Perhaps I will be able to tempt the Minister to take the point a little further. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

My Lords, the noble Baroness has accurately predicted the outcome of our short discussion. We said in Committee that we had some sympathy with the original amendment. We have decided that the Secretary of State and the National Assembly for Wales should be required to give reasons for modifying a local development order. We would in any case expect the Secretary of State and the National Assembly for Wales to give reasons for modifying a local development order, but we will amend the Bill to make it clear that they will be required to do so.

We have also decided that we should make clear that if the Secretary of State or the National Assembly for Wales revoke a local development order, they should again be required to give reasons for doing so. We shall table a further amendment in due course to give effect to that as well.

I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 123 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

Schedule 1 [Local development orders: procedure]:

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

moved Amendment No. 123A:

Page 102, line 12, at end insert ", revocation"

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

My Lords, this amendment will enable a development order to include provision as to the revocation of a local development order. We have already consulted on draft amendments to the Town and Country Planning (General Development Procedure) Order 1995 which sets out the procedures a local planning authority should follow when revoking a local development order. For example, we want to prescribe the publicity arrangements a local planning authority should follow should it revoke a local development order.

We decided that the Bill as drafted did not enable us to provide for this in a development order. This amendment will put that right. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 42 [Statement of development principles]:

Photo of Lord Hanningfield Lord Hanningfield Conservative

moved Amendment No. 124:

Page 25, line 11, leave out "must" and insert "may"

Photo of Lord Hanningfield Lord Hanningfield Conservative

My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 124, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 125, 126, 127 and 129 in the group. These amendments aim to give more discretion to local authorities in the issue of statements of development principles. They will prevent the provision of statements of development principles from placing an undue burden on local planning authorities and will allow authorities to refuse to grant a statement of development principles on the basis of insufficient information.

When I spoke to these amendments in Committee, I did not feel that the Government had truly got to grips with the concerns we sought to express. Amendment No. 124 aims to give local authorities more discretion in the issue of statements of development principles than is proposed in the Bill. Amendments Nos. 126 and 127 are complementary to that aim in that they support specific aspects of local authorities' discretion. These three amendments would enable local authorities to decline to issue statements of development principles on the basis of insufficient information.

Amendment No. 125 is a probing amendment which simply seeks clarification from the Government on whether it will be local authorities which ultimately decide whether the development plan is material to the request for a statement of development principles.

Finally, Amendment No. 129 is a probing amendment designed to test the Government's thinking on how they propose to minimise the level of deliberate frustration within the planning system. Further, if Amendment No. 124 is accepted, Clause 42(5) would in any case be unnecessary.

We strongly believe that the Government have not yet made the case for how statements of development principles will add value to the planning system in this country. In Committee, the Minister said that the Government were placing increasing emphasis on the importance of pre-application discussions. The formalisation of this through statements of development principles may provide developers and local authorities with an additional tool for building up an agreed development prospectus for a site. Nevertheless, the Government should explain exactly how they envisage statements of development principles working on the ground.

We think that statements of development principles are a classic example of something that seems like a good idea in theory but is actually a major headache when it comes to implementation—and can even be counter-productive. There will be an unnecessary burden on local authorities and it is not clear how they will achieve greater transparency in the pre-application process. The statements risk becoming a major bureaucratic process in their own right.

As far as I can see, there is no discernible benefit to applicants, local planning authorities or the public. If the overall aim is to address the weaknesses associated with outline planning permission, why not address those problems directly, for example by encouraging discussions in the application process between developers and planning departments?

The interested organisations that I have spoken to, including the Council for the Protection of Rural England and London First, as well as many other professional planners, have all spoken out against statements of development principles. There simply is no support for them. Amendments Nos. 124 and 126 are aimed at ensuring that local planning authorities will not feel compelled to approve or refuse applications when they simply do not have sufficient evidence by which to judge the merits of an application. This could happen because, as the Bill currently stands, there is no provision to allow the local authority to decline a request to issue a statement of development principles on the grounds of insufficient information. Hundreds of people will ask for these statements—people are very confused about it—and that could lead to a tremendous workload for a department that could not cope with it.

Local authorities may be put in the position where they do not have enough confidence in their legal position to say that the application is entirely unacceptable, which I believe is the only grounds on which they can decline to issue a statement of development principles. However, they may also feel that they have not been provided with sufficient information, such as information on design or infrastructure, on which to base their decisions. As organisations such as CPRE have pointed out, this would put pressure on local authorities to issue statements of development principles that agree with the proposed developments and then spend valuable time and resources trying to decide what safeguards and conditions should be placed on them to meet any eventuality.

The Minister said in Committee that if insufficient information were provided, the statement of development principles would be correspondingly general. However, if is to be so general as to be meaningless, why have it? A statement of development principles will be an important material consideration in the final decision on the planning permission. We therefore need to give local authorities more discretion on how they issue them.

Amendment No. 127 addresses our concerns that the statement of development principles does not have to take into account whether the proposed development would require an environmental impact assessment. We are aware that the Government have stated that because the statement of development principles does not itself grant consent to allow a development to go ahead, an environmental impact assessment is not a requirement. However, we would like a reassurance from the Minister that this arrangement, whereby the principle of a development has been agreed prior to the outcome of an environmental impact assessment, will not undermine the integrity of the environmental impact assessment and its capacity to reach a different conclusion from that reached in the statement of development principles.

As I already mentioned, with regard to the workload of planning departments, we also believe that statements of development principles would mark an unacceptable shift in the burden of planning applications from the applicant to the local authority. This is not just an argument about planning authorities having insufficient information and then dealing with the consequences. We are also raising it because the number of requests for statements of development principles will be much higher than that of outline planning applications. This flows from the fact that anybody can ask the local authority for a statement of development principles.

In relation to Amendment No. 129 I would like some reassurance from the Minister that the new procedures for statements of development principles will not be used as a spoiling tactic to frustrate legitimate development. This could certainly happen, given that anyone will be able to request a statement of development principles. Our concern is that in some circumstances local authorities might be asked to determine requests for statements of development principles before the information upon which requests could be judged is available.

Clause 42 states that a local authority "may" decline to issue a statement of development principles before the end of the two-year period if it disagrees with the principles of the development. However, as I understand it, a local planning authority could quite legitimately issue a new statement of development principles that agrees with a development proposal before the end of the two-year period.

Is subsection (5) a mechanism through which to deal with any potential exploitation of statements of development principles by those who just want to stop all development regardless of its benefits? If it is, it is still unfair that the burden falls on planning departments. I wish that the noble Lord, Lord Winston were here. I am not in favour of cloning, but I have been thinking during this series of debates that we should be able to clone planners. It is possibly the only way forward.

I believe that deleting Clause 42(5) would be in line with the preceding amendments. The fundamental point of those amendments is that it would be much simpler and more democratic to give a local planning authority the discretion to decide whether to issue statements of development principles in respect of a particular development.

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Shadow Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Local Government & the Regions 7:15, 1 March 2004

My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock and I have put our names to a number of these amendments. We very much support what the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield said. It is hard to find anyone who supports the direction taken by the Government on this matter. If that sounds too harsh, conversely we support the Government's consideration of whether outline planning permission should be required to include more detail. As I understood it, that was one of the Government's considerations when considering whether to abolish outline planning permission. I cannot think about statements of development principles without at the same time thinking about outline planning permission, which is why I put the two together.

We need to know from the Minister how the thinking and the consultation on this matter is progressing and when decisions might be taken. I am very uneasy about deciding legislation when we know that there are other ideas in the pipeline and the Government are looking to leave their options open through primary legislation. I am not at all comfortable with that. I can see that I am not alone in that view, but Hansard will not know who nodded in agreement.

We have talked about the problems with outline permissions and the lesson that more detail is necessary. One has that in spades in the case of statements of development principles. The noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield talked about the increase in workload that this provision forebodes for local planning authorities. A part of this will be to consider how they will deal with requests for statements when they will more or less have to compose the application, or, at any rate, understand what the application for the statement in itself implies.

I did not mean to add our names to Amendment No. 125. I accepted at the previous stage that it was not the best of the amendments on offer. I wanted to add our names to Amendment No. 126, which refers to "sufficient information". I accept the point made by the Minister at the previous stage that the amendment in itself is ineffective to achieve what we are arguing about. However, it makes the point.

As to Amendment No. 127, the Minister said at the previous stage that the matter would be dealt with in secondary legislation. Perhaps he will explain today where there is a regulation-making power relating to proposed new Section 61E. It may be in the 1990 Act or it may be one of the matters that I have not identified correctly. However, if the Government are relying in their arguments on the fact that regulations may be made to achieve some of what we are seeking, I should like to be assured as to the mechanism for making the regulations. It may be that the power is within subsection (7) of new Section 61E, which refers to a development order, but it is not immediately obvious to me that that is the case.

The noble Lord also referred to the delays inherent in this process because of its somewhat amorphous nature. That would go wholly against what the Government are trying to achieve. Abolishing outline permission would leave developers without the certainty they want and the fundable permission they need. As I say, no one seems to support the process except those who have composed statements of development principles. Perhaps the Minister can also explain what support there has been from outside Parliament to give the Government the confidence to include this in the Bill in the first place.

Photo of Lord Lucas Lord Lucas Conservative

My Lords, I support what my noble friends have said. I hope that, in replying, the Minister will look across the Dispatch Box at my two noble friends on the Front Bench and notice that my noble friend Lord Hanningfield is worried about his planning department being overburdened and that my noble friend Lady Hanham has no worries at all about her parking control department being overburdened. In fact, travelling her streets, it is easier to get away from flies in Australia than traffic wardens in Chelsea. That is because there is a proper rate of charging for traffic wardens in Chelsea. You pay £3 a minute in the better areas—or, rather, £3 an hour; £3 a minute would be high even for Chelsea. My noble friend stings her customers royally and runs the division at a profit.

The difficulty with planning departments is that the fees have been so low for so long that we cannot pay planners properly nor staff the departments properly. We have to go to Australia to find staff because no one wants to train to be a planner. To reverse this, we need a proper level of fees. Whatever the merits of these statements—the noble Lord knows that I think they are a lovely idea but they will never fly; they are not right—if we are going to have them, let us charge a proper level of fees. If we charge a decent level of fees we will be able to afford the planning departments to deal with them and people will not feel like chucking in applications on the willy-nilly; they will wait and think carefully if they are going to be done for a thousand or two for making one of these applications.

There is a lot to be said for getting fees on a proper level. If we do that, many of the fears we have about overburdening the system will disappear because we will be funding it properly and it will simply be a question of running it well rather than trying to imagine how you will deal with ever increasing burdens inside a shrinking budget.

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Conservative

My Lords, I hesitate to assure my noble friend that if there was any question of these statements of development principles coming into being, there is no doubt that the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea would ensure that proper fees were charged and that we made sufficient money out of the system.

I reinforce what has been said about the outline planning permission. At the moment it looks like the Government are minded to ditch it in favour of the statement of development principles, which is a very poor substitute. Outline planning permission has served not only local authorities but also developers extremely well over the years. It provides the "bankability" of a scheme. The statement of development principles will not do that. There is no way that any bank will put forward money for a developer on the back of a statement of development principles. All it is likely to do is cause confusion within the network of development proposals. We shall end up with endless statements of development principles on innumerable properties where there is no intention of developing them. It will be easy to ask for one and this will cause a need for extra planning officers.

In my borough we shall ensure that we make something from it, but I very much hope that we shall not have to do so.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Regeneration and Regional Development), Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister) (Regeneration and Regional Development) 7:30, 1 March 2004

My Lords, this is an important issue. I am conscious of the hour but I must stick to my notes on this. I shall not use everything I have got, but I want to give substantive answers given the fact that discussions are ongoing.

I wish to get two specific issues out of the way first so that I do not forget to raise them. We shall be consulting in the summer of this year on a proposed fee regime for statements of development principles; and, in answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, the power to make a development order under new Section 61E(7) is contained in Section 59 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, which is why, I suspect, she could not find it.

Amendments Nos. 124 and 126 together would give the local planning authority discretion on whether or not to decide to issue a statement of development principles. In our previous debate I stated that where an application for a statement of development principles is received, a local planning authority should be required to come to a decision regardless of the level of information provided.

It should not be discretionary to provide this kind of advice. I do not see how that would help the overall process. If a developer asks for advice on a proposed development through a statement of development principles he should be entitled to receive a response. We have said previously that a minimum amount of information will be necessary to identify where the proposed development will be and the person making the request for a statement of development principles. We do not wish to make it compulsory to provide other details.

If the request for a statement of development principles lacks information on some aspects of the development, the statement of development principles issued by the local planning authority will say so. We want statements of development principles to be flexible enough for both simple and complex questions to be asked. It should not be compulsory for a developer to submit as much information with a statement of development principles as he would for a planning application.

As to Amendment No. 125—I have heard a partial apology for it—as I said before, we do not believe the amendment is necessary. The provision mirrors existing requirements—for instance, where local planning authorities are required to have regard to the development plan as far as it is material to the determination of the planning application. There can be no need to have regard to the development plan if it is not material to the application. It will be for the local planning authority to decide whether or not it thinks the development plan is material to the application.

As to Amendment No. 127, we recognise the importance an environmental impact assessment has in the planning system but we do not believe that it is necessary to include specific requirements on environmental impact assessments on the face of the Bill. It is important to remember that a request for a statement of development principles is not an application for planning permission. If a positive statement of development principles is granted, it is not in any form a consent for planning permission. It is simply a way of finding out whether a development might be suitable for a particular site and of identifying the kind of issues that a developer would need to consider before he submits an application for planning permission.

As I have already pointed out, it follows that we do not want to require developers to submit as much detail with a request for a statement of development principles as we would for a planning application. The statement of development principles would take place at an early stage. At that early stage, it is unlikely that there will always be sufficient information available to enable all the likely significant environmental impacts to be identified. In those circumstances, it would be difficult for the local planning authority to make a proper screening opinion on the need for an environmental impact assessment.

Moreover, if the amount of detail required to carry out a screening opinion is available, the developer may be more likely to apply for outline planning permission. Nevertheless, if on the available information, the local planning authority considers that the nature of the proposed development is one for which an environmental impact assessment might be required under the relevant regulations, the statement of development principles that it issues will indicate that any application for planning permission in respect of development agreed to in principle might be subject to the provision of an environmental statement with any subsequent application. If it is not apparent that an environmental impact assessment is required when the statement of development principles is issued, the local planning authority will still be able to require one when the application for planning permission is submitted if it is then evident that one is required.

In respect of Amendment No. 129, Clause 61E(5) would allow a local planning authority to decline to issue a statement of development principles where a valid statement of development principles has already been issued. Its chief aim is to protect the local planning authority from duplicating work that it has already done. The removal of subsection (5) would result in the local planning being required to consider every request it receives for a statement of development principles, whether or not it has already considered an identical one. I cannot see the value of requiring a local planning authority and those consulted about a statement of development principles to go through a process they have already been through.

As I explained in Committee, Clause 61E(5) does not prevent a local planning authority from reconsidering a request for a statement of development principles if it has been revised to address the reasons why a previous statement of development principles, or part of one, had been disagreed with.

Amendments Nos. 147 and 150 would retain outline planning permission in the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. We discussed those amendments in Committee. On 29 January, we said that we were considering the retention of outline planning permission as set out in a Written Statement by the planning Minister, Keith Hill, on 15 December 2003. Retention would be on the basis that applications for outline planning permission met our objectives. Those objectives are that outline planning permission provides the opportunity for greater community involvement and a level of information that enables local authorities to assess all the significant environmental impacts from the proposed developments.

The Minister also stated on 15 December that the further information that should accompany applications for outline planning permission would need to cover the key design principles. As I have again confirmed today, we indicated that we would include the word "design" in the Bill. We also said in earlier debates that discussions with representatives of interested parties, including the development industry, were continuing. Those discussions have continued since 29 January in a positive and constructive manner. The concept of a statement of design principles is part of the discussion. The British Property Federation, the House Builders Federation and the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors have welcomed the Written Statement of 15 December.

Some work remains to be done on the nature of the information that would need to be provided with applications for outline planning permission. The Government still need to be satisfied that the information will meet our objectives, including the opportunity for greater community involvement. I hope that we will be able to comment further soon on outline planning permission. I cannot clarify whether "comment further soon" means before or after Third Reading, but it is clear that I will need to take the matter further at Third Reading than has been the case tonight. However, discussions with interested parties are continuing in the way that I have described. That is why we cannot agree to the amendments. I therefore hope that my detailed run-through of our current position on all the amendments—although it has not been as detailed as it could have been—will satisfy all noble Lords this evening. As I have said, we will return to the matter at Third Reading.

Photo of Lord Hanningfield Lord Hanningfield Conservative

My Lords, the second part of the Minister's answer was rather better than the first. To a lot of people who are involved with the matter in the outside world, the statement of development principles is almost the most unpopular part of the whole legislation. As my noble friend Lady Hanham and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, said, developers depend on planning applications to resource the funding for development. Outline planning permission has moved on considerably in the past few years. So much work is done on outline planning permissions for major developments now that they are almost statements of development principles. Therefore, the second part of the Minister's answer, about the planning Minister's Written Statement, was helpful.

However, on the first part, I perhaps did not make all my points clearly enough. Everyone is concerned that we will see a lot of requests for statements of development principles by people who want to abort or stop development. The Minister spoke about developers making applications for statements. We are concerned about the hundreds of other people who do not want to develop anything, but who want to stop development or merely to find out what might happen to a particular field next to their house. The Government have not taken that on board. It is a matter not only of developers applying for statements, but of all the other people applying for them too.

It is important that the Minister clarifies the Government's position before Third Reading, because it is a difficult part of the legislation. I repeat that all the professional bodies that I have met in the outside world are extremely concerned. It is the outside world that has to make the legislation work once it is in place. It needs a lot more reassurance. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 125 to 127 not moved.]

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

My Lords, I beg to move that further consideration on Report be now adjourned until 8.38 p.m.

Moved accordingly and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

[The Sitting was suspended from 7.38 to 8.38 p.m.]

Photo of Lord Hanningfield Lord Hanningfield Conservative

moved Amendment No. 128:

Page 25, line 17, at end insert—

"( ) The authority shall carry out an environmental assessment under Directive 2001/42/EC of proposed development consisting of projects listed in Annexes I and II to Directive 85/337/EC where they are likely to have significant effects on the environment prior to issuing a statement of development principles."

Photo of Lord Hanningfield Lord Hanningfield Conservative

My Lords, the strategic environment assessment directive, which comes into force in July 2004, requires environmental assessment to be carried out of plans and programmes, including those which,

"set the framework for future development consent of projects".

The Government accept that the directive applies to the RSS and local development plans. They have not addressed whether it applies to statements of development principles. The consultation on secondary legislation for statements of development principles does not mention the issue, and the Government's Strategic Environment Assessment Directive: Guidance for Planning Authorities, published in 2003, does not mention the plans.

There are two directives on environmental assessment. The first is the strategic environmental assessment directive—2001/42/EC. The second is the environmental impact assessment directive—85/337/EC—which was amended in 1997. The environmental impact assessment directive requires an EIA of "development consents" which entitle a developer to proceed with a project. In Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, said of statements of development principles and that directive:

"An environmental impact assessment will not be required on an application for a statement of development principles, because such a statement is not a development consent".—[Official Report, 29/1/04; col. 354.]

We agree that a statement of development principles is not a development consent, so the EIA directive would not apply on that basis. However, the Minister's comment did not address whether the strategic environmental assessment directive would apply.

The Government need to answer on the issue. If strategic environment assessment applies, the SoDP process will be much slower and far more expensive and complicated than appears in the Bill.

There will need to be a screening process to decide whether a particular request for an SoDP needs an environment assessment. If it does, an environmental report has to be prepared, consulted upon and made available to the public.

An environmental report will include: an outline of the contents of the plan; relevant aspects of the current state of the environment; details of the environmental characteristics of areas likely to be significantly affected; existing environmental problems; environmental protection objectives; likely significant effects on biodiversity, population, human health, fauna, flora, soil, water, air, climatic factors, material assets, cultural heritage, architecture, archaeology, landscape and the inter-relationship between those factors. Mitigation measures and alternatives will have to be considered.

Finally, there would be a non-technical summary. Trans-boundary implications would have to be addressed. A reasoned decision has to be given and published. The requirements of the directive are onerous but they do not replace any requirement for environmental impact assessment when a planning application is made.

There is some sense in applying the directive—how can a local authority decide on the principle of a development without knowing what the environmental effects will be? However, it will make SoDPs harder to obtain. Some of the reasoning for SoDPs has been to avoid problems which have arisen in environmental impact assessments of outline planning applications. The Government may find themselves requiring two environmental assessments rather than one. The legal advice which we have been given from those with expertise in environmental impact assessment is that the strategic environmental assessment directive will apply to SoDPs. The amendment requires strategic environmental assessments of those projects falling within Article 3 of the directive. Ultimately the answer is more important than the wording of the amendment, as the directive has to be complied with in any event.

We have to get this right, as it is complicated. First, any SoDP regime must be lawful. Secondly, a need for environmental assessment is a powerful argument that SoDPs will not be used because of the time, cost and practical difficulties involved. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Regeneration and Regional Development), Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister) (Regeneration and Regional Development)

My Lords, I can give a fairly short and succinct answer to assist the debate. Amendment No. 128 would require the local planning authority to carry out an environmental assessment of any proposed development consisting of projects listed in Annexes 1 and 2 of directive 85/337/EC, which could have significant effects on the environment prior to issuing a statement of development principles. The amendment does not work, because it refers to an environmental assessment under directive 2001/42/EC, which is the directive that requires environmental assessment of,

"plans and programmes which set the framework for future development consent of projects".

It does not apply to development consents for projects, which is covered by the environmental assessment directive and does not apply to statements of development principles, because they are not development consents. We would see no reason in any event to introduce new and unnecessary requirements. All the costs of carrying out such an assessment shall be placed on the local planning authority. Moreover, the environmental impact assessment directive places the responsibility for providing information for the environmental impact assessment with the developer. I hope that those points clarify the situation, in case the noble Lord wishes to come back at a later stage.

Photo of Lord Hanningfield Lord Hanningfield Conservative 8:45, 1 March 2004

My Lords, one needs to read and analyse what the Minister has said, because it concerns a directive. The advice that I have been given is that it is not as simple as the Minister says. We need to analyse his response and look at it again. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 129 not moved.]

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

moved Amendment No. 129A:

Page 26, line 5, after "Part" insert "or paragraph 8 of Schedule 1"

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

My Lords, I shall not detain the House too long in moving the amendment. The amendment will enable a development order to provide that a parish council that wishes to be notified of a request for an SoDP made in its area will be able to notify the relevant local planning authority that it should be notified of such requests. We have stated that the publicity and consultation procedures for this should mirror those for planning applications.

The amendment will ensure that the provisions concerning the involvement of a parish council will achieve that. Parish councils can currently notify the relevant planning authority that they wish to be notified of planning applications in their area. The amendment would ensure that parishes would be made aware of proposed developments, if they want to be, and it will provide them with the opportunity to comment at an early stage. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 130 not moved.]

Photo of Baroness Maddock Baroness Maddock Shadow Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Local Government & the Regions

moved Amendment No. 130A:

After Clause 42, insert the following new clause—

"DEVELOPMENT ORDERS: EXTERNAL LIGHTING

(1) Within two years of the commencement of section 40, the appropriate authority shall make regulations for restricting or regulating the use of external lighting so far as appears to the authority to be expedient in the interests of amenity or public safety.

(2) The appropriate authority is—

(a) the Secretary of State in relation to England;

(b) the National Assembly for Wales in relation to Wales."

Photo of Baroness Maddock Baroness Maddock Shadow Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Local Government & the Regions

My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 130A. The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that lighting is brought under planning control through provisions in the Bill for enabling regulations. At an earlier stage we discussed the problems of light pollution and its damaging effect on the environment. We discussed the problems of viewing the stars in the night sky, and some of us recognised that rural areas that suffer from light pollution feel much more like towns. Badly angled light beams can cause light trespass, and this not only causes problems for residents next door to such lights, but it can be harmful to wildlife. Some people would say that we waste rather a lot of energy on unnecessary lighting as well.

The situation at present is that artificial light is not classed as development. Regardless of the intrusiveness of the light beams, if the fixture does not significantly alter the appearance of a building, if it is not a free standing structure, the light cannot be classed as development and is not subject to planning controls. Similarly, light is not specifically listed as a statutory nuisance. While it is possible to use statutory nuisance provisions to control light pollution, there is a lot of confusion about whether and how light pollution can be classed as a statutory nuisance. As a result, many local authorities and environmental health officers are reluctant to take action.

The problem of light pollution was recognised by the Science and Technology Committee in another place. The report, Light Pollution and Astronomy, was produced by the Committee in 2003. It made some recommendations for action to Government. The main recommendations were that making obtrusive light a statutory nuisance would mean that local council environmental health officers could take legal action against serious "bad neighbour" light polluters.

Another recommendation was new and effective planning guidance on light pollution for local planners, in order for them to draw up local planning policies to tackle light pollution and to refuse planning permission for new developments with bad lighting schemes. Better government guidance for local councils in their role as highways authorities was also suggested, so that they install better-directed, more efficient street and road lighting as they deal with the massive backlog of old and dilapidated equipment. We have made better progress on street lighting than we have on other aspects.

The Government took few immediate measures following the committee's report. However, they have stated they believe that local authorities should include policies on external lighting in their development plans. The Government also have a commitment to issuing planning policy to local planning authorities on light pollution and writing model planning conditions to minimise the adverse effect of outdoor lighting. The Government have also considered making serious light pollution a statutory nuisance, and many people who are concerned about it would welcome the action. However, nothing is happening quickly.

An amendment was tabled to the Bill in another place, and the Government were not up front about it. The Minister, Yvette Cooper, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, said that,

"any legislation would have to be practically enforceable. That would require the ability to make assessments that are sufficiently robust and clear to survive arguments in the courts where the cases may end up".—[Official Report, Commons Standing Committee A, 21/10/03; col. 255.]

That is precisely what people will be asking for, and I hope that the Minister will be sympathetic.

When we discussed the matter at the previous stage, the Minister expressed sympathy but he was not particularly forthcoming. Many people believe—I am grateful to the CPRE for much of the briefing—that there is scope to use the planning system to control light pollution more effectively and to make it more certain. Many of the issues I have raised today are ones with which people have tried to grapple, and this is another where they come up against legislation giving them insufficient support.

The amendment proposes introducing statutory enabling provisions and uses the model of the advertisement clause in the principal Act—the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. I hope that the Minister will look on it favourably, or at least come forward with something else. The advantages of my proposals are that they would provide a self-contained code through regulations for the control of lighting and they would not depend on the lighting requiring planning permission or constituting a nuisance. The nature of lighting requiring specific consent would be defined in the regulations, and enforcement will therefore be much easier. If consent were granted, it could be made subject to conditions.

There is a precedent for this approach; the amendment is based on the regime applicable to outdoor advertisements. I hope that the Minister will be a little more forthcoming than he was when we last discussed the issue. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Bridges Lord Bridges Crossbench

My Lords, I introduced a similar amendment in Committee and I was encouraged by the wide variety of Members who chose to speak to it and to support it. It was encouraging to hear the Minister say in reply that he believed it would be possible to introduce an annex to PPS23, which would give local authorities some power of control. I hope that today the Government Front Bench will be able to give us further information about their plans.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Regeneration and Regional Development), Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister) (Regeneration and Regional Development)

My Lords, the noble Baroness is quite right that the matter was raised in Committee, but I think that I was most forthcoming on the issue recently in response to a Question on the issue of light pollution four or five weeks ago. I remember waving in the House the department's already existing publication on guidance, no details or references to which I have here tonight. In seven minutes at Question Time, with the Questions and Answers, I managed to get quite a lot of good information on to the record, because one is much more disciplined at Question Time.

When a similar amendment was proposed in Committee, we had a great deal of sympathy with the intention of the amendment—which remains the case. We said that we agreed that excessive, poorly designed, badly aimed lighting can have significant adverse effects on people, wildlife, the amenity and those who look at the sky. But we should remember that good, well designed lighting is an effective way to reduce road accidents, reduce crime and the fear of crime, and enhance community safety; it has a very important role to play in creating good conditions. We must strike a balance between the benefits of lighting and the potential adverse impacts.

New legislation could have significant implications both for those who wish to put up exterior lighting and for local planning authorities who would have to deal with the additional applications. It would be difficult to design a feasible means of assessing external light for statutory planning control purposes. The legislation must be enforceable and practical—that would be a key part of the problem. If we are to have an enforcement regime, somebody has to be able to measure and make an assessment that will stand up in court.

Bad lighting practice—and there is a lot of it about—is best dealt with by raising public awareness, providing policy advice and guidance, and by more effective use of the existing planning powers, such as the development plan policies on external lighting and the use of planning conditions to mitigate the adverse effects of external lighting.

As was said, the Science and Technology Select Committee in the other place considered the issue and produced its report on light pollution and astronomy on 6 October last year. It did not recommend the introduction of new planning legislation. It recommended that obtrusive light be made a statutory nuisance. I understand that at present Defra is considering that recommendation as an option; it is that government department's responsibility.

The committee also recommended the introduction of new planning policy guidance on light pollution, and we have said that we will act on that recommendation. We will introduce—as I said in Committee and at Question Time—an annexe to Planning Policy Statement 23, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, which deals with planning and pollution control. We will produce an annexe specifically on light pollution. We will send clear signals to local planning authorities that they should take the issue of light pollution as seriously as they do other types of pollution when considering planning applications. The annexe will have the same status as the parent planning policy statement and will be a material consideration in the preparation of regional spatial strategies and local development documents, and in the consideration of planning applications. So there would be no get-out; it would be a material consideration in terms of whatever was proposed.

Given the potentially significant implications that new legislation would have on local planning authorities, which will have to deal with the additional applications and proposed new policy guidance, we hope that the matter will not be pursued.

As I remember waving around that day, we have already produced guidance—for example, on lighting in the countryside—towards good practice, which provides practical advice to local authorities, developers and the public on what can be done to lessen the adverse effects of external lighting. This guidance is freely available and is on the ODPM website, whose address I think I gave out twice at Question Time.

We are positive about this issue, which has been looked at by an all-party committee in Parliament and by those outside—I remember seeing the maps that were produced, and, I think, photographs or maps of light pollution produced by CPRE in its very useful document circulated in the autumn of last year to coincide with the Select Committee hearings.

We are positive about it, and, boringly repetitive though it may be to say it, we do not think that it is right for the Bill. We will act to bring in the bad practice of light pollution—covering regional spatial strategies, development plans and particular planning applications—in such a way that it will have to be taken account of, as it will be a material consideration. I regret to say that I do not have a date for that. I hope that I will have something more to report at Third Reading, although I also hope that we will not raise every issue again then, because we will not get the job done.

As for the timing for the proposed annex to Policy Planning Statement 23, there is no date in my notes. We will work with stakeholders to consider what might be included in the annex, which will then be subject to wider consultation. Planning Policy Statement 23 is due to be published this spring, and the annex will follow it, once the work with stakeholders and the consultation are complete. That sounds like the summer before the autumn of this year to me.

Photo of Baroness Maddock Baroness Maddock Shadow Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Local Government & the Regions 9:00, 1 March 2004

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that full reply. I agree with him that it is about striking the right balance as regards the need to make sure that places are sufficiently lit to protect people from crime and make areas safe. However, there have been problems.

I thought that the amendment, which was recommended to me by the Campaign to Protect Rural England, was rather imaginative and dealt with the question of advertisements. I thought that it was a good way of doing that, and I did not see that it would be particularly onerous. It would make things clear. However, I welcome the fact that the Government are giving the matter serious consideration and will bring out an annex.

One gets worried about yet another consultation. Later on in this stage, I may have criticisms to make on some of the consultations. I hope that it will not take too long and that the Government will listen.

People are concerned that there should be something in place that enables local authorities to give the matter the priority that it needs and take the action that they want to take. I shall read carefully what the Minister said, but, in the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 43 [Applications for planning permission and certain consents]:

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Shadow Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Local Government & the Regions

moved Amendment No. 130B:

Page 26, line 16, after "permission" insert "(whether for full or outline permission)"

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Shadow Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Local Government & the Regions

My Lords, Amendment No. 130B is grouped with Amendments Nos. 131 and 134, to which my noble friend Lady Maddock has attached her name. They are to be introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, or, perhaps, by my noble friend—there is some negotiation going on behind me. They are perhaps the more important amendments in the group. My amendment is a small one.

We have already talked today about the problems with statements of development principle and the Government's concern to see that outline applications contain more detail than is currently required. I said that I supported that, and I made a note to table Amendment No. 130B some time ago, in order to show that we did not oppose everything that the Government were doing. It was intended to be helpful, and I had not appreciated that we would probably cover the point in an earlier debate. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Maddock Baroness Maddock Shadow Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Local Government & the Regions

My Lords, I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 131 and 134. We have had the debate about the importance of design, and I shall not repeat the arguments. The amendments would ensure that design elements were an important part of consideration for outline planning permission. Local authorities would have the power to demand that people considered the design principles.

There is not a lot more to say, as we have had the debate. I hope that, when the Minister tables the promised amendments about the importance of design in the planning process, as set out in the Bill, he will ensure that they deal with all the stages. We have rehearsed the arguments about how important it is, but the earlier people start considering the design of buildings, the better chance we will have of ensuring that the final product is satisfactory. It sends a very powerful message that this is not something tacked on at the end, when the local authority complains about the standard of design in a planning application, but that it starts at the very first stage. I hope that the Minister can reassure us that he will have that in mind when he brings forward his proposals at Third Reading.

Photo of Lord Lucas Lord Lucas Conservative

My Lords, as the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, said, we have had this debate. We have also heard some very helpful noises from the Minister and I understand that this is something we shall get at Third Reading. It is always very difficult to have to wait until Third Reading because one never knows quite what one will get. One has to hold one's breath and hope that it will turn out right, that one will be able to accept it and that it will be what is wanted.

I am optimistic. These amendments are about honesty; they are about making sure that developers are up-front about what they want to do and about the impact that it will have on local communities. What developers say at outline stage should be carried through in the final design and any differences should be made absolutely clear so that people's attention can be drawn to them so that they can comment on them and deal with them as they wish. I am hoping for an encouraging holding reply from the Minister on these amendments.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, and the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, have said, we have debated this subject. There is not a great deal more that I can add.

These amendments are interesting because they get down to the detail of how in practice design might work as part of the planning process. Reflecting on my local government experience, it is how the framework is set and what is implied by having a statement of design principles submitted with outline planning applications that creates the opportunity for discussion, debate, refinement and further thought about what is to be achieved through a particular development, the benefits that might accrue to the community and how it might improve the quality of civic space. These are interesting amendments for that reason.

As the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, has said, proposals will be brought back at Third Reading that will include design on the face of the Bill. There has been a lot of consultation. My speaking note tells me that there have been some very valuable discussions on these issues with the British Property Federation, the House Builders Federation and the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors which welcomed the statement that was made about design on 15 December.

I hope that the Government can match the aspirations that have been discussed in your Lordships' House. It is certainly our intention to move in that direction. Having heard that, I hope that the noble Lord and the noble Baroness will not move the amendments that they have tabled at this stage and will await Third Reading.

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Shadow Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Local Government & the Regions

My Lords, I am not sure that there was any response to Amendment No. 130B. Perhaps the Minister thought that I was not asking for one, but I hate to deprive him of the opportunity of getting something on the record on the part of the Government.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for the prompt. Amendment No. 130B suggests that applications for planning permission cover both outline and full applications. Our response is that if we were to decide to retain outline planning permission—and, as the noble Baroness will know, there is an internal discussion going on about that issue—this amendment would, so far as we are concerned, be unnecessary. The reason for this is that the term "planning permission" covers both outline and full permission. I am sure that the noble Baroness understands that. For that reason, and because there are continuing discussions on the issue, it is not an amendment to which we are attracted. I am sorry that that is the case, and I know that it will not make the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, overly happy, but I am sure that she will understand why it is the case.

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Shadow Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Local Government & the Regions

My Lords, on the contrary, I am much happier that there is substantive work going on than I would be by winning a small Brownie point tonight.

I do not detect any wish to continue the debate about design principles at this stage, as dealt with in this amendment and the others in the group. As the noble Lord said, we welcome the fact that the matter is being taken forward and we are beginning to address some of the detail of how that might happen. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 131 not moved.]

Photo of Lord Hanningfield Lord Hanningfield Conservative

moved Amendment No. 132:

Page 26, line 25, leave out "they think" and insert "are"

Photo of Lord Hanningfield Lord Hanningfield Conservative

My Lords, I do not think that we need delay the House for too long on Amendments Nos. 132 and 133.

When I raised the matter in Committee, it was heartening to hear the Minister defend local authority discretion. However, I am still keen to know whether it is possible, under the current language of Clause 43, for two local planning authorities that share a border to demand that entirely different particulars be included in a planning application for the same development.

Of course, as everyone knows, we defend local autonomy and discretion, so we will not press the amendment today. The language as it stands might be welcome to us. I seek clarification about the issue of the local planning authorities' freedom to decide what is necessary for inclusion in planning applications. How does this freedom relate to development orders that specify what applications should contain? Do the Government believe that the difference between two authorities on what must be included on applications could be a source of delay in the delivery of a cross-border project? I look forward to the Minister's response. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Regeneration and Regional Development), Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister) (Regeneration and Regional Development)

My Lords, one way of answering the noble Lord is this: if you genuinely believe in the local planning authority's discretion, then, if there is a cross-border project, each authority must be left to deal with its own part of the project. You cannot, on the one hand, give them maximum discretion to do it in their own way, and, on the other, seek to constrain them because there happens to be a cross-border project. I do not know of many examples.

Photo of Lord Hanningfield Lord Hanningfield Conservative

My Lords, is the Minister going to condone a road that is three-lane, two-lane, one-lane, three-lane, two-lane, one-lane as it goes through various authorities?

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Regeneration and Regional Development), Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister) (Regeneration and Regional Development)

My Lords, life is not like that. Planning authorities are not stupid. It is true that they may be open to criticism. I do not have many examples—though roads are obviously a good example—but I can think of other projects.

For example, there is a former industrial site in one of the growth areas in Northamptonshire which is now another kind of enterprise altogether. It is in one of my photographs in the exhibition that opened today at Westminster Hall. I did not know that the boundary of two local authorities went through the site. When the steelworks was demolished and proposals were produced for the motor speedway at Rockingham, one authority had one policy on helicopter landings and the other one had a different policy. But they came to an agreement, and the development went ahead. They were sensible about it and did it their way. I asked how the local authority boundary had ended up going through the middle of a steelworks, but I understand that that was an accident of history. I cannot be more precise than that.

However, we genuinely believe that local authorities must be allowed to exercise their judgment in deciding what information additional to that provided by the prescribed standard application they need in order to make the assessment. I realise that the amendments are probing, but their effect would be to remove the local authority's discretion.

The noble Lord has not given me any examples of cross-border developments other than that of roads in which there has not been a satisfactory outcome to a problem. So that is best left to the local authority. It is true that introducing a standard planning application form to be used by all local authorities in England is a change, but it provides the essential information that local authorities will need to determine the application.

As an example, let us consider what happens if a developer makes an application to neighbouring authorities for developments that are essentially the same. It could do so by providing the same level of information on the same form. It is true that each authority, because their areas will be different, may come back to ask for a little bit of extra, different information relevant to its site. It is up to them if they want to do that. If they want information specific to the area, they must have discretion to demand it. However, in the absence of any examples of where satisfactory outcomes have not been achieved, I rest my case.

Photo of Lord Hanningfield Lord Hanningfield Conservative 9:15, 1 March 2004

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his response. As I said initially, it is a probing amendment. We wanted the Government to clarify their position; we shall obviously read and think about his response, but this is not one of the most important issues of the Bill. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 133 and 134 not moved.]

Photo of Lord Lucas Lord Lucas Conservative

moved Amendment No. 135:

After Clause 43, insert the following new clause—

"Designs and masterplans

In the principal Act after section 54A (status of development plans) there is inserted the following new section—

"54B MERIT OF APPLICATION FOR DEVELOPMENT

In determining any application for planning permission for development, special regard is to be had to the merit of any design, masterplan or permitted drawings which have been submitted in connection with any existing permission for development on the application site.""

Photo of Lord Lucas Lord Lucas Conservative

My Lords, this amendment picks up a point that was discussed briefly in Committee but was not the subject of a separate amendment. I have attempted to devise an amendment to deal with the matter. The principal problem arises where a planning application is submitted and agreed with a fine design from, for example, the Richard Rogers Partnership but, when it comes to be built, it is the subject of a second planning permission with no architect at all—just something put together by the builders. The whole project may have been greatly degraded, but the planning authority feels that, as it has granted permission for a development consisting of that number of houses and, apart from their design, the houses will be pretty much the same, it has no leg to stand on in arguing with the change of design.

I hope that that will be ironed out under the proposals that we are to consider on Third Reading. It is not an everyday abuse, but it is sufficiently common to have been given the name within the profession of "trophy architecture". So it is an abuse that has clearly gained some currency. I hope that, when we read the Government's proposals, that will be dealt with along with the other difficulties that face authorities that want to ensure good design in their areas. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Maddock Baroness Maddock Shadow Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Local Government & the Regions

My Lords, my name is attached to this amendment. It highlights an issue that my noble friend Lord Greaves mentioned in Committee. He gave us a graphic description of what had happened in a town in Lancashire where the local authority had gone to a lot of trouble to achieve a really good design. For whatever reason, that then fell out of the equation and the application was taken up by someone else and something entirely unsatisfactory—nothing like the original proposal—was built. So the issue is important.

When the Minister presents his proposals on Third Reading for writing design principles into the Bill, I hope that they will cover all the different stages. The Government have been positive in what they have said, but I did not receive a clear answer in response to my previous amendment when I asked whether they will address that at every stage. The stage that we are discussing is especially important, as the example cited by my noble friend Lord Greaves demonstrated and as the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, just said.

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Conservative

My Lords, I have been thinking about this issue recently as we faced problems in my borough. Let us suppose that designs are put forward for planning permission by one developer and that that developer has an architect; however, the developer decides not to proceed with the same planning application, and another developer decides to take it on. The question is whether those plans and designs are transferable to the new developer, and whether the new developer is bound by the design of an architect whom he might otherwise not have employed.

My view is that one ought to do exactly what the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, said, which is, "That's the plan; that's the design; you build it". But when it passes to another developer, I am not sure what powers there are to enforce that. We might be able to put that into the Bill. But I am still not certain that we could force a developer to take up the plans of another architect to develop the scheme.

I am not disagreeing with that; I think that it is very meritorious and extremely sensible. I am merely looking at the practical implications of how one can do it.

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Shadow Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Local Government & the Regions

My Lords, I do not know whether it would be possible to condition the original application, but even if it were, would it be proper to do so? I think that the noble Baroness alluded to that. Perhaps the discussion takes us back to the need for good design and a requirement for good design principles to be followed, which should be written in at the earliest possible stage. If that were written in at the start, there would be something objective so that if a switch took place, there would be a principle to be complied with. That would help local authorities which may not have pinned down the details of the first application to which they can stick if someone comes along with a substitute.

Photo of Lord Marlesford Lord Marlesford Conservative

My Lords, I support my noble friend Lord Lucas on this hugely important point. It is one of the tragedies of this country that for several decades of the latter part of the previous century some appalling developments and building took place. One of the aspects on which I want to focus—although I am not sure whether my noble friend's amendment covers it—is the importance of the material to be used, which is as important as the actual design. It will be unfortunate if a splendid scheme that has been submitted by a distinguished and caring architect for a patron who wishes to put up something of real quality falls and lapses, and a subsequent developer does not have anything like the same motivation, but tries to piggy-back on that earlier application to a much lower standard of design and materials. I hope that the Bill will ensure that increasing attention will be paid to design and materials for both private and public buildings—non-residential office buildings, and so on.

We have discussed the issue already, but the amendment brings it out. Again, one cannot resist referring to the United States, where I travel every year, particularly the downtown areas of American cities. In general, the quality of office buildings especially is streets ahead of what we have in this country, although not in every case. My noble friend is on to something really important. The Bill should be used to ensure that we do not have the kind of shoddy buildings that were put up in the latter part of the previous century.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, raised a very valid point. From looking at major developments in my home city, it seems that we often accept designs that we would not consider in a better world. But because of the framework within which planning considerations take place, it is difficult to establish benchmarks and principles, and so forth.

Time and again, the issue that arose was that there was a very useful, good, virgin site within the confines of the city centre. Because of the financial atmosphere in which the development was proposed a mega-plan would be put forward, which the developer would find it was unable to carry through; for example, money did not stack up and things could not be made to happen. The proposed development would lapse. Some years later another grand set of proposals would come forward, which may or may not proceed because of the financial package that was in place. At the same time, in the back of one's mind, one still had the excellence or merits of an earlier application; that is, what it had been trying to achieve and the nature of the buildings that were on offer.

This amendment is interesting. It takes us back to the detail of the whole design issue. But I do not think that this is the way to deal with it. The wording suggests that we should have,

"special regard ... to the merit of any design".

That is fine, but I am not quite sure what it means as regards this legislation. Obviously, it is an important issue, but it would be better placed in the background guidance, information, framework and criteria used to tease out design issues. Although the amendment reconfigures part of our earlier important debate, I am not sure that it takes us any closer to what noble Lords seek today.

The department looking at these issues is thinking about perhaps the full endorsement of the CABE guidance that protects design quality in the planning system as a companion guide to PPS1; or perhaps to revise some of the existing good practice guidance in PPG1 to ensure that it continues to promote best practice; and to provide further advice on the methods and tools available to ensure good quality design; for example, model conditions.

I want to reassure noble Lords that we are taking these issues very seriously. The Government want to tackle the important issues of urban design. We are thinking somewhat imaginatively in careful consultation with those who know how we can best achieve that. I applaud the efforts made by noble Lords. As the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, said, planning Bills do not come along too often. This is an opportunity to get to grips with these important design issues. We all want to lever up design standards and provide the right kind of framework within which imaginative design can flourish and be encouraged.

I do not know whether that takes us much further forward with Amendment No. 135, which is in any sense slightly flawed and not quite in the right place and of the right design. However, I wanted to suggest that we are mindful of the comments and observations that lie behind it.

Photo of Baroness Maddock Baroness Maddock Shadow Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Local Government & the Regions 9:30, 1 March 2004

My Lords, before the Minister sits down, does he recognise that the problem we are trying to address is that if a good quality design is approved at one stage of the process it is not possible for it to go backwards at another stage? That is what we have identified as part of the problem. I was not sure from his remarks whether he recognised how we would deal with it.

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Shadow Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Local Government & the Regions

My Lords, again before the Minister sits down—this is part of the same issue—does he accept that if a good application is approved and then later another applicant comes along with something similar that is not good quality, the local planning authority needs to have the tools to say no without fear of being taken to appeal on the basis that the first one, which is close, has been approved? That is a practical danger.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

My Lords, I see that. Perhaps my comments did not reflect enough on the issue. I recognise that it is a problem. We have all been in and understand local government. We have all come across such examples: how do we tackle them? Obviously there have to be clear design policies within the local planning framework, which will be distilled from the national framework, and there has to be an effective use of planning conditions. Those are the building blocks of the issue.

I want to consider the matter further. We may need to provide a note identifying how we see it working in practice, because I recognise the issue. Sometimes councillors on planning committees would like to say, "We'd like to have the design we had last time round: can we have it now with this developer?" However, the real world does not work like that. As we know, the financial framework that surrounds development moves on all the time. There are new ways of generating revenue out of development and communities want new things; and there are new objectives for any given site, particularly if it is well placed and can be used for different purposes—leisure, retail, housing and so on—depending on the money available for it. We have to recognise that there are some constraints but not lose sight of the overall push to improve the quality of design with a particular development proposal or set of proposals.

Photo of Lord Lucas Lord Lucas Conservative

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, put it well in her interjection. The core of the issue is to ensure that a local planning authority faced with a second application for a site where it has already granted permission feels able to say, "No: the reason we gave that application permission is that the design was good. Yours may have the same number of houses with the same number of rooms and a similar layout, but the design is not good for other reasons and that is why we are rejecting it," and to be confident that that is a valid reason. Such a provision would enable authorities to look back to an earlier application by another developer and say, "No, you can't read over from one to the other because you haven't got the design right". I can see that the Front Bench opposite understands and I am delighted.

Nothing in what we are trying to do will give us universal good design. The best architects can design buildings that we find horrible or difficult to get on with. I shudder every time I cross Vauxhall bridge going south: other people think that it is wonderful.

We cannot achieve perfection by laying down rules. I hope, however, that we achieve a system where someone could build another building as wonderful and eccentric as the Royal Pavilion in Brighton. It must have seemed difficult at the time. Indeed, I am even starting to like the British Library; there are some nice things about it now that one is familiar with it. Thoughts and tastes move on and early judgments can be wrong.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

My Lords, perhaps I may interject with a point that might amuse the noble Lord. In the 1920s there was a move on the part of the then Brighton town council to have the Royal Pavilion demolished. They probably thought it was vulgar, but that was the taste at the time.

Photo of Lord Lucas Lord Lucas Conservative

My Lords, I am glad they missed that one. This is not about perfection, but ensuring that the worst is dealt with, that the real horrors are prevented. One is just being put up opposite where I am. It is so obviously bad and I am sure that everyone knows exactly what I am talking about. I look forward to Third Reading. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Shadow Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Local Government & the Regions

moved Amendment No. 136:

After Clause 43, insert the following new clause—

"ACCESS STATEMENTS

(1) In the principal Act after section 62 (form and content of applications for planning permission) there is inserted the following section—

"62A ACCESS STATEMENTS

(1) An application for planning permission for development of a prescribed class or size shall not be entertained by the local planning authority unless it is accompanied by an access statement.

(2) An "access statement" is a statement which demonstrates that the applicant has fully considered how reasonable access and ease of use for people, regardless of disability, age or gender, will be provided in the context of the works in question.

(3) Any access statement—

(a) shall be made in such manner as may be prescribed by regulations under this Act; and

(b) shall include such particulars and be verified by such evidence as may be required by the regulations or by directions given by the local planning authority under them."

(2) In the listed buildings Act 1990 after section 11 (certificates as to applicant's status etc.) there is inserted the following section—

"11A ACCESS STATEMENTS

(1) An application for listed building consent which materially affects access to or around the building for people shall not be entertained unless it is accompanied by an access statement.

(2) An "access statement" is a statement which demonstrates that the applicant has fully considered how reasonable access and ease of use for people, regardless of disability, age or gender, will be provided in the context of the works in question.

(3) Any access statement—

(a) shall be made in such manner as may be prescribed by regulations under this Act; and

(b) shall include such particulars and be verified by such evidence as may be required by the regulations or by directions given by the local planning authority under them."

(3) In the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 (c. 46) after section 2 (control of works affecting scheduled monuments) there is inserted the following section—

"2A ACCESS STATEMENTS

(1) An application for scheduled monument consent which materially affects access to or around the monument for people shall not be entertained unless it is accompanied by an access statement.

(2) An "access statement" is a statement which demonstrates that the applicant has fully considered how reasonable access and ease of use for people, regardless of disability, age or gender, will be provided in the context of the works in question.

(3) Any access statement—

(a) shall be made in such manner as may be prescribed by regulations under this Act; and

(b) shall include such particulars and be verified by such evidence as may be required by the regulations.""

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Shadow Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Local Government & the Regions

My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 136 I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 137 and 149. I am not sure about giving the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, ideas about becoming a Prince Regent but, if he builds another Royal Pavilion, I hope that it will have jolly good access arrangements, because that is the concern of these amendments.

The first amendment in the group concerns access statements to accompany planning applications. We all agree that disabled access is currently addressed much too late in the process. At present, the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 simply requires that a developer's attention is drawn to the issue on his being granted planning permission and later at the stage of building control. We have the new good practice guidance from the ODPM encouraging authorities on their part to encourage applicants to submit access statements with their applications. The guidance argues that such statements are key to getting developers to take seriously the issue of inclusive design at the earliest stages. It suggests that if an access statement is not submitted, the local planning authority could reject the registration of the application, with the comment that this would overcome the matter delaying the eight-week period which applies.

Four years ago, the Disability Rights Task Force recommended revisiting, reviewing and revising Section 76 of the 1990 Act when a suitable legislative opportunity arose. I recall saying at the previous stage that if this is not the opportunity, what is. Further, as has been mentioned more than once in this Chamber, action was pledged in the Government's 2001 manifesto.

This provision would require the developer to outline the process undertaken to establish the access provisions within the design and would also apply where a building was undergoing a change of use. The exact form of the statement would depend on the size, nature and complexity of the scheme. It could also specify how the building should be managed and operated to ensure that it continues to be exclusive—I am sorry, I meant to say "inclusive"; I hope that that was not a Freudian slip. Specifying information early would be in the interests of the developer so as to avoid later delays and costs.

The Government have said that they will consult on whether access statements should be a required document and have used the term in this connection in appropriate circumstances. At the previous stage, the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, queried whether such a provision should apply generally. I suggested to the Disability Rights Commission—which has provided me with considerable assistance, not least by giving me the appropriate nudge to table these amendments again—that wording such as,

"in the context of the works in question", might meet the point made by the noble Lord. I believe that he referred to a window in a listed building.

The noble Lord, Lord Bassam said in Committee that he would,

"press officials for a tighter timetable".—[Official Report, 2/2/04; col. 456.]

I hope that tonight he can be much clearer about the timetable and give us a statement that applications without an access statement will not be entertained. It would be useful to know more about Government thinking as to what applications they would wish to exempt. Perhaps he can also help the House as to the application of access statements in the case of listed buildings and scheduled monuments when the impact on access to and around the building and monument is in issue.

Amendment No. 137 seeks to place a new duty on authorities to have due regard to the need to ensure that reasonable provision is made so that buildings and their approaches are accessible to and usable by people regardless of disability, age or gender. The amendment is intended to ensure that all planning officers, committees and inspectors properly scrutinise planning applications against relevant access standards and provisions so that potential design barriers can be nipped in the bud. Again it is a matter of getting to the issue early.

We think that it would make it more likely that applications that had not properly addressed access would be rejected or would have specific conditions attached to them. This would, we think, provide for greater consistency across different planning authorities—I am told that they are something of a patchwork at the moment. It is intended also to ensure that a better balance is found between access, ability and conservation principles.

We are aware of the issue around listed building consent. Preserving the character of a listed building may appear to conflict with proposals to widen a door or make other access improvements. Under current legislation disability access is a much lesser consideration than preserving the building character, even though with a little imagination and hard work in many cases a solution could take both into account. The Minister said in Committee that an amendment similar to this was not necessary. I think it is.

Finally, there is the repeal of Section 76. As I have said, its repeal was a manifesto commitment. That is important but the underlying issue is more important, which is it that the provision is out-of-date and does not reflect the Government's current policy. The Government have said that they are not revising the section because they want to mainstream disability access through new planning policy statements. The Disability Rights Task Force did not recommend either revision of Section 76 or updating guidance. The Government should do both. I do not know whether it is up to the Opposition to make too much of a point about how the Government deal with the issue; nor do I know how such a decision in respect of a manifesto commitment would be regarded outside, but we can probably read between the lines well enough.

Revised guidance is not adequate. It will not end the huge variances in the ways in which different local planning authorities address the issue of access to the built environment. The courts do not always leave planning guidance where it starts. We shall no doubt spend time later on Section 106—although perhaps not later tonight—but the guidance there states that local authorities should not seek a contribution unless it is necessary and directly related to the proposed development, and case law broadened the interpretation of the kind of contribution that could be required. That is an example of guidance not staying quite where it started.

Generally, of course, the courts attach more importance to statutory duties than to guidance, and unless and until there are clear duties in planning law on inclusive environments, too many planning officers and too many inspectors will continue to assume that access is a matter to be left to the building control process; that it is an add-on about which they do not need to bother their heads too much at the stage at which they are involved.

These are very important issues. I know that the House's heart is in the right place but, as with so much in this area, we must find a mechanism to achieve what we all want. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Lucas Lord Lucas Conservative 9:45, 1 March 2004

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for introducing those few extra words into Amendment No. 136. I am totally comfortable with the way in which it is expressed. Subject, as always, to guidance from those concerned with drafting government legislation, I should like to see it in the Bill. I should like a similar tweak to be given to Amendment No. 137, but perhaps we should first listen to the Minister and come back to that at Third Reading.

Photo of Baroness Wilkins Baroness Wilkins Labour

My Lords, I strongly support the three amendments. They are essential for ensuring that access is brought into the beginning of the planning process. I hope that the Minister will give a favourable response.

Photo of Lord Addington Lord Addington Shadow Minister (Sport), Culture, Media & Sport, Other Whip, People With Disabilities, Non-Departmental & Cross-Departmental Responsibilities

My Lords, if we manage to get the planning process to take forward the issue of access, we shall probably save everyone a great deal of time and money. Probably the only people whom it will affect, I am afraid, are the lawyers, because they will have to ensure that the legislation complies with the new regulations coming in at present. The draft Bill is being discussed. Can the Minister give an assurance that if the Government stay where they are they will not be contradicting the spirit of the Disability Discrimination Act? If they cannot give that assurance, they should look long and hard at this issue.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Regeneration and Regional Development), Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister) (Regeneration and Regional Development)

My Lords, this is a classic example of where a Minister should put his oar into the debate straightaway. I do not wish to prolong the discussion. The case has been made that the access statement should be on the face of the Bill. I shall take these amendments away and come back at Third Reading with something that addresses these concerns.

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Shadow Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Local Government & the Regions

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for that answer and for his obvious preparedness for Third Reading—I know that the Government Chief Whip is listening to this—which will be quite a long occasion and certainly a very interesting one.

Although the Minister said that what is proposed is instantly acceptable, that does not always stop people talking. His reply is obviously welcome, but I hope that he will forgive me for making the point again—it may seem a little trite and obvious—that it is important that the Government's amendments are published in time, not only for those of us who will speak to them, but for stakeholders to be consulted. I have no doubt that the Government are working with them in any event and will continue to do so. Those who have proposed amendments such as those to which I have spoken should be in no doubt that the Government's proposals meet all the points that have been raised. The issues before us have been around for a good while. They are not wholly straightforward. It is important that stakeholders are satisfied with the outcome. I am not trying to teach my grandmother to suck eggs on that point. It is merely an issue that should be addressed before Third Reading. In thanking the Minister, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 137 not moved.]

Clause 45 [Major infrastructure projects]:

Photo of Lord Hanningfield Lord Hanningfield Conservative

moved Amendment No. 138:

Page 31, line 14, at end insert—

"( ) Any planning application that the Secretary of State declares is of national or regional importance, as designated through subsection (1) must be subject to an economic impact report.

( ) Any planning application for a major infrastructure project based on a site-specific proposal in a national policy statement White Paper shall be considered by an inspector who shall be able to question the need for a specific development."

Photo of Lord Hanningfield Lord Hanningfield Conservative

My Lords, we now come to an extremely important amendment to the Government's proposals for major infrastructure projects. As I stated in Committee, I am particularly engaged with these issues as the leader of an authority that was severely affected by the Government's proposals for the expansion of airport capacity in the south-east.

The amendment would ensure that major infrastructure projects are subject to an economic impact report. It excludes site-specific proposals in White Paper national policy statements to prevent them reducing the scope of a public inquiry.

The two provisions in Amendment No. 138 are crucial to enhancing the Government's proposals for major infrastructure projects. I shall speak to each in turn.

The first part of the amendment would require the Secretary of State to conduct an economic impact report on any planning matter that he deems to fall within this part of the Bill. Major infrastructure projects, which may cause great damage to the environment, are usually promoted on the basis that they will deliver economic regeneration benefits. Therefore, a robust appraisal of whether demonstrable economic benefits will accrue must take place.

The examples of the Hastings bypasses and the West Midlands strategic western bypasses, which have been brought to my attention by the CPRE, show that an economic impact report would have greatly helped the decision-making process in each case. In each case, there was a lack of clarity about the assumptions which underlay the bypasses and the proper justification for them. Economic impact reports would avoid those problems by comprehensively probing new infrastructure proposals for their genuine economic implications, both positive and negative. They would provide a firm, realistic and impartial basis for discussion of a project's likely economic consequences.

Noble Lords may be interested to know that the Government have already accepted the logic of my argument. The Department for Transport is taking forward the recommendation of its standing advisory committee on trunk road assessments that economic impact reports be produced before decisions on new transport infrastructure are taken forward.

Since that is the case, why would the Government change the rules only for transport infrastructure and only via guidance? The importance of major infrastructure projects to local communities merits including economic impact reports in the Bill.

We support economic impact reports also because the arguments about the economic impact should be in the public domain at an early stage. It was stated in another place that a statutory economic impact report would be unnecessary, because the economic effects of development would be examined by the inspector. That is in no way acceptable.

Local people who are affected by major planning proposals will not wait until an inquiry to make their voices heard. They will want to confront the issues head-on. By the time the inquiry takes place, positions will have hardened and there will be little chance of persuading people of the merits of a particular development. That would be fine if one were not too concerned about local community support, but it is wrong. We should make every effort to ensure that local people fully understand the rationale behind planning proposals of that kind.

Those who are in favour of development would welcome robust arguments being put into the public domain. I would have thought that the Government would seek to reshape local debate in that way.

The second part of the amendment is equally important. It will enable an inspector to examine the justification of a site-specific proposal in the Government's White Paper. Planning by White Paper is simply unacceptable. Of course we support the use of White Papers to provide a framework for guiding the planner of major infrastructures. However, bypassing the checks and balances in the planning system by making site-specific recommendations is another matter entirely. That is what has happened with Stansted, and Labour Peers will be aware of the legal objections being pursued by various local authorities, including my own.

Major infrastructure projects rarely enjoy all-round support, but they must have public legitimacy. It is an erosion of democratic decision-making if a White Paper pre-empts the question of whether a specific development is needed. A White Paper consultation certainly does not adhere to the same checks and balances as a planning application.

In Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, said that during an inquiry the inspector will consider all aspects of the application, including the need for a specific development. However, a little later in the same speech, he said that the inspector should not have to spend inquiry time considering whether the need for a development exists, but should consider instead whether the need identified is outweighed by other factors.

The difference between those two statements is very important. The first suggests that the principle of major infrastructure projects should be examined and either taken forward or rejected. The second suggests that if a proposal is in the White Paper, the arguments about the principle or need for the development will be deemed to have taken place, but without the legitimacy of the planning process. The emphasis of any inquiry would become one of mitigation, with only a prospect of massive environmental and social damage likely to challenge the rubber-stamping logic.

It is essential that the democratic safeguards in a planning system that help protect the environment and enhance the quality of life in local communities are not bypassed. We think the amendment very important. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Shadow Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Local Government & the Regions

My Lords, I spoke to the amendment at the previous stage and so convinced myself that we have added our names to it. The noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, has dealt very thoroughly with the issue, and we certainly support the amendment.

The Minister's response in Committee—I think that other amendments were dealt with at the same time; I am not sure, but we were certainly focusing on the issue—was to give an interesting explanation of how major infrastructure inquiries would work. I was grateful for and interested in that, but I did not think that that explanation really answered the points made today by the noble Lord.

Photo of Lord Marlesford Lord Marlesford Conservative

My Lords, I so agree that the amendment is one of the most important that has been tabled to the Bill. One recognises that one of the objects of the Bill is, from the Government's point of view, where possible, to speed up planning. Where possible, I support that. However, when one comes to major projects of either national or regional importance, it is absolutely crucial that there be full consideration of all the implications of such developments. One simply cannot have a system whereby there can be a fast track for such developments.

I know how frustrating people find very long public inquiries, whether they be on something like a London airport or, picking one close to where I live, the old Sizewell B inquiry, which was immensely drawn out. In a sense, that was unnecessary, because the inquiry was overloaded all the time with questions about nuclear power, nuclear weapons and the CND people. It was archaic at the time that the arguments were being made, but it lasted for a long time.

None the less, it is important that we have a system of fundamental appraisal of need. My noble friend quoted from the Minister's slight duality of speech during the last stage, when I think my noble friend said the Minister should not take time querying the need but merely look at the consequences. However, very often, that fundamental question needs to be asked. The premise must be able to be questioned, and that will not happen through the normal planning system.

The amendment presupposes that the Secretary of State will decide on the instances in which the procedure proposed in the amendment would be used. That is important. In a sense, it is like the call-in procedure. There will obviously be cases where there is no dispute, but if the procedure exists it will have to be used. There will be also be marginal cases where the interest groups will argue for or against the new procedure. But the important matter is that the procedure should exist and should be able to question the fundamental issue.

I remember in my extreme youth when I was almost attracted to Marxism: it was only when one questioned its underlying fundamental assumptions that one understood its fallacies. The Minister might say that that is a far-fetched analogy, but I am trying to show that often when there is major proposal affecting the future of the country one really has to ask some fundamental questions. In the war, when we were fighting for our lives, we had to fast-track military airfields that would often be put up where they would never be set up today. That is a totally different situation. During wartime one could not have had the sort of proposal contained in the amendment, but one can now.

One of the appalling consequences of bypasses—which, in general, I favour—is that too often the territory between the bypass and the place that is to be bypassed is immediately seen as being suitable for in-filling. That might be undesirable, but is the sort of issue that should arise in the type of assessment covered by the amendment. At least, if it is decided to allow the proposal to go ahead, it should be laid down at that stage that, yes, there should be a by-pass; but that does not mean that the land will then be built upon.

Before the war, when such planning issues started, the ribbon development was the perfect example—one built a new road and immediately started to build either side of it. Had such assessments—which were launched by Sir Patrick Abercrombie and the founding fathers of protection of the countryside—existed then, many of the horrors would not have happened. So although we are unlikely to resolve the matter tonight, some of us feel strongly about the matter and it is now important, insofar as we are able, to insist that something appears on the face of the Bill.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Regeneration and Regional Development), Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister) (Regeneration and Regional Development) 10:00, 1 March 2004

My Lords, I do not wish to belittle in any way the examples that the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, has just given. He used one example regarding the speed and urgency with which airfields were built during the war. Frankly, with the human rights industry, some proponents of which are members of this House, if we tried that today I can imagine 10,000 arguments that they would be using over why we could not do that. We are in a different situation.

I also note the forensic checking of my comments in Committee, which were crucial, as all three speeches have made clear. This is a fundamental part of the Bill. In fact, I have been a little surprised—the timing is unfortunate—that we have not had longer to spend on the matter and the amendments have been small in number. Therefore, it is important. Given our current situation, I will stick to the note that I have been provided with. It is safer for everyone all round. Thinking about what I said in Committee, there is no contradiction in the two quotes that were used. I suspect that we will come back to the issue at Third Reading, because it is so important.

I conceded in Committee that the requirement for an economic impact report to be made in relation to an application that has been designated as a major infrastructure project by the Secretary of State is not necessary in the Bill. We would expect the promoter of a development of the type that we are talking about here to engage at as early a stage as possible with all parties concerned. This would mean that by the time an application for planning permission is made to the relevant local planning authority, the community will have already been actively engaged in the process. An inquiry would then be better able to focus on outstanding issues that have not been resolved at the pre-application stage. Assuming the application is called in, the inspector would consider the economic effects along with all the other aspects of the application as part of the inquiry. These would include environmental and any other impacts. Local people would have that further opportunity to raise their concerns.

On the second subsection of the amendment, again I reiterate what I said in Committee. Clearly, where there is a national policy statement White Paper, this will help to reduce the argument at the planning inquiry about the need for a specific development on a particular site. I did not say that it would get rid of the argument, but it would reduce the argument at a planning inquiry about the need for a specific development on a particular site. Where need is established by a national policy statement, the inspector should not have to spend inquiry time considering whether a need for the development exists, but should instead consider whether the need identified is outweighed by other factors.

It will be up to those who are opposed to a development to present their arguments against a specific development, and it is right that they should be free to do so and have that opportunity. This does not rule out the possibility that the inspector will spend some time looking at the need, but this will be in the context of what is said about the need in the national policy statement. I do not know whether that is the case currently, and I do not want to go down the byways—but it may be that that national policy statement in the form of the White Paper has been debated and voted on in this House and the other place. It gives it even greater weight than simply a document that is not debated or approved by both Houses.

The inspector must ensure that all relevant impacts of the specific development are considered during an inquiry. Therefore, all material considerations will be considered in his report, together with all relevant impacts, such as the economic or environmental impacts of the project. It is a fact—I am not carrying all the details with me—that a considerable amount of time was spent on the Terminal 5 inquiry because there were out of date or unclear policy issues. The recent aviation White Paper happens to be a useful example of our stated aim that there should be a clearer government policy statement, which may be supported by clearer regional strategies, as part of our proposals for improving the handling of major infrastructure projects.

The Government have set out their strategic framework for the development of airport capacity in the UK for the next 30 years. It does not authorise or preclude any particular development, but sets out a policy framework against which the relevant public bodies can plan ahead. That latter point goes a considerable way to meeting the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, that we must not have planning by White Paper. We fully accept that we must not have planning by White Paper. The procedure set out in the Bill is a lot better than planning by Parliament, which was the original plan in the planning Green Paper. That would have been an unmitigated disaster. No one has ever come back and said, "We think this is a good idea. We think Parliament should have done all this".

As I have repeatedly said, it took myself, when I was planning Minister, and the Deputy Prime Minister five minutes of conversation to decide that we did not want to proceed in that way. We must still come up with a solution to how we deal with and process what would be defined as major infrastructure projects. Bearing in mind what had happened over Terminal 5, it would have been irresponsible to leave it to the status quo. That was clearly unacceptable for all concerned; the public, the developers, those who were opposed, Uncle Tom Cobbleigh and all.

We have a solution here, which remains open to scrutiny, but it will stand the test of time and scrutiny by both this House and the other place.

Photo of Lord Hanningfield Lord Hanningfield Conservative

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that answer. We are in danger of creating new policy because of one bad example; that is, Terminal 5 at Heathrow. We all accept that the Government might want to find speedier processes, but I want to reiterate that there must be a democratic process in doing so. Enormous projects have a fundamental effect not just on the area in which they are located, but in the wider region. There must be proper pre-inquiry and inquiry processes. My amendments would help the Government in taking the matter forward.

At this late hour, we cannot debate the matter further but we shall certainly return to it at Third Reading. Perhaps the Minister and the Government will think again about it and will go further towards meeting our suggestions. They will help the Government but not go back to the Terminal 5 type of inquiry. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

My Lords, I beg to move that further consideration on Report be now adjourned.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.