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 Viscount Younger of Leckie Viscount Younger of Leckie Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip) 7:15 pm, 25th April 2016

My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, has helpfully expressed concerns about landowners losing out from any uplift in land values when the compulsory acquisition of land is sought for housing as part of an application for nationally significant infrastructure. He has also raised the important issue of how claimants are treated by acquiring authorities. I recognise that these are also issues of concern for members of the Country Land and Business Association, who met the Minister for Housing and Planning last week to discuss these matters and our proposals for further compulsory purchase reforms, which are now out to consultation, which the noble Earl alluded to. We welcome these discussions with the CLA and look forward to receiving its further thoughts in response to the current consultation.

I turn first to Amendment 119B. We had quite an interesting short debate, particularly with the intervention just now from the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours. In response to the noble Earl, and taking account of the comments from the noble Duke, the Duke of Somerset, I can only reiterate the main points of the response to the amendment made in Committee. A key principle under the Land Compensation Act 1961 is that compensation is offered at the open market value of the land. The open market value will take into account the effect of any existing planning permissions, and any that might be given in future in accordance with the planning assumptions in the 1961 Act. Any increase or decrease in value that is due solely to the scheme that will acquire the land—for example, a nationally significant infrastructure project including related housing development—is disregarded. The same principles apply irrespective of the powers under which compulsory acquisition is granted.

Amendment 128YAR would introduce a statutory duty of care to be owed by acquiring authorities to claimants. I agree completely with the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, that those whose land is being taken by compulsion should be treated fairly and with respect. I also listened carefully to the comments from the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, and I know that stretch of the A303 reasonably well. I also respected the comments made by the noble Duke, the Duke of Somerset. However, I do not think that imposing a statutory duty is necessary to achieve that fairness and respect. Instead, the way forward is to set out clear expectations for acquiring authorities’ behaviour in dealing with claimants in guidance, and to ensure that the system itself is fair to claimants. We have done the former already: updated guidance was published in October 2015. The latter is being addressed through measures in the Bill; provisions on lengthening the notice before entry and earlier advance payments will make the system fairer for claimants. We are also consulting on further proposals to ensure that claimants receive fair compensation, to further encourage the prompt payment of advance payments and to ensure that claimants in areas with high rateable values are not systematically excluded from issuing blight notices.

As I am sure the noble Earl will appreciate, Amendment 119B would require a fundamental change to the provisions for assessing compensation for land compulsorily acquired in the Land Compensation Act 1961. For that reason, we will be unable to support this amendment. On Amendment 128YAR, as I have explained, the Government do not consider that a statutory duty of care is necessary. I know the noble Earl will be disappointed by this, but none the less I ask him not to move his amendment.

However, I emphasise that we will of course be happy to continue our engagement with the noble Earl and other interested parties, should they wish to discuss these matters further, particularly in relation to Amendment 128YAR, as it may be possible that more can be done through changes to guidance.