Neighbourhood Planning Bill - Report (2nd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:45 pm on 28th February 2017.

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Photo of Lord Porter of Spalding Lord Porter of Spalding Conservative 5:45 pm, 28th February 2017

My Lords, I support the amendment and declare my interests in the register as chairman of the Local Government Association and leader of a small rural district council, which, thankfully, is not affected by this issue and I do not think will, at any point soon, be directly affected by this issue.

I apologise to the House because, having tabled a similar amendment for Grand Committee, I was unable to attend to move it because I had an important diary clash and was speaking elsewhere at a conference. I thank my noble friend Lady Cumberlege for moving the amendment, which by all accounts she did much more eloquently than I would have done, so noble Lords had the bonus of having a better speaker delivering it.

I will not say too much because I need my noble friend to get back to make sure his budget is safe. This is a problem in very few areas around the country. It would not take much to shift from the Government’s point to be able to meet at least some of the concerns that are being raised. I do not think that anybody has a problem where redundant office accommodation has been lost that then becomes a benefit and an asset to the community to be turned into residential. But when this policy is driving viable businesses out of their homes, it has probably gone a step too far. Having listened to the debate on the previous amendment, I wonder whether it would help the Minister if we started to refer to these offices as white-collar cathedrals.