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Planning — Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:24 pm on 13th October 2011.

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Photo of Lord Beecham Lord Beecham Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow Spokesperson (Health) 1:24 pm, 13th October 2011

That is possibly right, which is why I want to refer to need as the basis of a housing programme. There is also the question of the duty to co-operate, which some of your Lordships have mentioned, and which I entirely endorse. However, there is no actual mechanism, either in the framework or elsewhere, to secure that. I refer, yet again, to what is the planning equivalent of the Schleswig-Holstein question, which is the Stevenage question-an authority wanting, or even needing, to house some of its people outside its boundaries and finding no accommodation with the adjoining authority. In the absence of a regional spatial strategy, there does not seem to be a mechanism to secure that; so that, again, needs to be looked at.

There are significant issues about the presumption in favour of development, in particular where there is no local development plan. As we know, there are no local development plans in a number of areas-that is unfortunate, but it is the case-and we need to look at how we cope with the transition. The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, referred to this and he is absolutely right. We will no doubt touch on this further as the Localism Bill goes forward but if the Minister could give an indication of some direction on the question of transition, that would be helpful. There needs to be a general presumption in favour of development, but in favour of planned development. That has been the case until now, and that does seem to be the right way to take matters forward rather than have a simple carte blanche for any sort of development.

The debate today has been an interesting one and we have heard a number of views. A better balance has been struck here in your Lordships' House than has been struck in some of the media. Nevertheless, there are genuine concerns, particularly-but not exclusively-in the countryside, about the potential impact of the thrust of the new framework. I hope that after the consultation process has ended the Government will be able to reassure people in the countryside that it is not a question of threatening the viability and attractiveness of the countryside but of strengthening rural communities alongside those of urban areas. We have to be careful about the industry, which is always prone to finding someone to blame for its problems and always prone to taking the line of least resistance in terms of where it seeks to develop. We have to incentivise development where it is most needed. Some of that will be to meet the needs of rural areas and communities, particularly in terms of housing for younger people. Much of it must be within the urban core, where, as your Lordships will be aware, the number of people seeking housing, particularly to rent, is growing significantly. As I said yesterday, we have to look in terms of affordable housing; not only in terms of owner-occupation-which of course is very desirable-but also affordable rental housing, whether social or otherwise, for the large numbers of people who are living in unsatisfactory conditions and for whom this national planning framework does not, at the moment, seem to do enough.