Amendment 243

Part of Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill - Committee (10th Day) – in the House of Lords at 4:15 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) 4:15, 20 April 2023

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.