Neighbourhood Planning Bill - Report (2nd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:00 pm on 28th February 2017.

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Photo of Lord Young of Cookham Lord Young of Cookham Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip), Lords Spokesperson (Cabinet Office) 7:00 pm, 28th February 2017

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, for the bridge-building way in which he moved the amendment. Amendments 65 and 66 seek to make new provision in the Greater London Authority Act 1999 which would amend the powers of Transport for London and the Greater London Authority to dispose of land.

Amendment 65 seeks to give Transport for London the flexibility to dispose of land for housing, even if a higher value use was available, provided the best consideration reasonably obtainable for housing use had been achieved. To achieve this, Amendment 65 would disapply the requirement for TfL to,

“act as if it were a company engaged in a commercial enterprise”.

Amendment 66 would remove the requirement for the GLA to obtain the consent of the Secretary of State to the disposal of land for housing, even if a higher value use was available, provided the best consideration reasonably obtainable for housing use had been achieved.

In Grand Committee, I promised to facilitate a meeting between the Government, the GLA and TfL before Report to discuss how we should respond to the concerns the noble Lord had raised. I confirm that that meeting has taken place.

We have been working with TfL to assess the impact of making the proposed amendment, but unfortunately we remain concerned about the potential impact of Amendment 65 on TfL’s overall receipts targets and consequently on public finances more generally. Given these ongoing concerns, I cannot accept the noble Lord’s amendment, but I can assure him that the Government will continue to work with TfL to address those concerns and ensure that TfL is able to meet both its housing and receipts targets.

On Amendment 66, the noble Lord will be aware that the Government made a commitment in the housing White Paper to consult on extending the ability of local authorities to dispose of land at less than best consideration without seeking consent to do so from the Secretary of State.

Land disposals by local authorities are governed by a separate regime from those undertaken by the GLA. I do not believe it would be right in this Bill to reduce the protections established by the current requirement for consent of the Secretary of State for disposals by the GLA at less than best consideration. The White Paper did not specifically reference this GLA consent requirement, but I reassure the noble Lord that the scope of the consultation announced in the White Paper will extend to the GLA consent regime.

With the reassurance that we will continue to work with TfL and the GLA to find appropriate solutions to the very real concerns the noble Lord has raised, I hope he will be prepared to withdraw the amendment so that we can end Report on a consensual note.