Neighbourhood Planning Bill - Report (2nd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:15 pm on 28th February 2017.

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Photo of Baroness Andrews Baroness Andrews Deputy Chairman of Committees 5:15 pm, 28th February 2017

My Lords, I could not agree more with the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter. There is a strong argument for consistency of vocabulary and for the notion of significance in planning and the treatment of national assets. Paragraph 132 of the NPPF states that:

“The more important the asset, the greater the weight should be. Significance can be harmed or lost through alteration or destruction … As heritage assets are irreplaceable, any harm or loss should require clear and convincing justification”.

This new status has taken many years to achieve. I remember having discussions in the department about how to increase the protection of ancient woodlands at least a decade ago. Thanks to the Minister and his officials, we have now got to the point where we recognise that there is an equivalence between a natural and a built asset. When we are dealing with the question of loss—even more than damage, in terms of ancient woodlands—it is fair to look at what equivalence can be made in relation to the NPPF. It is not just the use of language but the significance we attach to the notion of damage, and how extensive or irreparable it is, and to what it means to be wholly exceptional.

The formula which my noble friend Lady Young has come up with is quite sensible. It will save time and grief for planning authorities and people who have to deal with balancing these issues. Greater clarity and some consistency would be a help rather than an obstacle to achieving the objective and facilitating development.