Amendment 247

Part of Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill - Committee (10th Day) – in the House of Lords at 4:45 pm on 20 April 2023.

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Photo of Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip) 4:45, 20 April 2023

My Lords, I would like to thank my noble friend Lord Northbrook for tabling these amendments and my noble friend Lord Lexden for so ably introducing them.

Amendment 247 would require amendments to permitted development rights. Permitted development rights are a national grant of planning permission which allow certain building works and changes of use to take place. Rights in relation to England are set out in the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 (2015/596). As we heard in the debate immediately preceding this group, heritage assets, including conservation areas, are an irreplaceable resource and it is important that we ensure that they are protected. Local authorities are required by law, in carrying out their functions, to pay special attention to the desirability of preserving or enhancing the character or appearance of conservation areas.

We are committed to quality and design regardless of whether homes are delivered through a permitted development right or a planning application. We intend to consult on introducing secondary legislation so that existing permitted development rights with design or external appearance prior approvals will take into account design codes where they are in place locally. Local authorities can remove specific permitted development rights to protect local amenity or the well-being of the area by making an Article 4 direction.

As committed to in the Government’s British Energy Security Strategy, we are currently undertaking a review of the practical planning barriers that households can face when installing energy-efficiency measures. This will include replacement windows with improved glazing, including in conservation areas. While this review is under way, it would be premature to accept this amendment, as it would curtail the scope of any legislative recommendations that the review might set out in due course.

To go further on that, because I know that this area was of concern to both noble Baronesses, Lady Hayman and Lady Pinnock, the Government are fully committed to encouraging home owners to incorporate energy-efficiency measures in their properties. As part of this, we recognise the need to ensure that more historic buildings have the right energy-efficiency measures to support our zero-carbon objectives. The review of heritage and energy efficiency committed to in the British Energy Security Strategy and currently under way will enable the Government to respond to the issue in an informed and joined-up way. In addition, powers to amend permitted development rights already exist in primary legislation. For these reasons, the Government are unable to support this amendment; however, we will continue to keep permitted development rights under review.

I turn to Amendment 247A, which proposes a new clause amending Section 72 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 to require, in exercise of planning functions, special attention to be paid to the views of residents in conservation areas. I understand my noble friend’s concerns. However, the purpose of Section 72 is to ensure that local planning authorities are required, when making planning decisions, to pay special attention to the desirability of preserving or enhancing the character or appearance of conservation areas. It is an important, long-standing duty that protects conservation areas.

Engagement with the sector during policy development for the Bill acknowledged that the framework for protecting the historic environment works well, although there are opportunities, we acknowledge, for targeted improvements. The package of heritage reforms focuses on maintaining the strong protections for the historic environment within the new planning system and, where possible, building on the existing framework. The proposed reforms will build on the existing protections without introducing any additional restrictions on development. It would be inappropriate to extend it so that local planning authorities have to pay special attention to the views of those living in conservation areas too. It would mean the views of conservation area residents would have greater weight than those living outside the area, which we think would be unfair.

In addition, in determining planning applications, decision-makers are already required to consult with local residents, and their views are taken into account. This will not change in our reformed system, and we are also taking powers in the Bill to improve the consultation process, making it more accessible by complementing more traditional forms of engagement with digital tools. It is not considered necessary, therefore, to duplicate these arrangements by extending the Section 72 special attention duty.

Turning to Amendment 285, we agree that it is important that the most up-to-date consolidated version of the general permitted development order, which sets out all the national permitted development rights, is publicly available online. Amendments to the order are often made, as we introduce new permitted development rights or make changes to the existing rights, through amending orders. The latest consolidated version of the general permitted development order is already available on the Government’s legislation website, alongside the original version.

I hope that I have provided the noble Lord with adequate reassurances, but we are unable to support these amendments at this time.