My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.
The amendments in this group are intended to ensure that good design is integral to the process of planning. The reason why they are necessary can be seen all around us. People are entitled to properly designed infrastructure sited optimally within our landscape, including the built environment. Infrastructure will not function properly unless it is well designed. There are good architects and designers in this country who work to the highest standards, but there is not yet a culture or an expectation of good design among those who make planning decisions and planning proposals. Indeed, there is a deficit of design capacity among the planning community. We must overcome this if we are to implement the newly central processes of the Planning Bill and seize the economic opportunities that it creates. I know that my noble friend is sympathetic to the importance of good design and I hope that these amendments or something like them will therefore work with the grain of government policy.
I shall summarise the amendments briefly, because I know that a wide range of distinguished commentators from all sides of the Chamber is waiting in the wings. Amendments Nos. 28 and 30 would ensure that good design is inherent in the national policy statements and Amendments Nos. 35 and 37 would ensure that the Secretary of State personally endorses the element of good design in the policy statement. Amendment No. 60 would guarantee the same for reviews of the NPS, giving good design the same status as sustainability, to which it is allied but not coterminous.
The same parallel is made at Amendment No. 86 to cover the whole exercise of the Secretary of State's functions, so that sustainability would not be seen as being on a lower level than good design. Amendment No. 429 makes this clear by amending the Town and Country Planning Act accordingly. It fits the CABE-inspired, tried-and-tested review panels into the planning system. It is also important that their findings should carry evidential weight in appeals where applications have been rejected on design grounds.
Amendments Nos. 173, 174, 180, 213, 249, 250, 334 and 359 would mainstream design into the operations of the IPC, so that applications for consent, model provisions, the IPC's acceptance of applications, the content of development orders and the capacity of the panels that make the settled decisions all fully take the need for good design into account. The IPC might best implement amendments along these lines by taking advice from the independent panel, much as operates in some parts of the USA, with the advice being publicly available. I owe this suggestion to the Royal Town Planning Institute, whose view I am sure the Minister will respect. It also chimes with the opinion of good London borough chief planning officers.
Amendment No. 334 would ensure that if the Secretary of State needed to halt the progress of any consent, she could also do so if the design was not good enough. On Monday my noble friend resisted the proposal that the IPC should include accounting for the quality of design among the prescribed contents of its annual report. There are examples of that kind of accountability and I hope that she will reconsider, particularly given the wide range of support that the proposal had.
Finally, Amendments Nos. 440 and 441 would ensure that the operation of the community infrastructure levy also includes proper consideration of good design. The local authority would be prompted to mainstream design in its thinking and ensure that it had good advice available. Good design is not an extra, a frill or a luxury; it is absolutely fundamental to planning that people can live comfortably with. That is why these amendments, or something like them, are essential. I beg to move.
I declare an interest as an honorary fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects. My noble friend Lady Whitaker and I tabled the amendments in this group because we believe that it is profoundly important that planning policy explicitly requires conscious and continuous commitment by developers and planners alike to high-quality design. We have sought through the amendments to reinforce at every stage in the planning process, whether it is the new process for major infrastructure projects or the reformed town and country planning regime, a drive to ensure good design. I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Best, whose standing in the fields of housing and local government gives him a special authority in these matters, for adding his name to the amendments.
My noble friend has explained the purport of our amendments. A number of them lay duties on the Secretary of State, or create powers for her, in relation to design, in her oversight of national policy statements and the Infrastructure Planning Commission. Others lay corresponding duties on the IPC. Other amendments lay a duty on applicants for an order by the IPC to demonstrate full regard for good design. Then there are amendments that bear on local authorities.
Amendment No. 429 would introduce a new clause amending the town and country planning regime. The Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 would be amended to create a duty on planning authorities to exercise their function with the objective of contributing to the achievement not only of sustainable development, which is already in that legislation, but also of high-quality design in the built environment. The new clause goes on, therefore, to require the Secretary of State to promote the availability of design review panels in every region and, on appeal, to give weight to any recommendations in respect of the application made by a design review panel. The Barker and Callcutt reports made strong cases for design review, and the amendment goes with the grain of their advice.
Of course, the amendments may not be technically perfect. No doubt they are not sufficiently systematic and comprehensive, either. We can remedy that on Report. I very much hope that my noble friend the Minister will wish to take the lead in doing so. None of us has any desire to write into the Bill unworkable or excessive provisions. What we need is provisions on the face of the Bill that convincingly secure the commitment of the system to promoting good design. We would all prefer, I take it, that the Government should come forward with their own amendments to achieve this in an effective and sensible way. Meanwhile, the thrust of these amendments is clear and they will at least serve illustratively. I know that they reflect the serious concern on all sides of your Lordships' House, demonstrated earlier in the year in our debates on architecture and on the Housing and Regeneration Bill, that the Government should take an appropriate lead in promoting high-quality design in the built environment. I know, too, that my noble friend the Minister, who of course genuinely appreciates the importance of good design, will want to be responsive to the feeling of the Committee.
Let me deal with some of the objections that I can anticipate and that my noble friend may feel she has to put to the Committee at this stage. It may be objected that the amendments are unnecessary, as the Government's requirement for good design has already been expressed in planning policy statements 1 and 3 and these PPSs will provide a context for the formulation by the Government of their national policy statements as well as for the IPC and practitioners within the wider planning system. That is what my noble friend was saying on Monday in her response to our debate on Amendment No. 17. She said:
"The keystone planning document overarching everything that we do in planning is policy statement 1. In policy statement 1 there is a very clear recognition of the importance of design and sustainability. That is the principal driver".—[Hansard, 6/10/08; col. 69.]
If my noble friend were again today to make the case that because of PPS1 we do not need anything in the Bill, I would not, I am afraid, draw sufficient comfort. Welcome as is her affirmation of the Government's view of the importance of design, and admirable as are the principles set forth in PPS1, a planning policy statement is only guidance. Planning policy statements are expressed in highly generalised terms. They read as aspirations. Aspirations need underpinning.
Yesterday, at the briefing that the Minister so helpfully organised for us, we heard a person from the British Wind Energy Association say that planning policy statement 22 is "blatantly disregarded". We also heard the representative of the Royal Town Planning Institute, an experienced planning inspector, plead for "clear ground rules". He said that when you have them, a planning system works well; when you do not, you are in the sort of difficulties that are all too familiar and that this legislation needs to get us out of.
We have had planning guidance for many years, but in practice guidance has allowed too much that has been poorly designed to receive planning permission and to be built. We need to go beyond guidance and aspiration to explicit duties, laid precisely and unevadably on Ministers, infrastructure planning commissioners, developers, planning officers, planning committee members and inspectors, as they perform specific functions within the planning process.
I believe that the Committee will take the view that the requirement for good design must be explicitly articulated in the Bill. If it is, all concerned in the planning process will know for sure that they have to go beyond lip service and genuinely take design seriously. They will know that it is not only the non-statutory desire of the Government but the will of Parliament written inescapably into the law. Local planning authorities will have a new certainty that it is their duty to insist on good design, using design review, using the Building for Life standards, strengthening their own design skills, appointing design champions and rejecting substandard design. Local planning authorities have made it clear in their responses to surveys that they want to do better in matters of design. If they have clear legislative endorsement, they will set about doing so.
It may then be objected that it is unaffordably expensive to insist on good design, perhaps particularly for local authorities. If my noble friend were to make that suggestion, I would have to respond that, with great respect, she cannot have it both ways. If the duty is already there in the planning policy statements, it will be no more expensive to reiterate that duty and to remind and clarify in this legislation, as indeed the Government did a few months ago in the Housing and Regeneration Act.
In any case, good design need not cost more than mediocre design. Imagination and the exercise of skill are not intrinsically expensive. We all know, of course, that improved professional skills, notably in design, are widely needed. CABE has produced dismal statistics for the lack of adequate skills in planning authorities. Reform of the curriculum leading to professional qualification, so as to give greater prominence to design and to a common element of training in design, is needed, so that we have more planners, surveyors, transport engineers and, indeed, architects who understand and value good design. However, that is a matter of educating differently, not of spending more. The RTPI, RIBA and other professional and academic institutions are working on that and I hope that the Academy for Sustainable Communities, housed within the Homes and Communities Agency, and Ministers themselves will give vigorous leadership here. Meanwhile, with the deficiencies in design skills across the country, it is the more important that we write the requirement for good design into this legislation.
Even if there is a marginal extra cost up front in ensuring that the design is really good, that cost will start to be offset by the public's more ready acceptance of well designed projects, leading to fewer objections. With design review, planning decisions will be speeded up, there will be fewer appeals and there will be faster progress in the realisation of projects. More significantly, there is abundant evidence—as the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, reminded us on Monday—that extra investment in design at the outset is recouped many times over in savings on the lifetime costs of the building or installation. If anyone doubts that, I refer them to CABE's publication, The Cost of Bad Design.
The Government want a great deal of new infrastructure to be built rapidly; that is what the legislation is intended to enable. At the same time, scarcity of capital and weakened financial confidence will make it harder to finance big construction programmes. The more pressures there are on time and finance, the more important it is for DCLG to build into legislation safeguards against cutting corners on design quality. If other departments working on national policy statements—DBERR, Defra, DECC—are impatient and anxious not to have their proceedings complicated by what they may take to be fancy requirements about design, the more it is DCLG's responsibility to carry the flag for the civilised values that the public want. I hope that the Secretary of State will, if necessary, remind colleagues in other departments of what she said in her speech to CABE, that it is,
"absolutely vital for our planning system to support high-quality design".
More of such leadership may be needed.
It may be objected that good design is too woolly a concept to be subject to legislation or that aesthetics are not a proper matter for legislation. In fact, the principles of good design have been expounded in numerous documents issued by DCLG and CABE. DCLG energetically and rightly promulgates the Building for Life design standards. Good design is explained and demonstrated in the practice of the design review panels that already exist. If it was appropriate for the Government to insist that the national agency responsible for promoting new social housing and regeneration should have a specific duty to promote high-quality design, it should follow that the national agency responsible for approving proposals for major infrastructure should equally have regard for high-quality design. Major infrastructure projects—roads, railways, docks, waste disposal installations, gas terminals, power stations and airports—will be visually conspicuous. It is essential that they should be not only functional and sustainable but also visually pleasing.
Functionality, sustainability and aesthetic appearance are three indispensable elements of good design. They should be understood as an indissoluble trinity: they are complementary and all three are equally necessary. Functionality is taken for granted and the Government are happy to write a requirement for sustainability into the Bill, but it will be no good if we legislate for a two-legged stool. Functionality and sustainability are part of good design, but they are not the whole story. The Bill must make it clear that all three aspects of good design are needed.
We are talking here of values, of the character of our nation. If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing well. We should do as well as the best in other countries. If public policy in France secures the stunning aesthetic quality of the Millau viaduct, designed by the noble Lord, Lord Foster, and Spain achieves the design quality of the Madrid airport terminal by my noble friend Lord Rogers, we should leave nothing to chance in our commitment to achieve comparable design quality in Britain. We can do it. The noble Lord, Lord Foster, designed the Stansted terminal. However, infrastructure design of that quality should be neither exceptional in Britain nor a matter of luck.
It would be defeatist and barbaric to set out, consciously and deliberately in this legislation, to tolerate the mediocre, let alone the downright ugly. In her wonderful biography of Pugin, whose spirit we should always respect in this place, Rosemary Hill wrote:
"In the debates that dominated the early months of 1851 design and politics, religious freedom, architecture and the modern city were all intermingled, for all were expressions of England's growing self-consciousness on the world stage".
Sir Joseph Bazalgette, who created the Victorian sewer system, declared that it,
"should be one of the Seven Wonders of London", and it was. Think of London's pre-war power stations. One became Tate Modern and epitomises contemporary London. Battersea Power Station was an inspirational design; its image has appeared on album covers and film sets, and it deserves a better future than we have managed to offer it in our own time. What self-respect will we have in our generation, and what judgment will we suffer by successor generations, if we leave a legacy of shoddy, dull, demeaning building? Our determination should be to match and surpass the vision and achievement of our forebears.
I am delighted that my name is attached to these amendments, and I shall read and reread the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, and the brilliant, masterly speech of the noble Lord, Lord Howarth. However, my comments will be rather brief. In our discussions on Monday there was support across the Committee for the concept of design playing a bigger role in the Bill, even though the earlier amendments on the subject did not gain much approval from the Minister. I hope that at least some of this long list of additional amendments may find their way on to the statute book. I made the point, which was well elaborated by the noble Lord, Lord Howarth, that major infrastructure projects—and indeed all projects which serve not only utility but beauty—will last, as have the Victorian monuments. If we construct shoddy buildings that no one appreciates, they will not last and the savings gained on day one will soon be lost.
Given the need to find many billions of pounds to fund the major infrastructure projects of tomorrow, the anxiety is that design will be the first casualty of financial constraint in the present credit and banking crisis because it is so easy to skimp on it. We are likely to see more projects going down the private finance initiative route, but those projects are not noted for their architectural merit. I declare an interest as an honorary fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects. What has happened to its proposals for smart PFI procedures that would build into the PFI mechanisms a greater emphasis on design, which seems to have been lost along the way? I hope that design will be given the prominence it deserves somewhere in the Bill, whether that is done through the PFI or other routes.
Like the noble Lord, Lord Best, I admired the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Howarth. He has given far more attention to this subject than I have, even though in a former manifestation I had to address some of the issues he described. The noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, spelt out how this group of amendments is designed to improve the Bill and I support the thoughts behind them.
It is not entirely true to say that the planning system has tended to ignore design. On Monday, I reminded the Committee that His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales memorably described the original design for the National Gallery extension as being like a carbuncle on the face of a well loved friend. In the same speech, which I believe he made on the 150th anniversary of RIBA at Hampton Court, he also described a Mies van der Rohe design for a major building in the City as more suitable to downtown Chicago than to the City of London. I remember expressing considerable indignation to His Royal Highness's private secretary because he seemed to have made two of my most important planning decisions for me. However, it was very important that he did so because the Mies van der Rohe building in particular involved an architect of major international reputation and significance. The building had been promoted by my noble friends and 20 years had elapsed between its original conception and the point at which the planning application had to be decided.
I do not think that those who were my officials at that time will mind my saying that they advised me strongly to accept the Mies van der Rohe building and to reject His Royal Highness's criticisms. I went to the City and spent most of a morning with a senior official and various pictures and mock-ups of what the building would look like from different angles around the site. I came to the firm conclusion that His Royal Highness was right and that my officials were wrong. That was the decision.
I remain perturbed, however, at the official advice of the department. I think that the officials were impressed by the apparent distinction of the architect rather than by what the building would look like on the site. Anyone who visits the site now will recognise that there is a very beautiful building there which is a vast improvement on what had been there before.
I am seeking to illustrate a point to which the RIBA has drawn attention and which the noble Lord, Lord Howarth, has just mentioned. There is huge dearth of design skills both in local authorities and, I suspect, in many government departments. On the local authority side, I often heard from developers who had engaged distinguished architects and had had to give them the very firm instruction, "Do nothing unusual. I want planning permission quickly". One has heard also of architects who have designed striking buildings for particular sites only to have them firmly turned down by a local authority planning committee which simply did not approve of the genre and wanted something more normal. This has been one of the real problems affecting local authority planning applications. Sometimes it is not the planning officers and their staff, who may well be good people; often it is the local authority's members themselves who seem to have no appreciation of what they are on about. They want something that will be, they say, "harmonious with its surroundings", and tend to resent anything in the least bit unusual.
The noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, has on this and previous occasions mentioned the huge importance that her department attaches to this issue. That is probably an improvement on my day. However, that has to percolate right down and create a new attitude to design right through the planning system. Some of the amendments in this group, which the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, outlined, are aimed at the existing planning system, not just at the new process that is set up in the early parts of the Bill. They are hugely important. At the same time, attention needs to be given to the recruitment and training of those who will work in planning departments. It is not an easy time to say that. Local authorities, like everyone else, will have to watch every penny of their spending. This issue may seem to some, including some local authority leaders, as a luxury that we cannot afford. As the noble Lord, Lord Howarth, pointed out, that is a gravely mistaken view.
I referred on Monday to an attitude characterised by the statement, "If it's a bad building it won't last very long". If it is a bad building it will not work. I am thinking of a building that was put up in the City in the past couple of decades. However beautiful it was, there were enormous complaints that it was absolute hell to work in. That is just as much a fault of bad design as of the aesthetic. A building must be functional as well as aesthetically attractive.
I therefore support this group of amendments. I believe that it would be greatly to the advantage of this legislation if, whether or not the amendments have been properly drafted, the Government could incorporate amendments in the Bill for Report which would reflect the view that has been expressed so far in all parts of the Committee, including in Monday's debate. Therefore, I commend the amendment and warmly support it.
I shall explain in a moment why I want to intervene now. As this is the first time I have spoken in this Committee, first, I declare an interest as a member of a local planning authority. Secondly, I apologise to the Minister and to the Committee as I do not think I shall be able to stay until the end of the debate on this amendment. I have been summoned to an event at No. 10 Downing Street at half-past five and I do not think I should be late for it. I have never been there before and I want to go and have a look at the place.
I congratulate the movers of these amendments for their ingenuity and thoroughness in going through the Bill with a fine-tooth comb and inserting the words "design quality" at every possible opportunity. I am not sure that all the instances that we have found are appropriate but I recognise what they have done and congratulate them. If I had done it, I would be quite proud.
Secondly, I congratulate them on raising the issue. So far as the Liberal Democrats are concerned, although we do not necessarily support the detail of each individual amendment, we should like to give enthusiastic general support for this batch of amendments. We very much hope that the Government will, as they have done with previous legislation, take this issue back and insert those words in the Bill where they think it appropriate to do so. That is the least that we can ask them to do and I hope that they will do it.
Having said that, I recall the last big piece of planning legislation, which I think was the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004—I cannot believe that it was four years ago; it seems like yesterday. During the passage of that Bill, we had similar discussions about the phrase "sustainable development". In discussing that at great length, we had difficulty in deciding what it meant. What one person means by sustainable development is different from what another means, but in a sense we all think that it is a good thing and therefore we want it in the Bill.
In a sense, design is the same. To some extent, if you put a group of people in a room and ask them what they think good design is, they will spend half their lifetime discussing it. Perhaps a lifetime will not be long enough and they will discuss it for ever, yet what the noble Lord, Lord Howarth, said in a splendid speech is absolutely true. If there is a constant and continuous commitment to good design, it will have a fundamental effect. It will change the culture, and that is what it is all about: it is a question of changing the culture of development in this country.
If we look around, we see a lot of shoddy, shabby development. Much of it is perfectly functional but some of it clearly is not, as the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, said. Increasingly, it is sustainable, although there is a long way to go on that, but in terms of what the noble Lord, Lord Howarth, called "aesthetic appearance", it is awful. Far too often in this country, we put up not with second or third best but with dross. The noble Lord mentioned some big projects in other parts of Europe—in France, for example. When I go to France, I am always amazed at the number of small projects taking place—small new buildings of all sorts in the public and private sectors. People have made an effort to design them to make them look attractive. In some cases, they are designed to fit in with what surrounds them and with what was there previously, and in other cases they are intended to make a determined modern statement, being quite different from what was there previously. Nevertheless, you look at these projects and think, "Why can't we do that in this country?". You look at new village halls, new community centres and some new industrial buildings, even new supermarkets. I am not saying that everything in France is wonderful—it is not; there is some rubbish there as well—but there is far more good design there. Whether it is a small, large or medium-sized project, one thinks, "This is better than what we usually do in our country".
A change of culture is needed. Although people will never really agree on what is high-quality design, somehow you recognise it when you see it. It is important to realise that we are talking about design and not about different styles. You can design buildings well whether they are built in a traditional way or in a modern way, or however they are built. Good design is good design. Usually you recognise it when you see it.
The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, said a few things about councillors and council officials, looking for the lowest common denominator. I call it development controlled by tick lists. There is a huge amount of that around. Nevertheless, some people at local level are as frustrated as everyone else by the inability to produce good stuff. I put forward one anecdote about my own town, Colne. A couple of years ago, we had a new Sure Start centre built and when the plans came in, some of us councillors looked at them and said, "What's this?". We had been looking for a building which made a statement right in the middle of town, opposite the parish church, which is a Grade I listed building and we had been provided with something which we thought was a bit shabby. They had done all the right things: they were building it with natural stone; the roof would look as though it were made of blue slate, even though it was not; the windows were the right shape and so on, but it just was not right. It was not of the right quality.
We complained and demanded a meeting with the committee which was putting in the application. Those on the committee said, "We had something different because you told us you wanted a statement on this corner and something special and your officers turned it down and told us to go back and produce something which was not quite so blatant and which would not compete with the parish church". We argued on for a bit and then they brought out from under the table their original plans. We said, "Yes, we'll have that". Now we have something called a rotunda and a conical tower. It may not be the most brilliant building in the world; it may not be the best new building that has ever been built in Lancashire; but it makes a statement in the middle of the town and it is something a bit special. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, that it was councillors who said that they wanted something better. There is some aspiration on the ground among both local planning authorities and local councillors.
Some of us have found the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 very useful because it put design on the face of the legislation. That is useful because now we and anyone else who is interested in design can say to the planners, "It's there, and the Government say you have to do it". It has filtered down through PPSs and so on, which has been very useful indeed. When a planning officer says, as one said to me, "I can't help with this because I have no qualifications in design", I can say to him, "Well, go and get some, if that is what you need because we are doing it".
Some of the amendments are particularly useful. The suggestion that development consent orders should specifically refer to design is useful. The Part 9 amendments, which change the existing planning regime to emphasise design further, are useful and the suggestion that the content of development consent orders should specifically have to refer to design is very useful indeed. It may be that some of this is best done in the secondary legislation that will follow this Bill, but I think we would all like a commitment from the Minister that it will be there. Unless there is a concerted attempt in this country to increase the standard and quality of building design, not just functionality and sustainability—you can make functional and sustainable buildings that look horrible—buildings will not work because people will not like them. They will not provide a nice environment to work in and live around. Unless we make a conscious effort to increase the quality of visual design in this country, we will continue to be not second best in Europe, but a long way down the league. I support the ethos behind the amendments.
I start by apologising for missing the opening speeches on this group of amendments. When I read the Marshalled List, my first reaction was that they were a bit over the top, but I have listened not only to this afternoon's debate but also to general discussion on this important Bill, and I have begun to appreciate the wide ramifications of NPSs and the work of the IPC. I am sure that they are right to emphasise the importance of good design if we are sensitively and properly to rebuild our infrastructure. It will be enormous. Most of the discussion I have heard this afternoon has been about buildings. The single point I wish to make is that good design is not just about buildings. It is much wider than that. This is particularly important in the context of infrastructure that crosses the country: new roads, new railways, ports and, in some cases, wind turbines. It is extremely important that infrastructure sits properly in the landscape.
I am not an architect or anything like that, and I think it is a pity that the two most distinguished architects in this House—the noble Lord, Lord Rogers, and my noble friend Lord Foster—cannot contribute to this discussion. Oh! I bow and can sit down very quickly as the noble Lord, Lord Rogers, is in his place. I remember that in his maiden speech my noble friend Lord Foster talked about design in this wider context, and I am sure that is what the noble Lord, Lord Rogers, will do. I look forward to him taking part in this debate.
I shall speak briefly to support the principles underlying these amendments and to urge the Minister to allow a reference to good design to appear in the Bill. I, too, must declare an interest as an honorary fellow of the RIBA—this House seems to be full of them this afternoon—and I have also served as a deputy chairman to my noble friend Lord Rogers as a member of the Architecture Foundation, which has promoted good design for a long time and has encouraged young architects to strive to work with local communities in promoting good design.
I endorse all that my noble friend Lord Howarth said so excellently. In 35 years of practice, I worked with some superb architects and some not so superb. It is important that the Bill should contain reference to good design because in my experience planning guidance has not been sufficient. Planning guidance can so easily be dismissed on the grounds that good design is a subjective matter of taste and that it is all a matter of opinion. I do not believe that to be true; good design is not a luxury but an essential. It does not add expense; it adds value to the product made by good design. I endorse what the noble Lord, Lord Howarth, said and encourage the Minister to incorporate, not necessarily the words proposed in the amendment but words to the effect that ultimate decisions on whether a proposal is acceptable will have to have regard to good design.
I have no particular personal experience, expertise or fellowship, but having been the chief executive of the NHS for a number of years, I have overseen some of the clients of design. My experience—this is where I want to associate my remarks with those of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, about the three-part distinction that the noble Lord, Lord Howarth, made about what design is—is that functionality is fantastically important.
I make a distinction from the sense of functionality that the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, used. In health, you can look after a patient in any environment, but there are some environments that enhance your ability to look after patients. Functionality is about enhancing the activity that takes place within the environment. We need buildings that are designed not only for the individual but for the community and that are pleasurable as well. To take one quick illustration from health, we recognise how important the environment is for the health of the patient, whether therapeutically for those physically ill or, more importantly, for those with mental illness. The environment provides a positive and reinforcing context. What about all those people who are not ill? Is it not also relevant that we live in environments that are positive and lift the spirits?
I know that one problem in talking about design is that people may think that we are talking about imposing particular criteria or styles of design. What I like about the amendments, even if the words are changed, is that they do not seek to do that. As I understand it, they are intended to leave a space not only for making judgments, but to require people to consider design and to make a judgment in their local context. That will also put a requirement on the client to think about and make judgments about design. That is more important than details of design.
Finally, it seems ridiculous, does it not? How could good design not be part of planning? We know that that is not always true. I put in a word for the British in comparison with the French. Anyone who has driven around the outskirts of Paris will know what I am talking about. We also see in the health service and elsewhere many good, well-designed, functionally enhancing services that provide much better conditions for the life of patients there. Sadly, that is not always the case. Good design and good planning are not always hand in hand. That is why I support the proposal that the Bill should require that design is explicitly articulated as one of the criteria in planning.
I too support the amendments and, in so doing, apologise to Members of the Committee for not having been able to be present at Second Reading. I shall make two brief points but, before doing so, I pay tribute to the absolute tour de force from my noble friend Lord Howarth. This has been an absolutely superb short debate today and I will be very brief, but I wanted to pick up on a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Best, which has prompted me to rise, although the noble Lord, Lord Crisp, has now stolen my thunder.
I wanted to say that as a client for the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, a PFI-commissioned hospital and medical school, it is not the PFI process that causes us to have poor or good design, it is the behaviour, aspirations and ambition of the client. One reason why I support the amendments—apart from all the other reasons that have been put forward today—is that, if the Homes and Communities Agency now has a specific statutory duty to attend to and promote good design, as the noble Lord, Lord Howarth, said, it is absolutely consistent that the National Planning Commission has exactly the same duties and responsibilities.
More importantly, if the commission has this responsibility, it sends an incredibly powerful message to clients who will come forward with major infrastructure projects that will be so visually dominant across the country, as a number of noble Lords have said, to stiffen their resolve when commissioning the kind of designs that will have to be paid for in the main by private finance. Naturally, I want to complete the circle and make the point that, if we want PFI-sponsored projects that are strongly designed, we should use every encouragement possible in the Bill to send the strong message that the commission, when considering these things, will take the greatest possible account of that.
I will not go over the ground covered by the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, who moved and spoke to their amendments so comprehensively and so admirably, but I will confine myself to the principle of the 18th-century Back-Bencher, who after a fine speech by Edmund Burke, simply stood up and said, "Ditto to Mr Burke", and sat down again.
At the risk of making a brief Second Reading speech—I should stress perhaps that I did not speak at Second Reading—my own interest in architecture was stimulated at a school that had been founded in 1843, where the governors employed en série first Blore, then Street—I lived in a building by Street that was the first building in the whole kingdom to have concrete in its material—and then Bodley to build a new and larger chapel, because Blore's chapel had been too small. In Bodley's office was Comper, a boy of 18 then. Sixty years later, Comper returned to the school to refurbish and redesign the reredos that Bodley had built 60 years earlier as a post-war memorial. Then came Norman Shaw followed by Aston Webb. The cricket pavilion was by Alfred Waterhouse; I suspect that it is possibly the only cricket pavilion that Alfred Waterhouse ever designed. Even the school architect, who was an old boy of the school, although his father was an RA, contributed the science laboratories, which became one of the first of 50 buildings in the 20th century to be listed by the appropriate authorities.
Great names are not everything, but its cumulative message had a profound effect on me. It is disloyal of me to say so, but the school has not used architects of the same quality in the past 50 years. I should, as a mea culpa, say that I served for nine years as a governor of the school in a couple of different spasms, but I do not recall our working under an articulated architectural policy. That is why I so support the emphasis of the amendments.
I conclude with a tribute to the chairman of a characteristic West Midlands, Black Country business with factories all over the kingdom—a chairman no doubt long since dead—whom I visited in the early 1960s when I was in the private sector. He explained that his business had just employed a corporate architect for the first time, and that his first action as chairman was to send him on a three-month sabbatical to look at fine contemporary buildings in all the other countries of the globe. That is the spirit that should underlie the forthcoming explosion of infrastructure in our country.
I too pay tribute to the eloquence of the noble Lord, Lord Howarth, in moving the amendment—an eloquence which I fear I shall not be able to match. I begin with two apologies: first, that I was not present at Second Reading; and, secondly, that I may have to leave before the end of the debate, although I fear that I do not have as good an excuse as having been summoned to No. 10.
I support the amendments, particularly Amendment No. 86, which would lay on the Secretary of State an obligation to exercise his functions with the objective of contributing to good design as well as to sustainable development, and Amendment No. 359 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, which would provide that:
"An order granting development consent must impose requirements on design quality in connection with the development for which consent is granted".
Architecture, planning and environmental design are not natural territory for me, but I have been brought to them by my experience in my neighbourhood of Dalston. Others have come at this through examples of good practice. I am afraid that I rather come at it from the vantage point of examples of bad practice, which I venture to think may be more numerous in our time. I have spoken about this before in your Lordships' House and would not wish to weary Members of the Committee with a further lengthy account of what is happening in Dalston. I refer to it merely to underline the importance of design. However, I will give an indication of what I am talking about for those who did not hear my lengthier account on a previous occasion.
Dalston is certainly badly in need of regeneration. You would think then that we would be glad that Transport for London and the London Development Agency decided to take it in hand. It was said to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Dalston. Instead, we are faced with an assortment of off-the-shelf, unimaginatively designed, indeed brutal, tower blocks of up to 20 storeys, varying in height, and crammed together with little recreational space. What there is consists largely of a sunless wind tunnel. The tower blocks have no relationship either to the Victorian street pattern or to one another and there is little aesthetic coherence. They will not regenerate; they will blight the environment and bring no benefit to the area. Instead of design-led regeneration, which should be the aim of planners, we have the prospect of a sink estate in less than a generation. It is not difficult to imagine the potential for alienation, anti-social behaviour and vandalism. As a criminologist I know that that is not the way to build a housing estate.
It is not my purpose to dilate on the problems of Dalston for their own sake. My purpose is to illustrate the need for design considerations to be made central to the planning process in the Bill. Without that, as we have heard, it just does not happen. As a Member of the Committee said, planning guidance, of which there is a plethora, plainly is not enough. Dalston is an illustration of what happens when the need to have regard to the requirement of good design is not clearly and unmistakeably built into the planning process.
The RIBA has said that design is about much more than aesthetics. With my noble friend Lord Chorley, I maintain that it is also about much more than buildings. It is about sustainability. It brings social, environmental and health benefits. For that reason, the RIBA goes on to say that design should be one of the most important considerations in new development. The Planning Bill should be used to entrench design into the planning process. As we have heard, both the Barker and Callcutt reviews endorsed those recommendations.
There is no incompatibility between functionality and good, exciting design. The Victorians demonstrated it. Other countries show that it can be done. We can look at Chicago or Shanghai. If disasters like Dalston are not to be perpetuated, design imperatives need to be at the heart of planners' considerations. I very much hope that the Government will agree to these amendments or some form of them.
I am an architect, so let me first refer Members of the Committee to my various interests, all of which are listed in the Register of Lords' Interests. I add my support to this group of amendments put forward by my noble friends Lord Howarth and Lady Whitaker and I congratulate them on the content of their speeches. I am delighted to hear the support that design has had today.
There is general agreement that design affects the quality of life and that good design adds value. As Winston Churchill said:
"We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us".
Infrastructure is the central part of the built environment, and Britain has a great tradition of good design. To me, the Victorian engineering tradition produced the most interesting and innovative architecture of the 19th century—consider the work of Brunel. One needs only to look at the beautiful bridges that cross the Thames, or the train stations such as St Pancras and Paddington.
As we have heard, good design does not have to cost more, but it certainly adds long-term value. Today, Foster's breathtaking Millau bridge over the River Tarn in the Massif Central has revitalised the area and become a tourist attraction. His Beijing airport not only functions brilliantly but has lifted the spirit of many millions of travellers who passed through there during the Olympics. Let me correct one small point in the speech of my noble friend Lord Howarth. It was I—or, rather, my practice—who did Madrid. It was a delightful experience, which had much to do with the client. Although we have many contemporary architects in Britain, unfortunately nearly all the well designed infrastructure work is done abroad. This is a shameful waste of talent.
I finish by quoting the oath of citizenship pledged by the ancient Athenians. They said:
"We will leave this city not less but greater, better and more beautiful than it was left to us".
If today we consider the Hellenic period the mother of all western culture and design, then we should follow their example and put design at the very heart of our nation's culture. The best infrastructure, buildings and public spaces are critical for our culture.
I declare my interest as a surveyor. I must also declare that, as a surveyor, I am not very fond of architects. They have often made life much more difficult than necessary.
I have listened with great interest to the debate. I agree entirely with the principle behind the amendments tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, and the noble Lord, Lord Howarth, but what they are saying relates more to the planning system as a whole than to the particular part of the Bill. It is much more relevant for housing, but that does not appear in the national policy statement. Clause 14, which deals with nationally significant infrastructure projects, refers to,
"the installation of an electric line above ground".
It is not so much a question of design as of functionality, as the noble Lord, Lord Crisp, said, and location. Harbour facilities and the alteration of a railway interchange offer huge scope for design, but for a lot of what we are discussing I do not believe that much can be done in the way of design.
Like location, functionality is key because big infrastructure projects have to work well. You can do only so much with a wind turbine. A wind turbine is a wind turbine is a wind turbine, but it is a question of where you put it. Yes, we need them and the design can be altered to a limited extent, but how they are put into the countryside can make all the difference in the world. An example was given at the meeting yesterday that the noble Lord, Lord Howarth, and I attended. A structure was put on top of a cliff when it could have quite easily been moved down into a wood and screened. Whatever you call it—design or location—that is my concern.
I have nothing to add to what I said on Monday in support of good design, particularly in this field. I also express the hope that the Minister can offer her noble friends sufficient encouragement in order to satisfy them, otherwise we may have to go over all this yet again.
In view of the debate we have just had I would hesitate to encourage this Committee in any respect at all. It has been a splendid debate—I would expect none other from your Lordships—which has been ably led by my noble friends. The courtesy of my noble friend Lord Howarth's speech has been commended around the Committee, and we heard many other excellent speeches. Although it has felt like a Second Reading debate on design—I take the point made by the noble Earl, Lord Caithness—I think that we needed to have such a debate at this stage because there are so many issues about what we are trying to do in terms of national infrastructure and in the amendments themselves.
I do not want to make a Second Reading speech, but I should say that I do not need to be persuaded about the values or the virtues of good design and the link between beauty, vitality and utility. I do need to be persuaded about how we can make the present system work better and guarantee that our magnificent infrastructure projects, which range from power stations to beautiful roads, can be as aesthetically pleasing as they are functional through good design that is long lasting. People should look back and admire these projects just as we look back at some of the wonderful mid-Victorian architecture reflected in power stations with their crenellations and towers. The Victorians did that kind of building well.
As this House is so respected in these areas, I think that we ought to be careful that we do not talk ourselves into a spiral of despair about the quality of design in this country. We have many very fine architects. My noble friend on the Front Bench and I have reflected on the half dozen transformations that have taken place in some of our great cities over the past decade, such as in Norwich, Leicester and Birmingham. In the summer I visited the Sage Centre in Gateshead. It is an absolutely magnificent building, and there are many others like it. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, was right to say that what we need is a cultural change. We know that, and when we look to change our legislation we must be aware of what has the most impact and the greatest effect. What is going to inspire better leadership and greater confidence in decisions taken on the ground?
We have been talking about the planning system, but I shall return to the amendments before us and pick up on the issues that they raise. I think that my department is ambitious for beauty and that we have a particular role to play in ensuring that the planning system delivers of its best. I say again that I have listened carefully to what has been said across the Committee in this debate and I shall reflect on it, but I must address some of the issues in the amendments themselves. I shall start by putting a question: does our planning system at the moment actually deliver of its best in the current planning policy statements? My noble friend Lord Howarth has challenged me to explain why there should not be an explicit statement in the Bill. While he may have anticipated my answers, it does not mean that they are going to be wrong, even if noble Lords have already heard some of them. The point is that planning policy statements are not optional; they are the law and have to be followed. We heard yesterday, for example, that PPS22 was sometimes not followed—I am not sure that I would agree with the noble Baroness in question on what she said—but the position is very carefully and clearly set out in the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004. Our planning policy guidance is there for a purpose, and PPS1, which is the overarching planning policy statement, makes specific reference to design and sustainability as paramount requirements that should be followed.
Amendments Nos. 28 and 30 would prevent the Secretary of State designating a statement as a national policy statement unless it took full account of the importance of design quality. That would also extend the sustainable development objective in Clause 10. But we should not underestimate or diminish the value of what is in the planning system at the moment because, as the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, said, so much more can be achieved by changing cultures and by gearing up our skills and the confidence of elected officials and officers at local government level.
We have an extremely good and robust planning system, but another kind of argument is being put forward. Differences between the new regime and the TCPA mean that we have to be careful about how and where we emphasise design in this context and what in reality it will mean. National policy statements will vary greatly depending on the type of infrastructure to which they refer. It is difficult to have a blanket interpretation of design. Although there are bound to be fundamental elements in what we mean by design, a universal requirement imposed in the Bill would mean something very different for an underground gas storage facility, for example, where the crucial requirements would be high-quality engineering and safety, than it would for an airport, which, as the noble Lord, Lord Foster, said, could be a potential triumph of aesthetics. Design may have the same elements but its expression may not mean the same thing. We are looking for NPSs to provide flexibility in order to reflect what is required and provide certainty for developers. We need to think carefully about that. There is wide variation and we need flexibility. I have, however, listened to what has been said about the NPS.
Amendment No. 86 attaches design to sustainability. Clause 10 requires that, when drawing up NPSs, Ministers do so with the objective of contributing to achievable, sustainable development. As for the link between design and sustainability, there are potential dangers in identifying design separately. It has taken us quite a while to get people to understand that design is essential to sustainability—as, indeed, it is—but an equal difficulty is that if we put design on the face of the Bill we will be open to pressure from a range of other arguments to include, for example, habitats, flood risks and the needs of people with disabilities. We need to think carefully before we take such a step.
Amendment No. 35, which relates to appraisal of design, would raise the same kind of problem. It would not be helpful to require a separate appraisal of design quality. As I have said, separating out design and sustainability would diminish a powerful platform. I do not want design to be another box to be ticked; we need something more serious than that. But I reassure the noble Lord that the process of sustainability will have to take account of design. The effects on the natural and built environment, on landscape, on population and on cultural, architectural and archaeological heritage will be assessed at a strategic level as part of the appraisal of sustainability and fully integrated into the whole process. It will then be tested in public consultation and by parliamentary scrutiny.
I turn now to Amendments Nos. 173, 174 and 180, which relate to the pre-application provisions, and the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Best. The amendments, admirably, aim to add to the pre-application process a specific provision on design. Amendment No. 213 would require that the application could be accepted only if the applicant had full regard for high-quality design. The amendments seek to add a requirement that applications must demonstrate a full regard for good design.
I return to the mantra that I started to develop on Monday. The key to everything we want to achieve in terms of sound decisions by the IPC is to ensure that the national policy statement clearly sets out policy on the type of infrastructure in question so that that can be the foundation on which decisions are clearly taken. I suggest, therefore, that under Clause 58 local authorities also have a clear responsibility for design. They will be invited to submit a local impact report once an application has been accepted. It will give details of the impact of the development on the local area. They can raise design issues powerfully there. Those issues can also be raised in an environmental impact assessment, which will look at the effect on landscapes and the historical, cultural or archaeological significance of what is being done.
There might also be some unintended consequences in the amendments. Clause 53 requires the commission to decide within 28 days whether an application can be accepted. To be acceptable the application must comply with the requirements in Clause 36(3), but the amendments would create a duty that is subject to highly subjective judgment and which could make it difficult for commissioners to decide whether the timescale had been met.
Finally in this group, Amendment No. 180 would give the Secretary of State the power to make regulations that contained model provisions. Again, I argue that this is too specific an imposition on the Secretary of State. In either case, the commission must certainly have regard to model provisions, whatever the topic they are concerned with.
I can deal with Part 6 fairly swiftly because we had this debate on Monday. I must say, noble Lords have been ingenious in finding spaces to put the design amendments in throughout the course of the Bill. Amendments Nos. 249 and 250 would require the chair of the IPC to appoint at least one commissioner with experience in capacity and design. In the debate on Monday I think we all agreed across the Committee that what we were looking for in the commission was not a series of specific specialisms but a collective combination of judgments, talents, expertise, wisdom and competences that would enable the panels, when they were so constituted, to bring a broad but acute sense of what was needed to make a proper judgment in a particular case. Among other things, that will include an ability to judge risk and value design. As we heard last night, this meeting has been referred to an excellent description of that.
In Part 7, Amendment No. 359 seeks to require the IPC to place requirements on development consent orders. I have said a bit about this. Many matters that fall under the design and heritage ambits—such as effects on the natural and built environment, on landscape and so on—will be picked up by the appraisal of sustainability but considered at a strategic level, which is the best way to address them. The precise terms of the amendment are not very helpful; they potentially leave the IPC having to impose requirements even where the application was already at a standard that does not justify them.
I turn to the town and country planning elements and Amendment No. 429, which seeks to insert a new clause on design. There are two main elements: the first puts in place a statutory design duty while the second establishes statutory design review panels. The first element amends Section 39 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase 2004 so that those exercising development plan functions at regional and local level must, in addition to the objective of contributing to the achievement of sustainable development, also pursue the objective of achieving high quality design in the built environment.
I will not rehearse the power of planning policy statements in this respect. Suffice it to say, without sounding at all complacent, that we have seen the benefits of stronger planning policy in the steady improvement of design in public space and housing in this country. Yes, there is far too much that is poor and is simply not good enough, but it does not do much service to those who are working hard to raise standards across the country if all we talk about is their failure. We need to be careful about marginalising design.
The priority for action in this area is not further statutory provision, and I am not sure who is actually calling for it. Rather, it is to make our existing system work better. I return to what the noble Lords, Lord Brooke and Lord Jenkin, said: we need to build awareness so that design issues are considered earlier. We need to secure and develop the skills and access to skills so that local authorities can be more confident about recognising and developing good design, and there is a need to promote leadership. We are entirely committed to doing that, and we have done so not least by investing in planning advisory schemes which help people acquire greater confidence about what constitutes good design.
The second element would amend the Town and Country Planning Act so that a statutory design review panel would be available for every region. There is much in the amendment that we can support. In particular, we recognise that local planning authorities with too small a development workload to justify dedicated resources, or those dealing with regional and sub-regional levels, may find it helpful to call on independent design advice in the form of a design review panel. Six regions already have those in place, supported by CABE and the RDAs. It would not be right to put design review panels on a statutory basis. We are considering the results of a wide-ranging consultation on the future arrangements for single regional strategies. What we come forward with will need to fit together with our resources, and that will include design.
The amendment also suggests a role for regional design panels which would focus on commenting on schemes already at the application stage. That would be too late. CABE advisers' design issues should be brought into play earlier. We currently have another review in progress, Killian/Pretty, which is an independent review of the planning applications process that is looking at end-to-end problems in our planning systems. We must be careful about introducing more delay to the process. There are already six regional-level non-statutory design review panels. We are exploring with CABE how far those are meeting need and whether any further support is needed. I hope that my noble friends will draw some reassurance from that.
I turn finally to Amendments Nos. 440 and 441, which seek to amend the community infrastructure levy clauses in Part 11. The principal amendment, Amendment No. 441, would provide the power for the CIL regulations to specify criteria for the design of infrastructure to which CIL revenue is applied. CIL is a mechanism for raising additional funds for infrastructure necessary to support growth. It does not grant consent for the infrastructure to which CIL revenue is applied— that is a separate process. Attaching design requirements to the CIL regime would not provide complete coverage, because we are still maintaining the flexibility that Section 106 gives us. Therefore, ensuring that appropriate design criteria are applied to new infrastructure should be the focus of the consenting process and not its funding by CIL, which could be counterproductive.
The amendments have allowed us to have an extremely good and wide-ranging debate. I have listened hard to what noble Lords said. I shall reflect on the debate and the arguments made.
That was an elegant speech from the Minister, but she said no to every single request made in the amendments. I agree with her on many of them: it was nice to see them in that context, but they had no purchase on the way in which the Bill would operate. I cannot see how one can put design into the national planning statements in a way that makes sense. Amendment No. 429 is extraneous to the Bill—it addresses other planning matters. Although I support its merits, it is not really to do with this Bill.
I hope that the proposers of the amendments will choose to take this matter forward. That happened in 2004 and, in the end, the Government were persuaded. It takes the Government's own Back-Benchers to take an active role to make that happen, so it is very much in the hands of the noble Lord, Lord Howarth, and the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker. I hope that they will do it and focus down. The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, lighted on Amendment No. 359 as having some merit. I do not have his experience in that area, but his comments were worth listening to.
I come back to Amendment No. 17, which the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, tabled on Monday. That is the pressure point in the Bill, where we can insert design and have it make a difference. Whatever decisions the noble Lords reach, I hope that it is to bring something back on Report and to be prepared to put it to a vote.
I am immensely grateful for the strong support for this group of amendments all round the Committee, from such a wealth of distinguished proponents. My noble friend Lord Howarth made it overwhelmingly and eloquently clear why we need explicit obligations about design in the Bill and how advantageous this would be. The noble Lord, Lord Best, held up some grim prospects, if we did not get them. I reassure the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, that location and functionality are essential to good design, not separate.
It would be invidious to hold matters up by giving full vent to my admiration for what everyone said, but our debate was signally honoured by the unanswerable contribution of our foremost architect, my noble friend Lord Rogers of Riverside. My noble friend the Minister was pretty good, too. I appreciate her support for the concept behind our amendments, but I hope that she forgives me if I say that there is a need to do more work on realising that concept. I hope that we see that at Report. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
In speaking to Amendments Nos. 33 and 59 in this group, and as this is my first intervention on the subject of the national policy statements, I shall start by reiterating what I said at Second Reading. This section on the national policy statements is, in my view, the most important part of the Bill; it is what will make the Bill work in speeding up nationally important infrastructure projects.
Forward and framework planning is a process whereby we agree democratically how we want to see our cities, towns, villages and countryside develop in future. The process of planning frameworks is largely decided at local level, with local development frameworks and local plans, and so on, albeit in recent years with stronger and stronger input, guidelines and policy statements emanating from the departmental centre. These departmental guidelines are not totally democratically accountable. In fact, the Minister, who is not in her place, might consider in reference to the previous debate that what noble Lords are trying to do with design is to give it more democratic impetus, rather than merely having departmental statements, which, although they are converted into law, are not fully democratically accountable.
I strongly approve of the desire to speed up major infrastructure projects, provided that we have the right democratic balance. The national policy statements provide that balance, but we have to ensure that not only do we utilise the full democratic process—and we are coming to that subject perhaps later this evening, or at some future date—but we are seen to be as open as possible. The Executive and department should not be seen to be manipulating the process in their enthusiasm to meet targets or implement other policies of their own. Thus, while I am sure that the Secretary of State and his or her department might be capable of carrying out a sustainability appraisal—although sustainable development, too, often means too many different things to different people—it is crucial that any such appraisal is seen to be arrived at independently by experts so that the public and all the politicians have a clear, independent view of the issues before the policy statement comes before Parliament. The Bill is right to put such emphasis on sustainability, both here and elsewhere. The Minister emphasised that at, I think, 10.15 last Monday night.
A planning process that does not, at least, attempt to balance the often conflicting agendas of the economic, social and environmental would not be worth very much. It must be done properly and be seen to be done properly without bias. Therefore, it would be much better for the Secretary of State to commission the Sustainable Development Commission with all its expertise to carry out the sustainability proposals. I beg to move.
I support my noble friend Lord Cameron's amendment. I intervene at this stage as we have a group of amendments here that are—shall we say?—lightly connected, and I have a feeling that in further discussion on the group noble Lords will be intervening on other amendments which deal with issues such as environmental assessment, the landscape convention, and so on.
I intervene on the specific point that arises on Amendment No. 33. We all agree, and the Government agree because it is in the text of the Bill, that there has to be an appraisal of the sustainability of the policy set out in the statement. That is already there. The question is: who should do that, and what should be our assessment of the reaction of the public and others to how that is undertaken? I share the view of my noble friend Lord Cameron that it would be better for confidence in the system if, as proposed in his amendment, the assessment of sustainability was carried out by the Sustainable Development Commission. It would command greater confidence and be fully effectively done. I therefore support that.
I support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, about the environmental assessment of plans and programmes. In particular, I support Amendment No. 39 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Reay, which is that there must be an,
"appraisal to ensure that the statement is consistent with the terms of the European Landscape Convention".
We all know, and I support it, that the effects of the Bill will be swifter and that there will be more agreement on a number of major projects consistent with the statements which have been agreed at the highest level. That is what we are going to achieve. It is a good thing, but we need to think carefully about some of the potential consequences for landscape and other factors in the environment to which the public and I attach a lot of importance, so I support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Reay.
I make a brief apology to the noble Lord, Lord Howarth, in that for the second time I have spoken in support of a suggestion that attention should be given, in particular in this case, to landscape when I know very well that we will come on later to Amendment No. 37 which comprehensively covers the case of the built environment, the heritage and landscape. Amendment No. 37 is a wonderful amendment, and we will come on to it. I have just given noble Lords a preliminary statement of my view on that. However, I had to intervene on this amendment because I also support Amendment No. 39 which refers to part of the same subject—that is, the effect on landscape of some of these potential projects.
Before we get further into the detail of this group of amendments, perhaps I may ask the Minister a question, which I intended to ask at Second Reading. However, because of the timing of the debate I was not able to stay and so I did not ask it. I hope that noble Lords will forgive me if I do so now.
What happens under the Bill when a proposed infrastructure project partly involves Scotland? Clause 225, the extent clause, states that Parts 1 to 8 in their entirety do not apply to Scotland, with one exception. Under subsection (3), oil or gas cross-country pipelines which have an end in England and an end in Scotland can be dealt with under the Bill, but no other project in Scotland can.
What happens when—whether the Secretary of State or the commission is considering the matter—someone has to look at a new high-speed railway line, for example, from London to Glasgow, or a pipeline to carry Scotland's plentiful water south of the border, or a new line of giant pylons to interconnect electricity? Such things are possible.
The present minority Administration at Holyrood refuses to be involved in the Bill. It has the right to do that; planning is of course a devolved matter. However, as I understand it, the Scots Administration has no intention of legislating to hasten the notoriously low speed of the present planning processes in Scotland. It seems that any infrastructure project which straddles the border, which has an end on each side of the border, will be held up for as long as it takes for the planning progress to operate in Scotland, or it will have simply to be chopped off at the border. If it had to wait for the very slow existing planning process in Scotland, the purpose of the Bill will be negated.
I have not given the Minister notice of that question. I do not expect her to answer it now. Perhaps she will write to me about that as it is an important matter. Unless in some way it can be solved, there are rocks ahead. I hope the House will forgive me for raising the matter under this group of amendments.
Until I have an opportunity to meet the noble Baroness, I say simply that the arrangements for Scotland are within the devolution settlement. If we could meet outside the Chamber, I will take her through the provisions as they affect the sort of issues she raises. We must get back to the amendments we are debating now.
I hope that my noble friend will find that a satisfactory conclusion. I have great sympathy for the Minister having a question on devolution bowled at her in the middle of a detailed group of amendments on the content of the Bill.
I have three amendments in the group. They are small. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Williamson of Horton, for supporting my Amendment No. 34. It requires an environmental assessment of a national policy scheme in accordance with EC directive 2001/42/EC, which requires that, particularly projects of this nature, are properly environmentally assessed. I hope that the noble Baroness will be able to give me an assurance that that is and always has been the intention of the Government. I find it difficult to believe that that would not be the case. Of course we have to probe these things and it is very important to get them on the record. That is what these questions do.
The second amendment deals with flood risk, which is too often a neglected subject until it is too late and the water is coming up through the floorboards. However, I must say that I lived just outside a village. There was a certain section in the village where the first the villagers knew that the river was rising was when it came up through the floorboards. It had been doing it for about 300 years and nobody took any notice.
That fact that the debate on this group will be considerably shorter than that on the last group—and probably considerably shorter than the debates on the next two groups—does not means that it is unimportant jam in the sandwich. I warmly support the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington. I struggled with how sustainability was dealt with in the Bill, partly because I was a little unwilling to accept that the Commons concessions had stolen our thunder on the issue. However, I realised that involving the Sustainability Development Commission is an obvious and sensible approach to ensuring that worthy thoughts have a mechanism to deal with the issue in a realistic and practical manner.
The Minister may be about to tell the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, that at least some of his amendments are unnecessary. The thinking in them is obviously to be supported. I hope that she will say that my Amendments Nos. 38 and 54 are also unnecessary, but they have exercised me. They make essentially the same point. The second was sent to me by the Local Government Association, so perhaps has a better provenance than the homemade drafting of Amendment No. 38.
The issue is sustainability across matters, not just within the single statement, such as modes of transport. The obvious example is whether there should be an airport—the subject of national policy statement 1. Could the functions that the airport is designed to achieve not be achieved, at least in part, by a high-speed rail link—the subject of national policy statement 5? I have mentioned transport and renewable energy, for instance, as against traditional forms, particularly fossil fuels. I am sure that the issue goes wider, but these seemed crisp examples. I hope that the Minister can reassure me that when the NPSs are drafted, they will not be discrete statements which the IPC and local planning authorities will be forced to read without reference to much broader issues than those within them.
I read with interest the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington. Although I thoroughly agree with the principle behind what he says, I cannot agree with the amendment. It is vital that the Secretary of State carries out an appraisal as well, but that should include the Sustainable Development Commission. I hope that we get the Sustainable Development Commission somewhere between the two.
I say to my noble friend Lady Carnegy, who went off at a tangent, that she should hang around for Amendments Nos. 144 and 145, which deal with railways going into Scotland. I am sure that the Minister will give her all the answers then.
I support my noble friend Lord Dixon-Smith on Amendment No. 36 on flood risk. I raised the issue at Second Reading and I still find illogical that flooding is not considered a national infrastructure matter. We will yet again go through a period of considerable climate change; we have not experienced it so much in our lifetimes, but our ancestors certainly experienced wild fluctuations in the climate over time. How one can consider major infrastructure projects without looking at flood risk is almost incomprehensible. The Minister and I have crossed swords in previous debates about London development on the flood plain. This is exactly the same issue. One must look at the likelihood of flooding before siting a development. It is no good siting a development for the water to come up through the floorboards, as my noble friend Lord Dixon-Smith said.
I speak to my Amendment No. 39 in this group. At Second Reading I declared my landowning interest in the north west of England as well as the south west. For the purposes of this amendment, and perhaps subsequent amendments, I add that a wind farm is being proposed within a few miles of my house on the north Lancashire border, and within a considerably shorter distance of part of the property.
My amendment would require the Secretary of State, before he designated a statement as a national policy statement, to carry out an appraisal to ensure that it was consistent with the terms of the European Landscape Convention. The European Landscape Convention was opened for signature by all members of the Council of Europe—not the European Union—in Florence in 2000. It came into force in this country in, I think, March 2007, although it may have been in 2004; I received contradictory briefing on that point, so perhaps the Minister will eventually enlighten us.
One of the preambles of the convention recognises,
"the public's wish to enjoy high quality landscapes".
In Article 5, each signatory undertakes, among other things,
"to integrate landscape into its regional and town planning policies ... as well as in any other policies with possible direct or indirect impact on landscape".
The convention makes it clear that "landscape" includes marine landscape.
My amendment would oblige the Secretary of State to consider the landscape implications of the policy contained in any national policy statement. I am here particularly targeting the reckless destruction of some of the finest natural scenery in the country, brought about as a result of the Government's drive to increase hugely the number of wind farms. Where I live, in the area of north Lancashire and Cumbria, the landscape is under great threat from multiple wind farm proposals. It is no exaggeration to say that the clusters of giant turbines—it is now standard for them to be 400 feet high—are in the process of industrialising a landscape that is one of the most beautiful in the country and loved by resident and visitor alike. These schemes are ferociously opposed locally and, I suggest, are wholly out of place because of the harm they do to a magnificent landscape. Therefore, following the terms of the European Landscape Convention, on those grounds alone they should be rejected. Of course, the same can be said about other parts of the country.
Clause 5(5)(d) sets out that a national policy statement may identify one or more locations as suitable, potentially suitable or unsuitable for a specified description of development. In other words, the Secretary of State could declare in a national policy statement that certain parts of the country were unsuitable for wind farm development because of the damage that would do to highly valued landscape. By including in the Bill a requirement that the Secretary of State should ensure that a national policy statement is consistent with the terms of the European Landscape Convention, we can at least make certain that the Secretary of State, where relevant, must consider the landscape aspect of a national policy statement before making his judgment.
The advantage of including a reference to the European Landscape Convention—rather than just referring to "landscape", as the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Howarth, would do, although I thoroughly support that—is that it provides a reminder that the Government have signed up to a convention designed to increase the attention given to landscape when other policies are formulated.
I support some of the amendments in the group but am rather dog-in-the-mangerish about others. I commend Amendments Nos. 38 and 54 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. National policy statements need to be aligned to ensure that they optimise economic, social and environmental objectives and need to be integrated across departmental policies rather than being stand-alone silos. Amendment No. 38 seeks to ensure that individual transport modalities and energy technologies are compared with other methods of energy generation and transportation to ensure that we choose the most sustainable solutions in those areas.
I also commend the amendment on strategic environmental assessment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith. Strategic environmental assessment is an extremely good, well honed, recognised and rigorous tool that allows options to be considered rather than just a single solution and is the gold standard of environmental appraisal methodologies. The Bill states that environmental impact assessments should be carried out but not necessarily strategic environmental assessment. I believe that nearly all the proposals that will be submitted will fulfil the European legal criteria on SEA. The Government may disagree with that. If that is the case, I should like the Minister to commit that SEA methodology will be the standard methodology used for environmental impact assessment in this area because it is the recognised gold standard.
I regret that I have difficulty with two of these amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington, as he is an excellent chap. However, I seem to disagree with everything that he says, and I disagree with him violently as regards the Sustainable Development Commission undertaking sustainability appraisals when making or amending national planning statements as opposed to the Secretary of State. I believe that the Secretary of State must take responsibility for that and not "off-shore" it to an unaccountable body such as the Sustainable Development Commission. That remark is not contentious, but I am critical about the commission's track record. It is not an expert body; it buys in expertise in certain areas. It is a broadly representative body with many excellent skills, but it lacks expertise in sustainable development appraisal. "Tendentious" is the kindest adjective I can apply to some of its reports. For example, its report on the Severn barrage was a shoddy piece of work, and that is the kind of report which we would expect it to produce if the amendment were accepted. Therefore, I am very much against the Sustainable Development Commission taking over the sustainability appraisal role from the Secretary of State. It is rare for me to trust the Secretary of State more than anybody else, but, alas, I would do so if the Sustainable Development Commission were the alternative.
"Before designating a statement as a national policy statement for the purposes of this Act the Sustainable Development Commission must carry out an appraisal".
In other words, the Sustainable Development Commission then designates the statement as national policy. The whole thing is completely incoherent. Ultimately, only the Secretary of State can designate something as a national policy statement. We can question how he does that and what advice he takes, but, as I say, the amendment is incoherent.
This debate is incredibly important. The convention was referred to. I am one of those who maintains that part of the all too widespread cynicism about politics is due to people happily committing themselves to convention requirements, but conveniently brushing them to one side when it comes to the crunch. The fact that the convention says something must be done is not the point. The point is that it underwrites the principle that in a civilised, decent society the dimensions about which we are speaking are crucially important. Why do we want energy? We want it to sustain a society that is worth living in. What is a society worth living in? It is a society that values landscape, beauty and aesthetic considerations. If we undermine those, what on earth are we doing?
It seems to me that there has been rather a neurotic reaction to wind farms. I refer to the absurd argument that they do not produce very much electricity. Alternative energy comprises an aggregate of many generation methods producing modest amounts of energy. The important point concerns where these things are sited. A strategic approach is desperately lacking. One tactical skirmish after another takes place across the country.
I applaud the idea of a national policy statement to consider social implications. That would ensure that everything does not land up on the doorstep of the inarticulate and disadvantaged as opposed to the doorstep of the more privileged sections of the community who can look after themselves. I am concerned also about the aesthetic and other considerations about which we are speaking. It is no good just leaving this to luck. One could have a philistine Secretary of State. We are very fortunate as the present Secretary of State is no such thing, but that situation could arise. Therefore, one must ensure that these serious considerations are written into the Bill. If this is not the right way to do it, we should look to my noble friend for a convincing suggestion on how it can be done.
I leave the Committee with the following thought. We have read the literature and we have seen the way that the mills of the industrial revolution resulted in the rape of some of the most beautiful parts of our countryside. We can see how that could have been carried out more wisely, sensitively and rationally. We must learn from history and not do that all over again. Of course, we need wind power but we need wind farms to be sited sensibly. We must ensure that the principles that require the Secretary of State to take into account wider considerations than purely economic ones when considering energy generation are written into the Bill.
This is another excellent debate dealing primarily with sustainability appraisals. I wish to discuss this large group as a whole. Members of the Committee have argued that the current provisions for sustainability appraisal are not sufficiently comprehensive and should be tightened in various ways. Therefore, I shall set out how the sustainability appraisal process will work and test the amendments against that. I hope I can offer reassurance on the points raised by the amendments.
Our sustainable development objectives are central to consideration of future infrastructure needs. In the energy and air transport White Papers one will see all that we need in terms of infrastructure, set in the context of sustainable development, in a clear and inescapable way.
The Bill requires that, before designating a national policy statement, Ministers must carry out an appraisal of their sustainability. That process will also apply to revisions of national policy statements where the policy is materially altered. We must have a robust and credible assessment framework that will ensure that all statements comply with and properly factor in environmental, social and economic objectives.
Government departments are working together to develop a common framework for conducting appraisals of sustainability. The appraisal will draw on existing SEA methods but, for reasons that I will explain, it will be flexible, because NPSs will vary in their content and preparation processes. I can reassure the Committee and the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, in particular that the appraisal procedure will be just as rigorous as an SEA under the directive. It will involve an iterative process of collecting information, testing evidence, defining realistic alternatives, identifying sustainability impacts and effects and developing mitigation measures. Above all, it will be fully integrated with the wider NPS preparation process, involving statutory consultees during key stages. Where necessary, the draft NPS will be revised in light of the appraisal of sustainability.
The difference is that the appraisal of sustainability will need to be broader and wider ranging. It has to capture not just environmental but economic and social impacts. This will ensure that we understand the impacts of NPSs holistically and that they help us to deliver our sustainable development objectives. The problem that I face with Amendment No. 34 is that it would constrain any appraisal to the terms of the SEA directive and remove the flexibility to deal with NPSs in their wider context.
The noble Baroness was right to say that in many cases the SEA directive and the implementing legislation will apply. Where this occurs, we will ensure that the appraisal will fully integrate all the obligations under the directive. But the SEA directive may not apply to some NPSs and it would not therefore be appropriate to specify in the Bill that they should always be formally subject to it. This should be decided on a case-by-case basis when more detail is available on the content of each NPS. It would be inappropriate to gold-plate the SEA directive in this way. There are plans and programmes to which it can be properly applied and we will ensure that, where that is the case, it will be fully integrated.
Amendment No. 36 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, is on flood risk. We discussed this matter on Monday evening and now the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, has joined the debate. I shall not rehearse what I said, because I agree completely with the noble Earl on the importance of the issue. I repeat my reassurance that it will be fully and properly taken into account in NPSs, where it is relevant. It is worth looking at PPS 25, which is a sophisticated document. For the first time, flood risk assessment is geared to the highest three levels of risk—those are very serious risks indeed. That guidance document involves a sound test of where planning is plausible and where it is not. There are checks and balances in the system. The processes for public consultation and parliamentary scrutiny will ensure that all relevant aspects of policy, including the risk of flooding, will be properly taken into account in the final versions of the NPSs.
I also have a problem with singling out a specific potential impact, because, as I have said, it is difficult to control the scope afterwards. We have given a clear commitment that the Secretary of State will have a duty to consider sustainability, which, where relevant, will cover flood risk, when producing an NPS.
Amendment No. 85 in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, and the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, would require that the sustainable development duty on the Secretary of State under Clause 10 applies to functions carried out under the whole of Part 2, which goes much wider than simply Clauses 5 and 6. The amendment would require the duty to apply in relation to functions outside Clauses 5 and 6, such as consultation and parliamentary scrutiny. It is important to draw a proper distinction. The way in which the duty is drawn up makes it clear that it applies to the function of setting out policy. That must be the right approach. If we expanded the duty, it would be very confusing, particularly if there were procedural requirements.
Amendments Nos. 33 and 59 put the cat among the pigeons on the Cross Benches, where it is pretty rough. The noble Lord, Lord Cameron, has proposed that the appraisal of the sustainability of the policy set out in a draft NPS should be carried out by the Sustainable Development Commission rather than the Secretary of State. He made an eloquent case that, because the SDC is the Government's independent advisory body, it would be best placed to carry out such an appraisal. I hope that the SDC reads Hansard tomorrow. I am sure that it will consider it interesting reading. I should say that we value the work of the SDC.
Let me first reassure the noble Lord that we share his concern that national policy statements must in each case be drawn up with the objective of contributing to sustainable development and be seen to be so. He is right to stress the importance of transparency. There must be proper testing by the processes that we have put in place to achieve this. However, I repeat the question that was asked by the noble Lord, Lord Turnbull. Why should responsibility for carrying out this appraisal rest with the Secretary of State rather than an independent body such as the SDC? The answer is clear. In the context of everything that we are trying to do, the burden of our argument is that Ministers are accountable for their policy and it is right and proper that responsibility for ensuring that it is, and is seen to be, sustainable rests with them.
The Secretary of State is responsible not only for UK law but for EU law and is, therefore, responsible for ensuring that an SEA is carried out where one is required under the SEA directive. It is also important to ensure that policy is developed in the full context of all the relevant policies across Whitehall. We will consider an amendment later that touches on that. That would be difficult for an organisation such as the SDC to achieve. In terms of transparency, the policy will be independently tested through consultation with statutory bodies and scrutinised by Parliament. I hope that that reassures the noble Lord, who made a serious argument that the appraisal should be thorough and comprehensive. It is rightly the responsibility of the Secretary of State.
Amendment No. 38 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, would require an appraisal carried out in connection with a transport or energy NPS to include a comparison with other modes of transport and with other forms of energy respectively. I hope that I can reassure the noble Baroness that what is in place will meet those objectives. Her amendments would be too prescriptive. The framework for the appraisal is deliberately designed to be flexible to allow each appraisal not only to capture the appropriate detail but to integrate policy and to explain the implications for each NPS in relation to the other.
While it will be the case that the appraisal process will include reviewing and/or developing reasonable NPS strategic alternatives where they exist, in some cases reasonable alternatives will not exist. For example, there is no economically feasible alternative to shipping and ports for international transport of heavy freight. We cannot put a mandatory requirement in the Bill. Where reasonable alternatives exist, the NPS will in any case have to be clear as to what alternatives have been considered and whether they are or are not capable of fulfilling the Secretary of State's policy.
Amendment No. 39 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Reay, would require that, before an NPS could be designated, an appraisal must be carried out to ensure that it is consistent with the terms of the European Landscape Convention. The convention sets out that the protection, management and planning of all landscapes in Europe is a task not just for Governments but for all sectors of civil society, entailing rights and responsibilities for everyone. We consider that the UK already complies with the ELC's requirements, but we wish to strengthen this wherever we can through performance in policy and practice across as wide a section of society as possible. The UK Government and the devolved Administrations, through appropriate agencies across the four countries, will be invited to develop their own action plans, whose activities will further implementation of the ELC in a creative and incremental way.
Defra has asked Natural England to take the lead on the implementation of the ELC in England. It will work closely with English Heritage, the Forestry Commission, NGOs, local authorities, professions and the public. So I do not feel that it is appropriate for us to place an obligation on the Secretary of State to carry out the specific appraisal, but I underline that the appraisal of sustainability will include an assessment of impacts, and Natural England will be a statutory consultee for all national policy statements. It will be able to raise the issues that it feels are appropriate, including any obligations that arise from the ELC.
Finally, Amendment No. 54 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, would require each NPS to explain how the policies that it contains will support the achievement of objectives contained in other national policy statements. For the reason given by the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, it is important that policies are lined up and that they are consistently interrelated. However, I am afraid that this amendment would unduly constrain Ministers because NPSs must relate to much more than simply other NPSs. They will have to be developed and will have to iterate and justify policy within the wider sphere of relevant policies, whether those relate to transport, energy, the environment or planning, with the objective of contributing to sustainable development. The amendment would create an artificial connection between the various infrastructure types covered by the Bill, rather than allowing Ministers to describe the critical connections across policy. NPSs will have to describe those connections, but they will be different. It is important that the Bill retains that flexibility. However, as I said, in principle Secretaries of State must take full account of the interaction between the various types of infrastructure being planned before designating each of the NPSs.
I have dealt with this matter at some length but I thought it important to give clear assurances that the appraisal of sustainability, in particular, will be thorough and comprehensive. The provisions are not intended to enable the Secretary of State to duck any difficult issues—quite the opposite. I hope that, with that reassurance, noble Lords will feel that their amendments have been properly served.
Perhaps I could ask the Minister to confirm what I thought she was saying. She did not give the technical answer; she gave us a lot of assurances and I accept those, but is she saying that Clause 10(2), which states that the Secretary of State must,
"in exercising those functions, do so with the objective of contributing to the achievement of sustainable development", is cast in a way that covers what I am particularly concerned about—that is, the alignment and comparability point? It is important to know not just what is in Ministers' minds but where that is to be found in the Bill. I imagine that it is in Clause 10(2).
That is certainly my understanding. If I am wrong, which I do not think I am, I shall certainly discuss it with the noble Baroness.
I am grateful for all the contributions to the debate, both in support and otherwise. I am also grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, for making an interesting intervention.
The point of the amendment was to probe to what extent the Government wish to have an open process that is seen to be at arm's length from the Executive. I felt that the Minister acknowledged that, although there was no question of her opening any windows or doors for anyone to jump through. I hope that when it comes to the alternative approach, which is to have fuller and better parliamentary scrutiny, she will be in a more receptive mood.
My amendment was acknowledged as perhaps not being the right one and I thank noble Lords for pointing that out to me. I am only a beginner, but in 20 years' time I will probably still be saying that I am only a beginner and will be asking naive probing questions of a similar nature.
The speech on which I should like to comment is that of the noble Lord, Lord Judd. I strongly agree with his statement about wind farms. I am pro-wind power but I have always thought that it is totally wrong that the system depends on farmers, whose businesses may be getting into trouble, putting in applications because they are approached by a wind power company to have a wind farm on their property. There is absolutely no strategy nationally—although it would probably be better if it were done regionally—for asking where in the region we can appropriately put wind power. I thought that the noble Lord made a very good point and I fully support what he said. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
moved Amendment No. 37:
Clause 5, page 3, line 5, at end insert—
"( ) Before designating a statement as a national policy statement for the purposes of this Act, the Secretary of State must carry out an appraisal of the impact of the policy set out in the statement on built heritage, scheduled ancient monuments and important landscapes."
This debate follows on very well from the extremely important debate that we have just had. These amendments all relate to heritage. We are debating legislation that would create vast new powers to sweep aside what may be in the way of new development. The Infrastructure Planning Commission, in the Bill as before us, would have powers to set aside the all-too-fragile system that has been developed, through the experience of many decades, to protect the historic environment.
At Stansted, a second runway would require the demolition of two scheduled monuments and 13 grade 2 listed buildings. Other monuments, higher-grade buildings and conservation areas would be seriously affected, including a grade 2* listed church. Some time ago, Southend Borough Council, ambitious for its airport, proposed to dig beneath the grade 1 listed St Laurence Church, insert a raft and roll the structure to a site nearby. That did not happen, but the borough has now issued a new issues and options document for the Southend Airport joint area action plan, which at this stage omits to say what might happen to St Laurence Church, although ominously a picture of the church appears in the document. I mention these simply as two current illustrations of the inevitable clash between development and heritage as we seek to improve our national infrastructure. In our small, densely inhabited and built-upon country, we have to proceed, not dilatorily, but with immense care as we plan for new development, especially major infrastructure.
I am not saying, of course, that heritage ought always to prevail. I am seeking in these amendments to ensure that we are enabled to make such decisions on a fully informed and careful basis and that we do not damage or destroy heritage without thinking in a balanced way about what we are doing. No one disputes that we need a capacity to take planning decisions—and certainly to take planning decisions where heritage is concerned—more expeditiously, or that we are going to have to provide new sources of energy supply, new transport infrastructure and so forth. But equally, I suggest, no civilised or sensible person wants such innovations to be unnecessarily at the expense of our treasured historic environment. We must not throw the baby out with the bath water.
I appreciate what the Minister said at Second Reading about the Government's determination to ensure that national benefits are balanced fairly against local impacts. I am not sure, however, that she quite stated the issue as it really is. Local heritage may be of national importance, and cumulatively the web of local heritage is essential to the fabric of our country. My noble friend also assured us that national policy statements,
"will reflect existing policies and priorities where relevant, such as the protection of habitats or heritage".—[Hansard, 15/7/08; col. 1161.]
I believe, however, that we have more to do to ensure that heritage is appropriately safeguarded in the Bill.
The Government anticipate, the Minister has told us, a dozen or so national policy statements. Amendment No. 37 would lay a duty on the Secretary of State, before designating a national policy statement, to carry out—and I would also say publish—an appraisal of its impact on the built heritage, scheduled monuments and important landscapes. Amendment No. 175 would require an applicant for an order granting development consent to demonstrate full regard for conservation of the built environment, scheduled monuments and important landscapes. Under Amendment No. 187, an applicant would have to consult, during the pre-application process, English Heritage or Cadw, and under Amendment No. 214 the IPC in turn may accept an application for consideration only following its own consultation with English Heritage or Cadw.
Amendment No. 377 would require that an order granting development consent that affects any grade 1 or grade 2* listed building must be subject to special parliamentary procedure, on the analogy of provisions already in the Bill requiring special parliamentary procedures where a development order would affect local authority-owned land, National Trust land, and commons, open spaces and field garden allotments.
Amendment No. 439B would add to the list of what is regarded as infrastructure in Clause 202 buildings, monuments and sites that have been designated as significant heritage assets. I certainly contend that heritage should properly be regarded as infrastructure. In the past 10 years, recognition has at last come in all parts of the country, and especially in old industrial cities and areas facing difficulty in adapting to the modern economy, that heritage is a cardinal economic asset. The Government have strenuously and successfully promoted heritage-led economic regeneration in Leeds, Newcastle, Birmingham, Norwich, where I live and where I am a board member of the Heritage Economic and Regeneration Trust, and many other places. A splendid instance of a comprehensive and imaginative plan for regeneration is the strategy for historic Gloucester now being developed by the Gloucester Heritage Urban Regeneration Company.
It would be economic fecklessness to allow, in a hasty attempt to modernise the national infrastructure, economically valuable heritage assets—heritage infrastructure—to be destroyed. If, however, following careful cost-benefit analysis of development proposals that entail loss of heritage, it is decided that the greater advantage for the public interest is in the new development, then the community infrastructure levy should be available to support compensatory refurbishment of heritage assets in the same authority area. Amendment No. 442, therefore, provides that regulations may specify criteria for determining allocation of CIL resources to conservation of heritage in areas where development orders permit the loss of some part of the heritage.
If heritage-led developments have to pay the CIL, it will be particularly important that heritage should also be able to benefit from the CIL. Otherwise heritage, already too vulnerable for lack of both public and private investment, will be rendered poorer still. Heritage charities will also be intensely interested in the conclusion of the Government's deliberations on charities and the CIL. I note the Government's intention to discuss details of the CIL regime with key stakeholders and engage in full consultation on the CIL regulations. I trust that the heritage charities will be fully involved in these discussions and consultations.
Perhaps the most important of these amendments is Amendment No. 399, which would add a new clause establishing a general duty on all public authorities, in exercising planning functions, to have regard to the purpose of conserving the historic environment. In tabling this new clause, I am seeking to create a duty in relation to the historic environment analogous to the duty to conserve biodiversity set out in Section 40 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006, which stipulates:
"Every public authority must, in exercising its functions, have regard, so far as is consistent with the proper exercise of those functions, to the purpose of conserving biodiversity".
The section goes on to say that conserving biodiversity includes,
"restoring or enhancing a population or habitat".
It defines "public authority" as a Minister of the Crown; the National Assembly for Wales; a public body, including a government department, a local authority and a local planning authority; a person holding an office under the Crown, created or continued in existence by a public general Act, or the remuneration in respect of which is paid out of money provided by Parliament; or a statutory undertaker.
It is excellent that we have created this widespread duty to conserve biodiversity. We should now create an equal widespread duty to conserve the historic environment. The proposed new clause in Amendment No. 399, borrowing the precise wording of the NERC Act, requires that:
"Every public authority must, in exercising its planning functions, have regard, so far as is consistent with the proper exercise of those functions, to the purpose of conserving the historic environment".
At the moment policy places decidedly less value on the historic environment than on biodiversity. The new clause would correct the imbalance.
Of course, there is no equivalent for the heritage of the United Nations Environment Programme Convention on Biological Diversity of 1992, but there should be; it is a challenge for those across the world who care about the built heritage and the historic environment to bring one into being. Meanwhile, there is no pressure through treaty commitment on the Government to write into legislation a similar duty in relation to the historic environment. However, they should do so.
It has been well said that heritage is the national imaginative fabric. It is the temporal dimension of our civilisation. Many people grieve at the casual desecration and waste of our heritage that has occurred in boom times at the hands of insensitive development. This is a moment, the end of a boom time and a historical turning point, when politicians in the western democracies need to re-examine the habitual assumptions of our politics. The cataclysms in the financial markets have brought home to our peoples that an unbalanced and excessive pursuit of material gain—the pursuit of wealth at almost any cost—leads to disaster. People are in revulsion against trashy values. They are questioning, with a new intensity of concern, the get-rich-quick values of the past 30 years. I do not, of course, say that we do not have to struggle might and main to retrieve our economy, but this is also a time when citizens will respond with relief and enthusiasm to policies which espouse non-material values, which enable continuity of the things that we have cherished and which help us to rediscover what can make us a decent, mutually supportive and respectful community. Among the best ways possible to do this will be for the Government to commit themselves much more strongly to policies that will sustain our heritage. I beg to move.
I stand, perhaps slightly predictably, to give my full support to the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Howarth. Perhaps I should declare an interest: I serve as a member of the Council of Planning Aid and I was formerly a member of the Royal Town Planning Institute. Amendment No. 37 relates to national policy statements and to strategy. It seeks to ensure that the impact of any proposed statement of the built heritage, scheduled ancient monuments and important landscapes is assessed prior to publication—the emphasis is on the word "prior"—in other words, that historic environment considerations are afforded similar strategic status to sustainability, on the one hand, and to green environment considerations on the other.
I also speak in support of Amendment No. 175. It relates to the application of the new commission for development consent for particular proposals, where it seeks to ensure that all development applications specifically demonstrate that account has been taken of the historic environment in forming the application. I do not want to delay the Committee unduly with endless anecdotes, but there is considerable evidence of the impact of large infrastructure projects which is not always direct. The noble Lord, Lord Howarth, gave a couple of examples in his opening apologia. I cite Lowfield Heath, which is Grade II listed. The expansion of Gatwick has resulted in the loss of the village designed by William Burges. The cottages have been replaced by huge industrial units and car parks. The handful of remaining residents of the parish, all of whom must travel some distance to look after the church, can no longer manage that and the remarkable building now faces a very uncertain future. St Peter, Bickenhill, a Grade I church, survived motorways and factories, but not the increased over-flying and a possible airport expansion. The steady exodus of the population has led to its closure. St Clement's, West Thurrock, a Grade I listed church, became redundant in 1977 as a direct consequence of the industrial development of the Thurrock estuary area. Those are just a few illustrations. Your Lordships might also like to note Harmondsworth, Harlington and Cranford which are all threatened by the Heathrow proposals.
As the Committee is aware, in the Church of England we carry a very heavy responsibility for an enormous proportion of the Grade I, Grade II and Grade II* listed buildings of our nation. For that reason, I wish to support wholeheartedly the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Howarth.
When I intervened prematurely a while ago, I said that I thought that Amendment No. 37 was wonderful. In the 50 minutes since I made that statement I have not changed my mind. It is a very important amendment for this reason: we are moving to a policy where we shall make it possible for new and important development projects, which may affect many more people than in the past, to go through more swiftly and more effectively. I support that very strongly. The other side of the coin is that people must be able to feel, in so far as these developments are likely to affect the built heritage, ancient monuments and important landscapes, that there has been proper appraisal before they go forward. That is the proper balance for citizens. I believe that that view will be shared by a large part of the population. Therefore, I support this amendment and hope that the Government will be able to accept it.
I warmly applaud my noble friend for his crucial amendment that follows from the previous debate. In moving his amendment, my noble friend argued that we have come to a moment of truth in our social and economic history and have to ask ourselves what sort of nation we want to be and what values matter in our society. I always feel deeply troubled that we have moved into an age of instant living, which is having far-reaching effects on our intellectual and other activities. People do not want to think about their roots and origins, but understanding our roots, origins and history is important in making a success of our current society and our future society. This amendment is central to that consideration.
I ask the Minister, for whom, as she knows, I have unbridled admiration and whom I regard as one of the more cultured and civilised members of the Administration, to remember her role is that of Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. Communities are not just a gathering of people who happen to live in a particular area; real communities have roots and have been fashioned by their interplay with the environment, the landscape and the struggles that have gone on in their vicinity. Living in a part of the country that until comparatively quite recent times was rooted in conflict—the border area of the north of England—I understand that, and it seems to me that it is important that we regenerate the significance of these issues. The amendment tabled by my noble friend emphasises that and deserves all possible support.
I find it quite difficult to follow the wonderful flow of the noble Lord, Lord Judd. I expect we shall be hearing from him again shortly. In supporting these amendments, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Howarth, on the extraordinarily comprehensive, thorough and relatively brief way in which made his case. The importance of the built heritage cannot be exaggerated. It is as important as the landscape heritage. They march together, interlocked.
At this stage, I should declare an interest as I arrived at that view from working in the National Trust for many years, ending up with the privilege of being its chairman, which was the finest job in the land, even though it was unpaid. The National Trust is built of landscape and built heritage intermixed, and we must always see them together. I was interested to note that the Bill refers to the National Trust Act 1907, which gave the National Trust power to declare buildings or land inalienable; that is to say, they cannot be subject to compulsory purchase, except through a parliamentary process. That is the huge strength and power of the National Trust and a highly responsible position. I thought it rather neat that the noble Lord's amendment follows that clause in the Bill. That seems very appropriate.
I declare an interest as chairman of a community archaeological trust and a couple of heritage trusts, albeit up in Scotland, but the principle is the same. The noble Lord, Lord Howarth, is seeking to protect archaeology. In Caithness, we have had huge problems with wind farms, like my noble friend Lord Reay. The real problem is money. When money is offered by a developer, as it will be with these infrastructure projects, people will be very keen, particularly in these economic times, to raise whatever finance they can when other forms of income are hard to generate, particularly for farmers and communities. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, was right that this is about communities. I have not discussed this with my noble friend Lord Reay, but I am sure that the wind farm proposals that he faces have divided communities. In Caithness, they have divided families, have divided the county into all sorts of groupings and have destroyed communities where people were working together. The incentives that a wind farm is able to offer have destroyed communities.
With that has gone the heritage. The remote areas where people want to put wind farms and find greenfield sites are where the archaeology of our heritage still is. There is no doubt that a huge amount of our archaeology and heritage has been destroyed, often by the Forestry Commission planting trees, which was not given proper consideration and has done immense damage. We must learn from our mistakes. Let us write this into the Bill in some form now so that the things that we cherish, which will be important for future generations as well as for ourselves, are taken into account.
I rise briefly to support this group of amendments, which follows the debate on the previous group of amendments and the debate on the group that I introduced. Respect for good design and the beautiful landscape of the past is no less important than creating it for the future, particularly if we think of what people value about where they live.
I wish to draw a short point to the attention of the Minister and ask a question. It follows on well from what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, and my noble friend Lord Caithness. The amendment uses the word "landscapes" and much heritage takes the form of landscape. In recent years, I have become more familiar with the landscape on the coast of east Essex and Suffolk. It contains some beautiful coastline, some National Trust properties and the Minsmere bird reserve, which is outstandingly beautiful. One can understand that that windy coastline may, at some stage, tempt wind farm developers. I support this amendment to the extent that there must be a complete appraisal of the value of that landscape before any such proposal is put forward.
My question comes from paragraph 3.9 of the White Paper, which contains a number of bullet points about things that national policy statements would need to reflect. One is that national policy statements would:
"Indicate how the Government's objectives for development in a particular infrastructure sector had been integrated with other specific government policies, including other national policy statements".
On the east coast of Essex and Suffolk, there are two very large nuclear power stations. I mentioned Bradwell the other day, which may well be redeveloped and there is, of course, Sizewell, which is a prime candidate for a further nuclear policy statement. If there is to be a national planning statement about nuclear power, how will that relate to the alternative, which some people in the area are pushing, that it should all be provided by wind farms instead?
I found myself with a friend the other day standing on the coastline. Right down to the south I could see Bradwell; further north, one could see Sizewell. I said to her: "Which would you rather have? A nuclear power station at Bradwell and another reactor power station at Sizewell; or would you rather see the entire coast, onshore and offshore, populated by wind farms?". She said, "There is only one answer to that question. Yes, those two buildings are large, but they are quite specific, clearly located and, in a sense, one has got used to them". She would be absolutely horrified if she thought that, in place of that, there would be a complete forest of wind turbines on and offshore, which, even if they are all working, would not produce as much electricity as would the two nuclear power stations.
As I understand it, there will be two separate national policy statements. The question is: how will they be related to each other? Will that be done by the Secretary of State putting that forward to Parliament for consideration, or will it be for Parliament to say, "We have two statements; Parliament must decide what is to be done". I would be most grateful if the noble Baroness could explain how that is to operate.
I was not going to talk to this group of amendments, because the noble Lord, Lord Howarth, and other noble Lords have spoken so splendidly on what is a real issue, and one that we need to ensure is taken account of in national policy statements. I wanted to draw a parallel and to speak on a subject on which I have not tabled an amendment. I believe that the Minister intends to do the right thing, but I want to press her to ensure that she will do the right thing on our alternative cathedrals and churches—that is our most important nature reserves, the Natura 2000 Network and the SSSI network, which are in fact, equivalent to the cathedrals, churches, historic buildings, beauty and spirituality about which both the noble Lords, Lord Howarth and Lord Judd, spoke.
I can remember the bad old days of development in this country when it was almost as if every road building, airport and port proposition was an exercise in joining up the dots of our natural nature reserves, the Natura 2000 sites and our SSSIs, because they were the only open space available between existing development. I do not want us to go back to that point, because we all remember the huge conflict and public concern that there was at that time in places such as Twyford Down and Newbury. There was Maplin, which we mercifully fought off as a site for a new London airport, although I gather that the mayor favours that as a prospect. Of course, we have my favourite topic, the Severn Barrage, which would destroy a substantial number of the Natura 2000 sites and SSSIs.
I am cheating a bit in my comments on Amendment No. 37 because, although it is about the ancient heritage, archaeology, architecture and landscape, I know that the Minister intends to bring forward regulations to address the relationship of national policy statements to the habitats directive, which takes account of the Natura 2000 sites. I press her also for clarification on the relationship between national policy statements and the SSSI series protected under national law. I have not tabled an amendment covering those issues because I believed that that guidance would be sufficient, but it would be admirable if we could see the draft regulations before Report to reassure ourselves that there is an adequate relationship being mapped out between those alternative cathedrals and the national policy statement.
I would hate it to be thought by outsiders that I was of the philistine tendency.
I was wondering about Amendment No. 37, because it is so big picture, but I shall be interested to hear how the Minister responds to it. It is important, given that national policy statements may be location-specific, so that both the medium-sized and the big picture are relevant. I am not sure that I have heard anything to this effect, but it seems to me that the real crunch is: can an NPS not proceed because of heritage and landscape issues and could an application be refused because of those issues? That would focus the mind and ensure that these matters are fully considered. I will not repeat all things with which I agree about the importance of both of those to our culture, our way of life and all the things that we appreciate about our country.
This is another of those areas where there is general agreement. The noble Baroness has put her assent in terms that force me to my feet to agree; otherwise, I might have stayed seated. We need to recognise a difficulty, because Amendment No. 37 applies to national policy statements. There is a problem with that because the majority of national policy statements will not be site-specific. Because they are not site-specific, it will be difficult to apply assessment of the heritage aspects of a particular development. The noble Lord has already tabled amendments in this field and may need to think a little more on Report about how we build consideration of the detailed subjects into the procedures of the commission and the procedures which the applicants are required to undertake. That is where the real work will have to be done.
When you deal with the applicants' procedures, part of the application might be to enhance and improve conservation of buildings, and so on. That is a separate consideration, but I thought it worth mentioning here. It will be difficult to consider those matters under Clause 37 whereas, later in the Bill, we can do something practical about these issues.
This has been another excellent debate about, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, said, things that we all appreciate. I am grateful for the kind words of my noble friend Lord Judd. We spent a very interesting but rather long evening in a church hall listening to a lecture on the history of water power in the Lake District, accompanied by many different slides, as I remember. The argument was that many communities had been built around the industrial heritage. That is now of course the rural heritage, but it was kind of him to say what he did. I hope that it is true because I do not need to be persuaded again of the value of what we are discussing in these amendments. The absolute test of our planning system is its ability to reconcile the need to protect heritage, however we describe it, as well as the need to provide the things that we need to thrive as a community. In this context, we are talking about infrastructure. The point about our planning system is that it provides that robust protection. This is about what shapes, frames and nurtures community, which is why it is important.
This Government have a fine record of promoting heritage as the source of regeneration as well as an asset of conservation. We have strengthened the protections for world heritage sites, and we are about to strengthen our planning statements on planning the historic environment and archaeology by bringing together PPSs 15 and 16. We are proud of what we have been able to achieve because we take it extremely seriously. I will respond to noble Lords' amendments in turn and with sympathy, but first I should say that the test is whether the amendments would improve the system, which does work, in the context of what the Bill is about.
Amendment No. 37 would require the Secretary of State to carry out a specific appraisal of the impact of the relevant policy on the built heritage, scheduled ancient monuments and important landscapes in addition to the existing appraisal of sustainability. I will write to the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, on the points that she made, because she did not table a formal amendment and I do not have a formal response. I have talked about how our new protections of heritage, such as bringing together PPSs 15 and 16, will strengthen what we already do. They will in turn critically feed into the national policy statements and will be taken account of in IPC decisions, so we already have the foundation for the sort of protections which my noble friend Lord Howarth seeks.
It would not, however, be productive to require a separate appraisal of heritage. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, made an important point about the sheer difficulty of doing this, given the nature of the NPSs. It could also be counterproductive, because heritage and sustainability are interdependent but are not always seen to be so. When we link the two, we create a platform to advocate that what we build must be both. As I said in our debate on design, it would lead to competing demands for a separate appraisal and for the disaggregation of the very thing that we are trying to make the great strength of these national policy statements—their ability to carry and integrate polices and apply them so that we are all certain of what will be achieved and of what is predictable for those who want to invest in our infrastructure and those who will have to live with the consequences. I cannot accept Amendment No. 37 on those grounds.
I assure my noble friend Lord Howarth that the process of appraising sustainability will have to take account of heritage matters. There is no way in which it cannot. It will cover the effects on the natural and built environment and the landscape and the cultural heritage, including architectural and archaeological heritage. All this will be fully and properly assessed as part of the appraisal of sustainability, which I hope reassures my noble friend Lord Judd, too. These will be considered at a strategic level and, where they are identified as key sustainability issues, they will form a focus point in the process. That is the purposes of integration. Both the appraisal of sustainability and the NPS will be subject to public consultation and to scrutiny in Parliament.
Amendments Nos. 175 and 187, which would amend Part 5, aim to add specific provision for heritage to the pre-application process. Clause 36(3) makes it clear that certain details and documents must be included in an application for an order granting development consent. Amendment No. 175 seeks to add a requirement that applications must also demonstrate full regard for the conservation of the built heritage. Amendment No. 187 would specify English Heritage and Cadw as statutory consultees for applications in their relevant areas.
Here I must reiterate familiar arguments. The decisions of the IPC will depend on the national policy statements, and it is essential that they set out policy as clearly as possible on the type of infrastructure in question. When taking decisions, therefore, the IPC will take into account the NPS, prescribed matters and the local impact report. This is where local significance and local heritage come into play. As my noble friend Lord Howarth said, local heritage is of deep concern to local communities. Under Clause 58, local authorities will be invited to submit a local impact report, once an application has been accepted, which will give details of the likely impact of the proposed development on the authorities' area. They will be bound to assess the impact on the local environment and to have an environmental impact statement. Where applications are accompanied by an environmental impact assessment—we expect that most will be—the EIA will look at the likely significant impacts of the proposals, many of which will include effects on landscapes of historical, cultural or archaeological significance, which all fall under the heritage umbrella.
Amendment No. 214 is also part of this concern, and would require developers to consult English Heritage and Cadw. The pre-application procedure requires consultation with local authorities, affected people and parties, and statutory consultees. It has yet to be determined which bodies should be statutory consultees for this purpose, and it would not be right—it would be too constraining and too rigid—to set out a list in the Bill. We do, however, expect English Heritage and Cadw to be specified for applications in their relevant areas. I hope that my noble friend is reassured by that.
Amendments Nos. 377 and 399, which would amend Part 7, aim to place additional protections on listed buildings. Acceptance of Amendment No. 377 would mean that development consent orders, which affect listed buildings, could proceed only if subjected to special parliamentary procedure. I was grateful for the explanation given by the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, of how those procedures have attached to the National Trust property.
Members of the Committee are no doubt aware that special parliamentary procedures are complex and extremely time-consuming for everyone involved. Frankly, they are usually avoided if at all possible. I think the idea would strike fear into the heart of those who look after our heritage if they felt that they had to go through these processes. Some special parliamentary procedures appear in the Bill because these provisions are based on existing legislation, in particular on equivalent provisions in the Acquisition of Land Act 1981, to which the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, referred. In short, we are replicating existing legal provisions only in so far as they are already established features of the protection of special types of land against compulsory purchase.
In all sincerity, we do not believe that it is sensible or necessary to extend the scope of special parliamentary procedures to new areas, given the complexity and extra time that this would involve. In the context of the Bill, it would run counter to the need for a faster, less complex single consent regime, which is one of the great prizes that the Bill has to offer. Again, let me reassure the noble Lord that the fact that we are moving towards a single consent regime absolutely does not imply any reduction in the protection granted to heritage assets. We do not intend promoters of major infrastructure projects to have to seek a separate listed building consent or conservation area consent. There will be no need for a separate bit of paper. However, heritage will be looked at specifically under the single consent regime.
I stress, because this has inspired much of the debate this evening, that there will be no reduction in the justified protections which our listed buildings and heritage assets currently enjoy. We intend the IPC to consider specifically the justification for works that would affect a listed building or a heritage asset by using the same considerations that Ministers and local planning authorities presently apply under the existing heritage consent regimes.
We intend that in considering whether to grant development consent that would affect a listed building, the IPC shall have special regard to the desirability of preserving the building or its setting or any features of special architectural or historic interest which it possesses, and likewise for cases of major projects which affect scheduled monuments and conservation areas. To make that clear, we intend to prescribe these matters in the decision test under the powers already in Clause 101(2)(c).
Where the IPC considers that works to listed buildings and so on are not justified, it should not grant consent for such works. It may be that the IPC will approve other parts of the application which would not affect the heritage asset, but decisions on whether to authorise works that would affect heritage assets would be taken specifically in terms of heritage value and not merely as one factor among many. As I said, and the noble Lord might appreciate my reiterating it, we intend that the IPC will contain sufficient heritage expertise in order for it to reach those decisions. I hope it is clear that we are determined to maintain the protections that these buildings enjoy.
Amendment No. 399 would place an additional duty beyond those already found in Sections 66 and 72 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 for planning authorities to have regard to the purpose of conserving the historic environment. It is important to say that because this is where the protections lie. As my noble friend Lord Howarth knows, those duties are: to have special regard to the desirability of preserving the building or its setting or any features of special architecture or historic interest which it possesses, and to have special regard to the desirability of preserving and enhancing the character and appearance of conservation areas. Those are extremely strong and explicit protections. We already have them and we observe them.
In Amendment No. 399 my noble friend wants to add a new general duty on every public authority to have regard to the preservation of the historic environment, in the context of a Bill which is very different from the 2006 Bill from which he quoted. Although it is an admirable intent, we already require public authorities to do that through existing planning legislation and the consents regime. I have heard no calls for additional duties of this nature on an already complex and overloaded system. One problem is that the language of the amendment is not consistent with what is already in law, and the location of this duty is not clear in relation to other duties. It would serve only to duplicate existing law at a time when the whole thrust of what we are trying to do in planning is to simplify it; that is, to make it easier for the public guardians to do what is right by local and national heritage, and to ensure that we have the right skills in the right places. That is what this debate has been about, with a passion across the Chamber.
Amendment No. 377 adds more layers of requirements to a strong and tested system. I would be afraid that rather than add to this system, it could make it more dysfunctional. But in the context of a Bill that is aiming to provide the certainty that, as we heard yesterday, is sought by so many promoters and businessmen, the danger is that adding a general duty could act as another deterrent to those investors whom we want to come to this country to provide the infrastructure that we need.
I turn now to the proposed amendments to the CIL in Part 11. Amendment No. 439B would define "infrastructure" for the purposes of Clause 202 so that it included buildings, monuments and sites that have been designated as significant heritage assets. In effect, that would allow for CIL revenues to be spent on such items. I have made the same case on the design amendments. The Government have been very clear about the purpose of the CIL. It is a new mechanism to allow local planning authorities to raise additional revenue to help to fund the delivery of the infrastructure that we need to support the development of an area. The CIL is focused on infrastructure provision. We want it to be spent on ensuring that, when development comes forward, it is sustainable by helping to fund new facilities, such as schools, health centres, parks and play areas.
Because of that focus on infrastructure, I am not sure that the amendment makes sense if it is intended to allow for the CIL to be spent on any building, monument or site that has been designated as "a significant cultural asset", as the amendment proposes. Clause 198(2) contains the obligation on the Secretary of State to ensure through the CIL that it is spent on funding the costs incurred in development. But that is not to say that it would not be of benefit to our heritage assets in other ways. If it were decided that new development gave rise to the need for a new community centre and an underused listed building could be converted for that purpose, the CIL could be spent to restore the building because the need for the community centre was prompted by new development. That is a very important facility.
My noble friend Lord Howarth of Newport tabled a second amendment, Amendment No. 442, to provide that the CIL regulations may specify criteria for allocating CIL revenue to heritage conservation where heritage is impaired by development. Again, CIL revenue could be used to support the improvement of heritage in some circumstances, but we could not agree to the CIL being used to fund conservation where the development has some negative impact on the heritage in question. But that is not to say that mitigating the impact of development on heritage should not be addressed. It should. Our concern with the amendment is that the Government believe that the CIL is not the right mechanism. We should perhaps look at Section 106 agreements for greater flexibility.
In response to the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, we will have an overarching national policy statement that will bring together all the forms of the energy we need and discuss the balance between the various sources of energy, and from that will flow the suite of separate energy policies. The noble Lord will have his overarching energy policy statement which will address the sorts of issues that he raised.
I am sorry to have gone on at such length, and I am conscious that others are waiting to take the Floor. I hope that my noble friend will feel able to withdraw his amendment.
I am extremely conscious of the time and that we are awaiting a very important debate. It is unfortunate that we have been so constrained for time in debating this immensely important subject of heritage and the issues that arise for it from the Planning Bill. I am extremely grateful to all Members of the Committee who have contributed. We have heard wise and impassioned speeches, including speeches from people who presently and in the past have exercised very senior responsibility in relation to heritage. The quality of the contributions and the authority of the contributors have belied the brevity of the debate.
The debate has served to indicate just how difficult, how sensitive and how important those issues are. I know that my noble friend recognises that and that, informed by what she has learnt of the feeling of the Committee, she will go back to her department and think further about how we can find practical ways to secure the heritage in the context of our very necessary programme to rebuild the national infrastructure. I hope that we can come back to these issues on Report and that by then my noble friend will be able to offer us more precise measures that the Government feel will address these needs. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.