Housing and Planning Bill - Report (5th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:15 pm on 25th April 2016.

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Photo of The Duke of Somerset The Duke of Somerset Crossbench 7:15 pm, 25th April 2016

My Lords, I, too, support these amendments in the name of my noble friend. I thank the Minister for making some good progress with the arguments I put forward in Committee. We are going to see that in the amendments that are about to be moved. On interest rates for late payments, it would be good if the Government could commit to monitoring the success of the penal rates of interest for securing payment of compensation before entry. That would be very helpful.

These concessions still leave two topics unresolved from the group that I spoke to in Committee. First, on NSIPs, which are covered by the first amendment in this group, the Government are arguing that the landowner will get only current use value rather than development value for up to 500 homes with no functional link to the project but situated within one mile of it. This is confiscatory. I again ask the Government: who will benefit from this largesse? Is it the house purchaser or, probably more likely, the infrastructure provider? If it is the latter, this surely demonstrates the unfairness of the idea. The principle of equivalence loses coherence when applied as I have just mentioned. A farmer or landowner may have several tens of acres removed from his holding by this means, leaving his business unsustainable as a result. Existing use values would be unlikely to allow him to purchase elsewhere to rebuild his business, especially after the considerable costs he is bound to incur. In effect, the acquirer is giving himself planning permission to take land at lower value, develop it and gain a large financial uplift at the expense of the original owner. At the same time, it would ignore local plans and local neighbourhood plans.

I turn to the Second Amendment in this group, relating to a duty of care. In Committee, the noble Viscount, Lord Younger, on behalf of the Government, said that,

“claimants should be treated with fairness … and kept up to date”,

and that,

“competent professionals should be advising their clients to act in this way”.—[Official Report, 23/3/16; col. 2451.]

The word “should” appears again and again. This is not the same as “must” or “shall”. Similarly, to my mind the word “urges” in this context is not strong enough.

I do not really understand why the Government should wish to deny Amendment 128YAR, which would merely strengthen and make mandatory the points that the Minister advocated in Committee. Clear guidance would not give those people subject to compulsory purchase orders the comfort that a compulsory duty of care, as incorporated in this amendment, would deliver. It would also provide a benchmark by which to judge whether an acquiring authority was behaving fairly and reasonably. I ask the Government to consider carefully accepting both these useful amendments.