Amendment 243

Part of Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill - Committee (10th Day) – in the House of Lords at 4:00 pm on 20 April 2023.

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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.