Amendment 243

Part of 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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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) 3:19, 20 April 2023

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.