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 Parkinson of Whitley Bay Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport) 4:00, 20 April 2023

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.