Amendment 240

Part of Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill - Committee (10th Day) – in the House of Lords at 12:10 pm on 20 April 2023.

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Photo of Lord Berkeley Lord Berkeley Labour 12:10, 20 April 2023

My Lords, it gives me great pleasure to start this day in Committee by moving Amendment 240. I shall also speak to the other amendments in this grouping.

I am very grateful for the support of the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, and my noble friend Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, who apologises for not being here today. This amendment has the support of the Bicycle Association, Bikeability Trust, British Cycling, Cycling UK, Living Streets, Ramblers and Sustrans. I think you can say that that support basically includes the Better Planning Coalition. Its purpose is to ensure that the various walking and cycling network plans and rights of way drawn up by county councils or combined authorities are incorporated into local planning authorities’ development plans and are reflected in their planning decisions. This would help to safeguard land for new walking and cycling routes or rights of way, including disused railway lines, improve existing routes, and ensure that developments connected with existing or new walking, wheeling or cycling networks with secure development contributions are introduced. This came to a head within the last six months, when National Highways was caught filling in disused railway bridges with concrete to prevent them from being used in the future as footpaths or cycleways, for example. I am grateful that there has been a pause put on that. I hope that it stays a pause, because it was a very stupid decision with no benefit whatever.

This amendment addresses the problems of local planning authorities that sometimes, wittingly or unwittingly, frustrate a higher tier authority’s aspirations for walking, cycling and rights of way by not recording these network aspirations in their development plans. That means that they are not safeguarding the land for these networks or to connect new developments with existing networks for secure developer contributions to implement or upgrade specific routes. There is much discussion going on about all these issues, but it is very important that this covers what is happening now and what might happen in future. The biggest problem is when we have two-tier authorities—county councils or combined authorities, and district councils. In one case, one part of a unitary authority commissioned Sustrans to assesses the feasibility of reopening a disused railway line as a walking and cycling route, while another part of the same authority gave permission for a housing development which blocked the route. There is no point in doing this; it wastes a lot of time and seriously affects the people who want to develop cycling or walking routes.

Local transport authorities have a duty to prepare a statutory local transport plan. They are also responsible for drawing up one or more non-statutory local cycling and walking infrastructure plans. That is all a bit of a mouthful, but really important. Usually it is the same body, but for each one it is required to draw up a statutory rights-of-way improvement plan for its area. We probably all have examples in our own areas of rights of way not being taken very seriously—and we will talk about that later—but all these things need co-ordination.

The Government have argued that our concerns about this lack of co-ordination would best be addressed through the NPPFs, rather than through legislation. My worry is that the current NPPFs, which are still in proposed revisions, mention these local cycling, walking and infrastructure plans only in passing, leaving out the right-of-way plans altogether. This results in developments being granted permission without taking into account the need for walking and cycling or improving these links. I call it active travel—it is a bit shorter. I am sure that the Minister will take this amendment seriously, and I hope that she gives me a nice positive response to it and says that perhaps we can have further discussions and see what happens.

My Amendment 470, on electric vehicle charging, is quite a short amendment. It requires a change to the Electricity Act, for the Government to facilitate or accelerate the rollout of electric vehicle charging points for domestic and commercial customers. We have discussed this in your Lordship’s House quite a few times. A few statistics really worry me, frankly. First, the Government have a target of 300,000 public charging points by 2030, and there is a long way to go before we get there. Interestingly, a Written Answer from the Minister on 29 March to the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Warwick, stated that the number of installations were 8,600 public charging, 71,000 electric vehicle home charge schemes, and very few electric charge point sockets and grants, while workplace had 15,000.

Another telling Written Answer, to the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, on 21 March, stated that

“the majority (around 75%) of electric car charging happens at home, as it is often cheaper and more convenient for drivers.”

I am sure that the Minister is right, but the problem is: how many people have home charging? I expect many noble Lords here have home charging, if they want it, but there are an awful lot of people in this country who park on the road and, if they want to charge their cars, they will have to get it off a lamppost.

Another Written Answer from the Minister said that there was no national data on how many lamppost chargers were available. If we do not know how many are available, we do not know who wants them, and we do not know where the public ones are, where do you charge your heavy goods vehicle or coach? Who will fund them? Most important of all, what about the regulation of chargers? There is a lot for the Government to do to meet their target of 300,000 charging points by 2030.

Finally, I support the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, on the same subject. I am sure that she will tell us a great deal more of it. I beg to move.