Amendment 198

Part of Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill - Committee (8th Day) – in the House of Lords at 9:45 pm on 27 March 2023.

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Photo of Lord Stunell Lord Stunell Liberal Democrat 9:45, 27 March 2023

My Lords, I briefly follow-up on that question which the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, has left hanging.

We seem to have several moving parts here. I do not want to detain anybody any longer than necessary. We have the guidance of the NPPF, and the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, has outlined its current impact on how local plans are developed. We now have the statutory NDMPs. Eventually we will get used to that acronym, I guess. Earlier this evening, the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, told noble Lords that she thought that the occasions of conflict between the NDMPs and local plans would be very rare, so rare that they did not need referencing but, on the other hand, possibly so onerous that it would be burdensome to make every one be referred back to your Lordships.

However, the political context of the NDMPs is of trying to retrieve a situation that was created last year by multiple changes in direction within the department, and by Ministers, about what they wanted local plans to achieve. Do they want them to achieve a very large number of houses, no houses at all, or as many houses as the local area thinks are appropriate?

All that will be resolved when—eventually—the NDMPs are published, because that is when we will be told what the Government intend local plans to produce. At that point it seems foreseeable—I say only foreseeable, not certain—that there will be areas of conflict between the citizens’ assemblies brought forward by the noble Baroness’s amendment and the common consultation process that we have traditionally followed, as the local plan emerges and the NDMPs dictate a different course of action. Where does the guidance to which the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, referred fit into that? Which fits into what and at which part?

In an earlier debate, the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, also said, perhaps not with the conviction that I had hoped to hear, that, in the event of a neighbourhood plan being more up to date than a local plan—hence in date—it would stand up against an NDMP central government directive. I would be delighted if that is true, but I would be substantially surprised if she says that she did say that; I must have misheard something.

We have some moving parts here, and it is a terribly inconvenient time of the day to resolve those difficulties. A lengthy letter may be the solution, but I just pose those questions. This is the fundamental way in which the current Government are aiming to square a circle out of their national planning policy. Whether they want more houses, where they want them and how fast—all those things—are driven by what comes out of local plans, and they will be framed by what is in the NDMPs, which are not published. Forgive me if I am jumping to a conclusion here; perhaps the planning management policy that comes out will say, “It is okay, guys; do your own thing and send your local plans in when they are ready”, but I have a feeling that that is not the context in which they are being drawn up.

Anything that the noble Earl or the noble Baroness can say to clarify that situation, either this evening or in a subsequent written report, would be gratefully received on this side, because we are baffled and bemused by how this is all supposed to hang together, as things stand.