Localism Bill — Committee (7th Day) (Continued)

– in the House of Lords at 7:34 pm on 12th July 2011.

Alert me about debates like this

Amendment 148

Moved by Baroness Greengross

148: After Clause 95, insert the following new Clause-

"Local development: survey of area

(1) Section 13 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 (survey of area) is amended as follows.

(2) After subsection (3) insert-

"(3A) The local planning authority shall undertake and publish a numerical assessment of the level of housing need and demand for all age groups in its area, together with its proposals for addressing such need and demand including plans relating to the provision of housing across all types and tenures.""

Photo of Baroness Greengross Baroness Greengross Crossbench 7:55 pm, 12th July 2011

My Lords, localism and the Localism Bill present many opportunities for people of all backgrounds and all ages to be involved in local decision-making and developing their neighbourhoods. I declare an interest as heading up a think tank, ILC-UK, which looks at the impact of demographic change on all our lives. Some of the research ILC-UK carried out showed that opportunities in the Bill may benefit only those who already enjoy an advantageous position in society and may not adequately protect and demonstrate the needs of those who are marginalised, particularly older people. Given that much of the development of new homes and communities is going to depend on neighbourhood development plans, which will be voted in by the local population, there is a danger that these plans may not adequately reflect the needs and wishes of marginalised groups in the local population.

Amendment 148 therefore seeks to strengthen the requirement for local authorities to produce adequate assessments of the housing needs of their local population. If they are to do this, it is essential that they have robust social and demographic data-they are certainly not going to make informed decisions about future housing provision without those data.

Section 13 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 lists what councils should look for when producing housing need assessments. It states that an authority must keep under review matters that are likely,

"to affect the development of their area or the planning of its development", including,

"the size, composition and distribution of the population of the area".

However, this piece of legislation has had very limited impact-indeed, in some cases it has sadly been completely ignored. One example of the failure to assess adequately the demand for new homes at a local level relates to the housing needs of older people.

I will quote two examples that were outlined in a recent report by the National Housing Federation. The Audit Commission's review in 2010 of a sample of 112 local authorities' financial plans showed that only 10 per cent made any estimate of the financial impact of provision for increasing numbers of older people despite a rapidly ageing population, as I think everyone will acknowledge. In October 2010, the National Housing Federation surveyed local councils on older people's housing strategies-153 councils responded to the survey but 32 per cent of them had neither a strategy nor plans to develop one. This is partly because in many cases local councils do not include in their plans the need for retirement housing, even though the ageing population is rapidly expanding. Certainly the largest provider of retirement accommodation in the country, McCarthy and Stone, believes that is the case. Fulfilling the need for retirement housing would be a very good way of getting underused housing vacated for the use of the younger generations who are having great difficulty in getting on the housing ladder, but in order to do that we have to provide specialist housing for older people.

Localism will rely on the correct evidence base being in place, so it is essential that councils are required to produce those data. Without strong guidance provided by central government, the examples quoted here show that local authorities will continue to struggle to produce robust housing needs data. Amendment 148 seeks to address that problem. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord McKenzie of Luton Lord McKenzie of Luton Shadow Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government) 8:00 pm, 12th July 2011

My Lords, we have Amendments 148ZZA and 148ZZZBA in this group, but they are consistent with the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross, which we support. They have been proposed to us jointly by Shelter, the TCPA and the National Housing Federation. These amendments would help to ensure that local authorities produce a robust and public assessment of housing needs to inform local plans. Amendment 148ZZA requires housing needs to be addressed in the local development scheme, while under Amendment 148ZZZBA the LPAs must regularly survey their areas and publicise the results.

Local plans must integrate land use planning, housing strategies and delivery. While the national planning policy framework, when it appears, may help to promote this objective, we think that this issue is too important to leave to regulations and guidance. All local authorities should be required to undertake a strategic assessment of housing need and demand to provide the necessary evidence to inform the development of housing strategies and planning policies for their areas-the points raised by the noble Baroness cover this-and the needs of an elderly population that is growing older.

The information should be key to determining the amount of housing required, including affordable housing and housing specifically designed for people with care and support needs and in allocating a sufficient amount of land to meet and identify housing requirements. Bodies such as Shelter, the TCPA and the National Housing Federation have welcomed a more localised approach to planning and see the reforms to the planning system as an opportunity to allow local people to play a more active role in shaping development in their area by helping to shape local plans and hold their local authority to account.

In order to enable local people to play a more active role, it is vital that they have access to data that give them as full a picture as possible of the housing situation in their area and enable them to assess their local authority's performance. Through local authorities setting out clearly in the local plans how they plan to address housing need, local people will be far better placed to hold their local authority to account on the success that they have achieved. Without clear aspirations being set, local people are likely to find it difficult to assess how well their local authority is performing.

The importance of providing access to good local data was outlined in the Conservative Party's Open Source Planning paper, which sets out that in developing their local plans, councils will be expected to ensure as a minimum,

"the provision of good data by the local planning authority to the electors in the neighbourhoods, so that they can develop their vision for their community on a well-informed basis ... this will need to include analysis by the council of the likely need for housing and for affordable housing for local people in each neighbourhood".

The introduction of more consistent data sets will also allow local authorities greater opportunities to increase integrated working across areas such as sharing back office staff. That would be particularly useful in some areas of local housing planning, but varying data sets would make the practicalities of joint working more difficult. This will help to deliver the aims of a more localised system by ensuring that local people are able to play an effective role in shaping local plans and holding their local authority to account while enabling local authorities to work together more efficiently.

In Committee in the other place, the Minister stated that the Government would require from local authorities,

"an absolutely clear, transparent, robust numerical assessment of housing need".-[Official Report, Commons, Localism Bill Committee, 17/2/11; col. 637.]

However, he argued that Section 13 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 already outlined the necessary duty. In fact, with respect, Section 13 does not consider a critical element of housing need, or other needs, which is a forward projection of future need and demand. In the absence of such a clear duty, it would be easy for some local authorities to look narrowly to immediately presenting housing need and to avoid responsibilities, especially to the next generation and to the wider housing market. It is on that basis that I propose these amendments and support the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross.

Photo of Earl Cathcart Earl Cathcart Conservative

My Lords, forgive me if I am wrong, but I thought that all councils were already required to make a housing needs assessment under the existing PPS3. If that is the case, I am not sure what the amendments will add other than to make councils do their job better.

Photo of Lord Best Lord Best Crossbench

My Lords, I give qualified support to Amendment 148 in the name of my noble friend Lady Greengross and to Amendments 148ZZZA and 148ZZZBA tabled by the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie. My support is qualified because the words,

"the local planning authority must", are not popular in local government circles. I would find it hard to be entirely supportive of extra obligations being placed by central government on local authorities, but I am supportive because noble Lords are absolutely right that collecting local data on housing markets and making them available, not least to any neighbourhood preparing a neighbourhood plan, as well as to the local authority preparing its local development plan, is more than just good practice; it is essential if housing providers are to meet local needs and demands.

To take the example of the area of interest to the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross, if the local authority's assessment shows that many thousands of family houses are occupied by one older person or an elderly couple, with the certainty that all those occupiers will grow older in years to come, clear signals can be given to private house builders and housing associations that there is a big market for attractive, manageable, economical apartments that are tailor-made for older people to buy or rent.

I give full backing to the intention behind these amendments and hope that their objective of getting local authorities to do what they should can be fulfilled, not least through the national planning policy framework, even if that objective is not accomplished by a new obligation on local authorities.

Photo of Lord Beecham Lord Beecham Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow Spokesperson (Health)

I hesitate to express a slightly different point of view as a vice-president of the Local Government Association from our esteemed president, but I am not quite as reluctant as he is to see this kind of duty, as proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross, and my noble friend Lord McKenzie, incorporated into the law, particularly given the state of the housing market in general and the huge unmet demand for housing, particularly affordable housing. It is important that all authorities recognise that there is a need to promote the provision of more accommodation. It is noticeable that since the disappearance of the regional spatial strategy, something like 200,000 houses it is estimated will no longer be built that would have been built had those plans been progressed.

I add one further dimension to the prescription from the noble Lord, Lord Best, for encouraging new building. I entirely agree with him that it is very desirable for private builders and housing associations to help to cater for the needs of an increasingly ageing population and indeed others. To that I would add local authorities themselves. That might be something that they would appreciate. Perhaps as a quid pro quo for having the extra responsibility of drawing up plans for affordable housing, the fact that they might actually be able to provide some themselves might be an additional incentive. I hope that sweetener will persuade the noble Lord, Lord Best, that his qualification might safely be abandoned.

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Labour

My Lords, I support the principles of the amendment proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross. A whole section of this Bill later on in Part 6 deals with social housing and changes many of the existing arrangements for tenure, what the local authority is obliged to provide and tenants' rights. Some of them I support and some of them I strongly oppose. However, the whole point of a social housing strategy is that it relates to the totality of the housing need in the area. Unless there is a provision somewhere in this Bill, such as the provision suggested by this and related amendments, dealing with social housing in the abstract is nonsense.

All forms of housing tenure are in crisis. We know that a lot of people who would have got a mortgage by the age of 30 now can no longer get a mortgage until their late 30s or even into their 40s. More and more people are having to rent in the private sector and are being delayed in setting up an independent household. We know that the rate of household formation is growing because of various developments in society, but it is growing at twice the rate of new build housing. We therefore have to have an holistic approach to housing need, area by area. If we are not going to achieve the targets through the regional spatial strategies, which I admit were a bit Stalinist in their approach, we have to ensure that the local authorities themselves take responsibility for looking at housing need in their areas and assessing it against their private sector development plans and the social housing that they and the housing associations in their areas can provide.

Somewhere in this Bill we need to tell local authorities that part of their responsibility from now on must be assessing total housing need against costs, against price and against demographic trends. That is not covered by the 2004 Act in sufficient detail. Given what I would regard as something close to a crisis in the housing market in all forms of tenure, I think it would be appropriate for us to set that out in the Act. Then, when we consider the social housing provisions, we can set them against a requirement for every local authority to assess needs, supply, demand, price, and demographic and employment changes, and to set its social housing targets and provision against that background. Unless we do that, social housing is isolated and is a residual form of housing based on what is already there. It does not relate to the needs of the totality of the community in which local authorities operate. If the Government are prepared to accept the noble Baroness's amendment here, they need to say that at least somewhere in this Bill, and we need to ensure that local authorities behave accordingly.

Photo of Lord Taylor of Holbeach Lord Taylor of Holbeach Conservative

My Lords, this has been a very useful debate. I do not think that the Committee is very far apart on the essential importance of housing and making housing one of the key ingredients of the planning process. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross, for the typically intelligent and sensitive way in which she introduced her Amendment 148 and led the group.

The amendments that we are considering include those of the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, which seek this numerical assessment by a local authority of current and projected housing needs, the balance of affordable housing and proposals for addressing those needs in local development schemes, which are the documents setting out the programme and timetable for producing plans. Also required is the publication of annual reports of the matters reviewed and the changes proposed to implement local plans, and the publication of a review of a range of environmental, social and economic issues specified in the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 prior to preparing its local plan. As I said, I do not think that we are a million miles away on the objectives.

I hope that I will be able to satisfy the Committee that the provision in the Bill is adequate and will achieve what we are all seeking to do. I fully agree that local authorities should understand and plan for the differing housing needs of people of all ages in their area, including the elderly population, families with children and people in need of affordable housing. Affordable housing plays an important role in creating sustainable communities and our economy. Good quality housing for people in later life can promote health, well-being and independence and reduce the need for costly care. From what they have said, I think that almost all noble Lords would support the efficacy of extra care housing, as advocated by the noble Lord, Lord Best, in meeting a targeted need in this way. Strong strategy provisions already exist in the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, as noble Lords have said. Section 13 of the Act requires local planning authorities to keep under review matters that affect the development of their area, including the size, composition and distribution of the population in the area. This is a strong starting position from which to plan effectively for the needs of different groups of people.

National planning policy in this area is well understood and accepted. We intend to strengthen policy in the review that we are undertaking. As my noble friend Lord Cathcart said, planning policy statement 3 and its associated detailed guidance on strategic housing market assessment make it clear that local authority plans should be informed by a robust evidence base of housing need and demand in its area for market and affordable housing.

The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, is right: local authorities must look at housing policy in its totality-I think he used the word "holistic". Local authority plans should consider a range of issues including demographic trends and the accommodation requirements of specific groups, particularly families with children, older people and disabled people. Section 19 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act requires local planning authorities to have regard to national policy when preparing development plans in their area. The requirement to monitor and report annually on the implementation of their housing policy already exists in Regulation 48(7) of the 2004 regulations for local plans. Councils,

"must specify the number of dwellings built in the ... area".

Regulation 48(6) makes it clear that this number is,

"net additional dwellings in any part of the area of the authority".

That is a long-standing arrangement that councils agree with and which we are not changing. However, we want to strengthen the arrangement further and already propose to include a requirement to report on affordable housing as part of our new streamlined regulations, which were placed in the House Library this week for information. We want local authorities to be held to account for their performance by their communities, and the Bill will remove top-down involvement by Government as councils will publish information direct to the public in the interests of transparency and accountability.

Photo of Lord Taylor of Holbeach Lord Taylor of Holbeach Conservative

I am sorry, my Lords, my notes here say that it was placed in the House Library this week for information. Indeed, I think that I referred earlier to draft regulations that have been placed in the Library this week for the information of noble Lords. I hope that that will inform this debate. We are going on to debate housing, though probably not this evening, so noble Lords will have an opportunity to swot up on those.

The noble Baroness, Lady Greengross, mentioned neighbourhood planning. She wanted to know how it would protect minority groups. Neighbourhood plans will be tested at an independent examination and must have regard to the national policy and be in line with strategic elements of the local plan. Everyone has the right to be heard at the examination, and human rights issues can be considered.

I come to the point made before we broke by the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, about two authorities with some tension trying to deal with an issue that was affecting their neighbourhoods. Compliance with the duty to co-operate is assessed through the independent examination of draft local plans, and failure to demonstrate satisfactory compliance risks the local plan failing the examination. Having no local plan means that councils lose control of how their area will develop. This disfranchises their constituents, who will hold them to account, as I said in my previous comments.

I would like to correct something that I said. When I said that the draft regulations had been put in the Library this week, I meant last week. Unfortunately, we are all suffering from a slight sense of jet lag as the Bill is moving with such rapidity through the House.

The noble Lord, Lord Beecham, mentioned the low housing build. I am sure that noble Lords opposite will reflect on the fact that this extends back into the period of the previous Administration. We must remember that the market for housing has suffered for reasons entirely unconnected with planning. However, the experience is that numbers in regional plans did not provide a reliable indication of the number of homes actually being built. We know that indicative planning at the regional level for housing need caused huge stress within the system.

We will shortly be publishing the new national planning policy framework, which reviews all national planning policy. I know that my ministerial colleagues understand and take seriously ensuring that the new policy framework makes clear the need for local authorities to understand the housing needs of all people in their area and to monitor the effectiveness of their policies. We will shortly be consulting on the draft of the framework, and will listen to all the views on this and other areas to ensure that the policy is as strong as it can be. I hope that that encourages the noble Baroness and that she will feel free to withdraw her amendment.

Photo of Lord McKenzie of Luton Lord McKenzie of Luton Shadow Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government)

Before the noble Baroness answers, can I thank the Minister for alerting us to the regulations which have been posted in the Library? It is very difficult to keep abreast of what is going on in this Bill. We had some government amendments tabled yesterday of which we had no prior notice and it does not help an expeditious focus on the Bill.

Those, together with the NPPF, as soon as we get it, will reassure us on some of these points, although we would like to see this obligation embodied in primary legislation on the face of the Bill. My noble friend Lord Whitty encapsulated a debate which we will have more intensely in due course about the problems and challenges in respect of housing in the UK at the moment. Regional spatial strategies are not necessarily flavour of the month but, if you look at the record, there were years when they were beginning to deliver. If you look at 2007-08, we had the highest levels of house building for something like 20 years, just as that process was beginning to get under way.

I am grateful for the support of other noble Lords who have spoken and I am still unclear about the central issue of when you have a dispute between neighbouring authorities over housing provision and how, in terms of the examination of the plan and whether that plan is sound, those judgments will be made. I reiterate the point so that the noble Lord might reflect on it and possibly write in due course, certainly before Report. If you have two authorities which are at odds and take a different view, does the examination of the plan have to take a view as to which of those two authorities might be the most reasonable in their approach and therefore influence the outcome, or is that process in terms of co-operation just looking at whether each party played the game?

Photo of Lord Taylor of Holbeach Lord Taylor of Holbeach Conservative

One of the things the Bill provides for, as we have just discussed in Clause 95, is the duty to co-operate. It is not a light thing; it is a duty. I mentioned in the précis I gave in response to the noble Lord that there are sanctions against authorities whereby they run the risk of their local plan failing the examiner's test. If the noble Lord would like me to write to him specifically on that I will do so. I apologise if communications have been such that he has not had the usual courtesies extended in terms of being informed about government amendments.

Photo of Baroness Greengross Baroness Greengross Crossbench

I thank noble Lords who have supported this amendment and the Minister for responding in the positive way that he has. This is broader than social housing and, although I am really pleased to hear that everybody agrees that local authorities must know the facts in order to meet the needs of the local population, something is not working at the moment, as the examples I quoted demonstrate. Because there is so much good will towards getting this right, I hope that that is going to happen, with the work that is going to be undertaken and with the commitment of the Minister and the Government to get this right. I reserve my judgment as to whether anything needs to be taken further but, in the mean time, I thank noble Lords again and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 148 withdrawn.

Clause 96 : Local development schemes

Amendment 148ZZZA not moved.

Amendment 148ZZA

Moved by Lord Cotter

148ZZA: Clause 96, page 74, line 15, leave out subsection (2) and insert-

"(2) For subsection (3) (requirements as to preparation of schemes) substitute-

"(3) The local planning authority must have regard to sustainable development and Town Centre First Policy, as defined in accordance with subsection (3A).

(3A) The Secretary of State must lay before Parliament an order to define sustainable development and Town Centre First Policy.

(3B) A statutory instrument containing an order under this section may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.""

Photo of Lord Cotter Lord Cotter Liberal Democrat

My Lords, this amendment addresses the issue of keeping trade local. I am sure many Members, Ministers and others will be aware over a number of years that there have been sustained campaigns on this issue of keeping variety and choice for the consumer, the issue of protecting small shops and the issue for people in business as well as the local community of having choice.

The Federation of Small Businesses carried forward a strong campaign, including coming to Parliament, lobbying and getting a lot of support for this. In the light of this very large Bill, which we are struggling to get through in time, I could speak at great length on this issue, although I will not. However, it is a very big and important issue.

I shall say a few more words, hoping that the Minister will accept that this is a big issue that has been running for many years. We see the decline of town centres gathering pace. This amendment looks for statutory protection for a diverse, sustainable high street. No one can deny the need to keep our high streets and town centres vibrant and alive. Week by week, over many years and currently more than ever, we learn through our newspapers and the media generally how many town centres are withering away.

I do not expect many Members here tonight to have studied a Bill that I introduced, the Retail Development Bill. It passed through this House and I now have it in my hand. It was printed in January 2008. It more widely addressed the issue that I have just talked about in lots of different ways. That Bill was the result of my campaigning over many years on behalf of small shops and the support that I got from the community. I hope the Minister will at some stage perhaps at least refer to that Bill, which is far broader than the amendment I am moving tonight. Notwithstanding that, and for the reasons that I have given, I have tabled it because there is a great need to protect our local shops.

Without saying much more about it, I say to the Minister that the amendment deals with only a small part of the Bill, which is very comprehensive. However, I maintain that in one way or another, this amendment, addressed to this specific issue, is absolutely vital. I would be doing less than the duty that I feel to the community and its shops if I did not press forward with the amendment, and hope that this could be addressed in some way at some stage. It is, as I say, so important. On that basis, I beg to move.

Photo of Lord McKenzie of Luton Lord McKenzie of Luton Shadow Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government) 8:30 pm, 12th July 2011

My Lords, we have tabled Amendment 153AKA in this group. It requires the local authority to prepare and maintain a retail diversity scheme as part of the local development scheme. It calls for a sequential approach to the development of a hierarchy, putting existing centres first, followed by edge-of-centre locations and then out-of-centre sites. This is very much consistent with the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Cotter. I was interested to hear about his Retail Development Bill, which I must confess I have not studied in detail, although it seems that neither has his colleague who is sitting in front of him. Perhaps he has. Maybe I could borrow a copy during the Recess.

The amendment will be familiar in that it is a rerun of what was proposed in the other place. On reflection, we should have deleted the proposed power of direction for the Secretary of State. We have brought it back because it was spoken to warmly by the Minister, Greg Clark, who said:

"Policy on town centres has always been part of national planning policy ... I wish to signal clearly the importance of having robust policy, including the sequential test that is currently in planning policy statement 4. That will absolutely be in place, and it will be clear in the new national planning policy framework".-[Hansard, Commons, 17/5/11; col. 270.]

It is difficult for us to test that issue because we still do not have the new NPPF, but we live in hope.

The amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, which he has not yet spoken to, requires there to be an assessment of,

"the vitality and diversity of the shopping areas", and makes it necessary,

"to include appropriate policies to promote the vitality and diversity".

The noble Lord's amendment states that there must be a consultation, including with the traders. So far as it goes, we can and will support that amendment, but it is vital that there is clarity on the sequential approach. The existing vitality and diversity of shopping centres can dramatically be undermined by inappropriate out-of-town development.

I should recall that I spent a brief time as a Minister in CLG at the tail end of the previous Government, as well as trying to cope with DWP issues. As the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, will know, you are allocated planning issues to look at when they come forward, one of which stuck in my mind. There was a proposal for a significant retail development in an area, which would have been fantastic for that area in terms of jobs and the retail offering but would have destroyed three or more shopping centres in close proximity. There is an issue about how the duty to co-operate will work in such situations where there is a retail opportunity in one local planning area, which is substantially in the interests of that area, but could be of real detriment to other areas. We will follow with interest these issues around what the NPPF says and the extent to which that overlays local development plans.

The noble Lord, Lord Cotter, referred to the current situation on the high street. It is in a pretty dire state. Some 12,000 shops closed their doors in UK high streets last year, and 85 per cent of people feel less optimistic about the prospects for economic recovery when they see boarded-up shops in their local high street. In the past fortnight, Jane Norman went into administration, Carpetright shut 75 stores, and Habitat put 30 premises outside London into administration. Retailers Homeform, HMV, Comet, Mothercare, JJB Sports and Thorntons have recently been hit. Local Data Company states that 14.6 per cent of retail premises are now vacant. This indicates that approximately 50,000 units are not currently open to business on the UK high street, which shows just how challenging the situation is on the ground.

This matter is particularly relevant at this point for the economy of our country, and demonstrates that we need to do whatever we can through the planning process, as well as through other means, to preserve, protect, encourage and promote development on the high street. That is the purpose of these amendments, and I hope that the Minister will support and accept them.

Photo of Lord Greaves Lord Greaves Liberal Democrat

My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, said, I and my noble friend Lord Tope, have tabled Amendment 153AKC, which proposes a new clause, entitled,

"Health and diversity of town centres and high streets".

Before speaking directly to that amendment, I should first acknowledge the work of my noble friend Lord Cotter in this area over the years. He has been determined and diligent in pursuing these matters and is to be congratulated on bringing the amendment. It is true to say that the three amendments in the group are all rather different but address the same basic problem. I am sure that if the three of us sat around a table, we might well have been able to come up with an amendment with which we all agreed and would combine the best of all three amendments.

The amendment that I am proposing is slightly different because, unlike the others, it concentrates not so much on town centres but on town centres and high streets. That is not to say that town centres are not important-they are vital-but the shopping streets that we are talking about are not just in town centres. My amendment, which internally we are calling the "Cambridge amendment", comes from campaigners in a part of Cambridge called Mill Road-a shopping street that is not part of the town centre but is a district shopping street of great variety that is under threat. It was at the suggestion of the campaigners that resulted in us putting this amendment together. It clearly overlaps with the other amendment.

I want to speak to Amendment 153AKC, which relates to Section 19 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 about preparation of local development documents. I want to include an extra section in that, saying, first, that the duties in putting together the development documents should include,

"a requirement to assess the vitality and diversity of the shopping areas in the area".

Secondly, that:

"When preparing local development documents and other local planning documents the local planning authority must consider the results of that assessment and consider whether to include appropriate policies to promote the vitality and diversity of those shopping areas".

Thirdly, that:

"The local planning authority may prepare a scheme for retail vitality and diversity which may be a local development document or other local planning document".

The policies that we set out are similar to those in the amendment from the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, but a little different.

The local planning authority may,

"define a network of retail centres in the area ... assess the existing character and vitality of those centres ... designate the desired retail mix for each of these retail centres ... promote sustainability and diversity in the retail mix that is desired in each case".

In doing this, it must consult with the local community, which includes the traders in each shopping centre, and a shopping area means an area of town centre or high street where the substantial use is retail. So sustainability and diversity, which we are suggesting should be foremost in these policies, means that there is an appropriate balance of independent and multiple traders, of unit sizes, and balances of classes of use.

We are putting the emphasis on what is there now. The Labour Party amendment, if I can put it that way, talks about the importance of maintaining the existing policy of the sequential test. If there is a proposal for a new supermarket, can it be fitted in the town centre, can it be at the edge of the town centre, can it be at the edge of town, or does it have to be in the countryside? It is very important that that is maintained, but it is not the only important thing. If you are having a new supermarket, or even a new relatively small Tesco- or Sainsbury's-type store, like a Tesco Express, the issue is not just where it is, but also the effect it will have on the balance of shopping in its area.

In some areas, it might do more damage if it is in the high street than if it is 10 miles away in the countryside. According to a campaign there, Mill Road in Cambridge is described as having an eclectic range of small, specialist independent retailers; as the most ethnically diverse part of the city; and as Cambridge's Brick Lane. A Tesco Express opened some time ago to widespread concern, and now a Sainsbury's Express wants to open on the other side of the bridge. The fear is that this will seriously undermine the independent local shops, which are a combination of ordinary food shops and specialist shops. If the food element comes under intense competition, those shops might then become unviable. It is suggested that policy and guidance is changed so that the local planning authority can take much more vigorous action to take these issues into account and, if necessary, turn down planning applications if they are thought to be detrimental to the diversity and vitality of a particular high street, whether in the town centre or elsewhere.

This is not just a Cambridge issue. We all saw on television the remarkable scenes in Bristol, where there were riots at night that apparently were connected with the opening of a similar type of convenience store in a street there. For those who live in relatively small towns, as I do, the vitality of our town centres is a very similar issue. In my own town of Colne, there are a lot of small independent shops, and maintaining that vitality and diversity means that we need the policy handles to be able to resist developments that, even if they are in the town centre and high streets, could be detrimental to their future.

Again, that is a very localist view, because it will put more power in the hands of the local authority and local people. There is no magic answer. Keeping the shopping centre and the high street going requires hard work not just by the traders but by the whole community, but it can be done. There are examples around the country where it is being done, and we need to do what we can to stop that being undermined.

Photo of Earl Cathcart Earl Cathcart Conservative 8:45 pm, 12th July 2011

My Lords, I agree with the sentiments of what everyone has been said so far. We must revitalise town centres. We have all learnt from the mistakes of out-of-town shopping, with its free car parking. In Fakenham, in Norfolk, when a new shopping centre opened about 15 or 20 years ago, within six months, 26 town-centre shops shut. That was very sad, and it is very difficult to get them back again. The other mistake made is that too many councils charge for town-centre car parking. That is daft. If you want to encourage people to use the town centre, make it as easy as possible for them to pop in there, go to the bank and then go into the butcher, baker and candlestick maker without any car parking charges. That is an irritant. Those who charge are being very shortsighted.

Photo of Lord True Lord True Conservative

My Lords, if my noble friend wants to come to our high street, he can have 30 minutes of free parking. The Mill Road story, to which my noble friend referred, is extremely interesting. Unfortunately, the Tesco Express, which was its original focus, was successful. There are defects with all the amendments before the Committee; I hope that my noble friend will not feel that all of them have to be addressed.

I was very encouraged by what was said in the other place. One difficulty is that not everyone has the same view of vitality. My predecessor as leader of my council from another party said that he would be delighted if he heard that a Tesco was opening in his area, because it would bring people to that shopping area. We must address head-on the nature of the retail multiple and the manner of the high street. Can my noble friend assure us that before we finish examining the Bill, when we have seen the national framework, that Parliament will give local authorities real power to deal with the problems which my noble friends, Lord Cotter and Lord Greaves, and the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, raised? That is all I ask for at this stage, not a detailed commitment. I hope that my noble friend can give that assurance.

Photo of Lord Beecham Lord Beecham Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow Spokesperson (Health)

My Lords, I warmly endorse the thrust of the three amendments. It is clearly desirable to have a proper planning framework to encourage retail diversity. However, although that is necessary, it is not a sufficient condition of ensuring that we get retail diversity. There are other significant considerations, particularly financial considerations and other policies which may militate against the achievement of the aspirations of the amendments-with which I entirely concur.

I can cite examples from my experience. When I was chairman of the development committee in Newcastle, I tried to persuade our partners in the city centre shopping centre-we were partners because we owned a substantial stake in it-to diversify the offer to try to get away from chainstores, which were pretty much all we had there, and provide for some niche retailing. Despite the fact that we were significant shareholders, I was totally unable to persuade them to do that.

In another example of the Tesco influence, in the west end of Newcastle adjoining a street in an ethnically mixed area with a lot of little local shops and one or two other retailers, Tesco has secured planning permission to build a largish store on the site of a former hospital. The hospital is very keen to get the money from it, for obvious reasons. I am afraid that council officials supported the recommendation, and indeed an inspector upheld the recommendation. So we have a Tesco store not far from the town centre that is likely to do serious damage to local shopping.

I fear there are policies that might encourage that kind of trade-off, where you are effectively getting a financial benefit-in that case for the hospital but in other cases for the local authority itself. Most of us welcome the proposal for tax increment financing but that puts a premium on promoting development that will generate significant rateable value on which you are then going to borrow. There will be a temptation, frankly, to push that kind of development at the expense of the kind of development that these amendments are interested in promoting, which is less likely to contribute hugely in terms of rates and certainly is more difficult to put together. So you potentially have a policy that might militate against the thrust of these amendments.

We are also now going to get a range of enterprise zones. I do not know if the Minister can tell us whether there will be any restrictions this time round on retail developments in the enterprise zones. As I understand it, it is pretty much carte blanche for whoever develops these zones. Again, I speak from experience-and there are other Members of your Lordships' House who will know the kind of damage that was done to city centre shopping in places like Newcastle, Manchester, Sheffield and Birmingham by some very substantial out-of-town shopping developments in enterprise zones. Enterprise zones were originally designed to promote investment in manufacturing industry and so on. It would be unfortunate if again they were to be captured by the interests of large retail developers, thereby threatening diversity in existing centres.

These amendments are entirely on the right lines and I hope that the Government will consider them very seriously. However, I also ask them to recognise that there is a need to look at the other policies that impinge on this area and try to ensure that there is a sensible look across the piece at the implications of a range of policies on the objectives that these amendments seek to promote. Perhaps that is a debate for another occasion but I do not think that we can look at these things in isolation. We need to bring them together, and I hope that these amendments may help us start to do that.

Photo of Lord Taylor of Holbeach Lord Taylor of Holbeach Conservative

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for participating in this useful debate on this group of amendments, which has been informed by my noble friend Lord Cotter's Retail Development Bill and his experience in this area. I am very grateful to him for moving his amendment. As noble Lords, including my noble friend Lord Greaves, have said, the amendments in this group raise similar issues around town centre policy and retail diversity. The noble Lord, Lord Beecham, is absolutely right: a healthy retail economy is the most important thing in maintaining healthy town centres.

We understand and share the concern to ensure that developments should be sustainable. Planning has a key role in achieving this. The coalition's commitment to this should not be in doubt. We also acknowledge the value to communities of prosperous and diverse high streets. Town centres are key to sustainable growth and local prosperity. They are at the heart of neighbourhoods, giving communities easier access to shops and services. The noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, is right that the Government have already made a clear commitment in debates on this Bill in another place-and, as noble Lords will know, as part of the Budget-that we will maintain strong policies that put town centres first for new retail development.

Perhaps I can address the interest expressed by my noble friend Lord Greaves in Mill Road, which is no doubt an important local area in Cambridge. Local councils have many tools to support local shops-not just planning but business improvements districts and, under this Bill, neighbourhood plans-and to bring complementary developments to the area. There are levers available to assist within the armoury that local authorities have at their disposal.

However, I just caution noble Lords that there is a risk that these amendments are a backdoor attempt to get at supermarkets. We must be clear that town centre planning policy is not pro or anti-supermarkets. Planning cannot seek to restrict lawful competition between retailers; in fact, planning policy is, and has always been-under all Governments and under different controlling administrations of local councils-blind to whether the operator of a retail proposal is a supermarket or an independent. We want the right scale and type of development in the right location to meet people's shopping needs. That is the issue that we need to be addressing. That is what planning policy can support local councils to achieve in a more practical manner than legislation.

Perhaps I may deal with the point that the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, made earlier, when he asked about the duty to co-operate in situations where the impact or influence that a development might have crosses local council boundaries. This is analogous to the housing issue. The duty to co-operate is not actually the main safeguard in this respect. Retail developments in one council area must be assessed for their impact on town centres in the catchment area. If catchment areas cross local council boundaries, it makes no difference-the impacts must still be assessed on the basis of the catchment area. This particular safeguard therefore already exists in planning practice.

Photo of Lord Beecham Lord Beecham Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow Spokesperson (Health)

My Lords, I just wonder about the definition of town centres. In an area like Newcastle, the town centre is obvious, but in an area like Doncaster or Kirklees, where a number of towns are brought together under one unitary authority, what would be the definition of a town centre? I am sure that the Minister understands my point.

Photo of Lord Taylor of Holbeach Lord Taylor of Holbeach Conservative

I think that I can help the noble Lord. Large centres of population have clearly identifiable city or town centres, but the outer suburbs usually have shopping malls and streets that are very important as neighbourhood shopping areas. We really want to be able to strengthen all these traditional shopping areas that people have been able to access. The whole purpose of this is of course to make sure that we do not lose the heart that lies at the centre of all our great communities. The issue applies just as much to a market town-or coastal town, as we were discussing earlier today-as it does to a large city. That is the focus. I will go on to say that the long-expected, shortly-to-arrive national planning policy framework will indeed make clear what our position is on that.

It is really up to the local council to decide what constitutes its view of a town centre and what it wants for the local population. After all, local councils are best placed to set locally relevant policies for the scale and type of retailer they want to see in their area and to integrate them with other policies on housing and economic growth. The best place to do that, then as now, is in the local plan rather than in a separate retail diversity scheme. Earlier, the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, mentioned the word "holistic". I quite like that word because I think planning should be done on an holistic basis. More widely, local authorities can work with local businesses to help them offer a distinctive and attractive product to consumers using tools such as business improvement districts.

The noble Lord, Lord Beecham, asked a specific question about enterprise zones. Any retail development in an enterprise zone will still be subject to the strong town centre first policy as in national planning policy. I hope that that satisfies the noble Lord that the Government are ensuring that this matter is addressed properly. Further, I hope that my responses encourage the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Lord True Lord True Conservative 9:00 pm, 12th July 2011

Before my noble friend sits down, may I say that I was disappointed by his absolutely granite remarks about supermarkets? There are serious issues around what is a vital, viable, sustainable and diverse high street. Many factors are involved, both economic and social, and I do not think that Parliament can for ever lag behind public opinion on this matter. We all acknowledge and respect small shops in high streets, but the reality is that, up and down the country, people believe that our high streets are being systematically parasitised in a property grab by a small number of large businesses, which frankly do not worry too much about the profitability of individual sites.

I do not know whether the answer lies in this Bill or in planning, but I would submit that in social terms Parliament must address this matter with some seriousness and urgency. The nature of our high streets is changing. I believe that it is changing too fast and, as I have asked in the course of our discussions on the Bill, we should at least look to see whether there is a way we can do slightly more to protect the diversity of our high streets. That may be through giving grants and setting up business districts, but we do not have the resources to do that kind of thing. However, if we could bar the gate to one or two predators, I believe that that would be extremely helpful.

Photo of Baroness Byford Baroness Byford Conservative

My Lords, before the Minister responds to my noble friend, perhaps I may say that I am certainly a great advocate of variety and choice. However, it worries me that it is actually the shoppers themselves who do not support independent shops. That is why those shops have been squeezed out of many places. We need to resolve that in a philosophical way, and I am not sure how that can be done within this Bill.

I understand the point that has been made all around the Committee and I am sympathetic to it, but what we see, particularly in smaller towns, is that people will use the shops in a minor way but continue to do their bulk buying in a supermarket because that suits them better. This is the dilemma we face. Occasionally I think we ought to put our feet where our mouth is, if I can use such a dreadfully vulgar expression. I am not sure how this is to be done in a Bill. I should like to add a word of caution. I am a huge supporter of independents and we use our local shops whenever we can, but we are lucky in that our village is quite large and still has a variety of shops. In some areas, the shops have disappeared, so the nearest shop is probably in fact a supermarket.

Photo of Lord Taylor of Holbeach Lord Taylor of Holbeach Conservative

Perhaps I might respond because otherwise we will prolong a discussion about something that is not particularly apposite to this group of amendments. I believe that all sides of the Committee have faith in liberal market economies, and one of the effects of liberal market economies is that consumers tend to make their own choices. My noble friend Lady Byford pointed that out. I am really rather sorry that my noble friend Lord True is slightly less enamoured with the market, but I would say to noble Lords that retailing is a highly competitive business. Any noble Lord who has been engaged with retailing in any way will know just how competitive it can be. Indeed, it is changing all the time. The latest development in the area from which I come is not a shop but a shed, where people go to collect their orders that they have placed online.

I am sorry, but we live in rapidly changing times. It is a great challenge to local communities and a great challenge to those who are trusted by election to run local authorities, but the Bill is designed to give local authorities power to set the framework in which I suspect noble Lords will all accept that the market has to operate. I hope that it is possible for noble Lords not to press their amendments at this stage.

Photo of Lord Greaves Lord Greaves Liberal Democrat

I shall certainly not move my amendment when I come to it, but I want to make a slightly different point. My amendment does not in any way suggest that there should not be supermarkets of any size. It suggests that in any particular place there should be an appropriate balance which ought to be determined by local people in the normal processes of discussion and so on. It may well be that it is unreasonable to keep out a small supermarket from a shopping street. It seems to me that it is not unreasonable to prevent that shopping street being turned over to three or four such shops, or two or three such shops, which then drive the others out-that is not a matter of competition, it is anti-competition, because it is driving out the people who cannot compete at that level. Obviously, we all agree with the market, but I agree entirely with my noble friend Lord True-the Government need to think a bit more about this.

It is absolutely true that it is a very difficult world out there for retailers, but shopping centres, high streets and town centres can, to a degree, make their own fortune. If there is sufficient campaigning desire locally, as there is at Mill Road in Cambridge, that must in itself be a plus factor in keeping that shopping street going as a diverse street. I will refer yet again to my own town of Colne where, over decades, there have been active groups of local councillors, traders, residents, historians and others interested in the town centre who have formed organisations, campaigned and actually rolled up their sleeves and done things to make Colne an attractive place to be. If you have a shopping centre and a high street which is attractive and somewhere local people are proud of, that gives the traders, who are all part of this, a head start. There are a great many towns the same size as Colne across the north of England which have something like 30 per cent or 40 per cent of their properties boarded up and empty now. I dare not say that Colne is thriving, because every time I say that, the local people-

Photo of Lord Taylor of Holbeach Lord Taylor of Holbeach Conservative

May I remind noble Lords that I have responded on behalf of the Government to these amendments and I believe that the noble Lord is reiterating arguments which have been very well laid before the Committee already. We want to get through quite a lot of business and I hope that my noble friend will appreciate my interruption-I hope that I have not annoyed him to the point at which he will press his amendment. Perhaps he will wind up.

Photo of Lord Greaves Lord Greaves Liberal Democrat

I shall say one more thing. I apologise if I am going on too long. I invite the noble Lord, who is into flowers, to come to Colne and look at all the flowers in Colne now, done by the wonderful organisation Colne in Bloom as part of the Britain in Bloom system. He would be proud of it and it is the kind of thing that keeps people in the town and encourages people to shop there. I invite him to come to Colne; he would be proud of all the flowers there.

Photo of Lord Cotter Lord Cotter Liberal Democrat

I thank the Minister for his responses. I deliberately said, in proposing my amendment, that I did not want to go on too long, because it is a very big issue and we know what pressure we are under on the Bill, so I will try to resist going on too long now. However, I say to the Minister that this is a very big issue. The few of us here this evening, including my noble friends Lady Byford and Lord True, and the noble Lords, Lord McKenzie and Lord Beecham, have come forward with tangible examples. If the House was full, which I do not expect it to be at this time of night-let us say that it was Question Time and everybody was here-I could guarantee that many people would come forward with many more.

I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Greaves for his support and for his example from Cambridge, which encapsulated what has been happening throughout the country for many years. Other noble Lords came up with other examples. Were we to have had a full debate, the number of examples would have been enormous. I shall resist trying to go on too long. It was good to hear the Minister express awareness of many similar problems throughout the country and talk about the need for healthy town centres. He spoke of the coalition's commitment to high streets and local shops and its desire to strengthen shopping areas. Although it is above my pay grade, he referred to the national planning framework coming along the line, as if that were something we can hope will help in this particular area.

It has been striking that, while the amendments are quite different, their whole thread expresses the same concern. I shall not go on very much longer, because I realise that we are under pressure. I did not wish this to become a discussion about the benefits or otherwise of market forces-we all approve of market forces, and I do not wish there to be a battle between supermarkets and small shops. However, when one goes down that road, one picks up the fact that, if you get a supermarket in an area, it reduces its prices until such time as it drives other competitors out. I shall not pursue that further save to say that very complicated issues surround market forces, competition and such like. Although I shall seek to withdraw my amendment, the concerns remain. I am sure that the Minister has listened to this debate, will perhaps have a fresh look at my retail development Bill-which addresses a particular aspect of this matter-but also have regard to the points put forward by my noble friend Lord Greaves, the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, and many others, which tangibly express a major concern for this country. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 148ZZA withdrawn.

Clause 96 agreed.

Amendment 148ZZB

Moved by Baroness Smith of Basildon

148ZZB: After Clause 96, insert the following new Clause-

"Development plan documents: climate change and carbon budgets

(1) Section 19 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 is amended as follows.

(2) For subsection (1A) substitute-

"(1A) Development plan documents must include policies designed to secure that the development and use of land in the local planning authority's area-

(a) achieves reductions of greenhouse gas emissions in line with the carbon budgets set under the Climate Change Act 2008; and

(b) meets the current national planning policy objectives on assessing the risk of and adapting to climate change in relation to that area.""

Photo of Baroness Smith of Basildon Baroness Smith of Basildon Shadow Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change)

My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendment 150ZA. The amendments were inspired by existing legislation to which the Government have already signed up, mainly the Climate Change Act 2008. The Government have agreed to and supported an overall target of a 60 per cent cut in CO2 on 1990 levels by 2030. That cannot be achieved unless there is real commitment behind it. That commitment cannot be isolated in the silo of just one government department; it has to be a theme across all government policies. If the Government wish to achieve their objective, there must be a culture change whereby all departments and Ministers in them have to be aware of the impact of policies which might seem unrelated on the Government's commitment. If the Government are truly serious about meeting that commitment, as I believe they are, that is what they have to do.

In many ways, there is nothing new in these amendments, which I hope will make it easier for the Minister to accept them. They do not seek to introduce new policies; they seek merely to assist the Government in making those linkages and connections between this proposed legislation and legislation that is already on the statute book.

The noble Lord and I spent many hours on the Energy Bill and we heard the Minister then say that the Government wanted to be the greenest Government ever. We wholeheartedly support the Government in that objective and we offer to help whenever possible and to be supportive. It is in that spirit that we bring forward these two modest and sensible amendments. If the Government cannot accept them tonight, I urge the noble Lord to take them away, consider them further and perhaps bring them back as government amendments in due course.

The amendments set this legislation in the context of the existing legislation. On Amendment 148ZZB, at present the duty to consider climate change applies to the preparation of LDFs but not-this is very important -to neighbourhood planning. The amendment seeks to bring the obligation to consider climate change into local planning. At the end of the existing Section 38A, it would include that it,

"achieves reductions of greenhouse gas emissions in line with the carbon budgets set under the Climate Change Act 2008" and ... meets the current national planning policy objectives on assessing the risk of and adapting to climate change in relation to that area".

Amendment 150ZA provides for a stronger and clearer obligation on local councils to consider the implications of mitigation and adaptation and the provisions of the Climate Change Act to making their plans. There is no confusion about the Government's intentions. It is clear that the legislation is working with existing legislation and not against it or undermining it.

It may assist the noble Lord in considering this issue to know that there is very widespread support from all quarters for both amendments. I shall not read the entire list-that might tempt his patience with me-but it includes organisations such as the Campaign for National Parks, the Council for British Archaeology, the Environmental Law Foundation, the Royal Town Planning Institute, the RSPB, the Town and Country Planning Association and many other wildlife and environmental groups. It may also be of assistance if I point out that Birmingham City Council, which is, at the moment, a Tory and Liberal Democrat controlled council, and the London Borough of Sutton, which is a Liberal Democrat Council, both support these amendments. I hope that on that basis the noble Lord will be able to accept them.

Photo of Lord Berkeley Lord Berkeley Labour 9:15 pm, 12th July 2011

My Lords, I support these amendments. In some ways they are no-brainers: it is so obvious that they need to be there to close the gap that my noble friend mentioned.

Proposed new subsection (1A)(b) in subsection (2) of the amendment covers flooding risk, which gets greater all the time. However, many local authorities, sadly, do not take that into account when they allow new developments. Going back 20 years, there was an amazing story in Cornwall where someone wanted to develop a site near the beach in St Austell Bay. The developer produced the plans and everything went fine but the local people said, "The sea will overtop it"-many tens of millions of pounds had been spent on this development by then-but the developer said no and the council said nothing. A week later the sea did overtop it and flooded a large area. It was a high tide, which happens every now and then. Five years on, planning permission was finally obtained for this enormous development but with a very much higher sea wall. The amount of money and time wasted by people not taking into account the risks of climate change are tremendous.

I remind the Committee that proposed new subsection (1A) means including policies to encourage walking, cycling, public transport and much less use of the car; and the location of schools, hospitals and other such places where there is so often a consolidation which means that people have to travel much further to use them through no fault of their own. These issues never seem to come into the assessment. I hope that when the Minister responds he will support the amendment or come back with one in his own words if he thinks it is defective in its drafting, which I have heard him suggest before.

Photo of Lord Boyd of Duncansby Lord Boyd of Duncansby Labour

This is the first time that I have spoken in this stage of the Bill so I declare an interest as a solicitor in private practice, mostly in Scotland but also to some extent in England. I want to make two quick points. First, the Climate Change Act establishes legally binding objectives and targets for the reduction of carbon emissions by 2050. The development plan is the way in which the built environment is shaped for the future. It is really important that we ensure a seamless see-through in meeting these targets. The development plan is an important element that.

Secondly, the national policy statements on nationally significant infrastructure projects all have within them considerable sections targeted at climate change. The Government are to be congratulated on taking forward those national policy statements in that way. There is an argument that, if the national policy statements make such a priority of ensuring that developments meet the carbon target, surely the development plan fulfils a similar function.

Photo of Lord Taylor of Holbeach Lord Taylor of Holbeach Conservative

I share the concern of those wishing to be ambitious in meeting the challenges of climate change. I also agree that planning has a big part to play. We have underlined this in the carbon plan, our response to the Environmental Audit Committee's report on adaptation and-as the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, will know-the renewable energy road map published today. The national planning policy framework, which we will publish very shortly for consultation, will make tackling climate change a priority for planning.

We already have a climate change duty on plan-making which was introduced by the previous Government. That duty seemed to them to be sensible and I agree-let me explain why. The current, existing duty expects a local council's development plan documents, taken as a whole as their local plan, to include policies designed to contribute to mitigating and adapting to climate change. Neighbourhood development plans will need to be in general conformity with the strategic policies in local plans, including policies on climate change. The national planning policy framework will be clear on planning's important role in rising to the climate change challenge. On the point of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, the NPPF will be clear on the need to cut carbon emissions and properly adapt to the impacts of climate change, including flooding.

Local planning authorities must have regard to national policy in preparing their development plan documents, as well as in determining planning applications. Neighbourhood development plans will need to be appropriate, having regard to this national policy. The current duty is a sensible approach-I hope that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Boyd of Duncansby, will accept that. It reflects that places are different and will be able to make different contributions to tackling climate change. It also recognises that not every development plan document, as a component of the local plan, can make the same contribution. One of the anxieties I have about these amendments, for example, is how every local planning authority would ensure that development in their area achieves reductions of greenhouse gas emissions in line with the national carbon budgets. Places are very different. Some are able to make big contributions, others less so however hard they try. For instance, some have natural energy resources, be it geothermal or wind in more exposed rural areas, that other areas just do not have.

While I understand the direction of travel intended by the two amendments in this group, I do not believe it will help get us to where we want to be in a trouble-free way. For that reason, I cannot support these amendments. I reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, that the combination of the existing duty and planning policy within the framework provided by the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 makes this amendment unnecessary and I hope she will feel able to withdraw it, because I do not think there is any disagreement between us on the objectives we are seeking to achieve. It is just whether these amendments achieve that objective.

Photo of Baroness Smith of Basildon Baroness Smith of Basildon Shadow Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change)

I am grateful to the noble Lord and, if I understand him correctly, he is saying the amendments are unnecessary because such provisions are already included. I suppose I had hoped that the temptation of joined-up government would have been irresistible and he would have wanted to accept these amendments to the Bill to make it absolutely clear that this is a thread that runs through all government policies.

I will take away and listen to what he has said. I am not for one minute suggesting that in every case the same contribution should be made to neighbourhood plans, but there should be some consideration of these issues at every level of the planning stage. I am grateful for his explanation. There is not much between us in terms of what we are seeking to do but I will look at that and be happy to withdraw my amendment at this stage.

Amendment 148ZZB withdrawn.

Clause 97 : Adoption and withdrawal of development plan documents

Amendment 148ZZZZBA not moved.

Amendment 148ZZZZBB

Moved by Lord Greaves

148ZZZZBB: Clause 97, Page 75, line 32, leave out from "modifications" to end of line 33

Photo of Lord Greaves Lord Greaves Liberal Democrat

My Lords, the numbering is getting bizarre but the content of the amendments makes up for it. I will also speak to the other amendments in this group. We are now on to the fairly short section of the Bill that deals with local development schemes and Clause 97 about the adoption and withdrawal of development plan documents. The purpose of these amendments is to set local authorities free, once again, to make their own decisions in a considered way, following independent examination by an inspector.

Individual documents make up the local development framework, the local plan, under the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004-the Act that was going to deliver our new streamlined planning system but has not quite worked out that way. Before then, the local plan was put to inspection-a public inquiry and an examination by an inspector. He or she made recommendations to the local authority and the local authority then had the freedom to accept those recommendations or not, modify them, or accept them in part or whatever they wished to do.

In 2004, the system was changed so the local authority, in effect, has to adopt what the inspector says. If the inspector says it is okay it has to be adopted; if the inspector recommends modifications they have to be accepted exactly as proposed. The local authority can decide not to follow the inspector's decision but if it does it is back to square 1 and has to produce its plan all over again.

I remember my noble friend Lady Hamwee opposing the changes in 2004 with some eloquence and we can all go back and read her speeches and others from then, so you do not need much more from me. However, there is a principle here-local authorities are elected and they should be responsible for agreeing their own plans. Nobody is objecting to the process of inspection and examination and most authorities in the past adopted most of what the independent inspector proposed, but they did not have to and could make up their own minds.

There was a promise, which I thought the coalition Government were going to deliver, of freeing local planning authorities to make up their own minds once again. However, what we have in front of us in this Bill is a very weak relaxation of restrictions, which does not fundamentally change the position. Under the Bill, local authorities can make additional modifications to those proposed by the independent examiner, but only if they do not make material changes to the policies in the plan. In other words, they can tidy up a few loose ends but that is about that. The purpose of these amendments is, essentially, to remove Sections 21 and 27 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 in order to free local authorities to make up their own mind. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Taylor of Holbeach Lord Taylor of Holbeach Conservative 9:30 pm, 12th July 2011

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for introducing these amendments. I understand his purpose, but we are not minded to accept them. We are concerned particularly about the first two amendments, Amendments 148ZZZZBB and 148ZZZZBC, because they would reintroduce regulatory bureaucracy by restricting councils from making small text edits, such as correcting mistakes, page numbers and notation, before adopting their development plan documents. We do not see that that can possibly be justified.

If noble Lords are concerned that councils are being given powers to adopt or change policies without proper public debate, I reassure them that this is not the case. The Bill makes sure that councillors can adopt plans only when they are considered suitable by the inspector. We trust councillors to prepare plans that reflect local needs and bring forward sustainable economic growth.

Amendment 148ZZZZBD seeks to remove the Secretary of State's existing powers to direct withdrawal of a council's local plans during examination. We disagree with my noble friend on this issue, and we think that this is bottom-up. We have introduced Clause 97(5) to retain the existing backstop power in exceptional circumstances only, alongside our proposals in Clause 97(4), which will allow councils to withdraw their plans at any time before adoption. We believe that that is the right approach.

Amendments 148ZZZZBE, 148ZZZZBF and 148ZZZZBG collectively seek to remove sections from the 2004 planning Act that allow the Secretary of State to intervene in the preparation of local plans. These are existing long-standing measures that have not been used by this Government. In a practical sense, the powers are simply existing safeguards, which a future Government may consider it appropriate to use in the highly exceptional circumstance when a council is unwilling or unable to develop plans for their area. It acts as a useful reminder for local communities that their own councils should plan properly on their behalf and that they can hold them to account. I hope that with those assurances the noble Lord is prepared to withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Lord Greaves Lord Greaves Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I am prepared to withdraw my amendment. I did not think I would get anywhere, but it is still very disappointing. The Minister said that the Government trust local councils to produce plans that will produce sustainable development, and so on. The truth of the matter is that no Government nowadays trust local councils at all unless they do what the Government or the inspector want, or follow the detailed rules and regulations. It is a very sad state of affairs, but it is clearly going to continue for some time. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 148ZZZZBB withdrawn.

Amendments 148ZZZZBC to 148ZZZZBG not moved.

Amendment 148ZZZZBH

Moved by Lord McKenzie of Luton

148ZZZZBH: Clause 97, Page 76, line 13, at end insert-

"( ) In section 23 (adoption of local development documents) after subsection (3) insert-

"(4) Subject to subsection (5), if a development plan document has not been adopted by the date that this subsection is brought into force, it cannot constitute a reason for refusing planning permission.

(5) Subsection (4) does not apply in relation to a replacement or revision of an adopted development plan document that is sustainable.""

Photo of Lord McKenzie of Luton Lord McKenzie of Luton Shadow Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government)

My Lords, this is a probing amendment, prompted by the National Housing Federation. It specifically focuses on an authority that has not adopted its local plan document and provides that this cannot constitute a reason for refusing planning permission. In a sense, this picks up just part of the federation's proposition, which sets this in the context of a statutory definition of sustainable development and the presumption in favour of sustainable development. We have already discussed definitions of sustainable development and whether they should be enshrined in primary legislation, and we touched on the Government's draft presumption in favour of sustainable development. We will doubtless return to these points on Report.

In the mean time, we have the demise of regional spatial strategies, no agreement-as the noble Lord, Lord Best, said last week-to preserve for at least a limited period related policies that are not directly incorporated into LDPs, and no draft official NPPF. Perhaps the Minister could spell out for us how things will work when local planning authorities have not yet adopted a local development plan. It must be right that the absence of a plan cannot automatically be used to deny an application for planning permission. However, is the Minister's position that, where a local plan is not yet complete, it is necessary to look just at the NPPF, given that the Government have heralded this as a framework that sets out government priorities only to the extent that it is relevant, proportionate and necessary to do so? Do they not envisage distinctive local and indeed neighbourhood issues that are clearly outwith the NPPF?

Clearly the answer to all this is for local authorities to get on and approve their LDPs. However, we should acknowledge that they are faced with challenges on resources-challenges faced generally by local authorities-that are not made easier by the requirement to support neighbourhood planning and not helped by the hiatus caused by the actions of the Secretary of State when coming into office. Nevertheless, I stress that this is a probing amendment, and I would be interested to hear the Minister's response to this issue.

Photo of Lord True Lord True Conservative

My Lords, I am conscious of the need to make haste and I am perhaps making too much. There are a lot of "nots" in this amendment. Obviously where local development frameworks are in place, local authorities are consistently working on development plan documents. In any clarification that may be being made, we would not want to arrive at a situation in which an emerging policy of an authority, which is traditionally given some weight by planning committees and often by the inspector, is disallowed because the final plan has not yet been formally adopted after the hearing by the inspector. I do not expect my noble friend to respond in detail on that point, but it is an extremely important point because emerging DPDs are very often the reflection of the latest thinking of local people and a response to localist pressure.

Photo of Lord Taylor of Holbeach Lord Taylor of Holbeach Conservative

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, is quite right in moving this probing amendment to emphasise that the preparation of plans is a great challenge for local authorities. It is central to the Localism Bill and is certainly very important for them. We believe in a timely plan-led system, free from unnecessary targets imposed by central government. We trust local councils and their communities to choose to prepare plans where they feel that they need to shape development in their areas as quickly as they can. This is why we have been careful to retain the basic process of developing local plans, including public examination, and we are trying to make them work better in the interests of transparency and accountability.

The noble Lord's amendment, which I accept is probing, would penalise councils without adopted plans in place by the time the Bill is enacted. I think we would all accept that this would not achieve good, responsible local planning. Perhaps I can help the noble Lord, because we agree that councils should get on with their plans. Our presumption in favour of sustainable development would be the right tool to ensure that planning applications are considered. We are clear that the presumption should be that councils should say yes to development if their plans are out of date. While we share the previous Government's ambition that the plans should not be delayed, we know that their approach of top-down deadlines imposed in the 2004 Act just did not work.

In addition, the amendment also comes across as an unnecessarily centralising measure. Instead we want to use positive incentives, such as the new homes bonus and the community infrastructure levy, to encourage councils to plan properly. We are clear that councils will be expected to say yes to development where their plans are out of date. There is a steady flow of plans coming through and we do not believe that legislating for deadlines is the right approach. The aforementioned NPPF and a policy presumption in favour of sustainable development are the right tools. Together they are more immediate and effective levers that will incentivise the same behaviour.

The amendment would also undermine a fundamental part of the system by removing the discretion from the decision-maker to determine what issues should be material considerations to an individual case. With those assurances, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, is in a position to withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Lord McKenzie of Luton Lord McKenzie of Luton Shadow Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government)

I am grateful to the Minister. I will certainly withdraw the amendment, but I am still a little unclear about the situation in which the local planning authority has not yet gone through the processes and got its local development plan in place. What will determine the acceptability of planning permissions that are sought in the interim? Very soon there will be the NPPF but I understand that it will be written at a fairly generic level-necessarily, as this is the virtue that has been made of it by the Government-so it will not pick up a lot of detail. How will those issues be settled, with the lacuna of no current plan? On what criteria will planning applications be made?

Photo of Lord Taylor of Holbeach Lord Taylor of Holbeach Conservative

I think I gave the noble Lord the answer to this when I said that the presumption would be that the planning should be in accordance with the NPPF and any other material considerations. Outside that, the presumption must be that approval is given, so there is an incentive for local authorities to get these plans in place.

Photo of Lord Berkeley Lord Berkeley Labour

Could the Minister clarify that? Is there not going to be a sort of bonanza before the LDP is finally approved? Before that, all the applicants will have to do is comply with the NPPF, which must be a very high-level document. Will there not be a flood of planning applications that, as the Minister said, the local authority will probably have to approve?

Photo of Lord Taylor of Holbeach Lord Taylor of Holbeach Conservative

My Lords, there is an incentive for local authorities to get these plans in place-I think I have made that point throughout our discussions on these amendments-and all other material considerations have to be met, so it does not happen totally in the void. Local authorities must have regard to their own circumstances when taking other matters into account, which is all the more reason for them to be working on these plans at the present time.

Photo of Lord McKenzie of Luton Lord McKenzie of Luton Shadow Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government)

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister again. I think that my noble friend Lord Berkeley has articulated the issue more effectively than I did. I would like to read the record on this. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 148ZZZZBH withdrawn.

Clauses 97 and 98 agreed.

Amendment 148ZZZBA not moved.

Clause 99 : Community Infrastructure Levy: approval of charging schedules

Amendment 148ZZZBB

Moved by Lord McKenzie of Luton

148ZZZBB: Clause 99, Page 76, line 40, at end insert-

"( ) In section 205 (the levy), at the end of subsection (2) insert "without prejudicing the provision of affordable housing in accordance with the development plan"."

Photo of Lord McKenzie of Luton Lord McKenzie of Luton Shadow Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government) 9:45 pm, 12th July 2011

My Lords, in moving Amendment 148ZZZBB, I will also speak to the other amendments in my name, namely 148ZZZBC, 148ZZZBD and 148ZZBAA. I will comment on the other amendments in this group after they have been spoken to.

Amendments 148ZZZBB, 148ZZZBC and 148ZZZBD deal with the community infrastructure levy and its consequences for the provision of affordable housing. The amendments, which were prompted by the National Housing Federation, seek to ensure, first, that the need for affordable housing is taken into account when setting the CIL and, secondly, that the CIL charging schedules contain a provision that allows for the CIL to be waived if securing the entire amount would prejudice the provision of affordable housing.

The NHF says that the community infrastructure levy will be in most cases mandatory on new developments. With 40 per cent of social housing having traditionally been delivered through Section 106 agreements, it is vital that the CIL is set at a level that does not prejudice the delivery of levels of affordable housing in accordance with local plan policy. It is also important that, where the combination of the CIL and affordable housing makes development not viable, there is a clear mechanism that allows the CIL to be waived in whole or in part so that levels of affordable housing do not fall automatically.

In the debate in the other place, all parties agreed that the CIL should not prejudice the provision of affordable housing. The Minister was explicit about this and said that the present arrangements in the Planning Act 2008 and the CIL regulations offered sufficient protection, though he did commit to return to the issue. The Minister suggested that the requirement in Section 211 of the 2008 Act to have regard to the economic viability of development meant that proper scrutiny would be given to the effect on affordable housing.

Regulation 14, which gives practical effect to Section 211, requires a balance to be drawn between the desirability of securing funding from the CIL and the effect on the economic viability of development across the area. However, this type of balancing exercise does not protect affordable housing and it cannot do so if, as is often the case, there is no clear numerical target for additional affordable housing units. It would be far better to legislate to make the position explicit that the CIL is not meant to lead to a reduction in levels of affordable housing or land for affordable housing. There is no evidence that affordable housing requirements have genuinely been taken into account in the emerging CIL charging schedules to date.

The documentCommunity Infrastructure Levy-An Overview, which was published by DCLG in May of this year, appears to make two things clear. First, it states:

"The regulations rule out the application of the levy for providing affordable housing".

In relation to planning obligations, the document says:

"The levy is intended to provide infrastructure to support the development of an area rather than to make individual planning applications acceptable in planning terms. As a result, there may still be some site specific impact mitigation requirements without which a development should not be granted planning permission. Some of these needs may be provided for through the levy but others may not, particularly if they are very local in their impact. Therefore, the Government considers there is still a legitimate role for development specific planning obligations to enable a local planning authority to be confident that the specific consequences of development can be mitigated".

However, the document then goes on to say in a sense that the planning obligations proposals had been drawn tightly by circular 5/05 and that is now enshrined on a statutory basis in the regulations.

Therefore, I have a fundamental question for the Minister. Given that the CIL cannot be used for affordable housing and the Section 106 agreements cause its focus to be narrowed, what will happen to the vital source of funding for affordable housing that came from the Section 106 stream? I stress that this is not a trick question. There is a genuine inquiry here; I am trying to understand how this should work and what the Government's intentions are. Funding generally for affordable housing has been heavily restricted. I know that the Government are looking at so-called affordable rents or intermediate rents as a means of generating resources for affordable housing. However if that Section 106 stream is to be reduced, and potentially overshadowed by the CIL, how will that all work? How will it help the delivery of affordable housing? I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Greaves Lord Greaves Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I have some amendments in this group, which I shall try to rattle through as quickly as possible. I start by saying that we support the broad thrust of what the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, has just said.

Amendment 148ZZBBB is a kite-flying amendment that would include building improvement and renovation of housing. The noble Lord has spoken more eloquently than I would have done, so I shall say no more about that. However, this is a very serious problem with the new system.

Amendments 148ZZBBA and 148ZZCA, are very similar to amendments that were tabled in the House of Commons by my right honourable friend Simon Hughes. He asked us to table them again here, since he was given a fairly sympathetic response by the Minister when he talked to him about the amendments-they were tabled in the Commons but they were not debated there. They would widen the possible use of the CIL. Amendment 148ZZBBA leaves out the words "providing infrastructure to support" and inserts the word "supporting". The proposed provision refers to the development of an area. In other words, the amendment would allow the CIL to be spent on projects that support the development of an area, and not just what might be narrowly defined as infrastructure. The amendment would amend Section 205 of the Planning Act 2008.

Amendment 148ZZCA makes a similar amendment to Section 216 of that Act, which at the moment-ignoring the preamble-reads:

"CIL regulations must require the authority that charges CIL to apply it, or cause it to be applied, to funding infrastructure".

Amendment 148ZZCA would add "or any other matter". That means that CIL could be used to fund things that are desirable in the area but not necessarily described as infrastructure.

Many areas, particularly big cities, do not necessarily require extra investment in their infrastructure, but that does not mean that local residents are not inconvenienced by development. They might be inconvenienced by noise, dirt or dust, or there may be nuisance from the operation of the development. A supermarket could have people coming in and out all the time, and making noise around closing time. This could be mitigated by investment in, for example, double glazing. However, this is not currently allowed under the legislation; it is not regarded as infrastructure. In reality, councillors with the opportunity of getting CIL will always levy it and will always find ways of spending it. However, they will not necessarily spend it on the best and most useful thing that they could spend it on if they have to stay within the narrow definition of infrastructure.

Amendments 148ZZBBC and 148ZZCC just propose replacing "ongoing" with "continuous". I regard "ongoing" as being an unpleasant American word that came in probably several decades ago-I do not know-but the English word is, in my view, "continuous", which would be better and more elegant.

Amendment 148ZZCD refers to regulation-making powers in the Bill that refer to passing CIL,

"to a person other than that authority".

I am not trying to remove that provision, and I should say that this is a probing amendment to find out what that phrase means and who these other persons might be that the authority would or might have to pass the CIL to.

Amendment 148ZZBAZA relates to the same argument about authorities being able to make up their own minds after a charging scheme has been examined by an examiner and to obtaining their recommendations. It is the same argument that was made two groups ago, and I will not say any more about it. I do not imagine that the Government will agree with me about that, but it is important. The next amendment in the group is about the same matter, so I shall not speak to it any further.

Finally, I speak to Amendment 148ZZZBE. On page 77 of the Bill, proposed new subsection (7A) to Section 211 states:

"A charging authority must use appropriate available evidence to inform the charging authority's preparation of a charging schedule".

That seems to be garbage. Why does that have to be in legislation? There are then eight indications of what CIL regulations may make provision for. I shall not read them all out, but only a couple of them to provide a flavour, including,

"provision as to evidence that is to be taken to be not appropriate", and,

"provision as to how evidence is, and as to how evidence is not, to be used".

They are all like this. Finally there is,

"provision as to how the use of evidence is to inform the preparation of a charging schedule".

They are the kind of quite extraordinary provisions that ought not to be in legislation.

It is insulting that local authorities cannot make sensible decisions on their own without being given such minute and detailed instructions on exactly what to do. If the Government are to respond to all the criticisms made in this Committee about the detailed regulations that are being imposed, I hope that they might look at this provision as being at best redundant and at worst quite ridiculous.

Photo of Lord Lucas Lord Lucas Conservative

My Lords, I wish to speak to my Amendment 148ZZCBA. It proposes to remove subsection (3)(b) of Clause 100, not, as my noble friend might think, in protest at the word "ongoing", although it is an entirely unnecessary word. Perhaps the clause should refer only to future costs. What costs would be in or out, or out or in, because of "ongoing" being in the clause? The word is totally unnecessary. However, I want to mention this matter because it is a breach in the whole principle of CIL, which should deal with the infrastructure costs that are caused, or need to be contributed to, as a result of the proposed development.

Once you start to allow consideration of future costs, you will allow the whole CIL to be diverted to revenue and you will not get the infrastructure that you are supposed to get, and you will create a large deficit in the provision of infrastructure, because cash-strapped local councils will just hang on as long as they can without building the infrastructure. They will allow the roads to become more crowded and the schools to become fuller until the local authorities have to do something and spend the CIL money on current costs. This is the sort of budgeting for which we criticised the previous Administration. I am very surprised that we are contemplating it ourselves.

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Liberal Democrat

My Lords, perhaps I, too, may ask a question about the provision of infrastructure on an "ongoing" basis. I entirely sympathise with the search for elegance, as my noble friend put it. My question is whether providing infrastructure on an ongoing basis means maintaining it. If that was what was meant, these lines could simply read "providing and maintaining infrastructure". Presumably, therefore, it means something else. Does it mean something else excluding maintenance or something else and maintenance? Perhaps the Minister can aid the Committee in the interpretation of the provision.

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Lords Spokesperson (Department for Transport), Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip) 10:00 pm, 12th July 2011

My Lords, the purpose of the CIL is for owners or developers of land to contribute to the cost of providing infrastructure that supports the development of the area. Almost all development has some impact on the need for infrastructure, or benefits from it. It is fair that such development pays a share of the cost of providing that infrastructure. In setting a charge, local authorities must have regard to the actual and expected costs of infrastructure and its other sources of funding. They must also have regard to the economic viability of development, which includes the need to deliver affordable housing.

The noble Lord, Lord McKenzie of Luton, proposes amendments to provide that affordable housing provision will not be prejudiced by any levy charges that an authority may set. As we explained in the other place and to the National Housing Federation, the existing legislation already provides appropriate safeguards to avoid negative implications for the delivery of affordable housing. The statutory guidance issued under Section 221 of the Local Planning Act 2008, to which local authorities are required to have regard, explicitly sets out that a charging authority must take development costs, particularly those for affordable housing, into account when setting a charge. The point of the levy is to support and not frustrate the delivery of a local development plan. The statutory guidance is specifically clear that an examiner should consider whether a local authority's proposed charges would put their affordable housing target at risk. Where the independent examiner considers that it does, they should not approve the proposed charge.

The noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, asked me about the Section 106 funding source for affordable housing. It does not follow that the imposition of a CIL charge will result in lower Section 106 contributions. In setting a charge, a council has to consider the impact on the economic viability, including affordable housing, and ensure that the levy does not put it at risk, which will include affordable housing funds. These amendments are clearly well intentioned. We agree that affordable housing is important and must not be harmed by the implementation of a levy. I can reassure noble Lords that the amendments are unnecessary, as appropriate safeguards already exist.

The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, in his Amendments 148ZZZBE et cetera, seeks amendments that would in effect allow local authorities to implement a charge without first having to remedy any deficiency identified by the independent examination of their proposals. Local authorities are in the best position to know what level of charges will work in their area to support development and encourage growth, but we do not accept that they should have complete freedom to set any charges they like. Instead, we are maintaining proportionate safeguards to prevent unreasonable levy charges, which could put development at serious risk. Our proposals rebalance the relationship between the examiner and the local authority, to provide that it is the authority that has the final decision on how any deficiencies in their proposed charging schedule are addressed. However, we are clear that any changes made by the authority must be sufficient and necessary to remedy any non-compliance identified by the independent examination of the proposals.

Noble Lords also seek to remove powers that allow for regulations to make provision about the evidence that a local authority must or must not consider in setting a charge. Our experience of similar examination of local plan-making shows that the decisions of independent examiners vary. Councils have tended to give a great deal of weight to previous decisions, and that has sometimes led to restricted local flexibility and freedom. We want to ensure that that does not occur with the levy. The proposed power will enable the Government to respond in a robust and flexible way to practices which threaten to undermine the ability of councils successfully to introduce their local levy charges. Our proposals strike the right balance between ensuring that local authorities have real discretion to set charges in their area while retaining appropriate safeguards to ensure that proposals do not put development of the area at risk.

Amendment 148ZZBBA, tabled by my noble friend Lord Greaves, would widen the permitted use of levy receipts beyond infrastructure to matters that support the development of an area. My noble friend has raised an interesting point. We are clear that the point of the levy is to support growth and new development. Infrastructure is of course central to supporting new development and unlocking growth, but it is not the only matter necessary to enable and incentivise development. We want to reflect on whether continuing to limit spending solely to providing infrastructure restricts local authorities' ability to support and enable development of the area. We want to consider whether widening permitted uses of the levy would make the instrument more effective and better placed effectively to promote, support and enable new development.

My noble friend Lord Greaves also proposes Amendment 148ZZBBB, which would do two things. First, it would alter the purpose of the levy so that it is focused on supporting communities rather than development. We have set out proposals to pass a proportion of the funds raised in an area to the parish council for that area and for those funds to be spent on infrastructure to support the development of that area. Control over the remainder of the funds is to be retained by the charging authority-normally the unitary, district or borough council-to provide the infrastructure needed to support the development of the larger area. The point is that the impact of the development and the infrastructure needed to support it are not confined to the geography of the community. Some will be, and our changes to direct a meaningful proportion of funds to the communities where development takes place will deal with that. Other matters, such as transport, span communities-and, indeed, charging authorities.

Secondly, the amendment proposes to allow funds to be used for the building, improvement and renovation of housing. That is unnecessary, as existing primary legislation in the Planning Act 2008 already contains the power to allow for levy receipts to be spent on affordable housing. However, regulations currently prevent that. Allowing such spending is therefore not a matter for the Bill, but the treatment of affordable housing is relevant to the amendments sought. I can confirm that we will consult during the summer on making that change through regulations.

In Amendment 148ZZCB, my noble friend Lord Greaves seeks to remove the provision for regulation to set out the ongoing costs to be funded by the levy. The powers we propose mirror existing ones in the Planning Act 2008, which allow for regulations to set out the works, installations or other facilities to be funded by the levy. The existing powers are currently used to specify that the Mayor of London must use receipts to fund strategic transport infrastructure. London is unique in that the London boroughs may also levy charges in their area, but are free to spend the receipts on any infrastructure to support their areas. We have no plans to use the power to specify the ongoing costs to be funded, but we envisage that it is necessary to deal with similar exceptional circumstances.

Photo of Lord Berkeley Lord Berkeley Labour

Can the noble Earl clarify what is covered by "future ongoing costs"? Is it maintenance of housing or maintenance of a road? It is a bit of an open-ended commitment. You can understand a capital cost but if it is maintenance for roads or housing forevermore, it seems a bit odd.

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Lords Spokesperson (Department for Transport), Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, perhaps it would be helpful if I first answered the question from my noble friend Lady Hamwee on whether ongoing means maintaining the infrastructure or excludes it. Clause 100 sets out that this includes maintenance and operation of infrastructure.

Amendment 148ZZBBC seeks to allow the levy to fund the provision of infrastructure on a continuous rather than ongoing basis. We do not believe that this amendment would have a material effect. Our changes clarify that levy receipts can be used to maintain the ongoing costs of providing infrastructure but such spending will still have to satisfy the requirement that it also supports development of the area. The reason for our change is that the current provisions are being construed as limiting spending only to the initial costs of providing infrastructure. This could prevent infrastructure that is wanted and needed from being provided where the funds necessary to maintain and run it are not available. This is a perverse outcome and we are making sure that councils have the flexibility to deliver what is needed to support development of their area.

My noble friend Lord Lucas seeks an amendment that would prevent regulations allowing levy receipts to be reserved for future ongoing costs. I have explained that our proposals are concerned with ensuring that local authorities have real flexibility to spend the funds on the matters that are needed to support development in their area. We believe that this amendment would constrain this flexibility and could result in inefficient and ineffective spending by requiring funds to be used now rather than retained for future strategic projects that are planned.

Amendment 148ZZCD, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, and others, proposes to remove provisions that provide for regulations to place a duty on charging authorities to pass all or some of any community infrastructure levy received to other persons. Alongside the physical barriers to new development, growth can be slowed or restricted by local concerns about its impacts. We intend to use the powers conferred by Clause 100 to require charging authorities to pass a meaningful proportion of receipts raised from new development in an area to a parish, town or community council for that area where there is such a local council. The local council will be required to spend the funds to provide infrastructure to support the development of its area.

When communities understand that new development is directly contributing towards the cost of the demands that it places on the infrastructure of their area, and see that they will be given real control over how these resources are used to address those demands, they are more likely to accept and indeed support it. Our reforms to the levy will make it genuinely pro-growth. Addressing the demands that new developments place on infrastructure will enable development to happen and it will incentivise communities to accept it. Using receipts to invest in the local area will ensure that growth is supported and sustainable, which will in turn unlock new development and growth.

We want to reflect on the amendments proposed by my noble friends Lord Greaves and Lord Tope to allow the spending of the levy on matters other than infrastructure. It is essential that the levy operates in a way that helps drive growth as effectively as possible. We will carefully consider whether permitting spending on other matters can improve the instrument's ability to support and enable development. As ever, I am very happy to discuss these matters privately between this stage and Report. I hope that noble Lords will feel able to withdraw their amendments at the appropriate point.

Photo of Lord Greaves Lord Greaves Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I am grateful for the fairly positive response to some of the amendments I moved. I look forward to further discussions, and I hope that the Government will have completed their reflection by the time we get to Report.

The specific question I want to ask is on the payment to other persons. The Minister twice referred to the intention of paying over a proportion of the levy to parish town councils and community councils in Wales. Is it the intention that it would only be to parish and town councils, and to no other persons? If so, that would mean that in areas without parish and town councils no levy would be passed over to the community, which is a minority of the land in the country, but a clear majority of the people who live in England who do not have town and parish councils. Can the Minister also give us an indication of the proportion of CIL which the Government are thinking of requiring to be passed to parish and town councils?

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Lords Spokesperson (Department for Transport), Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip) 10:15 pm, 12th July 2011

My Lords, that is quite a detailed point. It would probably be safer if I wrote to the noble Lord on that.

Photo of Lord Lucas Lord Lucas Conservative

My Lords, I would certainly like to take up my noble friend's offer of conversations between now and Report. I think I heard three different answers to the question posed by my amendment, and I hope that I will end up with one answer by the time we get there.

Photo of Lord McKenzie of Luton Lord McKenzie of Luton Shadow Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government)

My Lords, I, too, thank the Minister for a full and indeed very positive, or broadly positive, reply. Certainly at this hour, I should like to read the record and perhaps revert to those who pressed this particular amendment on us to talk it through with them in detail. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, for the thrust of his support. These issues around who else the levy should be paid to are certainly important ones, and I would be happy to be included in that correspondence if I may. It is also important that it is done by diktat of the Secretary of State rather than being the local authorities' decision.

Can I just check: did I hear the Minister correctly when he said that he thinks it is right that the legislation provides for affordable housing to be included within infrastructure-the regulations currently preclude that? Did the Minister say that he was looking to consult on that later this year to change that rule, so affordable housing could be included? Was that what he said?

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Lords Spokesperson (Department for Transport), Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, I think the noble Lord will have to read the Hansard, but what I said was quite clear and the words in my speech will make that clear. The short answer is yes.

Photo of Lord McKenzie of Luton Lord McKenzie of Luton Shadow Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government)

In which case, I am most grateful to the noble Earl.

Amendment 148ZZZBB withdrawn.

Amendments 148ZZZBC to 148ZZBAA not moved.

Clause 99 agreed.

House resumed.