Housing and Planning Bill - Report (5th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:00 pm on 25th April 2016.

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Photo of Baroness Parminter Baroness Parminter Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 6:00 pm, 25th April 2016

I thank the Minister for her remarks and colleagues around the House for their support. The Minister made the point that some of the evidence we used predates the introduction of the presumption in planning. Some of it does; some of it does not. It would have been a lot easier for this House to hear the arguments more clearly if the Government had done any serious monitoring in the last year since this presumption was introduced. When, in Committee, the noble Baroness, Lady Young, asked the Minister what monitoring had been undertaken, the response we received, although I am grateful for the clarification, was that the Government had spoken to eight stakeholders. On an issue of such significance, I am afraid that conversations with stakeholders do not constitute significant monitoring of the problems, such as why developers can use the opt-out of viability so that they do not include sustainable urban drainage systems; the quality of the SuDS being introduced; and the other problems we referred to this afternoon.

There is quite clear evidence from the National Flood Forum and others, as has been articulated, of a problem now. Let us not forget that this presumption in planning excludes all small sites of under 10 houses. Particularly in rural areas, this is causing a major problem of flood risk. A review of the existing policy would not even look at that issue.

I welcome the initiatives that the Minister has made. She has gone above and beyond in trying to take seriously the issues we raise. We accept the passion that she has for this issue. She has articulated on several occasions in this House how serious the flooding issue is. We of course welcome the flood review that Oliver Letwin will introduce in the summer, but that is nothing new; it has been on the cards for some time. Our concern is that the Bill will introduce a significant number of new homes. The review that the Minister mentioned, which would conclude next April, might bring forward legislation, but, looking to my right to the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, there are issues such as forestry, which are the subject of government commitments. We know that the Minister takes forestry seriously, but we are still waiting for legislation on forestry.

On the evidence we have of the lack of monitoring of this issue over the last year, I do not feel, although I appreciate the steps that the Minister has made, that the option of a possibility of legislation, following a review that we knew was going to happen anyway, is enough for an issue considered so serious by this House. Therefore, I, again reluctantly, wish to test the opinion of the House.