My Lords, I very much agree with what has been said and thank my noble friend Lady Gardner for tabling the amendment. I am conscious that we all want to make progress. This is an area where, in time, we should have some examination and this is not a statutory matter to address now.
I always conceive planning as being about good neighbourliness. One of the problems is that retrospective planning applications often come in when someone has encroached a little too much and not quite followed the drawings. Then, because a neighbour who has opposed an application is cross, they go to the council and say what they want to happen. One can get into a whole rigmarole involving costs, not only of retrospective application but of demands to building control such as, “Are you coming?”, “I don’t think that they are building on the right line”, or, “They are moving that hedge”.
Such areas, which seem small, have an impact on the issue of consent in the planning system, about which I have spoken to your Lordships in Committee on this and other Bills. For many reasons, including that given by the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, my noble friend’s amendment does not work but I hope that we will hear some sympathetic sounds—I know we always do—from my noble friend on the Front Bench. This is an issue on which the Government might reflect as time goes by, because there is a sense that a lot of injustice is done out there by those who willingly or unwillingly play the system. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, that local authorities are generally loath to intervene unless it is a big issue. Planning officers ask themselves, “Would I have refused the planning application for that one or two-foot encroachment?”. These are the kind of considerations that apply. People should do what they promise they are going to do; that is what the system is about and should be delivered. People should not play the system.
I do not think that we can take this matter further now but hope that my noble friend will think about it over the months and perhaps years—I hope not too many years—ahead and closely examine where the frontier between consent and abuse of consent should be.