Amendment 243

Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill - Committee (10th Day) – in the House of Lords at 3:19 pm on 20 April 2023.

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Baroness Hayman of Ullock:

Moved by Baroness Hayman of Ullock

243: Clause 95, page 102, line 35, at end insert—“(5) The Secretary of State must, within one year of the day on which this section comes into force, publish a report of a review of the efficacy of Local Heritage Lists and the resources local authorities have to produce them.(6) The Secretary of State must, on the day on which this section comes into force, publish the results of the 2018 review of the non-statutory guidance on Assets of Community Value.”Member's explanatory statementThis means that the Secretary of State must publish a report of a review of Local Heritage Lists and the results of the 2018 review of the non-statutory guidance on Assets of Community Value.

Photo of Baroness Hayman of Ullock Baroness Hayman of Ullock Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Levelling Up, Housing, Communities and Local Government)

My Lords, Amendment 243 is in the name of my noble friend Lady Taylor of Stevenage. Amendments 244 and 246 in this group are both also in her name. I shall briefly speak to them and make some comments on some of the other amendments in this group.

My noble friend’s Amendment 243 asks the Secretary of State to

“publish a report of a review of Local Heritage Lists and the results of the 2018 review of the non-statutory guidance on Assets of Community Value”.

Amendment 246 also refers to assets of community value—ACVs—asking for draft legislation to be published to reform the processes.

Amendment 244, which is on a slightly separate issue, is about decision-making on temporary stop notices. The amendment says that, when making a decision on the correct recipient of a temporary stop notice, the authority should have regard to the tenancy status of the occupier and their level of responsibility for any works on the property. It is pretty straightforward as to why we have laid this amendment, so I shall be brief. We believe it is really important to guard against a situation where the wrong person may be held accountable for works on a property for which they actually have no responsibility whatever. The Local Government Association was very clear that we should make this point during the debate on the Bill. We believe that other factors should be taken into account before any notice is issued, because we really need to make sure that the correct person—the person liable—is the person that has been identified. It would be very helpful if the Minister could provide some information on how the Government can ensure, in future, that this is what happens, so that we do not end up with people with no responsibility suddenly having a lot of problems with sorting out works on the property in which they are living but for which they do not have responsibility.

We have laid the amendments on the assets of community value because they are very important. We believe that communities should play a key role in both the preservation and the delivery of local assets that sit outside of local authority control. We know that the Localism Act 2011 contains important powers for local communities to be able to do just this, but the problem is that there are issues around how it works. Under current rules, buildings or pieces of land which are, or have been, used to

“further the social wellbeing or social interests of the local community and could do so in the future” can be nominated to be classified as an ACV by community groups or councils. But if an ACV goes up for sale, a local group that can make a decision as to whether it wants to bid for this is given only six months to gauge whether it is able to bid for it—and it is only during that six-month period that the owner is unable to sell it. After that six-month grace period elapses, they can sell assets of community value to anybody they want to. A report compiled by the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee in Parliament suggested that the six-month grace period was too short and that it would sideline groups in more disadvantaged communities from being able to make bids. We believe that this needs to be changed.

The Labour Party has proposed extending the time frame to 12 months. We believe that local people from every community—not just those who are wealthy and have the resources to put their bids together very quickly—should have the opportunity to take control of, possibly, pubs, historic buildings or, perhaps, football clubs that come up for sale and would otherwise just fall into disrepair. We also believe that they should have first refusal on valuable assets when they come up for sale, including the right to buy them without competition. They should also have the right to force a sale of land or buildings that have been left to fall into a state of significant disrepair. If these processes were reformed to allow and encourage every community to take advantage of it, it would do so much more for the large number of communities that are currently threatened with losing community assets but do not have the ability to put together bids to take them under community control. I urge the Minister to look carefully at how this could be improved for the benefit of all communities.

I would like to make a few comments on Amendment 245, in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, about the results of the Historic England pilot on compensation rights. This comes under Clause 98 of the Bill, which seeks to remove compensation when a local authority has wrongly served a building preservation notice which, when it was served, prevented any additional work from progressing. We have been talking to the CLA about this, and it disagrees that this is the right way forward, as not only are there significant property rights implications but it also removes an important check on local authorities that wrongly serve building preservation notices. This can cause huge disruption and costs for the owners. We believe that compensation is key to the protection of individuals’ rights. Moreover, the many compensation provisions across the planning system are a vital part of its fairness. If mistakes happen and people suffer loss then, surely, they should be compensated. I shall not talk any further on this because I am sure that the noble Earl will go into great detail, but we appreciate his amendment. It is an important area that needs to be looked at.

My noble friend Lady Andrews has also put down some important amendments on the demolition of buildings, development rights, reduction of carbon emissions and the importance of local communities’ abilities to shape local places. Currently, most buildings can be demolished without planning permission if they are not listed and not in a conservation area. These permitted development rights for demolition have already been removed for buildings such as pubs and theatres, but there is no requirement for the buildings to be run down or beyond repair for this right to apply. We have had some very helpful briefings from the Victorian Society about its concerns on these issues, and we consider that my noble friend’s amendments are very important. I hope that the Minister can support them. I beg to move.

Photo of The Earl of Lytton The Earl of Lytton Crossbench

My Lords, I will speak to Amendment 245—a probing amendment—in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Devon. Unfortunately, my noble friend cannot be here today due to other pressing matters. I must first declare my ownership of two listed buildings and the occupation of a third. I have also acted professionally as a chartered surveyor who has surveyed many listed and unlisted buildings and structures where works were proposed. I am very grateful for the support and input of the CLA, of which I am a member, and of Historic Houses and the Listed Property Owners Club. I am particularly grateful for, as it were, an introduction by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock. It was rather unexpected, because I did not think that it would necessarily be a matter that her party would relate to in those terms.

I acknowledge the importance to the nation of protecting its heritage. When the listing of buildings first came about in, I think, the 1950s, it carried with it an obligation to seek consent for works that affected the character of a listed building. It was not originally the case that effects on character meant that every alteration required consent. However, over the years, because the citations for listing and the descriptions of the matters of importance were, to put it bluntly, minimalist, that is how it has come to be operated. It has now almost become the norm for common periodic maintenance and repair to be caught by a demand for formal consent—things which, for any other unlisted building or structure, can be done without any formality.

A listed building application is not a particularly simple science: it requires a formal submission with drawings, sample materials and so on. Statements of heritage impact incur no small measure of cost, not to mention frequent inordinate delays in getting a determination. I speak from professional experience on that. I acknowledge, though, that there is no fee for making a listed building application—thankfully, in the context of what I have just explained. The idea persisted, however, that flexibility for public administrative purposes justified the appropriation to the public interest of overriding control of historic environments and, further, that this was more important than clarity for owners—or planners. However, I acknowledge that, in many instances, historic buildings, features and environments that would otherwise have been lost have been preserved by the building listing process, while unprotected ones have been lost.

What constitutes the legitimate public interest in this matter is something of constant evolution; it may be contextual, whereby legal constructs, such as curtilage, setting, attachment of artefacts and so on must be weighed up with important associations, past occupiers and events. If we overlay on to this the fact that nearly every listed building or structure of any significant age, including some parks and gardens, has undergone changes due to the inconsistently sympathetic or unsympathetic actions of successive owners and that, in a majority of cases, the listing process fails to capture the construction and management history of the item in question, it is easy to see the outcome.

Moreover, I must say that, in my experience, the competence of personnel typically involved in some public sector determination of historic building attributes is often as patchy as their affordability to local government. I know of local authorities that do not have their own in-house people; the in-house people were, in my view, the salt of the earth, but they do not have them any more. They outsource so many days a month to an external contractor, who comes in and out and may not have any detailed understanding of vernacular features.

I come to the point of Amendment 245. When an owner acts in good faith with a building that they know is not listed and not in a conservation area and sets about carrying out works that they would be entitled to do under the prevailing laws—and, it should be said, possibly under a permitted development—it matters if, unexpectedly, the authority decides to stop works on the grounds of a previously undisclosed, unrecorded and formally unnotified, but deemed priority, cultural interest by serving a building preservation notice, thus bringing works to a halt for six months.

This may sound like a bit of semantics, but I will mention it anyway. The “Listed Buildings Act” referred to in Clause 98 of the Bill is, I understand, shorthand for the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990. Perhaps, at some stage, that could be corrected.

Under the current rules in Section 29 of that Act—I am not going to go into this in extensive detail—there is a provision for:

“Compensation for loss or damage caused by service of building preservation notice”.

It applies

“where a building preservation notice” has been served and

“ceases to have effect without the building having been included in a list” of protected buildings. One might say that this has the potentially perverse effect that, rather than getting yourself into trouble by not including it on a list, you include on the list all sorts of things that are perhaps of dubious merit. But I leave that to one side. It goes on to say that an owner who is affected by this in such a way is

“entitled to be paid compensation by the local planning authority in respect of any loss or damage directly attributable to the effect of the notice”.

Then it describes how the loss and damage might be payable, including

“a sum payable in respect of any breach of contract”.

The rationale is clear: if a local authority proceeds without carefully considering its grounds for listing a property as being of architectural or historic interest and in doing so ultimately concludes that it should not be listed, but the process occasions loss to the owner, there is entitlement to compensation for that loss. As I say, perversely this arrangement might lead to unforeseen outcomes, such as including things that should not be on the list, but bear in mind that the owner may be caught in the middle of a contract of works that might be a matter of recurring repair and refurbishment and, as I say, could be permitted development. So they are clearly vulnerable at that stage, and most people would consider that the reasonable enjoyment of one’s property, without the intervention of unsubstantiated statutory powers, should be compensated as a matter of basic rights to the reasonable enjoyment of one’s property. Recognising, however, that local government is acutely underresourced to deal with heritage matters, I note that it appears to have been an object of policy of successive Administrations to pass the risks and costs to owners rather than to internalise them within the public domain, notwithstanding the questionable economic justification or social justice of so doing.

I acknowledge that some minds within the Government’s heritage adviser, Historic England, did at least consider an alternative approach. That was to provide a form of indemnity insurance against claims arising from building preservation notices. This got as far as a pilot study, which had the intention of providing practical guidance to forward policy; however, the promised report that was supposed to be the outcome of this exercise has never yet seen the light of day and there has been no subsequent discussion or debate on the matter. Yet here we are, faced with Clause 98, which purports to remove the right to compensation. The only justification I can find, having made some inquiries of people with closer links to local government than I have, is that it was seen as being handy to have. If that is the justification, I do not think it is good enough. It would, to my mind, have the perverse outcome of facilitating speculative and wholly unjustified interventions by local authorities without need for demonstrable grounds, and with that the denial of fair and equitable treatment of owners where it can be shown they were needlessly and adversely disadvantaged.

I remind noble Lords that Clause 98 does not apply to the situation in Wales. I assume that the current compensation provisions there remain intact. This seems, at best, a tad asymmetric. That is the point of principle here, which is why Amendment 245 sets out to put the cart back behind the horse, where it belongs, so that the Secretary of State shall first consider and consult on the outcome of the pilot scheme before Clause 98 can be brought into force.

To conclude, I have two points. I ask the Minister for a reasoned justification for Clause 98, because I have not seen one. But I cannot entirely leave the matter there without noting that this is not the only instance in the Bill where the overriding of private property rights in the public interest, without proper safeguards, suggests an infringement of human rights legislation. I further understand that the Joint Committee on Human Rights has not commented on the Bill, which is why I have drawn some of the other instances, but not this particular one, to its attention. It does, however, cause me to further ask the Minister, in the light of my explanations, by what metric his noble colleague felt able to certify HR compliance of the Bill, which appears on its title page. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Andrews Baroness Andrews Chair, Common Frameworks Scrutiny Committee, Chair, Common Frameworks Scrutiny Committee 3:30, 20 April 2023

My Lords, this is an important group of amendments, and I have great pleasure in supporting them all. I have two amendments in my name, which reflect a particular interest that the Victorian Society has in the demolition of non-listed buildings. I am very grateful to the Victorian Society for marshalling support for these amendments. I would also say that these are amendments that sit the heart of the Levelling-Up and Regeneration Bill, and they follow present practice, to which I will draw attention. I am grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Shipley and Lord Carrington, for their stamina in being here to support these amendments. I will try to be brief.

My amendments address a serial, long-standing failure to protect the historic built environment that gives the ordinary places we live character, memory and beauty through familiar structures. Nationally protected buildings are, as we know, protected if they are listed. They are secured by law, but the demolition of most buildings is permitted without planning permission if they are not listed or in a conservation area, even if they are in good condition and have potential new uses. This has been happening, as recorded by the Victorian Society, across the country, and the problem is that because of the historic underlisting of important buildings that Historic England identifies through the Saunders report. Buildings that are potentially listable and not on the list can be demolished.

Permitted development is exactly what it says: the ability to demolish or change a structure with none of the protections or local involvement that the planning system provides. It has been an unwelcome flood that has been extended in recent years, which brings unpredictability and perverse consequences. It is well overdue for a review, and I ask the Minister to consider very seriously whether he and his colleagues can put that into practice now.

The changes that PDR promotes, together with what the noble Lord previously implied—the hollowing out of planning departments and the loss of conservation specialists—means that our villages, small towns and cities are at greater risk than they have been for some time. The risk is from cumulative change as well as casual change, and it is irreversible. Locally listed buildings—a very small number in relation to the whole—are now particularly vulnerable. My two amendments focus on these groups.

Amendment 312G would remove permitted development rights for all demolition. It would allow for public consultation and would protect all non-designated heritage assets. Amendment 312H focuses on the local listing of buildings. It removes permitted demolition rights for locally listed assets and protects non-designated heritage assets that are on a local planning authority’s local list. This is long overdue. We also suggest that the Secretary of State could provide further clarity by setting out a definition of what qualifies as a local list following consultation.

These amendments are timely and would re-engage local communities. They would be extremely welcome, and I offer them as a gift to the Government, who are now in an election year. They are timely. Is it not better to save our historic assets that are still safe, habitable and useful than to pull them down? Increasingly, this is how people feel. In recent years, when so much in the country has shifted around us, we have come increasingly to value the quality and resonance of our local environment. This intensified during the pandemic.

When I was heavily involved with the Heritage Lottery Fund, we funded a great deal of locally inspired small projects within 15 minutes of the places where people live. We had a tremendous response. It drew out of local communities the things that they felt were really important to them. It is clear that keeping and repurposing historic buildings—schools, surgeries, churches, cinemas, factories, mills—is seen as an infinitely better alternative and one within reach. They retain character and diversity and inspire unique pride across the generations. We have lost so much, and we will lose more unless we stop and pause.

Once something is gone, whether it is the Euston Arch or a local cinema, we cannot recover it. At a time of so much instability in the high street and excessive office building, surely the time has come to rethink and repurpose for what people need today, whether that is childcare centres or marketplaces.

The second argument for timeliness has been used across this Bill for many days: climate change. Demolition wastes energy and demands more. We are now in the final lengths if we are to avoid the tipping point of global temperature—1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels—but our preparations are, to reflect what our Climate Change Committee has said, pitifully inadequate. It is not enough to build new houses to net-zero standards, even if we were doing that. The demolition and reconstruction of buildings is a huge expense that brings a direct increase in emissions; up to 51% of a residential building’s carbon is emitted before the building is operational, and for an office building it is up to 35%.

It is particularly perverse—this bears on the argument that we have been having on the conservation of buildings for many years—that the VAT rules incentivise demolition. There is no VAT on demolition, but there is 20% VAT on repair and maintenance. It makes no sense. If that were reversed, it would help us meet our net-zero target. What could possibly be wrong with that?

The second argument is simply democratic. Demolition is the nuclear option, yet one in which the local community has no say. By bringing demolition of all non-designated assets as well as those that are locally listed into planning disciplines, the local authority and the local community would finally have some influence and be able to follow through. This seems to be reasonable and right. I simply say to those who argue that this is impractical, would give too much power to local people and set back development that my first amendment would not prevent demolition; it would just have to be considered on its own merits. It brings a benefit with it because in most cases it would be logical to make an application for demolition alongside the application for the new building, which would enable the site to be considered strategically as a whole. A de minimis right would remain regarding small structures so that planning permission would not be required for demolition.

These arguments apply to both my amendments, but apply to the second with specific force. It is self-evident that buildings which are locally listed have a particular character and meaning for the local community. They are a clear guide to what is significant and enable local decisions to reflect that. That is the only protection they have. However, blanket PDRs exclude them. The buildings on the local list can be demolished without planning permission if they are not in a conservation area. A local community hall at the heart of a community, but not in a conservation area, can be demolished without challenge.

At present, the only option for saving a locally listed building is to use the cumbersome procedure of an Article 4 direction, which is a real hassle. It does not get used because the time and people are not there and it is too expensive. Anyway, not all local authorities have local lists, as the Government have recognised by putting £1.5 million into improving their coverage and consistency. My second amendment in this group would put protections around these most significant and well-loved local buildings, which are often better known than national monuments. That would be the first step, but the Government could strengthen this by issuing guidance on the criteria that those local lists would have to meet to be excluded from PDRs.

These amendments have been carefully thought out and prepared. They have the support of the Heritage Alliance, which represents a wide constituency of heritage bodies, and are entirely consistent with the published advice issued by Historic England. Even more persuasively, they are completely consistent with the spirit of this Bill and the principles and practice of the levelling-up agenda. I welcome that the role of heritage in promoting the levelling-up agenda has been recognised in the partnerships between government and the heritage bodies that are working to conserve and develop historic assets and the environment around the country, particularly in poor areas. Government figures show that £594 million—a terrific amount of money—of the £2.1 billion from the second round of the levelling-up fund has been awarded to local projects to restore local heritage.

These amendments serve that purpose. There are beautiful and resourceful historic buildings in every community in the country, no matter how different they are, which reflect the history of those communities and can be put to work for another generation whose needs are different. I commend the amendments to the Minister and hope that he will take their point.

Photo of Lord Carrington of Fulham Lord Carrington of Fulham Conservative 3:45, 20 April 2023

My Lords, I rise to support the amendments that were so ably addressed and presented by the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews. These are important amendments because the demolition of historic building is a very long-standing problem. I do not want to go through all the arguments that the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, ably set out in her speech; I want to consider some slightly different issues which these amendments would help to address.

Part of the long-standing problem is that historic buildings are not properly protected by either our planning or listing systems. This is partly because fashions change, partly because of prejudice and partly purely because the legislation does not keep up with the need to protect buildings as they become old and more vulnerable. It is an old problem. Those of us who go back a few years—I ought to say that I have been a member of the Victorian Society since I was a teenager, which some of you will be surprised to hear was one or two years ago—will remember the Firestone factory, which was expected to be listed as a great Art Deco building. It was knocked down overnight—indeed, it was severely damaged to ensure that it could not be repaired—to stop it being listed. The Firestone building was not alone. Those of you who remember the last 20 or 25 years will recall Kensington Town Hall in Kensington High Street. Outrageously, the local council, whose politics I strongly agree with, knocked down the façade of the old town hall overnight to stop it being listed. Neither of these buildings would necessarily have been a great priority for listing, but they were certainly well worth protecting.

Another problem is that the listing regime has a bias, as the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, has said, against buildings which are post-1850. This means that if a building is prior to 1850, it is very likely to be listed; if it is after 1850, it is less likely to be listed. I just have to tell you the names of some of the architects whose careers were entirely after 1850: think of the very great Richard Norman Shaw, Charles Voysey, Edwin Lutyens and Giles Gilbert Scott, who rebuilt the new Chamber of the other place down the corridor. These days, all their buildings would probably be listed.

Of course, architecture was not only great architects. Often, the great architect would put up a design, maybe even publish the design, and other architects would then take on that design and build buildings which perhaps did not have the genius of a Richard Norman Shaw but possibly had the style of one. These days, English Heritage would almost certainly consider them to be derivative and therefore not worthy of protection. It is a very serious problem.

Having slightly defined one bit of the problem, I want to come on to why developers use the permitted development rights to knock down buildings. If a developer is buying a building, he is buying it almost in every case to build another building on the site, unless he is trying to extend his garden. If a developer rushes in to knock down what was there before, before getting planning permission to build what they are going to replace it with, there is a reason for doing that. One reason may be, as with the Kensington Town Hall and the Firestone tyre factory, that they thought it might be listed. The other reason is that it is much more difficult for a planning committee of a local authority to refuse planning permission to an empty site than it is to a site that already has a perfectly usable building on it, so they will knock it down. There is a third reason, the one raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, concerning VAT—they may feel that there is an incentive to get on with the work because of the VAT and the cash elements in it, but, frankly, that is minor compared with the other two.

So there is an issue here which needs to be addressed. There is no reason why developers should not be required, at the time they put in their planning application to rebuild on a site, to put in a similar, parallel application to demolish. I am not saying that every building should be protected; that would be nonsense—there are a lot of buildings which, quite frankly, could easily be replaced with better buildings. What I am saying, and I believe this is also what the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, was saying, is that we need to think about it. We need to look at the building that is there and say, “Is this a building that could better be used by being refurbished and keeping the character of the town or street preserved?”.

Those of us who have travelled, as I am sure all of us have, around Europe will be well aware of the beauty of towns in France, Germany or wherever, where the character of the town has been preserved to look as though it evolved gently over time to reflect the character of the people. Too often, our towns and high streets are a higgledy-piggledy collection of some fine buildings, some meritorious buildings, some rather dull buildings and some buildings that look as though they were designed and built purely with the idea of keeping the costs down but with no real element of design. We need to bring this to an end: we need to stop developers’ profits determining what it is that our towns, villages and high streets look like—we need to ensure that more thought goes into it.

I think these amendments go a long way to achieving that. The problem I have with them is that some of the worst offenders in knocking down buildings are local authorities themselves. Sadly, local authorities will police their own planning committees, and consequently if they want to do something for whatever reason and there is a building in the way, they will give themselves planning permission to knock it down and rebuild when they probably should not. I do not know how we get round that, but it is a problem and has been a problem in London for some time, where civic buildings in particular have been knocked down outrageously because the town hall decided that what it really wanted to do was build a monument to the current councillors. That is something which we need to address and these amendments do not address it, but they are a movement along the way.

It has also been suggested that it would be sensible for these amendments to have timelines in them. The suggestion has been twofold. One is that the time should be 1948, so we would not remove permitted development rights from buildings built after 1948. I would oppose that. As much as I like Victorian and early 20th-century buildings, some very fine buildings built after 1948 are vulnerable too. The other suggestion is that the timeline should be based on 1850, which, frankly, is a nonsense for the reasons I have already given. Therefore I strongly support these amendments.

However, I will end by giving the House the apologies of my noble friend Lord Cormack, who could not be here to move his own Amendment 247B, which is in this group of amendments and which gives protection to statues and monuments; it is not confined just to buildings. My understanding is that this is largely already covered in existing legislation. The removal of statues from listed buildings would clearly require planning permission. There is a degree of protection but I am unclear as to quite how much, and I would greatly appreciate it if my noble friend the Minister could elucidate exactly what is possible.

There is also an issue around the desecration of statues, which has become rather fashionable, from writing graffiti on the statue of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square to putting funny hats on the statue of Disraeli in Liverpool—I rather suspect he would have found that rather amusing and would have enjoyed it, provided that the hat was decorative and fun and fell in with his zeitgeist. I am not sure that statutes are protected from being defaced, and I would be grateful if my noble friend the Minister could comment on that as well.

Other than that, I strongly support these amendments. I hope that they will be acceptable to the Government and to the House, and I look forward to our heritage, our streetscapes and our towns being better protected as places of beauty, history and community than they are at present.

Photo of Lord Shipley Lord Shipley Liberal Democrat 4:00, 20 April 2023

My Lords, I agree strongly with what the noble Lord, Lord Carrington of Fulham, just said about Amendments 312G and 312H, as well as with what the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, said about them. This is a particularly serious matter and I hope that the Government will pay due attention. A range of issues has been raised in this group, the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, on timelines might be a possible way forward for discussion and prove productive.

I have had concerns for some time about permitted development rights, feeling that in some cases they are simply too loose. My previous concerns have related, for example, to conversions of offices to residential flats for sale, which often reduces the total number of places where people can go to work and increases the distances to where their place of work may then have to be. Very often, permitted development rights are used for short-term development reasons but where those reasons may not be in the long-term interests of a local area, and we need to remember that long term.

I have put my name to Amendments 312G and 312H alongside those of the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, and the noble Lord, Lord Carrington of Fulham, because there is another aspect of permitted development rights that I believe needs reform in the interests of maintaining our heritage. According to the Royal Institute of British Architects, approximately 50,000 buildings are demolished each year. Many of them may well be unfit or unsuitable for the modern age, and demolition is understandable in those cases where they are going to be replaced with something better.

However, that is not always the case, as we have heard from previous speakers. The Victorian Society has produced evidence that high-quality historic buildings are being demolished when they still have a useful purpose. Many buildings are not listed when they could be. I have concluded that there is a gap in our regulations, which should require that older buildings, at least, that are not listed, should have to undergo a further test. That test is, I suggest, the planning system, which could consider demolition as part of a redevelopment application. If there is no redevelopment application, there is no obvious reason to demolish the building, where it is safe. That could end up with an empty site for a long time, or a later application for a worse development than the building demolished.

These arguments relate to Amendment 312G, but Amendment 312H is also critical. It requires planning permission to demolish locally listed buildings. These lists exist for a reason, and demolition should not be treated lightly. Strangely, not all local councils have local lists anyway, which is another concern.

It should not be possible for buildings on a local list to be demolished without planning permission if they are outside a conservation area—rules currently apply if they are inside a conservation area. I ask the Minister: what is the point of a local list otherwise? Local lists need protection from poor, short-term decisions on demolition which are contrary to our long-term heritage interests. This is about buildings that matter to local people and future-proofing our heritage, and I very much hope the Minister will concur.

Photo of Lord Thurlow Lord Thurlow Crossbench

My Lords, first, I simply put right a matter of record. I failed to declare my interests in our debate before lunch. I have two buy-to-let properties, as marked on the register.

I now briefly reference Amendment 247B from the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, ably introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington of Fulham. I refer to our heritage assets in the context of properties, as well as statues and artwork. In the UK, a disproportionately small minority can cause heritage assets to be removed from public view, whether they are in public or private ownership or locations.

Furthermore, the world we live in of modern development seldom includes a requirement on developers to contribute to what I think is referred to as the public realm. Most larger developments, as we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, are built to minimum cost. We must not forget that good architecture and good design—itself expensive—is a great contribution to the public realm. The presence of statues and monuments, and good building design is a really important contribution to society. Planning applications should have a public realm box, simply to ask whether they are making any contribution to the public realm and heritage assets. The amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, should also refer to heritage assets which are stored out of sight and yet are in public ownership.

Photo of Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport)

My Lords, this group of amendments relates to heritage, assets of community value and permitted development rights for demolition of buildings. I am pleased to be responding as Minister for Heritage, and I am very happy to discuss these matters with individual noble Lords, as I speak for the first time on this Bill.

Amendment 243, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor of Stevenage, and moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, would require the Secretary of State to publish a review of local heritage lists and the results of the 2018 review of the non-statutory guidance on assets of community value. That review was undertaken to shape the future direction of the policy in the levelling-up White Paper that His Majesty’s Government committed to and explore how the existing community asset transfer and asset of community value schemes can be enhanced. We will continue to make funds available to groups through the community ownership fund.

Regarding the review of local heritage lists, the Government recognise the importance of identifying and managing those parts of the historic environment which are valued by their community. We have given £1.5 million to 22 places across England to support local planning authorities and their residents to develop new and update local heritage lists. Our intention is that the lessons learned from that work will be shared with other local authorities so that they too can benefit from the good practice that is building up in this area. As part of the development of the new national planning policy framework, we will also develop new proposals for statutory national development management policies, including policies to protect local heritage assets. Such proposals will be subject to future consultation; we would not want to pre-empt the outcome of that consultation by taking steps such as those envisaged in this amendment right now.

Amendment 246, also tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, would require draft legislation to reform assets of community value to be published within 90 days of Royal Assent of this Bill. Community assets play a vital role in creating thriving neighbourhoods. The assets of community value scheme enables communities and parish councils with the right to register a building or piece of land as an asset of community value if the principal use of the asset furthers their community’s well-being or social interests and is likely to do so in future. The scheme has been successful in helping community groups to identify important local assets at risk of loss. As I have mentioned, the levelling-up White Paper committed us to consider how the existing assets of community value framework can be enhanced. We must ensure that any changes to the legislation are workable in practice. To do this in a meaningful way needs consultation with all the parties that it will affect, including community groups, local authorities which are responsible for listing assets, and businesses and private individuals who are property owners. An amendment such as this risks creating legislation which does not work in practice. The framework must balance community power and the ability to safeguard community assets in a way that is fair, targeted and proportionate. We are committed to exporting the scope for improvements which can maintain this important balance, but it is important that we do so in a way which gives time with those with an interest to reflect on their experience and any proposals for change.

Amendment 244, also tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, would mean that when deciding on the correct recipient of a temporary stop notice, the authority should have regard to the tenancy status of the occupier and their level of responsibility for any works on the property. Clause 96 addresses a gap in the enforcement powers available to local authorities in relation to listed buildings, which will help to protect these irreplaceable assets for generations to come. While under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 local authorities have the power to serve temporary stop notices, there is currently no equivalent power in relation to listed buildings. Clause 96 amends the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 to give local planning authorities the power to issue temporary stop notices in relation to unauthorised works to a listed building in England.

The noble Baroness’s amendment seeks to add a requirement for local planning authorities to have regard to the tenancy status of the occupier and their level of responsibility. Temporary stop notices are an existing enforcement tool which local planning authorities are accustomed to issuing. Those planning authorities have experience of considering matters such as tenancy status and the level of responsibility for works carried out when they serve such notices, which would also apply in this context. The Government believe that the local planning authorities do not require the additional guidance that this amendment would provide, so they do not feel that it is necessary.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, asked me how local authorities can identify the owner of the properties when sending out a temporary stop notice. They can use a variety of sources: for instance, council tax records, planning application registers, and the Land Registry are some of the open sources of information that they are already able to consult. Usually, they would do everything they can to identify to whom it should best be served, and it can indeed be to a variety of people.

Amendment 245 was tabled by the noble Earls, Lord Lytton and Lord Devon. The noble Earl, Lord Lytton, asked for a rationale for Clause 98. In short, the current system for issuing building preservation notices is not working. These notices offer interim protection to a building which is considered to be of special architectural and historic interest, which is at risk of alteration or demolition, but they are not being used enough by local authorities because of a fear of inordinate costs. The Government find that unacceptable. Local planning authorities, through our expert heritage advisers, Historic England, have already clearly indicated that the risk of compensation being paid out remains a barrier to serving these notices. We therefore do not feel that a public consultation on this would be helpful to identify further underlying causes: we think we know what it is. Noble Lords should also note that the majority of buildings assessed while a building preservation notice is in place have gone on to be given permanent statutory protection.

The noble Earl mentioned Historic Houses. I am meeting its director general, Ben Cowell, next week, so I will be happy to discuss the matter more with him. He also mentioned the Listed Property Owners Club which, by definition, covers properties which are already listed and therefore have the protections that come with that. The Government are confident that the removal of compensation will encourage local planning authorities to make greater effective use of the building preservation notice process, thus helping to better protect our nation’s most important historic buildings from potentially harmful alterations or extensions, or demolition.

Photo of The Earl of Lytton The Earl of Lytton Crossbench 4:15, 20 April 2023

Could the Minister explain why he considers it appropriate for authorities to have this power but, to visit direct—and it must be direct—loss in order to be compensable, he thinks it is not appropriate that the exercise of powers should be accompanied by compensation? What other areas where the compensation code might be deemed to apply does he think are in some way disposable? I remind him of the principles that I referred to right at the end of discussing human rights, on the questions of the reasonable enjoyment of one’s property, not being dispossessed of it by the state other than for an overriding reason, and then only on the provision of proper compensation, determined by an independent adjudicator if necessary. Does he depart from those particular principles?

Photo of Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport)

I am grateful to the noble Earl for his questions. If it is helpful, I am very happy to speak to him in advance of my meeting with Ben Cowell next week, so that I can have a fruitful discussion with him and with Historic Houses on this point.

He asked about the Secretary of State’s declaration on the Bill. That is self-evident: the Secretary of State has found it compatible with human rights laws. But I will leave it to colleagues at the Secretary of State’s department to speak further on that. With the offer to meet the noble Earl ahead of my meeting, I hope that he will be happy with the point that I have outlined about wanting to remove what we see as a hindrance to these notices being served.

Amendments 312G and 312H, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, would require the Secretary of State to remove permitted development rights for the demolition of buildings. These amendments aim to reduce demolition and consequently carbon emissions, to increase communities’ ability to shape local places and to protect non-designated heritage assets. I completely agree with the remarks she made about the value of historic buildings and our historic environment to communities and the importance of preserving them for generations to come. I pay tribute to the work she has done over many years on this at English Heritage, the National Lottery Heritage Fund and in many other ways.

Permitted development rights are a national grant of planning permission that allow certain building works and changes of use to take place. There is a long-standing permitted development right which permits the demolition of buildings, subject to certain limitations and conditions, as she outlined in her speech. Her Amendment 312G seeks to remove this permitted development right for all but the smallest buildings. Her Amendment 312H seeks to remove the right for locally listed heritage assets only. These amendments would mean that works to demolish affected buildings would require the submission of a planning application.

I want to make it clear to noble Lords that the Government are committed to ensuring that planning permission contributes to our work to mitigate and adapt to climate change. National planning policy is clear that the planning system should support our transition to a low-carbon future, including helping to encourage the reuse of existing resources and the conversion of existing buildings where appropriate. The National Model Design Code encourages sustainable construction focused on reducing embodied energy, embedding circular economy principles to reduce waste, designing for disassembly and exploring the remodelling and reusing of buildings where possible rather than rebuilding. I know that our heritage bodies—not just our arm’s-length bodies such as Historic England but right across the sector—are doing sincere and fruitful work to make sure that we have the skills, not just now but in generations to come, to carry out the works to effect that.

I also want to stress that the Government recognise the need to protect historic buildings and other assets valued by their local communities. The heritage designation regime in England protects buildings of special architectural and historic interest, but we understand there are many other buildings and assets that local people cherish. Planning practice guidance encourages local planning authorities to prepare local lists of non-designated heritage assets. I mentioned earlier the £1.5 million we have given to support local planning authorities and their residents to develop new and updated local heritage lists, with the intention that the lessons learned from that work will be shared later this year.

Local planning authorities have the power, where they consider it necessary, to remove specific permitted development rights to protect a local amenity or the well-being of an area by making an article for direction. Powers to amend permitted development rights already exist in primary legislation. There are also tools within the existing planning system that can be used to manage demolition more responsively, such as the National Planning Policy Framework and local design codes. So, while we appreciate the importance of reducing carbon emissions, supporting local democracy and of course protecting heritage assets, we do not believe that these amendments are necessary to achieve those aims. I want to assure the noble Baroness that we will of course continue to keep permitted development rights under review and look at them with a heritage lens as well.

I understand the point raised by my noble friend Lord Carrington of Fulham about the protections available to more recent buildings. While the tastes of individual Ministers are rightly irrelevant in the process, I share his admiration for the work of Giles Gilbert Scott. I live close to what was King’s College Hospital in Denmark Hill and is now the home of the Salvation Army. I had the pleasure of speaking on 8 September last year—a date which sadly sticks in the mind—to a conference organised by the think tank Create Streets on diverse modernities, where I was able to talk about his other buildings, such as the university library and the memorial court at Clare College in Cambridge.

I said on that occasion that the Government recognise that the eligible age for protection by statutory listing needs to continue rolling forward. In the past, recent buildings have not been a focus for listing, but I am glad to say that that is no longer the case. One-third of the buildings listed by recent Secretaries of State have been 20th century buildings. I think one of the most recent examples is the headquarters of Channel 4 on Horseferry Road, which dates from the 1990s.

The listing regime is not prejudiced. As per the Secretary State’s principles for selection, planning and development are not taken into account when listing a building—it is done purely on historic and architectural merit. The older a building is and the fewer surviving examples there are of its kind, the more likely it is to have special interest. From 1850 to 1945, because of the greatly increased number of building erected and the much larger number of buildings that were constructed and have survived, progressively greater selection is therefore necessary. Careful selection is of course required for buildings from the period after the Second World War.

I am very grateful to my noble friend for speaking to Amendment 247B tabled by our noble friend Lord Cormack. As my noble friend Lord Carrington said, the noble Lord sends his apologies for not being able to be here in your Lordships’ House today. Noble Lords will know he is the last person who would wish to express discourtesy to your Lordships’ House. He has given me permission to share that it is only because he is collecting his wife from hospital following an operation that he is unable to be here today. I am sure noble Lords will understand and want to join me in wishing Lady Cormack a swift recuperation.

I am grateful to him for his amendment, which highlights the importance of lists of locally important heritage assets. I have been able to speak to my noble friend about his amendment and some of the points that lie behind it. As Minister for Heritage, I am, on behalf of the Secretary of State, responsible for the statutory designation system that lists buildings of architectural and historic importance, and protects monuments of national importance. Local listing is a non-statutory means by which local planning authorities can, if they wish, identify heritage assets that are of local importance but do not meet the criteria for national designation and statutory protection as a listed building or a scheduled monument, and then take account of these assets during the planning process. In recent years, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has provided financial support to selected local planning authorities wishing to develop a local list with the assistance of Historic England.

Local lists are discretionary; some local planning authorities compile local lists and some do not. Under the terms of local listing, it is up to those authorities which heritage assets they include in local lists. I am not, at present, convinced that, given this discretionary nature, we should be legislating for local lists to include all statues and monuments in an area. While many statues and monuments are very clearly cherished by the local community and should be included on local lists, there will be instances where it would be inappropriate to include certain statues and monuments—for instance, a sculpture in somebody’s private garden. Local planning authorities, following consultation with their communities, are best placed to decide what should be included on a local list.

Our national designation system already ensures statutory protection of our most significant heritage assets, including statues and monuments. The national listing process already protects those that meet the criteria of special architectural or historic interest. We have recently increased the protections for non-designated statues and monuments in public places that are more than 10 years old, whether they are locally listed or not. Their removal now needs explicit planning permission, and we have made it clear in national planning policy that decisions on statues and monuments should have regard to our policy of retaining and explaining these important historical assets.

My noble friend raised the question of the definition of “alteration”, pointing to some examples, including the statue of the Earl of Beaconsfield, Benjamin Disraeli. As it is the day after Primrose Day, and the birthday of my noble friend Lord Lexden—the Conservative Party’s official historian—I must echo my noble friend’s comments about Disraeli and the amusement he might find in some of the treatment of statues of him today. But the point my noble friend makes is an interesting one, which I am happy to discuss with him and my noble friend Lord Cormack. As he is not here for me to ask him not to move his amendment, I offer, on the record, to discuss this with him and any other noble Lords. I beg all noble Lords whose amendments I have addressed not to move their amendments and beg the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment at this juncture.

Photo of Baroness Hayman of Ullock Baroness Hayman of Ullock Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Levelling Up, Housing, Communities and Local Government) 4:30, 20 April 2023

I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate, and I thank the Minister for his thorough response to these amendments. On my noble friend’s Amendment 243, I was pleased that the Minister said that the Government will continue to provide funds for assets of community value, but just providing funds does not address the problem that many communities do not have the capacity to put the bids together in the first place. That is our main concern here. It looks like we are again waiting to hear the detail—this time about what will be in the NDMPs. I guess we will be updated on this later on in the Bill, but I am sure we will return to it when we get to those particular clauses.

On Amendment 246, it is good that the Minister talked about the Government’s improvements in this area but, again, this comes back to the fact that more needs to be done to support all communities’ abilities to put together suitable bids and plans. Some communities are not able to; they do not have that ability. So it is not about the amount available—it is making sure that all communities have proper access and are able to put together suitable bids.

On the local heritage lists in Amendment 243, one of our concerns is that they do not have any standing in planning law, so there is a big gap between what has listed status and what is available to go on to local heritage lists. We think that local authorities should be able to determine that degree of protection, which they currently cannot, for buildings on their heritage lists. The noble Lord, Lord Shipley, said that many local authorities do not even know about them, so there is an issue there that the Government could perhaps take a look at.

The noble Earl, Lord Lytton, made some good points—he is always extremely clear about his concerns—and I am sure he will want to come back to discuss them further. My noble friend Lady Andrews made some really important points, as did the noble Lord, Lord Carrington of Fulham, when he supported her. She said that there had been a long-standing failure to protect our historic environment. Our amendments work with hers quite well to try to look at the bigger picture and strengthen protections. The noble Baroness made the important point that planning departments are really strapped, so they need more help to protect buildings from demolition. Developers have a lot of money and often a lot of resources available to them, but local authorities do not have those resources or the people. If the Minister is able to look at my noble friend’s second amendment again, that would be extremely helpful—there could potentially be some way forward. He seemed to agree with much of what she said, so perhaps he could suggest a similar amendment on Report, which would be helpful.

The noble Lord, Lord Carrington of Fulham, made a good point about certain iconic buildings that have disappeared. I am sure that all of us can think of similar buildings in our own communities that have gone, and it has really shocked people when they have been demolished unexpectedly, even when there was already an agreement that they would not be demolished.

So this is a good group of amendments, and I hope that the Minister will consider some of the arguments further. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw.

Amendment 243 withdrawn.

Clause 95 agreed.

Clause 96: Temporary stop notices in relation to listed buildings

Amendment 244 not moved.

Clause 96 agreed.

Clause 97 agreed.

Clause 98: Removal of compensation for building preservation notice