Planning Bill: Consideration Stage

Executive Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:00 pm on 8th March 2011.

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Clause 1 (General functions of Department with respect to development of land)

Debate resumed on amendments Nos 1 to 16, 78 to 80 and 86, which amendments were:

No 1: In page 1, line 11, leave out “contributing to the achievement of” and insert “furthering”. — [The Chairperson of the Committee for the Environment (Mr Boylan).]

No 2: In page 1, line 11, after “development” insert “and promoting or improving well-being”. — [The Chairperson of the Committee for the Environment (Mr Boylan).]

No 3: In page 1, line 12, leave out “have regard to” and insert “take account of”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 4: In clause 2, page 2, line 7, after “prepare” insert “and publish”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 5: In clause 2, page 2, line 11, at end insert

“(3) The Department must prepare and publish a statement of community involvement within the period of one year from the day appointed for the coming into operation of this section.” — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 6: In clause 3, page 2, line 27, at end insert

‘( ) the potential impact of climate change;’. — [The Chairperson of the Committee for the Environment (Mr Boylan).]

No 7: In clause 5, page 3, line 25, leave out “contributing to the achievement of’ and insert ‘furthering”. — [The Chairperson of the Committee for the Environment (Mr Boylan).]

No 8: In clause 5, page 3, line 27, leave out “have regard to” and insert “take account of”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 9: In clause 6, page 3, line 36, after “Act” insert

“and in any other statutory provision relating to planning”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 10: In clause 6, page 3, line 37, leave out “local”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 11: In clause 6, page 3, line 37, leave out “other”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 12: In clause 6, page 4, line 5, leave out “the local development” and insert “that”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 13: In clause 8, page 5, line 11, at end insert

“(7) A plan strategy is a plan strategy only if it is—

(a) adopted by resolution of the council; or

(b) approved by the Department in accordance with section 16(6).” — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 14: In clause 9, page 5, line 36, at end insert

“(8) A local policies plan is a local policies plan only if it is—

(a) adopted by resolution of the council; or

(b) approved by the Department in accordance with section 16(6).” — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 15: In clause 10, page 6, line 10, at end insert

“(4A) The Department must not appoint a person under subsection (4)(b) unless, having regard to the timetable prepared by the council under section 7(1), the Department considers it expedient to do so.” — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 16: In clause 16, page 8, line 5, leave out “(5)” and insert “(4A)”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 78: In clause 221, page 142, line 41, after “understanding” insert “of planning policy proposals and”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 79: In clause 221, page 142, line 41, at end insert “other”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 80: In clause 221, page 143, line 8, leave out from “, with” to “Personnel,” in line 9. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 86: Before clause 224, insert the following new clause:

Review of Planning Act

223A.—(1) The Department must—

(a) not later than 3 years after the commencement of this Act, and

(b) at least once in every period of 5 years thereafter,

review and publish a report on the implementation of this Act.

(2) Regulations under this section shall set out the terms of the review.” — [Mr Boylan.]

Photo of Peter Weir Peter Weir DUP

Much has been said already about the amendments in group 1, and I intend to keep my remarks fairly brief. At the outset, I join others in thanking departmental and Committee officials for the many long hours that they have put in. That work enabled us to get through the Bill with a high level of consensus and to deal with what is probably the largest Bill that has ever come before the Assembly, certainly the largest Bill in the lifetime of the current Assembly. It is due to the work of the Department, the Minister and the Committee that many issues were resolved. It is important that the Planning Bill is got right, and the reason for the large number of amendments is so that what we put in place will be fit for purpose.

I now turn briefly to a couple of the amendments in group 1. When councils take responsibility for planning — Mr McGlone and others expressed caution about that — there will be a massive culture change for those in the councils who will be involved in planning. Therefore, it is important that it is got right. Although, the focus in most people’s minds is on individual planning applications, it is important that development plans, which will be a key aspect for local authorities, are also got right. Consequently, amendment Nos 13 and 14 to clauses 8 and 9, which highlight that plan strategies and local policies plans must be approved by either the resolution of the council or the Department, are important and significant. They will provide a guarantee that what will be put in place will be supported and has been got right.

Concerns were raised about the Planning Appeals Commission and the creation of the independent examiner, and amendment Nos 15 and 16 will mean that the latter should only really intervene when the PAC is unable to conduct the independent examination. That issue was discussed at great length by the Committee, and I am glad that the Minister took its position on board. As a result of those amendments, what was implicit in the intention of the Department will be made explicit in the Bill. Many Members expressed the need to have something in place in addition to the PAC, and we can all point to long delays in the planning process. Amendment Nos 15 and 16 will improve the process and will ensure that the independent examiner is only used in limited situations. As a consequence, it will be done in the right way.

With reference to amendment No 5, there has been much discussion about the importance of community involvement, the broader issue of which will be discussed in a different guise when we debate the third group of amendments. The position that was taken to try to front-load community involvement and to get things right at the start, so that we do not need to make corrections later, is correct. Consequently, there is a duty, at an early stage, to work with the community, while the need to have a statement of community involvement in any development plans, which is contained in the very clear-cut departmental amendment No 5, should also be strongly welcomed.

I indicated that there was a high level of consensus. However, there are some aspects that concern us, and I will highlight one. Other amendments largely involve tinkering with wording, which may not be of major significance, but I have strong concerns about amendment No 6, which proposes to add the potential impact of climate change as a matter for councils to keep under review.

Climate change is largely dealt with on an international basis. Certainly, where monitoring is done, it is on a high-level national basis. The expectation that councils will make an assessment of the potential impact of climate change in their locality will inevitably drive them in one of two directions. The assessment may become, in effect, a tick-box exercise. A high level of expertise and technical knowledge is required for a proper assessment. Councils may give a vague, general assessment, perhaps through a lack of evidence, in which case it becomes a slightly meaningless gesture. The scientific or statistical value of that has to be questioned. Alternatively, there will be a compulsion on councils to invest vast sums of money on highly technical and sophisticated monitoring. Members, including, I think, Mr McGlone, raised councils’ concerns that what is put in place must be cost-neutral and must not place an extra burden on the ratepayer.

My concern is that focusing the issue of the impact of climate change on local councils is to focus it in the wrong direction. That issue needs to be tackled nationally and internationally. If amendment No 6 is made, it will lead to one of two situations: it either becomes a glib, tick-box exercise that benefits no one, or, if it is done properly, it will be at a high technical and administrative level that would place a great burden on ratepayers. Consequently, I do not believe that that amendment is to be commended.

Most people will not have objections to the broad thrust of the amendments in group 1. Therefore, having made my remarks, I am happy to see the Bill move forward.

Photo of George Savage George Savage UUP

The amendments in group 2 relate to enforcement and penalties. I welcome amendment Nos 17 and 18.

Photo of William Hay William Hay Speaker

Order. I remind the Member that we are at group 1. There may have been a misunderstanding on his part.

Photo of George Savage George Savage UUP

Thank you, Mr Speaker. I declare an interest as a member of Craigavon Borough Council.

Group 1 relates to the functions of the Depart­ment and the local development plans. Amendment No 2 amends clause 1 and requires the Department to take well-being into account as part of its planning functions. Although I broadly support that principle, I question how it can be enforced or what proof will exist that the Depart­ment has actually taken well-being into account. What or who will define what well-being is?

Amendment Nos 4 and 5 introduce a time limit within which the Department must produce and publish its statement on community involvement. What penalty exists, should the Department fail to produce such a statement? I ask that because I am aware that that requirement already exists in statute and has done for several years, but a document has never been produced. What assurance is there that the Department will comply this time and within what timescale?

I am broadly in support of what amendment No 6 sets out to accomplish. However, I am concerned about the extra costs that could be incurred by councils. Perhaps the Minister or the Member who tabled the amendment could elaborate on how those potential costs would be paid and by whom. I also welcome amendment No 15 as a positive step forward.

Amendment Nos 78 and 79 give me cause for concern. Perhaps the Minister could provide further clarity and detail on how those amendments would work in practice.

Amendment No 86 is a new clause tabled by my Committee colleagues, and I am keen to support it in principle. I am keen that legislation, especially key legislation such as that before us today, is reviewed regularly to ensure that it is fit for purpose. The legislation must also be cost-effective. Will a three-year review and a review every five years thereafter deliver value for money?

Those are my concerns. Other than that, I am content with the group 1 amendments.

Photo of Brian Wilson Brian Wilson Green

I begin by paying tribute to the Committee Clerk, the Committee staff and the departmental officials for all the work that they put into getting the Bill to this stage. The Committee received this massive Bill in December, and I shared other Members’ concerns about the speed with which it was being processed. Without the exceptional efforts made by the staff, the Bill would not have reached this stage.

I share Mr McGlone’s concern that we are putting the cart before the horse. He said that we should carry out the reform of local government before we transfer any additional powers to councils. I well remember the comments in the Macrory report on why planning powers were taken away from councils and centralised. Having said that, I support the principle of transferring planning powers to local government, and I support the amendments, which will strengthen the Bill and can restore public confidence in the planning system.

I welcome amendment Nos 1 and 2, which are designed to put sustainable development at the centre of the planning system. At present, the planners argue that each planning application should be considered on its individual merits, with no regard for the cumulative effect of each decision. In many cases, that is unsustainable and will lead to problems in the future.

I also welcome amendment Nos 4 and 5, which strengthen the opportunity for community involvement. I support amendment No 6, which links planning to climate change. That is essential, given what is happening today. Climate change will become increasingly important over the next few years, as was recognised by many respondents to the consultation.

I also welcome amendment No 15, which tightens the conditions under which an independent examiner may be appointed.

Finally, I support the introduction of the new clause through amendment No 86. Although I accept that the Department will keep all new legislation under review, the specific timetable in the amendment will ensure that the Department focuses on the issue.

Overall, I support the amendments and believe that they can increase public confidence and involvement in the planning system.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

A number of the amendments in group 1 arose from recommendations made by the Committee for the Environment during Committee Stage. So I thank the Chair and Committee members for the considerable time and energy that they devoted to the Bill, which has clearly been scrutinised carefully. The Committee raised helpful questions and made a number of recommendations, most of which I was pleased to accept.

As mentioned, a lot of work was done by the Committee staff and my staff to ensure that we got to this point. I put on record my gratitude to all parties involved in achieving that.

Clauses 1 and 5 place a duty on my Department, councils and others to exercise their functions under the Bill with the objective of

“contributing to the achievement of sustainable development”.

In amendment No 1, the Chair of the Environment Committee proposes a change to “furthering” sustainable development. His wording is at odds with the general sustainable development duty on public authorities, as set out in section 25 of the Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2006.

As Ms Lo pointed out, the amendment would weaken the sustainable development provision. So I am in something of a quandary: Brian Wilson seems to support the weakening of the sustainable development proposal, and Ms Lo is opposed to it being weakened. I am in the hands of the House on that, but my Department’s view is that the amendment would weaken the sustainable development duty outlined in the Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2006.

The Chairperson of the Environment Committee also proposed through amendment No 2 that my Department’s planning functions be expanded to include, “promoting or improving well-being”. We are considering a new power of well-being for councils but, as yet, that does not exist in statute. Therefore, it may be deemed inappropriate to refer to it in the Bill as we do not have a definition at this point and it may be some time before we have a definition of well-being. Again, I will be in the hands of the House on that issue.

In amendment Nos 3 to 8, I propose that, in exercising the functions under the Bill, DOE and the councils should “take account of” guidance issued by DRD and OFMDFM, rather than “have regard to” it. The wording was recommended by the Environment Committee as a more accurate reflection on the Department and councils in that context.

Clause 2 requires the Department of the Environment to prepare a statement of community involvement. That statement sets out the Department’s policy for consulting the community about its planning control functions. Through amendment Nos 4 and 5, I aim to make it clear that the Department must also publish its statement and that that must be done within one year of clause 2 of the Bill coming into effect.

Clause 3 requires councils to keep under review matters that affect the development of their district. Through amendment No 6, the Chairperson of the Environment Committee proposed that councils must keep under review

“the potential impact of climate change”.

The clause already requires councils to keep under review an extensive list of issues, including

“the principal physical, economic, social and environmental characteristics of the council’s district”.

Across the UK, greenhouse gas emissions are estimated in line with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change reporting guidelines. Data are recorded annually, and included in the greenhouse gas inventories is one for Northern Ireland. The gathering of that information requires particular methodologies and expertise. It is costly, and the amendment could place an expensive burden on councils with little benefit derived. I want to make it clear that I am urging Members not to accept the amendment, as it would be wholly detrimental to the work of local government and would pass on a burden to local government that would not create significant benefit. To that extent, I agree with Mr Savage that we should resist the amendment strongly.

Clause 6 states that a local development plan comprises two development plan documents: the plan strategy and the local policies plan. The clause also identifies the local development plan as the primary consideration in the determination of planning applications. Amendment Nos 9 to 12 are designed to add clarity to the clause.

Clauses 8 and 9 describe the preparation requirements for the two development plan documents, and I propose amendment Nos 13 and 14 to make it clear that the plan strategy and the local policies plan must be adopted by resolution of the council or approved by the Department of the Environment.

Clause 10(4) requires the Department of the Environment to cause an independent examination of a council’s development plan document to be carried out. The Department can appoint either the Planning Appeals Commission or another person to carry out the examination. I have consistently made it clear that the Planning Appeals Commission will be the Department’s first point of contact for an examination. An independent examiner would be used only where the Planning Appeals Commission is unable to conduct the independent examination within a reasonable time frame. We have just gone through a period in which there has been a two-year tailback for individual applications. If we look at the time taken to bring forward the Magherafelt area plan and the Belfast metropolitan area plan and if the capacity does not exist in the PAC to turn those area plans and significant decisions round within a reasonable time frame, we can see that we need to have a fallback position. This gives us that fallback position, and I strongly recommend it to the House.

The Committee recommended that the Bill should make it clear that the PAC should be the first port of call.

I have designed amendment Nos 15 and 16 to fulfill the Committee’s recommendation. They make clear that the Department will appoint an examiner only after it has had regard to the district council’s timetable for the preparation of its development plan.

Clause 221 re-enacts provisions of the Planning (Northern Ireland) Order 1991. It allows my Department to award grants to non-profit-making organisations to provide technical or other assistance to the community or to further the preservation etc of historic buildings. Let me clarify for Mr Kinahan that a not-for-profit organisation is an NGO or a voluntary body. The Environment Committee recommended that this clause should allow grants to bodies which have the objective of furthering an understanding of planning policy proposals. I welcome that suggestion, and have proposed amendment No 78 to achieve it.

The Committee also suggested that DFP’s oversight role in relation to such grants was no longer needed. DFP is content that the legislative provision requiring its approval is no longer required for all grants. Of course, DFP approval will be required for any grant that exceeds the relevant delegated limit. So, in amendment Nos 79 and 80, I propose to remove the legislative requirement for DFP approval and, with it, a little red tape. I thank the Committee for bringing that to my attention.

Cathal Boylan and Willie Clarke proposed, in amendment No 86, that a report on the implementation of the Bill should be prepared within three years and at least once in every period of five years thereafter. The Bill affords the Department of the Environment an audit role in relation to the councils. As an additional safeguard, the Department will also have consider­able oversight and intervention powers. The Environment Committee and the Department may choose to review the workings of the Bill or any aspect of it at any time. The amendment itself is not necessary and does not add to the Bill. I do not necessarily support it, but I am not opposed to it either. It is something that we can do in any event, and it is not something that causes me a great degree of concern.

I will respond to a few of the Members’ points. Mr Boylan, the Committee Chairperson, suggested that the amendment on climate change has to do with councils taking action to reduce climate change. However, clause 3 is to do with councils keeping issues under review. As regards addressing climate change through planning, it is our intention to address that issue in the revision of Planning Policy Statement 1without adding that extra burden onto councils, as I said earlier. Therefore, we have a way of achieving the outcome which Members rightly desire without placing a heavy financial burden on local authorities in the process.

Patsy McGlone engaged in a bit of revisionism and seemed to be stuck in the 1970s. To bring him on: we are well into the twenty-first century now, and we would do better to concentrate on what we are doing to take things forward, as opposed to harking back.

As to the planning fees review, we are not bumping up prices but adjusting the fee structure to ensure that the fee charged realistically addresses the cost of processing applications. Historically, the cost of providing a planning service has been subsidised by the taxpayer, often to the benefit of developers and multinationals. For example, the maximum fee for housing or commercial plant development is £11,834, yet many of those developments run to many millions of pounds. I am not one to ask the public to subsidise those who are doing well, whether they are developers or multinational supermarkets. The public should not have to subsidise them, and that money can be better spent elsewhere. Therefore, I will seek to get a fee structure that ensures that we get an adequate return.

Mr McGlone referred to the £10,000 that we would charge for our work associated with each environmental impact assessment (EIA).

An awful lot of that is specialist work involving environmental statements. We also have considerable advertising costs. In one recent case, for example, advertising cost my Department £9,000. Consultants and developers build in £100,000 to the cost of preparing an environmental statement when an EIA is needed, so the £10,000 that is associated with our work is only 10% of what they already build in to the cost.

Willie Clarke referred to the Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2006 and the duty on all Departments and councils to contribute to sustainable development, which I have already made clear will be weakened if we accept the amendment. I advise him that OFMDFM leads on a cross-departmental strategy associated with that duty, so I hope that he does not get into too much trouble with the deputy First Minister for saying that no one is leading on it. I am sure that the deputy First Minister will not be too sore on him for his misdemeanour on this occasion. I am just politely pointing that out to him. Each Department then has a responsibility to respond to it on those issues.

We are happy to go with most of the amendments, as they do not do violence to the Bill. However, I strongly urge the House not to impose something on district councils that would place a significant financial burden on them in addressing climate change.

Photo of Cathal Boylan Cathal Boylan Sinn Féin 3:15 pm, 8th March 2011

Go raibh maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle. It is clear from today’s debate that planning functions, which are currently with the Department but which will soon be with councils, are of huge interest to us all. The Bill is the underpinning primary legislation that will support a new way of planning in the North. Let us now take the time to think about what that should look like and to listen to the different contributions in this the first of four debates on the Planning Bill today.

I particularly urge all in the Chamber to think about the Committee’s recommendations, all of which were made on the back of stakeholder input. At the start of this process, the Minister suggested that we did not need to ask stakeholders what they thought of the Planning Bill because his Department had already undertaken several consultations on it. However, I can tell the House today that, although he may have invited comments on several occasions, stakeholders were quick to inform the Committee that he was not always willing to listen or to act on their comments. That is what the Committee is doing today. Our evidence has been consistent and compelling and is shared by most if not all stakeholders. The Committee tabled amendments that the Department refused to bring forward to address the concerns.

I thank Members for their contributions. I just want to pick out some of the issues that were raised. Overall, the work from the Committee was good and well-focused. I know that we have all heard about the issues with the time frame, but I actually think that that made us more focused. Mr Kinahan said that he supports all of the amendments, but he talked in particular about amendment Nos 1 and 2, which deal with furthering sustainable development and well-being, as did Mr McGlone. Mr McGlone also referred to a review of the Planning Act, which is dealt with in amendment No 86. I do not propose to go through everything that the Members said. However, I think that confusion reigns over amendment Nos 1 and 7, which deal with furthering sustainable development. Maybe we all need to have a wee look again at that in the dictionary. It would not be like Planning Service to base everything on interpretation, or the lack of it. Anna Lo made that point, and her views on it have to be clearly recognised. However, other Members have a different view, so maybe we need to seek clarity on that in the future. Mr Clarke strongly supports the inclusion of well-being in the Bill and the amendment that he and I tabled. I think that there is a need for a review. The Minister said that that process already exists, but I think that it needs to be set out in the Bill.

Mr Weir welcomed amendment Nos 13 and 14. He also talked about the statement of community involvement. He was correct in what he said about front-loading, although he will no doubt use that argument when we debate third-party appeals in the group 3 amendments. I thank him for his contribution.

Mr Savage talked about the well-being principle, but he was concerned about support for amendment No 6, which deals with climate change. He was concerned, in particular, with the cost implications. However, I believe that we need that provision in the Bill. People should recognise the cost and consider how we will deal with the issue.

Brian Wilson supported most of the amendments. He has spent a number of years on the Committee and has, from day one, talked about climate change. He feels very strongly about that and wants to see the amendment on that in the Bill.

I will finish by mentioning some of the Minister’s comments. He alluded to maybe fitting the climate change issue into PPS 1 and the guiding principles. He also supported amendment Nos 13 and 14.

We have another three groups of amendments to get through, so I do not propose to go through all the amendments. I ask the Assembly to support the amendments in group 1.

Question, That amendment No 1 be made, put and agreed to.

Amendment No 2 made: In page 1, line 11, after “development” insert “and promoting or improving well-being”. — [The Chairperson of the Committee for the Environment (Mr Boylan).]

Amendment No 3 made: In page 1, line 12, leave out “have regard to” and insert “take account of”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Clause 1, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2 (Preparation of statement of community involvement by Department)

Amendment No 4 made: In page 2, line 7, after “prepare” insert “and publish”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Amendment No 5 made: In page 2, line 11, at end insert

“(3) The Department must prepare and publish a statement of community involvement within the period of one year from the day appointed for the coming into operation of this section.” — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Clause 2, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 3 (Survey of district)

Amendment No 6 proposed: In page 2, line 27, at end insert

“( ) the potential impact of climate change;”. — [The Chairperson of the Committee for the Environment (Mr Boylan).]

Question put.

The Assembly divided: Ayes 58; Noes 33.

AYES

Ms M Anderson, Mr Attwood, Mr Beggs, Mr Boylan, Mr D Bradley, Mrs M Bradley, Mr P J Bradley, Mr Brady, Mr Burns, Mr Butler, Mr Callaghan, Mr W Clarke, Mr Cobain, Rev Dr Robert Coulter, Mr Cree, Mr Dallat, Mr Doherty, Mr Elliott, Lord Empey, Dr Farry, Mr Ford, Mr Gallagher, Ms Gildernew, Mrs D Kelly, Mr G Kelly, Mr Kinahan, Ms Lo, Mr Lunn, Mr Lyttle, Mr A Maginness, Mr A Maskey, Mr P Maskey, Mr McCallister, Mr F McCann, Ms J McCann, Mr McCarthy, Mr McCartney, Mr McDevitt, Dr McDonnell, Mr McElduff, Mrs McGill, Mr McGlone, Mr M McGuinness, Mr McKay, Mr McLaughlin, Mr McNarry, Mr Murphy, Ms Ní Chuilín, Mr O’Dowd, Mr O’Loan, Mrs O’Neill, Mr P Ramsey, Ms S Ramsey, Ms Ritchie, Ms Ruane, Mr Savage, Mr Sheehan, Mr B Wilson.

Tellers for the Ayes: Mr W Clarke and Mr F McCann.

NOES

Mr S Anderson, Mr Armstrong, Lord Bannside, Mr Bell, Mr Bresland, Lord Browne, Mr Buchanan, Mr T Clarke, Mr Craig, Mr Easton, Mr Frew, Mr Gibson, Mr Girvan, Mr Givan, Mr Hamilton, Mr Hilditch, Mr Humphrey, Mr Irwin, Mr McCausland, Mr I McCrea, Mr McFarland, Miss McIlveen, Mr McQuillan, Lord Morrow, Mr Moutray, Mr Newton, Mr Poots, Mr G Robinson, Mr K Robinson, Mr P Robinson, Mr Ross, Mr Spratt, Mr Weir.

Tellers for the Noes: Mr Buchanan and Mr T Clarke.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Clause 3, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 4 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 5 (Sustainable development)

Amendment No 7 made: In page 3, line 25, leave out “contributing to the achievement of’ and insert ‘furthering”. — [The Chairperson of the Committee for the Environment (Mr Boylan).]

Amendment No 8 made: In page 3, line 27, leave out “have regard to” and insert “take account of”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Clause 5, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 6 (Local development plan)

Amendment No 9 made: In page 3, line 36, after “Act” insert

“and in any other statutory provision relating to planning”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Amendment No 10 made: In page 3, line 37, leave out “local”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Amendment No 11 made: In page 3, line 37, leave out “other”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Amendment No 12 made: In page 4, line 5, leave out “the local development” and insert “that”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Clause 6, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 7 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 8 (Plan strategy)

Amendment No 13 made: In page 5, line 11, at end insert

“(7) A plan strategy is a plan strategy only if it is—

(a) adopted by resolution of the council; or

(b) approved by the Department in accordance with section 16(6).” — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Clause 8, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 9 (Local policies plan)

Amendment No 14 made: In page 5, line 36, at end insert

“(8) A local policies plan is a local policies plan only if it is—

(a) adopted by resolution of the council; or

(b) approved by the Department in accordance with section 16(6).” — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Clause 9, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 10 (Independent examination)

Amendment No 15 made: In page 6, line 10, at end insert

“(4A) The Department must not appoint a person under subsection (4)(b) unless, having regard to the timetable prepared by the council under section 7(1), the Department considers it expedient to do so.” — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Clause 10, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 11 to 15 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 16 (Department’s default powers)

Photo of William Hay William Hay Speaker 3:30 pm, 8th March 2011

Amendment No 16 is consequential to amendment No 15, which has been made.

Amendment No 16 made: In page 8, line 5, leave out “(5)” and insert “(4A)”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Clause 16, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 17 to 42 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 43 (Notice requiring planning application to be made)

Photo of William Hay William Hay Speaker

We now come to the second group of amendments for debate. With amendment No 17, it will be convenient to debate amendment Nos 18, 28, 31 to 33, 40, 42 to 49, 52 to 55 and 58.

The amendments deal with increases to the level of fines throughout the Bill and time limits beyond which no enforcement action may be taken for breach of planning control.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

I beg to move amendment No 17: In page 26, line 2, leave out paragraphs (a) and (b) and insert

“within the period of 5 years from the date on which the development to which it relates was begun,”.

The following amendments stood on the Marshalled List:

No 18: In clause 44, page 27, line 16, leave out from “4” to “be,” and insert “5 years”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 28: In clause 84, page 53, line 37, leave out “£30,000” and insert “£100,000”. — [The Chairperson of the Committee for the Environment (Mr Boylan).]

No 31: In clause 102, page 64, line 3, leave out “3” and insert “5”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 32: In clause 102, page 64, line 3, after “scale” insert

“or on conviction on indictment, to a fine”. — [The Chairperson of the Committee for the Environment (Mr Boylan).]

No 33: In clause 102, page 64, line 11, leave out “3” and insert “5”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 40: In clause 116, page 75, line 31, leave out “£30,000” and insert “£100,000”. — [The Chairperson of the Committee for the Environment (Mr Boylan).]

No 42: In clause 125, page 80, line 26, leave out “£30,000” and insert “£100,000”. — [The Chairperson of the Committee for the Environment (Mr Boylan).]

No 43: In clause 131, page 83, line 23, leave out “4” and insert “5”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 44: In clause 131, page 83, line 27, leave out “4” and insert “5”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 45: In clause 131, page 83, line 30, leave out “10” and insert “5”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 46: In clause 131, page 83, line 37, leave out “4” and insert “5”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 47: In clause 133, page 85, line 21, leave out “3” and insert “5”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 48: In clause 135, page 86, line 28, leave out “4” and insert “5”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 49: In clause 136, page 87, line 18, leave out “£30,000” and insert “£100,000”. — [The Chairperson of the Committee for the Environment (Mr Boylan).]

No 52: In clause 146, page 95, line 15, leave out “£30,000” and insert “£100,000”. — [The Chairperson of the Committee for the Environment (Mr Boylan).]

No 53: In clause 148, page 96, line 27, leave out from “level” to “scale” and insert “£7,500”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 54: In clause 149, page 97, line 13, leave out “4” and insert “5”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 55: In clause 149, page 98, line 6, leave out “£30,000” and insert “£100,000”. — [The Chairperson of the Committee for the Environment (Mr Boylan).]

No 58: In clause 163, page 109, line 1, leave out “4” and “insert “5”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

In explaining amendment No 17, I should say that this group of amendments mainly arises from recommendations made by the Committee for the Environment during Committee Stage. I repeat my thanks to the Committee Chairperson, members and staff for their assistance.

The Bill sets time limits within which enforcement action may be taken in respect of breaches of planning control. When a breach consists of the carrying out of building, engineering, mining or other operations without planning permission, no enforcement action may be taken after four years. That period begins with the date on which operations were substantially completed. Similarly, if a breach consists of a change of use of any building to a single dwelling house, no enforcement action may be taken after four years. However, in the case of any other breach of planning control, including other changes of use, no enforcement action may be taken after 10 years. When the Committee proposed simplifying the system by having only one time limit, I was happy to agree. Therefore, I propose amendment Nos 17, 18, 43, 44, 45, 48, 54 and 46 to simplify and clarify the system by setting the time limits within which enforcement action may be taken for all breaches of planning control at five years.

The Committee expressed its strong and clear view that the fines for a range of offences in the Bill were no longer a sufficient deterrent and should be increased. The Chairman of the Committee has tabled amendment Nos 28, 40, 42, 49, 52 and 55, which propose that the maximum fine for offences relating to certain breaches of planning control be raised from £30,000 to £100,000. Those breaches are the unauthorised alteration, demolition or extension of listed buildings, contraventions of hazardous substance control, contraventions of tree preservation orders, contraventions of temporary stop notices and contraventions of enforcement notices and stop notices. They appear in clauses 84, 116, 125, 136, 146 and 149. The Minister of Justice has questioned the proportionality of £100,000 fines in that context.

Clause 102 establishes that anyone carrying out damage to a listed building will be guilty of an offence. It also establishes that a person who fails to prevent damage or further damage resulting from that offence is guilty of a further offence. For each of those offences, the clause imposes fines at level 3 on the standard scale, which is currently £1,000. Given the scale of the potential impact of such damage to listed buildings, I propose, through amendment Nos 31 and 33, to raise the fine to level 5, which is currently £5,000. I am also pleased to support amendment No 32, which is proposed by the Chairperson of the Committee. It would make acts causing damage to a listed building a more serious offence by including an option of conviction on indictment and an unlimited fine.

I will move to amendment No 47 and refer first to clause 132, which provides for the issue of a planning contravention notice. That notice gives councils the power to obtain information prior to taking enforcement action. The aim is to encourage dialogue with any persons who are thought by a council to be in breach of planning control and to secure their co-operation in taking corrective action. Failure to comply with such a notice within 21 days is an offence. On summary conviction, an offender would be subject to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale, which is currently £1,000. Having taken account of the views of the Committee, I propose that that fine should be raised to level 5, which is currently £5,000. That proposal represents a tougher yet proportionate approach. Once an enforcement notice has been complied with, the requirements in it continue to stand for the future use of the land to which it relates. That continuance of use must be permanent, as must the alteration or removal of buildings. A breach of that requirement is punishable by a level 5 fine, which is currently £5,000. A fine of £7,500 would be a more appropriate and proportionate deterrent, and that is what I propose through amendment No 53.

Those are the amendments in group 2.

Photo of Cathal Boylan Cathal Boylan Sinn Féin

Go raibh maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle. Amendment Nos 17 and 18 pave the way for an amendment later in the group that the Committee was keen to see. Although the Committee was originally content with the relevant clauses, I am confident that I can support the amendments on the Committee’s behalf.

I will deal with amendment Nos 28, 40, 42, 49, 52 and 55 together because they all address the same principle. As I mentioned in the debate on the first group of amendments, it is disappointing to note that, during Committee Stage, the Department indicated that the Minister would bring forward these amendments. The Department not only provided draft amendments for the Committee to consider but even advised the Committee, which had pushed for the first three amendments in this group, that the other three amendments would bring consistency to the Bill. The amendments add up to six in total.

Many respondents to the Committee’s call for evidence stated that the fines mentioned in the Bill, whether listed as scales or levels, were no longer of a sufficient deterrent value to prevent the unauthorised demolition of listed buildings or protected trees. The Committee felt that it was important that fines listed in the Bill gave a clear indication of the seriousness of such breaches. Members are concerned that developers no longer see fines as deterrents but as something more akin to costs to be factored into their plans. The Committee was also mindful that the fine amounts were largely determined some 20 years ago in the Planning Order 1991. Then, a fine of £30,000 may have been appropriate, but it would not act as a deterrent today. The Committee, therefore, recommended that all fines of £30,000 in the Bill should be increased to £100,000 to ensure that the fine is a proper deterrent that reflects the seriousness of the offences. On behalf of the Committee, I support amendment Nos 28, 40, 42, 49, 52 and 55.

Amendment Nos 31, 33 and 47 are also to do with fines. The Committee called for current level 3 fines of £1,000 to be raised, and it welcomed the Department’s agreement to amend them to level 5 fines, which have a current value of £5,000. Similarly, the Committee welcomes the Minister’s agreement to augment to £7,500 the current level 5 fine, as proposed by amendment No 53.

It is not immediately clear to me why the Minister feels that he can table amendments to raise those fines but not the other, much more significant ones. The Committee and I believe that we must send out a clear signal, through the Bill, that the days of developers treating fines as part of the process are over. We need to have meaningful deterrents to stop deliberate acts of damage to listed buildings and trees and to stop breaches of planning permission, protection orders and so on. The amendments provide the opportunity to do that, and I urge the House and the Minister to show more consistency by supporting all the amendments that will increase fines.

The Committee tabled amendment No 32 when it realised that, unlike with most offences in the Bill, there was no option for fines on conviction on indictment for acts causing or likely to result in damage to listed buildings. The Committee felt that that must be rectified, and it was disappointed when the Department refused to bring forward such an amendment. Fines on conviction on indictment offer an opportunity for courts to reflect the seriousness of a breach and to penalise repeat offences in a way that upper-limited penalties cannot. If we are serious about protecting our heritage, the House should support amendment No 32.

I will now speak to amendment Nos 43, 44, 45, 46, 48, 54 and 58. The Committee questioned the continuation of the 10-year time limit for breaches of planning control other than for building, engineering, mining or other operations and for the change of use of any building to be used as a dwelling house. The Committee asked the Department to consider reducing that period, on the grounds that a single period would reduce confusion, lead to better enforcement and require less time to identify such breaches.

The Department indicated that the Minister accepted that introducing a single time period would make the system simpler and less open to misunderstanding. It suggested that seven years for all planning activities might be appropriate. The Committee questioned the point at which a change would become applicable and was assured that the time limits would not be applied retrospectively. The Committee was not content for the current four-year period to be increased to seven years, but it agreed that a single period of five years would provide the most appropriate balance for time limits on breaches of all planning controls. Members were content that the Department accepted that, and, as Chairperson, I accordingly support the seven related amendments.

That concludes my discussion of the Environment Committee’s position on the group 2 amendments. I know that my party colleague will say more, but, on behalf of Sinn Féin, I would like the Minister to clarify why he withdrew his support for the £100,000 fine. I welcome the change of use limit to five years. I know that there will be a wee bit of a debate on that in the Chamber, which is welcome. I support the amendments.

Photo of Trevor Clarke Trevor Clarke DUP 4:00 pm, 8th March 2011

Compared to the Chairman of the Committee, I am probably starting off in reverse on regularising the dates in relation to the time between types of developments. I welcome the fact that we now have five years on both, because there was confusion in the countryside about the four- and 10-year rules. I welcome the amendment in relation to five years and five years, because that will remove the confusion.

(Mr Deputy Speaker [Mr Molloy] in the Chair)

I would never wish anybody to say that we are going soft on planning, and that was not the reason for or intention behind that. It was actually to make things clearer and easier to understand. If we look at how we have treated fines in all the amendments, we see that the Committee was consistent in its argument that it wanted to prevent the opinion that we are going soft on developers, which, in the past, many of us thought was happening. The risk of a fine of £30,000 has never deterred a developer from knocking down a property if they have an opportunity to build many developments. Therefore, I welcome the fact that the fine will increase to £100,000. I could go further and say that, in today’s market, £100,000 is probably not enough. Nevertheless, it is quite a lift from the £30,000 that was originally in the Bill.

As for the other amendments, we have taken the opportunity to raise fines from level 3 to level 5. Again, I do not think that we have gone far enough, but we are going in the right direction. In every amendment, we are trying to increase the deterrent for people who flout planning rules. In general, in the amendments, we are trying to bring these all into line by increasing fines from £30,000 to £50,000, replacing level 3 fines with level 5 fines and regularising the two periods to five years. I welcome all the amendments.

Photo of Danny Kinahan Danny Kinahan UUP

I am pleased to speak on the group 2 amendments on enforcement and penalties. I must declare an interest as the owner of a historic building and demesne and of many trees that are subject to tree preservation orders.

I shall start with breaches of planning permission. I welcome the fact that we are moving both domestic and commercial to five years, although I am slightly puzzled about why we are making it easier for one group to carry on when, the rest of the time, we are increasing punishments. Here we are actually making it easier to hide a breach in planning permission, so I wonder whether we should look at that before Further Consideration Stage. Nevertheless, I am happy to support those amendments.

I welcome raising the penalty for damaging a listed building, misusing hazardous substances and ignoring tree preservation orders etc from £30,000 to £100,000. The Committee discussed the fact that we must be much stronger on breaches. However, I would like the Minister to look at whether a percentage of the value of the development land should be used, rather than a figure of £100,000. If the Bill is in place for 30 or 40 years, as the previous one was, that figure may not seem as much. Maybe we should look again at the mechanism at Further Consideration Stage.

Photo of Trevor Clarke Trevor Clarke DUP

I thank the Member for giving way. Surely that point was covered in the group 1 amendments. We are reviewing the whole Bill after three years and every five years thereafter. If, after that time, the fines are not working, surely the matter can be addressed at that stage.

Photo of Danny Kinahan Danny Kinahan UUP

I thank the Member for his intervention, and I hope that he is right. That may be exactly the way that we have to deal with it.

Photo of Cathal Boylan Cathal Boylan Sinn Féin

Like me, the Committee decided to support the notion of raising fines. The Member has brought up something in relation to a percentage. I know that the Member has tabled an amendment that will be debated later. Would he not like to see something set? Maybe the Minister will respond on raising the fine by a percentage. If the fine in the Member’s amendment was to remain at £30,000, it would not get much support in the House. I would certainly like to see those fines increased, whether by a percentage or a set figure.

Photo of Danny Kinahan Danny Kinahan UUP

I thank the Chairman for his intervention. It is certainly worth considering whether to change to a percentage increase now. My concern, which I will raise at this moment, is that, if the Bill sits on a shelf for some 14 months — we have been told that it may — anyone with a listed building or trees that are subject to a tree preservation order might feel that they would be better not to take the risk of that stopping their development, so, in the meantime, they might pull down the building or cut down the trees. So, one of my amendments, on which I will go into a bit more detail later, is to try to make sure that that is put into place as soon as possible following Royal Assent.

I will return to this group of amendments. In other cases, we have raised the fines and the punishment for breaches, and, again, I wonder whether we have been tough enough. However, as Trevor Clarke has just said, we can deal with that in the future when we are reviewing matters.

I want to raise one more matter. If we go down the route of a £100,000 fine, it would seem a shame if all that money were to go to the Treasury. We should look to see whether there is a way to give that a different title — a community levy or some other form of levy — so that the money comes to the Department of the Environment in the same way that the carrier bag levy comes to us here in Northern Ireland and is not lost to the main Treasury. I support the amendments.

Photo of Patsy McGlone Patsy McGlone Social Democratic and Labour Party

Go raibh maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle. On behalf of our party, I support the amendments as they appear today.

Many of us have heard the stories, both true and anecdotal, about occasions when developers have gone ahead with unauthorised and illegal development — in some instances, that may have applied even to listed buildings — in the sure knowledge that, although enforcement will come after them, it will be for a petty fine. The developer will pay the £2,000 or £3,000 because he is making many thousands of pounds out of the project. So, it is important that we firmly convey, through the extent and scale of the fines, that that is unacceptable. It is important that, first, the Planning Service has powers and, secondly, it is prepared to implement those powers, which will then transfer to the councils. That in itself is important.

The harmonisation of the period after which enforcement may not be taken has been addressed through amendment Nos 17, 18, 43, 44, 45 and 46 and the consequential amendment Nos 54 and 58. For a dwelling, that period is currently four years and, for a business, it is currently 10 years. Harmonising the periods at five years is a useful and progressive step, because there was a lot of confusion there. Many of us, including, I am sure, yourself, Mr Deputy Speaker, if you will forgive me for referring to it, have come across cases where that anomaly in the Planning Service regulations has led to complete and utter confusion when we have sought to gather information about one form of development and one form of use, particularly of a business, which then translates into another form of use and where you have to try to establish more than 10 years of continuous use. So, I welcome that as pragmatism and realism on the part of the Department. It is a welcome measure to address that anomaly and to harmonise the rules that apply for a dwelling and for a business.

In conclusion, we support the amendments, and I thank the Department for working with the Committee to bring them before us.

Photo of Willie Clarke Willie Clarke Sinn Féin

Go raibh maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle. I will speak about amendment Nos 28, 40, 42, 49, 52 and 55. Those amendments relate to the various types of enforcement and the increase in the fines to £100,000.

During Committee Stage, I was keen for the fines to represent a modern-day deterrent, and, after a while, the Minister agreed that the fines needed to be increased, as they were not fit for purpose. However, he has given an explanation today that the Department of Justice was either not consulted or does not believe that the increase is valid. Others have talked about that.

I will speak generally about developers during the boom period, when they had a total disregard for enforcement laws in general. As others said, they built into their development plans when they were carrying out a development. If they cleared a woodland or a listed building, the fine would match or be considerably less than for a single site. The Committee and, indeed, Sinn Féin are keen to prevent that in future. The maximum fine of £30,000 is not a sufficient deterrent; it was set 20 years ago and is no longer fit for purpose. Developers laugh at it, so this is our opportunity to increase the fine and the enforcement duty to £100,000. I am keen to hear from the Minister the thoughts of other Executive Committee members.

There are examples in my constituency of developers’ complete contempt for planning enforcement. I am sure that other Members from my constituency have been in contact with the Department. As I said, there is no deterrent, so there is a duty on us as elected representatives to ensure that deterrents are included in the Bill. That is particularly the case with clause 102, which deals with listed buildings. Across the North, a spate of listed buildings suddenly burned down. As soon as they became redundant and their windows were boarded up, they spontaneously combusted and burned in considerable numbers across the North of Ireland.

In conclusion, clear guidance is needed on how to make enforcement fit for purpose. Sinn Féin supports amendment Nos 43, 48 and 54.

Photo of George Savage George Savage UUP

Group 2 relates to enforcements and penalties, and I welcome amendment Nos 17 and 18, which relate to time limits. Amendment No 28 provides a strong deterrent for offences related to listed buildings. We ought to protect our architectural heritage, and amendment No 28 is wholly in agreement with that aim. Amendment No 53 will raise the fine from £5,000 to £7,500, maybe more for developments without permission. I welcome that. The other amendments in the group, to which I have not spoken, are technical and, that being the case, I am content to support all the amendments in the group.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

Members raised a number of issues. At a personal level, I welcome and will support the uplift in the maximum fine from £30,000 to £100,000. I put that suggestion to my ministerial colleagues; however, as there was an objection from the Department of Justice, I did not get clearance from OFMDFM, which has to clear the issue. Therefore, I asked my staff to indicate to the Committee that, if it tabled such an amendment, I would not oppose it. At a personal level, I support the amendment, but I did not have the authority of the Executive to table such an amendment myself.

Mr Kinahan spoke about what he termed a relaxation from 10 years to five years. The amendment is about having something that is consistent and easier to interpret, so the Department decided that we could accept the Committee’s proposal.

I should say that a Crown Court can, in certain instances, impose an unlimited fine on conviction for a planning breach, so, in some cases, £100,000 will not be the maximum fine. However, in the cases that we are referring to, moving the level of fine from £30,000 to £100,000 gives the judiciary much more latitude where more serious crimes are committed. A few years ago, in the constituency of Newry and Armagh, a row of five cottages was demolished over a weekend. In that instance, the developer received a £5,000 fine, which was wholly inappropriate given the scale of the offence. Therefore, I hope that giving judges the latitude to go up to £100,000 will mean that the fine will be proportionate to the offence. We want to see that be the case. Clause 84 deals with the demolition of listed buildings.

There is fairly strong consensus around the House on most of the issues, which is useful. A few Members may have some minor issues or concerns, but I welcome the fact that there has been general agreement on the issues before us this afternoon and wish that we move to the votes on the amendments.

Question, That amendment No 17 be made, put and agreed to.

Clause 43, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 44 (Appeal against notice under section 43)

Amendment No 18 made: In page 27, line 16, leave out from “4” to “be,” and insert “5 years”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Clause 44, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 45 to 48 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 49 (Power of Department to decline to determine overlapping application)

Photo of Francie Molloy Francie Molloy Sinn Féin 4:15 pm, 8th March 2011

We now come to the third group of amendments for debate. With amendment No 19, it will be convenient to debate amendment Nos 20, 21, 26, 27, 34, 41, 62, 63, 71, 72, 77, 99, 102 and 104 to 106. The amendments deal with third-party appeals, commencement, the Planning Appeals Commission and the protection of trees.

I remind Members that, as I have received a valid petition of concern on amendment Nos 20 and 102, the votes on those amendments will be on a cross-community basis. Members will note that amendment No 72 is consequential to amendment No 71, amendment Nos 102 is consequential to amendment No 20, and amendment Nos 104 and 105 are mutually exclusive.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

I beg to move amendment No 19: In page 30, line 29, after “land” insert

“made to it in accordance with section 26(5)”.

The following amendments stood on the Marshalled List:

No 20: In clause 58, page 35, line 33, at end insert

“(1A) The Department shall by regulations provide for an appeal under subsection (1) to be made by a person other than the applicant.” — [Ms Lo.]

No 21: After clause 58, insert the following new clause:

Matters which may be raised in an appeal under section 58

58A.—(1) In an appeal under section 58, a party to the proceedings is not to raise any matter which was not before the council or, as the case may be, the Department at the time the decision appealed against was made unless that party can demonstrate to the satisfaction of the planning appeals commission—

(a) that the matter could not have been raised before that time, or

(b) that its not being raised before that time was a consequence of exceptional circumstances.

(2) Nothing in subsection (1) affects any requirement or entitlement to have regard to—

(a) the provisions of the local development plan, or

(b) any other material consideration.” — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 26: In clause 78, page 49, line 16, at end insert “(c) Part 5.” — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 27: In clause 78, page 49, line 40, leave out from “(except” to “107)” in line 41. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 34: In clause 103, page 65, line 13, at end insert

“(13) An area may be designated under this section notwithstanding the absence of any building or development on the land in question.” — [Dr Farry.]

No 41: In clause 121, page 79, line 8, leave out “are dying or dead or”. — [Dr Farry.]

No 62: After clause 187, insert the following new clause:

Compensation: decision taken by council or the Department where consultee fails to respond under section 224

187A. Where a consultee fails to respond to a council or departmental consultation in accordance with section 224(3) and that council or, as the case may be, the Department—

(a) takes a decision under this Act to grant planning permission in the absence of such a response; and

(b) subsequently receives information which the council could reasonably expect to have been included in that response; and

(c) decides to revoke or modify planning permission under section 67, or make an order under section 72, due to the information referred to in paragraph (b); and

(d) compensation is payable by a council under section 26 of the Act of 1965 in connection with the decision under paragraph (c); the sponsoring department (if any) shall pay to the council the amount of compensation payable.” — [The Chairperson of the Committee for the Environment (Mr Boylan).]

No 63: In clause 194, page 127, line 30, at end insert

“or

(c) the period referred to in section 191(2) has expired.” — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 71: After clause 202, insert the following new clause:

Power to award costs

202A.—(1) The appeals commission may make an order as to the costs of the parties to an appeal under any of the provisions of this Act mentioned in subsection (2) and as to the parties by whom the costs are to be paid.

(2) The provisions are—

(a) sections 58, 59, 95, 96, 114, 142, 158, 164 and 172;

(b) sections 95 and 96 (as applied by section 104(6));

(c) in Schedule 2, paragraph 6(11) and (12) and paragraph 11(1);

(d) in Schedule 3, paragraph 9.

(3) An order made under this section shall have effect as if it had been made by the High Court.

(4) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (3), the Master (Taxing Office) shall have the same powers and duties in relation to an order made under this section as the Master has in relation to an order made by the High Court.

(5) Proceedings before the appeals commission shall, for the purposes of the Litigants in Person (Costs and Expenses) Act 1975 (c. 47), be regarded as proceedings to which section 1(1) of that Act applies.” — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 72: After clause 202, insert the following new clause:

Orders as to costs: supplementary

202B.—(1) This section applies where—

(a) for the purpose of any proceedings under this Act—

(i) the appeals commission is required, before a decision is reached, to give any person an opportunity, or ask any person whether that person wishes, to appear before and be heard by it; and

(ii) arrangements are made for a hearing to be held;

(b) the hearing does not take place; and

(c) if it had taken place, the appeals commission would have had power to make an order under section 202A requiring any party to pay any costs of any other party.

(2) Where this section applies the power to make such an order may be exercised, in relation to costs incurred for the purposes of the hearing, as if the hearing had taken place.” — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 77: In clause 219, page 142, line 17, at end insert

“(7A) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (7), regulations made under that subsection may provide for the payment of a charge or fee in respect of an application mentioned in paragraph (a) of that subsection to be a multiple of the charge or fee to be paid under regulations made under subsection (1) in relation to the determination by a council or the Department of an application for planning permission for development not begun before the application was made.” — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 99: In clause 237, page 154, line 32, at end insert “( ) tree preservation orders;”. — [Dr Farry.]

No 102: In clause 242, page 156, line 3, after “sections” insert

“58(subsection to be inserted by Amendment 20)”. — [Ms Lo.]

No 104: In clause 247, page 160, line 16, at end insert

“( ) No order shall be made under subsection (1) in respect of Part 3 unless a draft of the order has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, the Assembly.” — [The Chairperson of the Committee for the Environment (Mr Boylan).]

No 105: In clause 247, page 160, line 16, at end insert

“( ) No order shall be made under subsection (1) in respect of Part 2 or 3 unless a draft of the order has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, the Assembly.” — [Mr Kinahan.]

No 106: In clause 247, page 160, line 16, at end insert

“( ) Sections 84 and 125 come into operation on Royal Assent.” — [Mr Kinahan.]

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

Amendment Nos 19, 26 and 27 are technical amendments. They do not change policy. Amendment No 19 clarifies that the Department’s power to decline to determine overlapping applications for planning permission is restricted to applications for development that are of regional significance. Amendment Nos 26 and 27 ensure that Part 5 of the Bill applies to land owned by councils and to development carried out by councils, just as it applies to any other land or development.

The intention of amendment Nos 20 and 102 is to introduce third-party rights of appeal through regulations made by affirmative resolution. The Executive’s position on third-party appeals is clear and long-standing. I reiterated it at Second Stage on 14 December 2010, and I will repeat it now:

“further consideration of third party appeals should be deferred until the extensive changes to the planning system under planning reform and implementation of the RPA have settled down and are working effectively”.

The planning system to be introduced by the Bill has been especially designed to make sure that the public can become involved at every stage of the planning process.

They can comment on the Department’s draft planning policies. They will have the opportunity to influence councils’ planned strategies and local policy plans. Most important of all is pre-application community consultation, which is being introduced through the Bill.

Developers who bring forward applications for a major or regionally significant development must consult the community about their proposals. In making their applications, they must demonstrate to the planning authority how they have modified their proposals to take account of the community’s views. If the planning authority is not satisfied with a developer’s pre-application consultation, it must decline to determine the application. Pre-application consultation will give people a real say in development proposals that affect them.

It is also worth explaining that an earlier regulatory impact assessment could not quantify the potential benefits of third-party appeals. It did, however, identify adverse impacts for the planning system, developers and, indeed, the economy. The planning system would become slower and more costly. Delays would need to be built in to give third parties time to appeal. Developers, planning authorities and the Planning Appeals Commission would all face the cost of the appeal. Investors would face greater uncertainty as to the outcome of the planning process. Therefore, in the strongest possible terms, I urge Members to reject amendment Nos 20 and 102.

I turn now to the system of planning appeals that is set out in the Bill. Through amendment No 21, I propose to restrict the introduction of new information during a planning appeal. Having failed to obtain planning permission for development proposals, some applicants revise their proposal during the course of the planning appeal. Some revisions are so great that the amended proposals should really be submitted to the planning authority as an amended application or even as an entirely new application. Clearly, that is wrong. The application that is considered by the Planning Appeals Commission is different from the one that is seen by the planning authority. The planning authority and any third parties are denied the proper opportunity to consider and respond to the revisions. Therefore, amendment No 21 will prevent parties to an appeal raising any matter that was not before the planning authority when it made the decision that is being appealed against unless the applicant can satisfy the Planning Appeals Commission that the matter could not have been raised prior to the appeal or that there were exceptional circumstances that prevented the matter being raised as part of the original application.

Amendment Nos 71 and 72 would allow one party to an appeal to apply for a cost to be awarded against another party in the appeal if they believed that they had been left out of pocket by the other party’s unreasonable behaviour. Unreasonable behaviour includes that which results in a hearing being unnecessarily adjourned, prolonged or cancelled. A planning authority would be behaving unreasonably if it were unable to produce evidence to support each of its reasons for refusing planning permission or for imposing a condition on the granting of planning permission. The Planning Appeals Commission would determine whether costs are to be awarded. The amount would be agreed between parties, with any disputes being referred to the taxing master of the High Court. The policy that underpins that amendment was consulted on as part of the planning reform consultation and agreed by the Executive. However, it could not be included in the Bill as introduced for technical and legal reasons. That is why I am proposing that amendment.

Clause 219 provides that multiple fees should be charged for retrospective planning applications. Amendment No 77 ensures that multiple fees will also be charged where deemed planning applications are submitted to the Planning Appeals Commission on foot of an enforcement appeal.

Amendment No 34 seeks to extend the scope of conservation areas to include areas where there is no building or development. Clause 103 provides for the designation of areas of special architectural or historic interest, the character and appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance. Designation is, therefore, not restricted to areas with buildings or development. That means that amendment No 34 is not required. I urge Members not to support it.

Clause 121(5) ensures that tree preservation orders do not apply to trees that are dead or dying and have become dangerous.

Amendment No 41 seeks to remove dead or dying trees from that exemption. Most trees that are subject to TPOs are in urban or suburban areas, where they may be close to roads or footpaths. As trees die, they deteriorate and lose strength. The risk of them shedding branches or even falling increases. That could be a danger to the public. Depending on the disease, it may be necessary to remove a diseased tree to prevent the infection of healthy specimens. For both those very practical reasons, I urge Members not to support amendment No 41.

Amendment No 99 will require councils to list tree preservation orders in a planning register. That will continue existing practice by ensuring that information about tree preservation orders is available to the public. I am therefore pleased to support that amendment.

The Environment Committee tabled amendment No 62 to prevent councils being out of pocket where compensation has been paid for any decisions that they make without the required statutory consultee input and before the consultee has failed to respond within the set period required under clause 224. Ministers have not had the opportunity to consider the implications of that amendment. Therefore, I am not in a position to comment on it further.

Amendment No 63 is a technical amendment that will ensure that councils can fully apply the procedure governing the use of purchase notices, as provided for in clause 194.

Amendment No 104, which the Environment Committee tabled, would require that Part 3 of the Bill be commenced by affirmative resolution only.

As Members know, the Bill provides for the transfer of the majority of planning powers from the Department of the Environment to councils. As I have said consistently, the transfer of powers will happen in circumstances and within a timescale to be agreed by the Executive. The intention is that new governance arrangements and an ethical standards regime for councils will be put in place before the transfer of powers. I am consulting on those now, with a view to legislation being made in the next mandate.

In bringing forward amendment No 104, the Committee is seeking to copper fasten the commitment that the introduction of new governance arrangements and an ethical standards regime precede the transfer of planning powers. I am happy to support that amendment.

Amendment No 105 will provide that the introduction of Part 2 of the Bill should also be subject to affirmative resolution. That amendment is unnecessary, so I encourage Members to reject it.

Amendment No 106 proposes that clause 84, as amended, and clause 125, as amended, should come into effect when the Bill receives Royal Assent. That relates to the £100,000 fines for breaches of planning control for listed buildings and tree preservation orders. A number of technical and legal issues relate to that amendment, which may make the provisions somewhat difficult to impose. However, I have sympathy with the Member on the issue.

Those are the group 3 amendments. I urge Members to support the amendments that I indicated.

Photo of Cathal Boylan Cathal Boylan Sinn Féin

Go raibh maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle. During Committee Stage, the Department advised the Committee of several amendments that it would be bringing forward that were required to ensure that a consistent approach was achieved throughout the Bill. They were provided before the Committee produced its report. Members sought clarification on them. Most of those amendments are included in the next group for debate, but amendment No 19 falls into this category and was supported by the Committee.

Amendment No 20 will introduce the right of third-party appeal. The Committee has discussed that issue, but it was not referred to in the Bill. Due to the time constraints in Committee Stage, the Committee did not take time to thrash out the complexities that are involved. Members were aware that most respondents who were called for evidence had views on third-party appeals and invited participants to a stakeholder event to present their comments. Those are recorded in the Committee’s report.

During Committee Stage, the Committee recommended that the Department consider an amendment to restrict any new material that can be presented at appeal. Members referred to the frequent occasions when material is presented at the last moment and that parties have little time to consider it before a decision is taken. Members welcomed the Department’s suggestion that acceptable material be limited to that which did not exist at the time that the case went to appeal or that could not have been provided due to exceptional circumstances. The Committee was very content with that approach, and I welcome amendment No 21, which brings that forward by introducing a new clause to the Bill.

The Committee also welcomes amendment Nos 26 and 27, which are designed to delete an unnecessary reference, and which were provided to the Committee during Committee Stage. I cannot offer a Committee position on amendment Nos 34 and 41, as this is the first time that members have seen them.

In relation to amendment No 62, the Committee was extremely concerned when advised by the Department that, in the event of a late or non-response from a statutory consultee, a council would be liable for its decision. Apparently, that would apply even if a decision that had been made after the agreed time limit had to be revoked as a result of information coming forward from a statutory consultee that had not responded in time. In the Committee’s opinion that is unfair, and members asked the Department to consider an amendment. The Department refused, so the Committee decided to table amendment No 62.

It cannot be right that a council can be held liable for a decision that it has made in good faith. The onus should be on the statutory consultee to reply in a timely fashion to ensure that the decisions of councils are informed by all the relevant information being available at the time of the decision. There is no fairness in a council being financially penalised due to the inability of a statutory consultee to respond in time. On behalf of the Committee, I support the amendment.

I cannot offer a Committee position on amendment No 63, as the Committee agreed to the clause as drafted during Committee Stage. However, I can indicate that it does not appear to contradict the Committee’s position or alter the policy principles of the Bill.

In relation to amendment Nos 71 and 72, several respondents to the Committee’s call for evidence felt that the Planning Appeals Commission should have the power to award costs where it felt that an appeal had been made frivolously or vexatiously. The Committee agreed with that and asked the Department to consider amendments, which the Department agreed to introduce. I welcome those amendments on behalf of the Committee.

I cannot offer a Committee position on the wording of amendment No 77, as the Committee agreed the relevant clause as drafted during Committee Stage. However, the Department mentioned the principle of councils being allowed to charge higher fees for late applications to act as an incentive for proper procedure to be followed. The Committee welcomed that approach, and I therefore support the amendment that allows for that. I cannot offer a Committee position on amendment Nos 99 and 102, as the issues they cover were not discussed during Committee Stage.

I will now move on to the Committee’s amendment — amendment No 104. The Committee was extremely concerned about the timing of the Bill, because the governance arrangements for ensuring equality and fairness in council decisions are not yet in place. The Department insisted that the Planning Bill would not be implemented until the local government reform had taken place, and the two processes would progress in tandem. The Committee sought and received a letter of confirmation from the Minister that planning functions would not be devolved to local authorities until the necessary governance arrangements were in place. However, as we are on the cusp of elections and a new Government will be taking over, the Committee was keen to ensure through legislation that the Bill could not progress without local government reform. The Committee was advised that, because local government reform legislation did not yet exist, it was not possible to link the Bill to legislation yet to come. The Committee therefore agreed to table the amendment, which will prevent commencement of any powers in Part 3 that devolve planning functions to councils without the prior approval of the Assembly. It is only right that the House has the final say as to when the planning powers transfer to councils.

The governance arrangements and the code of ethics must first be in place before we can have any confidence in transferring those significant and far-reaching powers. The arrangements must also be allowed to bed in to allow us to have enough confidence that they are fully understood and functioning well. Only then should we even think about transferring the powers. On behalf of the Committee, I support the amendment and strongly urge the House to do likewise.

I cannot offer a Committee position on amendment No 105, as this is the first time that members have seen it. Although members have not had an opportunity to see amendment No 106, I can inform the House that the Committee, mindful of the risk that increasing penalties might place on listed buildings and protected trees, recommended that the Department looked into ways of ensuring that compliance is enforced. It would appear that the amendment aims to do that, and I suggest that it is in keeping with the Committee’s recommendation.

I would like to say a few words on behalf of Sinn Féin in relation to third-party appeals, and I know that my colleague will continue the debate after listening to some of the contributions that will be made. The Minister was keen to talk about a front-loaded system.

In an ideal world, a front-loaded system should be able to protect and to give people the opportunity and right to be consulted on the planning process. However, that has not been the case, and an independent mechanism is needed to challenge that.

It will be up to councils and the statement of community involvement to ensure that people consult on the planning process. However, as I said to the Minister, it is a question of how meaningful any contribution to the planning process is and the impact that people who contribute to the process have.

I take it that the Minister said that he would see how things bed in and maybe look at a third-party right of appeal. I said earlier that that might be the case with the review process. However, the Assembly should look at a limited third-party right of appeal. If we are talking about people being included at the start of the planning process, nobody should come in at the eleventh hour to stop the process.

The issue is to get the balance right and to create proper planning policy. However, there must be something there to ensure a challenge. I support a limited third-party right of appeal, but maybe the Minister will clarify his thinking on such appeals.

Photo of Peter Weir Peter Weir DUP 4:30 pm, 8th March 2011

It was maybe remiss of me during the debate on the previous set of amendments not to declare an interest as a member of North Down Borough Council, so I happy to put that on the record. There is a range of amendments, and I do not intend to deal with all of them. Nonetheless, Members’ attention should be drawn to a number of significant amendments.

I will come back to the issue of third-party appeals. However, as an MLA, I have represented residents at planning appeals, so I consider amendment No 21 to be prescient. At appeals, goalposts are suddenly moved, particularly by developers with expensive legal teams that start to throw in a lot of additional information, which means that there is not a level playing field. It is reasonable that the PAC takes completely new evidence into account. However, in limiting the circumstances in which that new evidence can be introduced, amendment No 21 is a sensible way forward.

Photo of Trevor Clarke Trevor Clarke DUP

I am sure that the Member has sat at planning appeals at which developers had submitted plans for large schemes, but, at the eleventh hour, after such schemes had been through the Planning Service and a local council, those developers reduced the size of the schemes. The PAC then views the file of the reduced scheme, which has cut out the Planning Service and the community, which may not have had concerns at that stage. That is how developers flout and abuse the system.

Photo of Peter Weir Peter Weir DUP

On occasion that has happened, which is regrettable. Hopefully, the provisions of amendment No 21 will counteract that. People submitting planning applications use tactics and psychological moves. They submit plans that go beyond what they believe that they are likely to be granted, and they then appear reasonable by compromising and reducing the size of the plan at the eleventh hour. It is important that that position is covered.

Amendment No 71 on the power to award costs and amendment No 72 on orders as to costs are interlined and are a sensible way to regulate the appeals process.

Amendment No 77 deals with the power to charge additional or multiple fees in post-enforcement situations, or when there has been a retrospective application. I am sure that other Members, particularly those who have served in local government, have been frustrated time and again by people who seem to flout planning regulations. They simply go ahead and build something, occasionally through ignorance, but more often because they are prepared to flout the regulations in the hope that the Planning Service will not go after them. When enforcement is used against them, they try to obfuscate things through retrospective applications. Clearly, the circumstances must be judged on their merits, but the proposal in amendment No 77, which will link this issue to a financial penalty for someone who acts in such a way, is a sensible way forward.

I also welcome amendment No 99, which proposes to include tree preservation orders in planning registers. It is right that these should be included, and, as the Minister indicated, it is currently part of best practice and should be supported.

I am concerned that amendment No 105 goes beyond what should be in the Bill, and my preference would be for amendment No 104, which is the Committee’s amendment. When the Planning Bill was being drawn up, the Executive’s intention was to link it to the reorganisation and reform of local government. Much of the detail was worked out as part of the RPA process, and, although some people will complain that that process was not brought to a conclusion, many good things emerged from it. One of those was the creation of a broad cross-party consensus on the way that local government could be reorganised through the provision of checks and balances. There are concerns about the planning system that date from the 1960s and 1970s, but how much those are overstated is questionable. However, people genuinely want to ensure that checks and balances are built in when significant power is granted. The proposal in amendment No 104 provides that reassurance, because it links with the transfer of functions under Part 3 of the Bill that will not occur until there is affirmative resolution in the Assembly. That can be linked with the issue of the reform of local government and provides, in and of itself, a useful check and balance.

I have sympathy with the proposal in amendment No 106. As the Minister indicated, there may be technical and legal issues to be ironed out in connection with the amendment, but it does address a genuine concern. If we put in place proper and additional protection for listed buildings and tree preservations orders, we should not have the situation in which some people act unscrupulously and see a window of opportunity — or a window of destruction — and use it to act inappropriately.

The most controversial amendments are amendment No 20 and its consequential amendment No 102, which deal with third-party appeals. As indicated, the proposed system is frontloaded as far as community consultation is concerned. For a range of reasons, I am hesitant, at best, about third-party appeals and I express grave concerns about them. The Chairperson of the Committee for the Environment was prescient in his early comments on those amendments, although it probably did not take a clairvoyant to anticipate the sort of remarks that would be made. If we have a frontloaded system, which we then backload with appeals, we will overburden it. The system will be already overburdened when it comes to time: indeed; a major criticism of planning in Northern Ireland is that it takes far too long for decisions to be taken. That could impact on the construction industry and development, and it could impact on communities by not giving them a certainty of result. It could also impact on the commercial side of things, because, when we are looking for investment in Northern Ireland, one barrier is a planning system that sometimes takes too long. Introducing third-party appeals will extend that problem and overburden the system even more.

Appeals would have to be dealt with through the Planning Appeals Commission. I well remember a debate in the House not that long ago in which the performance of the PAC and the time that it took to deal with appeals were criticised. If we add to those appeals and, perhaps, open the floodgates to a large number of appeals — some may be vexatious but would have to be dealt with anyway, and some may have some merit — we will massively overburden the Planning Appeals Commission and create a situation in which it will not be able to deal with matters in a timely fashion.

Regardless of the procedures that are put in place, there is concern that, although a lot of third-party appeals would have genuine merit, the system is open to abuse. There may be a situation in which a neighbour or someone else puts in an appeal with the aim of possibly being bought off by the developer. There is concern that third-party appeals will lead to a degree of corruption.

The case for third-party appeals would be stronger if one of two circumstances pertained. First, the argument would be much stronger had there not been early community involvement and the front-loading of the system, because in that circumstance it would be a form of check and balance. However, the check and balance is already built in. Secondly, the argument in favour of third-party appeals would have more merit if this was simply a situation in which decisions were taken by faceless bureaucrats — I mean no disrespect to the officials who are here.

We are talking about a situation in which planning issues are devolved to local councils. Democratically elected local representatives will be able to reflect their understanding of what is best for their area. They will be able to respect and give views and, ultimately, to make a local, democratic decision on any planning application. Such circumstances weaken the argument for third-party appeals. I think that to go down the route of third-party appeals at this stage, in a situation that is untested as regards planning, would be potentially disastrous for Northern Ireland. It would overburden the system. Instead of ensuring that planning was fairer and more focused, it would lengthen the process and potentially make it less fair, consequently —

Photo of Peter Weir Peter Weir DUP

I am happy to give way to Mr McCarthy.

Photo of Kieran McCarthy Kieran McCarthy Alliance

I have listened attentively to what has been said. Does the Member not agree that there is certain disadvantage to the objectors? Hundreds of people may object to plans, for instance, to infill a quarry with inert material, and those are really dedicated people who are against what is being proposed. The developer has the opportunity to take it the full hog. Yet, when the proposal is approved by the Planning Service, the objectors do not have anywhere to take their case. That is unfair, and there is an inequality. Is there no sympathy in what the Member is saying for those people? Many objectors are good, genuine people.

Photo of Peter Weir Peter Weir DUP

I do not doubt the genuineness of the people. The whole point is that any member of the community will have their opportunity at the front-loaded community involvement stage. If we were cutting out the community altogether —

Photo of Anna Lo Anna Lo Alliance

Will the Member give way?

Photo of Peter Weir Peter Weir DUP

I will finish the point that has been raised, and then I will be happy to give way to the Member.

A planning application should be judged on its merits, not on whether there is one person against it or 100 people against it. The volume of objection should not be taken into account.

I return to the point about weighing up the arguments that are used. The people who will be making decisions on applications in the future will be councillors. It will be people such as Alderman McCarthy and me. I am sure that Kieran McCarthy’s good sense and that of his colleagues means that he would have absolute faith in those people. If we are placing the decision in the hands of people in whom Kieran McCarthy would have complete trust, what have we to worry about? Local, democratically elected councillors will be taking the decision. If Mr McCarthy has no faith in his colleagues, that is perhaps a sad day. I see him shaking his head in response to my comment. He clearly does have faith. That will be able to weigh in what the community is saying. I am now happy to give way to Ms Lo.

Photo of Anna Lo Anna Lo Alliance

I listened carefully to Mr Weir, and I hope to set out my argument later in my deliberations. Mr Weir kept mentioning the front-loading of consultation. However, the third-party appeals are limited to major developments; the other developments would not involve pre-consultation with the community.

Photo of Peter Weir Peter Weir DUP

The Member is not a member of the Environment Committee, so I appreciate that she has not gone through the discussions. The idea is that councils would structure the consultations in such a way that they would take on board the opinions of the community on any application. In that sense, there would be an open door. Consultation would not just take place on the broad development plans or the major applications. Rather, there would be consultation on broad development in totality, so development control would also form part of the process. Additionally, as I said, those democratically elected by the entire community would ultimately be the decision-makers.

As with all groups of amendments, some in group 3 will add greatly to the Bill, and I have greater concern about some others. I am happy to leave my comments on the group 3 amendments there and listen to the rest of the debate.

Photo of Danny Kinahan Danny Kinahan UUP

I am pleased to speak on the group 3 amendments, which deal with planning control. I will go through them in chronological order.

Amendment Nos 19, 26 and 27 are technical, and I welcome them. Amendment No 20, which we have just been discussing, seeks to introduce third-party appeals. I have a lot of sympathy for that amendment, as do the mass of the public. I am extremely disappointed that a petition of concern has been submitted in respect of that amendment, because that is the wrong way to deal with a matter of that type. A petition of concern should be used only for something that is sectarian. In a way, those who submitted it are trying to steamroller the amendment because they know that they will not win the argument.

There is a strong move out there towards third-party appeals. I understand the argument on the front-loading of consultation. It will be hard, however, to get across to the public that there should never be a need for a third-party appeal if councils carry out a proper survey, produce a good local development plan, include the community and go through all the right stages. We ask for a belt-and-braces approach. From the debates on the earlier groups of amendments, we know that the legislation will be constantly under review, and we will have a review within three years.

We need checks and balances. That is not a reflection on fellow councillors, but having been a councillor, I know that decisions are not always taken in the right way because lots of pressures are put on people. I will support amendment No 20, but I want the Minister to look at it, because the use of a third-party appeal should be an exception. There must be a tight limit on third-party appeals so that they do not slow up the planning process. Amendment No 20 starts the discussion, and maybe we need to have it tightened for Further Consideration Stage.

We thoroughly agree with amendment No 21. I am slightly stymied by the English in amendment No 34 and would love clarification on it. As I understand it, it means that we can have a conservation area that does not have a building or any development on it. I would like clarification, because the double negative rather throws me.

Amendment No 41, tabled by the Alliance Party, removes the words “dead or dying trees” from clause 121. That has always concerned me, because every growing tree is nearing its death and is, therefore, dying. When tree surgeons are asked about a tree, if it suits them, the tree will be dying or ill, and they will fell it. Keeping that in mind throughout, we should support the amendment, because it allows dead or dying trees to remain subject to tree protection orders. However, we need to find some way of dealing with them if they are dangerous. I hesitate to throw out suggestions at this late stage, but the Bill has come at us quickly. Maybe we need a body similar to the Historic Buildings Council, which deals with listed buildings. Such an organisation could deal with trees, look at them and give a fair judgement on whether a tree is really dying and whether it needs to be felled or pollarded.

The Ulster Unionist Party supports amendment No 41.

Amendment No 62 deals with compensation to councils. I thoroughly agree with the Committee and support that amendment. Amendment Nos 71, 72 and 77 are extremely welcome.

Amendment No 99 adds “tree preservations orders”. It is absolutely vital to get councils to keep registers of tree preservation orders, and it is also vital that councillors are kept informed, so that they know which trees in their patch are on the register of tree preservation orders. As part of the survey that councils will have to do, I encourage them to concentrate on all the special trees in their area and to put tree preservation orders in place wherever they are needed, instead of just in the one or two locations where somebody has raised an issue, as happens at the moment.

As regards amendment No 104, I totally support the Committee’s wish to bring forward Part 3 to affirmative resolution in the Assembly, and I am pleased to hear that the Minister supports it, as it is essential that we get RPA and the local government reform in place before that happens.

I am not going to move amendment No 105, but my concern, and that of many councillors, is that so much is being thrown at councils that a massive cost will be incurred. The Minister has promised pilot studies and many other matters. However, I am concerned that things will be thrown at councils, and I wanted to include that, as in amendment No 104. I am not going to move it this time but will, perhaps, look at it in a different form at the next stage.

I am pleased that the Committee Chairperson supports amendment No 106, as, I think, do all Members. As I said before, I am concerned that, in the lull before the Bill is passed, anyone could fell trees or knock down historic buildings. I am sure that all Members have stories. I can think of a line of Victorian houses in Ballycastle that were damaged by a fire one weekend, and, by the end of the weekend, the whole terrace had been pulled down. I want to see that practice stopped. By agreeing amendment No 106, I hope that that will take place from the moment of Royal Assent, subject to the legal side being sorted out. I am also asking the Minister to look at a way — whether it is retrospective or whether something else can be brought in — to bring it forward to today, so that, from today, anyone who pulls down a historic building or cuts down a tree that has been preserved will be punished by the fines that we have put in place. I urge the Minister to see whether he can find a way of putting that in. Therefore, even if it is six or eight weeks until Royal Assent, the more scurrilous people will not be able to pull down our trees.

Photo of Patsy McGlone Patsy McGlone Social Democratic and Labour Party

Go raibh maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle. In supporting the range of amendments, I will select those that I want to speak on. I have given a lot of thought to amendment No 20, which deals with third-party appeals. I can weigh up and hear both arguments. There is the argument from one side that says that, in order to develop a robust and efficient planning service and local councils that are robust and efficient and deliver on time to the customer or the ratepayer, there must be efficiency. However, there is no reason why that should not be the case. Today, I talked to someone who has quite a substantial project in England, and he anticipates that it will take six weeks from application to determination stage. That is a benchmark that the Department and Planning Service should look at to see how quickly they can move to efficiently process planning applications. With regard to efficiencies that are developed, it is how we do things, as much as what is done that is important.

I have thought a great deal about third-party appeals. I represent a rural constituency where one is often on the side of the developer, who could be building a single house or a small business. I am not as fully au fait with many of the issues that occur, principally in urban areas, around objections. Through the endeavours of my colleague at the Environment Committee, I have listened to the objectors especially around Knock and heard a range of objections raised there. Those people, too, are entitled to have their views heard and their cases presented.

I am absolutely honest when I say this: I see the genuinely heartfelt integrity of people who have concerns about how the planning process operates. I was not, by any stretch of the imagination, airbrushing history, as the Minister said, or presenting my own view of it. We have to learn from the excesses of the past and the things that went wrong and get it right this time. If third-party appeals can contribute to that, I fully welcome their role and function.

My one reservation is that, like many in the Chamber, I have been to tribunals and seen situations where people have sought to use a variety of levers, including public representatives, to extract the best they can from a developer — who could be a person with a single-house development — for a sight line or whatever it might be. I can foresee situations where third-party appeal can be used as a lever or a tool for negotiation. We cannot prevent that. However, what legislators and people of great legal wisdom can do is develop criteria for third-party appeals. In that way, they could do what they can to get people justice and underwrite the integrity of the planning process by way of the third-party process while, simultaneously, making sure that abuses cannot take place using that avenue. It is a challenge, I know, but it has happened elsewhere. It is done elsewhere, and third-party appeals are very much the norm in a robust, transparent and fair planning system. I stand in favour of third-party appeals, and my party colleagues will speak in favour of them.

I regret that a petition of concern has been raised against that. Mr Kinahan referred to it earlier. It is very unfortunate that a lever or mechanism that was built into the political process of this Assembly for other purposes is to be used to nobble something that could serve a wider system of justice for people who make third-party appeals. However, Members have chosen to do that and they have a right and an entitlement to take that route.

I spoke on amendment No 21 in Committee. It introduces a new clause that restricts the information that can be presented at an appeal; or, rather than restrict, it clarifies what information can be presented. That, too, is very important. Those Members who have attended planning appeals have seen situations where someone may be suffering from a condition yet to be diagnosed or awaiting further information or evidence of a medical nature that might be crucially important. Such information could prove to be the linchpin in presenting a case and in winning an appeal for a person who may require a house or dwelling for special needs, as mitigating medical circumstances would be taken into account. Amendment No 21 represents a fair recognition of people’s rights and entitlements and the difficult circumstances that some people find themselves in, whereby they require an application for planning to be approved.

Likewise, amendment No 62 is important, although for a different reason. Councils are not liable to pay compensation in cases where other agencies may not have been up to the mark in delivering evidence or information material on a planning application that could have swung the decision one way or another.

That may have consequences for a refusal or, indeed, an approval, because the information, had it been up to speed, received in time, adapted or improved, could have swung that decision one way or the other. If that is external to the council, that council should not be held liable for it.

Amendment No 102 is obviously consequential to amendment No 20, but is important in its own right. Nevertheless, there is no need for me to recite again why that is the case. Amendment No 104, on which I appreciate Members’ input, is extremely important. As I said at the start of the debate, the sequence of events involving the reform of local government, the review of public administration and everything that goes with that should have taken place before the Planning Bill came about or should have at least run in parallel with that. Instead, we have a situation where the reform of local government has still to be completed, where the safeguards, checks and balances have yet to be delivered, and where those have yet to manifest themselves, in whatever form, on paper for us to consider them. However, we are still tearing away with a Planning Bill that everybody knows is being presented simply because the Executive want to establish themselves and to show that they are beginning to deliver, albeit after three and a half years when they were not exactly delivering. The amendment is vital because it ties in the reform of local government with —

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

Does the Member accept that the Executive have delivered twice as much legislation as the one that was in power between 1998 and 2003, when his party was one of the largest at the polls?

Photo of Patsy McGlone Patsy McGlone Social Democratic and Labour Party

I accept that, as well as the fact that his party was instrumental in trying to pull down that Executive. We are talking about building the future, and that is what the planning is all about. Nonetheless, I thank the Minister for his comment.

Amendment No 104 is vital because it ties in one with the other, and one cannot progress without the other. The SDLP believes that that is important. I realise why Mr Kinahan tabled amendment 106, and the SDLP is open to the suggestion that he makes. We thank him for that.

Photo of Anna Lo Anna Lo Alliance

I will speak on five amendments in group 3 and will start with amendment Nos 20 and 102, on third-party appeal. Like others who spoke before me, I am completely disgusted by the DUP’s use of the petition of concern. The amendments will benefit all sections of our community. This is not a contentious issue between the two major communities, so for the DUP to try to veto the amendment is a total abuse of power.

As an MLA for South Belfast for the past four years, I have supported many residents and residents’ associations in their dealings with the Planning Service. The majority of those residents have told me that they have endured serious detrimental effects in their residential and conservation areas for many years because of inappropriate development and the cumulative effect of piecemeal development projects. Furthermore, some streets are now blighted by abandoned properties with overgrown gardens bought before the collapse of the housing market. There is a great sense of anger and frustration that the planning system is always in favour of the developer, and although the developer can appeal against a decision, residents have no such right of appeal.

The issue of third-party appeal attracted a large number of responses to the planning reform consultation, with strong views for and against its introduction.

Of those who supported the introduction of third-party appeals (TPA), many indicated that it should be a limited or restricted right to avoid vexatious challenges. Some respondents see third-party appeals as a fundamental part of a reformed planning system that is fair and accessible to all, based on principles of equality and genuine engagement. However, those against the introduction of such rights stated that, with the proposed front-loading system of pre-application community consultation, there is no need for third-party appeals, as Mr Weir advocated earlier. Some were concerned that that could cause further delays in the already slow and inefficient system. However, our amendment reflects the fact that many stakeholders called for the introduction of TPA.

We recognise that the Department has decided that further consideration of third-party appeals should be deferred until the extensive changes to the planning system and the implementation of the review of public administration (RPA) have bedded down and are working effectively. However, nobody knows whether that will or will not happen. Even if it is going to happen, it could be a long time in the future before it does. People would like some reassurance now that third-party appeals are going to be included in the Bill to give a degree of certainty.

It is important to stress that the amendment does not provide for the immediate introduction of TPA in Northern Ireland. Rather, it is an enabling clause that would allow TPA to be brought forward by the Department in an appropriate manner within an appropriate timescale with, as Mr Patsy McGlone said, criteria attached to that.

We fully understand the need for caution in introducing third-party appeals to balance the right of individuals and other third parties against the need for progress and development, especially at this time of economic uncertainty. The fact that this is enabling legislation means that the Department and the Assembly could ensure that the system of TPA introduced in Northern Ireland is developed to make sure that the bar for appeal is set at an appropriate level and conditions are in place to prevent the planning process becoming hostage to frivolous or vexatious appeals. Final regulations would have to be brought before the Assembly for affirmative resolution.

We believe that there are many good reasons to provide a limited third-party right of appeal. It would provide an incentive for developers to undertake genuine participation and meaningful pre-application consultation. The public and communities would then feel that their comments were being given proper consideration in pre-application consultations. Planning authorities would be more inclined to get their decisions right in the first place.

Evidence from the Republic of Ireland shows that 99·3% of third-party appeals in 2008 were wholly or partially successful. That refutes claims that third-party appeals are frivolous and supports the view that, over time, they improve decision-making by planners.

Developers have a right of appeal through which they influence how policy is interpreted by establishing precedence. The public do not have that opportunity. That creates a sense of unfairness, which can be removed only either by abolishing appeals or by allowing third parties a limited right of appeal. That would make planning authorities as accountable for their approvals as they currently are for their refusals.

People seeking to exercise the right to a third-party appeal should demonstrate the soundness of their case so that it is not a free-for-all. The soundness test should include showing that the appeal is in line with planning policies, including the development plan, and that it is not being made for financial or commercial gain.

A number of proposed measures might mitigate the potential abuse of appeals. Those include the introduction of a levy fee, although a balance is required so as not to restrict totally, or restrict unfairly, access; the introduction of qualifying criteria, such as that the third party must have made an observation to the original planning application; the possible exclusion of major infrastructure; the setting of restricted timescales for appeal decisions so as not to delay the process; and an ongoing audit of the system. We will perhaps need a number of years to ascertain the success of the system.

The Planning Appeals Commission shall have absolute discretion to dismiss an appeal when it is of the opinion that the appeal is vexatious, frivolous or without substance, made with the sole intention of delaying the development or is not based on sound planning grounds.

We need to balance the need for economic growth and the rights of individuals who are affected by the planned development. Those people have to live beside the new developments, which might blight their quality of life, shadow their gardens and look into their bedrooms or bathrooms. We want a planning system that is accountable, transparent and equitable. Therefore, it is important that we include a third-party right of appeal.

The Alliance Party also has three amendments that concern trees. Amendment No 34 calls for areas to be made conservation areas in respect of planning, even if there are no buildings in that area. An area with an important historic landscape could be made a conservation area for planning purposes. Areas thick with tree cover could also be considered as conservation areas. I will be interested to hear the Minister’s comments on that. If he can convince us that amendment No 34 is not necessary, we may not move it.

Amendment No 41 changes the current wording of the Bill that states that dead or dying trees, or those that may be dangerous, can be felled even if a tree preservation order is in place. The removal of the phrase “dying or dead” will mean that only dangerous trees can be felled if a tree preservation order is in place. The key consideration must be whether a tree is dangerous or not. Whether it is dead or dying is immaterial. Indeed, we believe that even dead or dying trees can play a useful role in the ecosystem by providing a habitat. Furthermore, there is a lack of clarity about what exactly is understood by the word “dying”. It can be a broad category. The Woodland Trust categorises trees as dying when their annual growth rings start to decrease in size. However, an oak tree could be considered to be in that dying phase for up to 400 years. Removal of the reference to “dying or dead” would also bring Northern Ireland into line with practice in the rest of the UK.

Amendment No 99 simply adds tree preservation orders in each council area to the list of things of which councils must keep a database.

Photo of Willie Clarke Willie Clarke Sinn Féin 5:15 pm, 8th March 2011

Go raibh maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle. Sinn Féin supports amendment No 20, which would mean that regulations can be made to allow third parties to appeal planning decisions. That is the only way to make the planning system fair for all citizens and remove the bias in favour of developers. I spoke about that earlier. There needs to be a system that is tightly time framed, with a quick turnaround. Other Members spoke earlier about creating a logjam in the system.

It is unfair to use the petition of concern mechanism, as it was not designed to be used in instances such as this. I think it does the House an injustice to use it in such a manner, because planning impacts on all communities. We should be mature enough to have the debate. I will not waste a lot of time on these matters, because there is a snowball’s chance in hell of getting the amendment through.

Photo of Peter Weir Peter Weir DUP

The Member may well be underestimating his powers of persuasion and argument. No vote has taken place, and I am sure that if the Member presents an utterly convincing argument the Members on these Benches could be persuaded.

Photo of Willie Clarke Willie Clarke Sinn Féin

I would not like to look at my odds for that.

The system that we are designing is front-loading. We are looking at community involvement and community planning. The system should work a lot better than it does at present. Communities have to take a leap of faith; the Members to my left outlined the difficulties that individuals have in dealing with developers. I ask the Minister to have a review after three years, as we talked about earlier. Maybe he could commit to including, in a review, a consultation on third-party appeals as an appropriate option. If everything works in the way that we are led to believe it will work, and if the front-loading system will resolve the problem, then carrying out a consultation should quite clearly show that the system in working fine. It will be interesting to hear what the Minister has to say on that matter.

Sinn Féin supports amendment Nos 71 and 72, which allow the Planning Appeals Commission to award costs where it is felt that an appeal has been made in a frivolous manner. I welcome that. I support amendment No 77, which deals with retrospective applications following enforcement proceedings being subject to councils being allowed to impose extra charges. As the Minister said, that will act as an incentive to follow proper planning processes.

I understand that amendment No 34, which was tabled by the Alliance Party, is a probing amendment. It certainly probed my thoughts, because I was not really sure what it was about. Is it intended to designate a buffer zone in and around a conservation area or a historic site or what used to be historic woodland? I was not clear about it.

I support amendment No 41, which removes dead or dying trees from the exemption under tree preservation orders in clause 121. I just needed clarity on the health and safety aspects, particularly in relation to decaying trees in public parks or those that may fall on people in their homes or in their cars.

Photo of Trevor Clarke Trevor Clarke DUP

If I picked the Member up right, he said that he is accepting the argument about dead or dying trees. If he does so, how can he have concerns about people being in danger from trees in public parks? If the trees are dead, they are a danger. Surely, dying and dead trees should be included.

Photo of Willie Clarke Willie Clarke Sinn Féin

I do not accept that. A dead or dying oak tree could take 100 years to fall. It would still be robust. It is a bit like human beings; as soon as we are born, we are dying. As soon as the tree starts to grow, it is on its way to dying. There are trees in Donard Park in Newcastle that are a couple of hundred years old and have been dying for about 100 years. I do not buy into what the Member said.

Amendment No 99 is sensible. It requires councils to include information relating to tree preservation orders in their planning register. That is best practice and common sense.

Sinn Féin strongly supports amendment No 104, which will offer reassurances to communities and minorities. Planning powers were taken from councils because of abuse of powers, and discrimination was rife. I will not get into historical debates or lectures, but it is very important to have checks and balances in place before powers can be handed over to local authorities. This is a very sensible amendment.

I also support amendment No 106 and agree with the Member who proposed it. Historical buildings and woodlands could be cleared away overnight, and I think the amendment is a sensible precaution.

Photo of George Savage George Savage UUP

A lot has been said today about planning regulations, but the amendments in group 3 refer to planning control. Amendment No 20 amends clause 58 and requires the Department to provide regulations allowing persons other than the applicant to appeal a decision. It is also useful to note at this point that the Environment Committee did not discuss third-party rights of appeal during Committee Stage. However, in light of the issues raised in this proposed amendment and amendment No 102, I and my party are happy to support them.

However, I note with amazement —

Photo of Trevor Clarke Trevor Clarke DUP

If, by some miracle, the amendments on third-party appeals are accepted, what will the Member’s opinion be if one of his constituents applies for planning permission for a bungalow close to him and goes through the proper process, but another neighbour decides that he should not be building there because they just do not want him there and decides to take a third-party appeal against that permission?

Photo of George Savage George Savage UUP

Thank you.

Amendment No 21 introduces a new clause restricting the information that can be presented in an appeal. In most cases, it is right and proper that new information is brought forward only if it is necessary, expedient and applicable.

Amendment No 41 amends clause 121 to remove dead or dying trees from the exemptions under tree preservation orders. I welcome that amendment. It has been supported by the Woodland Trust and will help bring Northern Ireland into line with best practice in the UK.

Amendment No 62 introduces a new clause to ensure that councils are not liable to compensation if they made a decision on a planning application that will later have to be revoked as a result of information being made available by a statutory consultee that had failed to provide it within the original deadline. The amendment is most welcome because it protects councils from a problem not of their own making and transfers liabilities, and, therefore, associated costs to the statutory consultee that failed in its duties in the first instance.

Amendment No 77 amends clause 219 to allow for fees charged for retrospective applications to be higher than those for an ordinary application. I welcome that amendment, as it gives applicants an incentive to get things right first time and to conduct their planning applications in a wholly appropriate manner.

Amendment No 99 amends clause 237 to require councils to include information relating to tree preservation orders in their planning register. I welcome the amendment, as I think that it is good practice. I also welcome the amendment proposed by my party colleague and fellow Committee member Danny Kinahan that ensures that any commencement orders for parts 2 and 3 of the Bill cannot be laid without being affirmed by the Assembly. That was agreed by the Environment Committee as a means of ensuring planning control functions could not pass to councils until the Assembly was content that the necessary checks and balances were in place at council level. It is designed to provide a mechanism —

Photo of Peter Weir Peter Weir DUP 5:30 pm, 8th March 2011

I thank the Member for giving way. Mr Kinahan stated that he will not move that amendment. The Part 3 element is in amendment No 104, which was agreed by the Environment Committee and which, I think, will be supported. However, there was no particular agreement on Part 2, which is also in Mr Kinahan’s amendment. That is where the difference lies.

Photo of George Savage George Savage UUP

I thank Mr Weir for that intervention. The amendment is designed to provide a mechanism to allow the Assembly to be satisfied that central government has provided the necessary resources and capacity before councils are required to prepare local development plans.

Amendment No 106 will amend clause 247 to ensure that clauses 84 and 125 come into operation as soon as the Bill becomes law. The amendment is designed to reduce the time between higher fines being agreed in the Bill and their coming into force. That will minimise the opportunity and/or incentive for wilful damage to trees and listed buildings.

I am content to support all the amendments in the third group. I know that there has been a lot of talk today and concerns about what has been going on, but we have to move the system forward and bring ourselves into the twenty-first century.

Photo of Francie Molloy Francie Molloy Sinn Féin

I call Mr John Dallat.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

Hear, hear.

Photo of John Dallat John Dallat Social Democratic and Labour Party

I welcome the cheer from the far side of the Chamber. No doubt there are high expectations of what I might say. I thank the planning officials, who were extremely constructive in the help that they gave to the Committee. I acknowledge that freely.

The vast majority of people whom I have met in my lifetime are honest and submit their planning applications properly. When they do not get it right, they accept the planners’ advice. There are, however, a few people who are morally corrupt, if I may use that term. That is what the safeguards are about. The third-party appeal issue, which has attracted the petition of concern, would apply to only a very small number of cases where whole communities have been affected by perhaps one major planning application. My colleague Patsy McGlone mentioned Knock Golf Club. Perhaps we should not focus on one particular case, but I am extremely proud that I saved the trees in that club. I hope that, every time the Minister drives past it, he will appreciate that there is sometimes a need for us to go outside our constituencies. That was something else that he was critical of.

I see no reason why third-party appeals are not possible. If as much thought was put in to the Planning Bill as was put in to how to conduct third-party appeals, there would not be a problem. I hope that, given that we are told that this is a living document, this opportunity is not closed down. I also hope that, at some time in the near future, some Minister — whoever it is — will take seriously the enormous number of people who gave evidence to the Committee and submitted their opinions about the right to a third-party appeal.

I come from a rural area where that is not a big issue. However, I belonged to a bigger council for more than 30 years, so I saw what happened in the coastal area where there was no opportunity for appeals. The whole heritage of the place was pulled down, and the healthiest of trees became diseased overnight. That could be called “the chainsaw society”. The people involved in such activity need to be held accountable for what they do, and a third-party appeal is one democratic way to do that. I am surprised that a party that has “Democratic” in its title is so opposed to third-party appeals. That is unfortunate.

Generally speaking, we should be able to face a future in which planning legislation does not need a petition of concern presented, because we will perhaps begin to trust each other. However, that must be demonstrated. I am talking now about amendment No 21, which illustrates that we have yet to agree what mechanism local councils will have to protect people against the kind of abuses that happened in the distant past. I know that my colleague was criticised for daring to even mention times past. However, we lived through that era and would like to pass on to a new generation our advice on how things can be done differently rather than be repeated. Let us hope that common sense will prevail and that the general public will have some kind of ownership of planning.

Finally, amendment No 21 restricts the information that can be put into a planning appeal. I suggest that a serious look should be taken at information put into the planning application in the first place. My recent experience, particularly with the Knock golf course case, was that letters of support came from people in public life making the most outrageous claims about planning applications. Such claims included that local councils had supported the application, jobs would be created and community associations would benefit. As the Chairman knows, we discussed that at the Committee meeting, and we got an assurance from the planners that those concerns can be accommodated as the Planning Bill makes its way to becoming the final product. I hope that that will create a better society and one in which people can have confidence, particularly the communities that have been so adversely affected by really bad planning approvals in the past, some at ministerial level and others at a bit more of a local level.

Photo of Brian Wilson Brian Wilson Green

I will deal first with third-party appeals. In my election campaign, I said that, if I was elected to the Assembly, I would promote third-party appeals. Therefore, I welcome this amendment. However, I now see that, because of the petition of concern, my vote on the issue becomes irrelevant. Not only is my vote irrelevant, but the people who voted for me who wanted to introduce third-party appeals are totally disenfranchised on this issue, which is a total abuse of the Assembly.

That said, the Green Party supports limited third-party appeals. There is a widespread public perception that there is a bias in the Planning Service in favour of developers. Many residents feel frustrated and have lost confidence in the planning system. Time after time, local community groups get together to oppose developments and their views are ignored. Recently, a development in Bangor involved knocking down a Victorian house and replacing it with an apartment block. That was opposed by all the residents, residents’ groups and, in fact, unanimously by the council.

Photo of Peter Weir Peter Weir DUP

I thank the Member for giving way. Does he acknowledge that there would be no need for a third-party appeal in those circumstances? The Bill envisages that planning decisions will be passed to councils. As the Member rightly said, the council unanimously opposed that development, so it would have been rejected by the council. Therefore, there would not have been a supported planning decision against which to appeal.

Photo of Brian Wilson Brian Wilson Green

I thank the Member for his intervention. I was going to make the point that that would not apply when planning powers are given to councils.

Nevertheless, it still does not resolve the problem of local residents being totally opposed to it. Members suggested that the problem could be resolved by front-loading the system and by pre-consultations. That is only partly true, because most applications will not be submitted for pre-consultation; only major planning applications will be. We have faith in pre-consultations leading to the Planning Service taking the correct decision. However, if the service cannot get turning down an application wrong, it should not be able to get an approval wrong. We should have a level playing field; if applicants can appeal, objectors should also be able to.

As Ms Lo pointed out, there must be safeguards to prevent abuse and vexatious or frivolous applications. However, given the expertise in the Planning Service, I am sure that it could devise an appeals system that is acceptable to the community as a whole, while ensuring that beneficial developments go ahead without significant delay. The appeals system in the Irish Republic seems to work, so I see no reason why a similar system should not work here.

I shall move on to welcome —

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

Will the Member give way?

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

Is the Member suggesting that the Republic of Ireland is an exemplar of good planning?

Photo of Brian Wilson Brian Wilson Green

I did not suggest that at all, but people there seems to be happier with their planning system, although I will not go into that, because if you scrutinise other aspects of the planning system there, you will find problems. However, as far as the Planning Appeals Commission and third-party appeals are concerned, the part of the system that deals with such matters there seems to work OK.

I welcome amendment No 21. Having, like other Members, represented residents at Planning Appeals Commission meetings, I have found that developers tend to come in at the last minute with totally new proposals, and objectors have no opportunity, or perhaps they do not have the expertise, to consider them. That is totally unacceptable.

I welcome amendment No 62, which would mean that councils would be liable for delays caused by others failing to produce information on time. That is totally unfair on councils.

On the removal of dead or dying trees that are subject to a TPO, the most common problem is that perfectly healthy trees suddenly develop a disease because somebody wants to build a house. When somebody puts in a planning application, trees immediately become diseased. It happens all the time. I am concerned that the power to cut down dying trees will be used to get round the planning laws. TPOs are often put on trees or places designated as conservation areas; however, having been protected, trees suddenly develop some strange illness. As other Members pointed out, trees often have illnesses from the day they start to grow. In that sense, it takes them hundreds of years to die. Therefore, trees that are dying anyway generally pose no significant danger to the population.

In some cases they are, but the vast majority of trees affected by those planning applications would have lived. They may have been dying, but they could still have lived for another 100 years. It is amazing how many tree surgeons can confirm that every tree that a developer asks them to look at is in the process of dying. It is part of the planning process. TPOs give very little protection to trees, and we give should them further protection and exclude situations in which dying trees can be cut down because, again, it depends on the definition of “dying”. They provide habitat for wildlife and perhaps have a particular presence in a conservation area. It is a shame that, just because somebody wants to develop, they cut the trees down.

I also support amendment No 99, whereby the council has to register TPOs. At present, the public have a problem in that, if they see a tree that may be under threat from development or feel that it is a prominent tree that they want to preserve, they do not know whether there is a TPO on it and do not really know how to find out. If the council kept a register, the public would be able to check that. That would also enable the public to ensure that people do not cut down trees that have TPOs. At the moment, if someone cuts down a tree, a member of the public might say that that tree should have a TPO. However, they do not know whether it does and, therefore, cannot take action. Therefore, the register that will be retained by the council will be very useful in helping residents to make that decision and to, perhaps, apply for a TPO. I support the other amendments.

Photo of Conall McDevitt Conall McDevitt Social Democratic and Labour Party 5:45 pm, 8th March 2011

I want to take the opportunity to pay tribute to my colleagues on the Environment Committee, which I do not sit on. I know that the Chairperson, the Deputy Chairperson and all MLAs on that Committee have had an extraordinarily busy period, and, under huge pressure, they have done the Assembly a great service over that time. That needs to be said.

I rise to speak because I am an MLA for South Belfast. Amendment No 20 is one that I and, I believe, Alex Maskey, Dr McDonnell and Mr McGimpsey would have really loved to have added our names to. Because of time constraints, that did not happen, and Ms Lo opted for the comfort of her colleagues in the Alliance Party. However, we support the amendment nonetheless, and it reflects entirely the wishes and desires of the representatives of residents in our part of this city. I believe that the amendment is on the Marshalled List because people want it to be there. Those people have, for many years, been at the wrong end of bad decisions that have blighted our communities, left lasting scars and, in some instances, caused considerable unrest. We still have to live with the consequences of those decisions today.

The Holylands is a case in point. The Minister may or may not be familiar with that area. If he is not, I invite him to join us there on St Patrick’s Day. If he chooses to take us up on that invitation, he will see what bad planning decisions really mean. He will see what happens when communities become entirely disenfranchised and when the voice of the few begins to count more than that of the many.

I really struggle to understand what the problem could possibly be with an amendment that provides an enabling power. It does not actually technically make new law. It just enables new law to be possibly made in the future by the Minister. Where is the threat in that? It is certainly not threatening to the Minister or to his integrity. It is not threatening to his stated policy position. It is not threatening to anyone’s manifesto commitments, because it is only an enabling power. It is certainly not threatening to communities. It is not threatening to democracy or due process, because, of course, the regulations that would be required to enable the power would need to be properly consulted on and would receive scrutiny in Committee.

It is maybe threatening to a few, a tiny minority of people with a narrow vested interest in making a lot of money on the backs of residents and communities and people who have sought to build lives in cities. Ironically, cities are places that, as it says in the regional development strategy and on the Minister’s website, we want to reinvigorate and restore to their former glory. They are places where we want to promote communities and encourage families to live, so where is the threat in an amendment that provides an enabling power? I would appreciate an intervention if the Minister or his DUP colleagues could clarify that.

It gets even more worrying that there is a petition of concern on an amendment that does nothing more than introduce an enabling power. What is possibly of threat to the unionist community in an amendment that is one line long and which gives the Minister the power to make the law? How does that, in any way, fulfil the purpose for which the petition of concern was created?

It is clear that, in this House, the DUP is a minority in opposing the amendment. Colleagues in the Ulster Unionist Party support it. The Alliance Party, obviously, supports it. The SDLP, Sinn Féin and the Green Party support it, yet a tiny minority of people, who represent less than one in three of the population, are abusing a technical power that was designed for an entirely different purpose. It is awfully ironic that they are choosing to do so on legislation that is aimed at returning powers to councils. Those powers were taken away from councils because, at a time in our not-so-distant history, a small number of people chose to abuse the powers that were in their hands.

Photo of Alastair Ross Alastair Ross DUP

The Member is making much of the petition of concern. Is he now developing the argument that we should get rid of the ugly scaffolding of the Belfast Agreement and reform the structures to change all of that?

Photo of Conall McDevitt Conall McDevitt Social Democratic and Labour Party

I thank Mr Ross for his concern. It was a good attempt, Mr Ross. The answer is no, and here is why. The safeguards —

Photo of Francie Molloy Francie Molloy Sinn Féin

I remind Members to address the amendments that are before us.

Photo of Conall McDevitt Conall McDevitt Social Democratic and Labour Party

The amendment before us could not possibly, in anyone’s mind, be argued to be controversial from a community perspective. That is the issue. There is no way that anyone could possibly argue that the amendment would have a detrimental impact on one community or the other. It just would not work out that way. There is a reason for those mechanisms. They are for occasions when decisions could be taken by the House that could be perceived to have an impact on one community or another; and those occasions do arise. The amendment deserves to be decided on democratically. The amendment deserves to be agreed or disagreed to by vote of a majority or a minority in the House. It is not an amendment that qualifies in your wildest of dreams for a petition of concern, except if you just happen to have the numbers to move it.

I go back to the point of why we need the amendment. We need this amendment because it is common sense to allow society a last backstop against bad decisions. It is interesting to note that where third-party rights of appeal exist, there are no huge delays in the planning system. It is worth noting that, across these islands, they do not lead, as Members mentioned, to massive backlogs, the clogging up of systems and spurious applications. When they are put in place, they are rightly designed in a way that makes sure that there are no opportunities for highly dodgy, spurious or dubious appeals. It is ironic that we are trying to give the Minister and his officials the power to make the best possible regulation. We are not trying to specify or determine. We are just saying that he should do the best that he can in the time that is available to him.

If Mr Weir’s express sentiment earlier was that he wished to have an honest debate on the issue and that he remained to be convinced, I respectfully suggest that he reflect on the amendment. It is an enabling amendment. It is not threatening, determining or specific. It simply indicates that we wish to allow ordinary people to be given the opportunity to have an appeal. If that is threatening to him, we are in a much worse place than any of us thought we were in. If he is serious about hearing this argument, I strongly request that the petition of concern be withdrawn and the democratic will of the House be heard.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

I was waiting for Mr McDevitt to continue and to deal with some other issues, but he seemed to run out of steam on this occasion.

Photo of Peter Weir Peter Weir DUP

I noticed that Mr McDevitt spoke for less than 15 minutes. If Norris McWhirter were still alive, we could call the Guinness Book of Records.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

We have done a good thing in this debate today if we have restricted Mr McDevitt to 15 minutes. I think that we should congratulate ourselves on that success story.

Members raised a range of issues, but the two key issues that were raised related to the amendment around dead or dying trees and third-party appeals. First, I will deal with the issue of dead or dying trees. At this point, I encourage Members not to move the amendment and to wait until Further Consideration Stage to move it. I would like to consult the Attorney General and the Departmental Solicitor’s Office to see the consequence of it, as I have some concerns. There is a fundamental difference between a dead tree and a dying tree. A number of Members made the point that an oak tree can be dying for a considerable time. Therefore, although it may not be in the best of health, it does not pose a particular danger to any property. On the other hand, a dead tree can pose a danger to people. We need to get some legal background on this issue before we go ahead and make legislation.

I find it a little ironic that, yesterday, Mr Lyttle wanted to include trees as well as hedges in the High Hedges Bill so that they could be removed. That included deciduous trees, not just leylandii types, which the Bill was aimed at dealing with. Therefore, we have some concerns that the Alliance Party was looking for the removal of trees yesterday, yet today it is looking to protect dead trees.

Photo of Patsy McGlone Patsy McGlone Social Democratic and Labour Party 6:00 pm, 8th March 2011

At this stage, I am not sure whether we need an arborist or someone from ‘CSI’ to determine whether a tree is dead or dying. However, at this point in time, does the Minister accept that the debate has become a wee bit surreal? I am not sure whether you would get anyone at the Attorney General’s office or the DSO to determine whether a tree is dead or dying. Certainly, it would prove difficult. In fact, I am sure that if anyone is listening to the debate, they will find that it moves from one level of surreality to another.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

With respect, Mr Deputy Speaker, I did not introduce the issue. It was not me who pointed out that dying trees can continue for many years. However, if a tree is dead — the leaves are not growing and the bark is coming off — and the Assembly decides that that tree still warrants protection, we would be in danger of being a laughing stock. I think that the Member was actually supporting that amendment. Therefore, the joke was on him.

Photo of Stephen Farry Stephen Farry Alliance

I appreciate the Minister’s giving way. Although I missed most of that, I caught the drift.

Photo of Stephen Farry Stephen Farry Alliance

Very good, guys. [Laughter.]

Surely, the key consideration is whether a tree is dangerous. If it is dangerous, whether it is alive or dead is immaterial; it should come down in those circumstances. Even if a tree is dead but is not dangerous, it is still of value to the ecosystem and habitat. Indeed, we talk about a tree dying — a big oak tree, for example, can actually be dying for up to 400 years.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

As regards a dead tree being valuable, there is little value in a dead standing tree. The Member may believe that to be the case, and that, as a consequence, other decisions cannot be taken. I do not believe that we should go down that route.

Photo of Danny Kinahan Danny Kinahan UUP

Does the Minister not agree that when a tree is dead and, possibly, not dangerous, an entire ecosystem survives on it, from bugs and birds to everything else? That is why it is important.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

In fact, the ecosystem and the bugs that Mr Kinahan refers to could actually still survive in the tree if it was not standing. If the dead tree were cut down, the ecosystem that he refers to would still enjoy it. Several other trees could be planted in its place. To put a protection on a dead tree is, in my opinion, not a good use of the Assembly’s time. It appears foolish. However, I encourage people not to make a decision on it until we seek some further advice. The issue is clear: the dead tree could pose a danger to members of the public and to people’s property. Therefore, we do not want to rush ahead into legislation without giving adequate thought and consideration to possible pitfalls. There is ample time for further consideration at Further Consideration Stage.

In respect of third-party appeals, quite a number of Members complained about the use of the petition of concern. If those Members, who cross a wide range of parties, want to join the Assembly and Executive Review Committee in dealing with the ugly scaffolding of the Belfast Agreement, we will be happy to dispense with petitions of concern. That will not be an issue. We will not resist getting rid of petitions of concern. However, those who introduced petitions of concern cannot come weeping, wailing and gnashing their teeth when someone uses them and it is not to their liking.

Photo of Conall McDevitt Conall McDevitt Social Democratic and Labour Party

The Minister is a great champion of road safety. I applaud his efforts to try to improve road safety in the region. One debate that he has promoted is the lowering of the threshold for certain substances in a person’s blood when he or she is in charge of a vehicle. Does the Minister suggest —

Photo of Francie Molloy Francie Molloy Sinn Féin

Order. We are not debating the Good Friday Agreement, the transport Bill, or anything else: we are debating the Planning Bill. Therefore, I ask Members to return to the amendment.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I am happy to deal with the amendment and the issues that were raised as a result of it, which certainly did not relate to road traffic.

As regards third-party appeals, perhaps Members sometimes need to use mechanisms like the petition of concern to save Members from themselves. Even earlier today, there were instances when Members went into a Lobby and, without any thought whatsoever, imposed another burden upon local authorities without even knowing the costs that it would impose on local government.

If certain Members are going to go into decisions ram-stam, and without going through the proper processes and giving them adequate thought, perhaps we should use the mechanism to save them from themselves and prevent them from causing further harm to Northern Ireland plc as a consequence.

Photo of Stephen Farry Stephen Farry Alliance

I assure you, Mr Deputy Speaker, that this is entirely on the matter in hand. Does the Minister recognise that all that amendment No 20 is doing is to write the concept of third-party appeals into the legislation and provide an enabling clause for future debate on the subject? The question requires a simple yes or no answer from Members on whether they are in favour of the concept. The detail as to how and if this would be taken forward based on the enabling clause, and on regulations if we want to go down that route, will be a matter for the Department and the next Assembly. Therefore, there are plenty of safety valves in place to ensure that anything put in place will be properly thought through, if that is what a future Assembly wants to do. Today, we are simply enabling the debate to happen.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

It is at times such as this that we miss our old friend Bob McCartney. Perhaps he could have explained how the word “shall” does not leave a lot of flexibility. If the word “may” had been used, the Member would have had a case, but the word “shall” seems pretty clear to me. I suspect that Mr McCartney, were he here, would agree with me on this issue.

Photo of Alex Maskey Alex Maskey Sinn Féin

Dare I say it; thank God that we do not have Mr McCartney here. If we did, we would be here until tomorrow night, notwithstanding tonight’s 8.00 pm watershed.

I know that the Minister is resolute in his proposals to front-load the system and, for the sake of protection, does not want to backload it. However, will he consider the experiences that a number of Members have had in their constituencies? Mr McDevitt mentioned the situation in our South Belfast constituency. The experience that many of us have had with the Planning Service over the past number of years is that it almost does not matter what the policy is; there is always a presumption in favour of developers, in particular. A lot of people in our constituency have expressed bad and negative experiences.

If there is confidence that front-loading the system will almost resolve any outstanding problems, why is there such resolute opposition to providing the safeguard of a third-party right of appeal? If the system works as the Minister and the Department intend it to work, surely there would be very little cause or need for the recourse of a third-party right of appeal. In a way, this would give people protection. We know that from our experience.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

I thank the Member for the point that he has made; it was well made. If we were coming at the Bill from the current position of Northern Ireland’s planning system, then a third-party appeal system would make a lot of sense; but we are changing planning in Northern Ireland fundamentally, and that is where the difference lies. First, we are going back to a situation in which democratically elected local people will make decisions. Today, I heard a number of Members refer to planning decisions with which local communities and local authorities disagreed. It will be the local authorities who will be the decision-makers in this piece of legislation.

With respect to the people in the planning office, I do not think that Belfast City Council would have made the decisions relating to the Malone area or to Piney Hills. If councillors had had the overall say, they would not have allowed those decisions to be made. However, councillors did not have the overall say. As a result of this piece of legislation, the councillors — who are accountable to the public — will be making the decisions. We seem to have had the debate about third-party appeals with some sort of glaze over what is happening in the Bill. It seemed as if we were continuing with the existing planning system, when we are fundamentally and wholly changing it.

I know that Mr McDevitt lived in another jurisdiction for many years and that that jurisdiction has had a third-party appeal system for many years. If Mr McDevitt has come up to Northern Ireland to tell us that he has had a good experience of planning where he lived and that the planning system that we are proposing for Northern Ireland is considerably worse, I would be happy to give way to hear how it is such a better system.

Photo of Conall McDevitt Conall McDevitt Social Democratic and Labour Party

I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. He is, of course, right; I did live in another country for many years. I grew up in the south of Spain, and there is a third-party right of appeal there, which is devolved to local municipalities, where councillors make planning decisions. The Minister will be glad to hear that in that country, which is, indeed, a foreign country, the third-party right of appeal sits alongside a highly devolved planning system, such as the one he envisages.

The Minister needs to reflect on two levels. It is perfectly acceptable that, where there is highly accountable, democratic decision-making in planning, there can still be a third-party right of appeal, and it works exceptionally well. I commend the model to the Minister. When he is no longer Minister and is on his summer holidays, he may want to visit Spain and enjoy the benefits of that system in certain communities where it works.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

I have visited Spain on a number of occasions, and the destruction that is being carried out on the coastline there is even worse than the destruction being carried out in the other foreign country that Mr McDevitt lived in, such as bungalow blight and everything else that has gone on in the Republic of Ireland.

Mr Dallat and others referred to the pre-1973 system. Let me make it absolutely clear that there were considerably fewer complaints about the pre-1973 system than about the current system. What has happened in constituencies such as mine, where period dwellings on the North Circular Road were pulled down and replaced by apartments, has taken place in many parts of south Belfast and in north Down, where we have seen what has happened in the coastal areas. I suspect that if planning had been under the control of councils, such as Coleraine Borough Council, Belfast City Council, Lisburn City Council, North Down Borough Council or Newry and Mourne District Council, half of the things that developers were able to do would not have happened.

Mr Dallat may wish to criticise what happened before 1973, but I suspect that planning has taken a turn for the worse since then.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

I will give way in a moment. I am very glad that this House will be vesting powers back into the hands of the local authorities, which are democratically accountable.

Photo of Patsy McGlone Patsy McGlone Social Democratic and Labour Party

I thank the Minister for giving way on that point, but he has taken us into an area. Will he accept that no case of discrimination has been proven against the Planning Service?

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

If the Member believes that the planning system in a number of areas was not more lax and lenient than it should have been, he must have cocooned himself in some cave or something for a period. One can look at the lax attitude that was demonstrated in particular areas and the haciendas that were built in those areas, which were wholly inappropriate for the countryside. The Member must have been living somewhere different from the rest of us, because it is quite clear that many poor planning decisions were made in many areas.

Photo of Stephen Farry Stephen Farry Alliance

This is an important intervention, hopefully. I bear in mind the comments that the Minister has made. I would hate to fall out with him over a single word: “shall” versus “may”. Given the inevitability that the amendment will fall because of the petition of concern — whether one is for or against such mechanisms — in the event that the amendment is not moved today and a further amendment, potentially on a cross-party basis, is brought back for Further Consideration Stage on the basis of the word “may”, which does not bind any future Minister or Assembly but simply enables it to be discussed, would the Minister and his officials be prepared to reflect on that as a potential way forward?

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP 6:15 pm, 8th March 2011

It was not the Minister who lodged the petition of concern; it was the party to which the Minister belongs. Albeit that it was an important intervention, perhaps unlike some previous ones, I am unable to answer for the party without due consultation with my colleagues.

We have dealt adequately with the fact that councils will make the decisions. The issue of front-loading the system is wholly different from anything heretofore. The expectation is that developers will consult the local community on all major planning applications. If a significant housing development is taking place, developers will need to consult people, work within the context of the planning policy statements on creating places and other documents, and demonstrate to the Planning Service that they have taken any public concerns on board.

(Mr Speaker in the Chair)

Indeed, if developers have not adequately addressed the concerns of the local community, planning authorities could decide to discount a planning application at the outset. Again, that is fundamentally different from anything heretofore. It would be foolish for us to front-load a system and facilitate engagement throughout the decision-making process, only for third-party appeals to roll in thereafter.

I regularly hear complaints that decisions are already inordinately slow in Northern Ireland. Today, some Members propose to make them even slower. I want a more efficient planning system that is more responsive to the needs to the public as well as to those involved in construction. If we want to encourage development and attract investment in Northern Ireland that is desirable and for the public good, we need an efficient planning system that is capable of delivering. The proposal to introduce third-party appeals in conjunction with what the document proposes would result in a lack of flexibility, and we would not achieve the decision-making time frames that would be acceptable to many people.

It was Mr McDevitt who said that third-party appeals worked well on these islands. I am not sure what islands in the British Isles he was referring to. There are third-party appeals in the Republic of Ireland and on the Isle of Man. Perhaps that is the second island to which Mr McDevitt referred. However, third-party appeals are not available on the mainland, which is the other island of which we happen to be an integral part.

The Republic of Ireland has a completely different system of planning from Northern Ireland. In the Republic of Ireland, planning applications are much easier to approve in the first instance. Area plans do not go through the public consultation processes that exist in Northern Ireland, and the third-party appeal in the Republic of Ireland is very much a check and balance on a lax planning system that led to thousands of acres being identified for development. Those areas now have to be de-zoned.

We are going down a different route that will deliver better for the residents, to whom many Members referred, than the route taken by the Republic of Ireland. In fact, in the Republic of Ireland, third parties have to pay for third- party appeals if they are deemed to be vexatious. That may mean paying for QCs and planning consultants whom the developer employed. Third parties must also have strong reasons for challenge. Despite that, it is much easier to get approval from the system that approved those applications than would be the case here in Northern Ireland.

Therefore, getting through the first processes will be considerably more difficult, given, first, the need to deal with the community prior to the lodging of the application, and, secondly, the application process itself. I believe that introducing a third-party appeal after all that would slow the system down considerably, if not grind it to a halt.

We currently have a planning system where those who have lodged appeals are waiting two years to have planning appeals heard. Therefore, introducing a whole series of third-party appeals to that system would not be conducive to economic growth in this country. It is important to remember that planning is fundamental to economic growth in our country, and if we want economic growth, we must have a flexible planning system. If some Members do not want economic and job growth, more employment, more leisure activities and more facilities to encourage tourism in Northern Ireland, perhaps they should stand up and make their case now. However, I certainly want all those things, and that is why I urge the House to resist amendment No 20, which deals with third-party appeals.

Photo of Anna Lo Anna Lo Alliance

I thank the Minister for giving way. Of course we want economic growth and growth in the construction industry. The economy is our top priority, and we all agree on that. However, that does not mean that we can trample over ordinary citizens who should have a right to speak out.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

Perhaps I should bring this debate to a conclusion now, because I am clearly not getting through. Members of the community will have the opportunity to input into the system at the pre-consultation stage. However, that input will not end at that stage. They can continue to engage in the process, and their public representatives, who they elect, will ultimately be the decision-makers. If that is not giving the community an opportunity, and if it is trampling over a community, I am not sure what particular angle the Member is coming at it from. However, I think that the case is clear, and I urge the House to oppose this particular amendment.

Question, That amendment No 19 be made, put and agreed to.

Clause 49, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 50 to 57 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 58 (Appeals)

Photo of William Hay William Hay Speaker

I remind Members that, as I have received a valid petition of concern on amendment No 20, the vote will be on a cross-community basis.

Amendment No 20 not moved.

Clause 58 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

New Clause

Amendment No 21 made: After clause 58, insert the following new clause:

Matters which may be raised in an appeal under section 58

58A.—(1) In an appeal under section 58, a party to the proceedings is not to raise any matter which was not before the council or, as the case may be, the Department at the time the decision appealed against was made unless that party can demonstrate to the satisfaction of the planning appeals commission—

(a) that the matter could not have been raised before that time, or

(b) that its not being raised before that time was a consequence of exceptional circumstances.

(2) Nothing in subsection (1) affects any requirement or entitlement to have regard to—

(a) the provisions of the local development plan, or

(b) any other material consideration.” — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

New clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 59 to 69 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 70 (Procedure for section 67 orders: unopposed cases)

Photo of William Hay William Hay Speaker

We now come to the fourth group of amendments for debate. With amendment No 22, it will be convenient to debate the other 63 technical amendments in group 4. Those include amendments relating to Assembly controls on subordinate legislation. I call the Minister to move amendment No 22 and to address all the other amendments in the group.ITC Franklin Gothic Demi'; ">

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

I beg to move amendment No 22: In page 42, line 32, leave out paragraph (b).

The following amendments stood on the Marshalled List:

No 23: In clause 75, page 46, line 10, leave out from “council” to the end of line 11 and insert “appropriate council”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 24: In clause 75, page 47, line 15, leave out paragraph (b) and insert

“(15) In this section, and in sections 76 and 77, ‘relevant authority’, in relation to a planning agreement proposed to be made in connection with an application for planning permission, means—

(a) where the application has been made to a council, and the council has an estate in the land to which the proposed agreement relates, the Department;

(b) where the application has been made to the Department, the Department;

(c) in any other case, the council in whose district the land to which the application relates is situated.” — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 25: In clause 76, page 47, line 29, leave out from “council” to the end of line 30 and insert “appropriate council”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 29: In clause 85, page 54, line 28, leave out “directions” and insert

“the regulations or by any direction”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 30: In clause 85, page 54, line 41, after “councils” insert “or the Department”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 35: In clause 104, page 65, line 38, leave out from “consent” to “made” in line 39 and insert “conservation area consent made”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 36: In clause 104, page 65, line 40, after “any” insert “conservation area”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 37: In clause 106, page 67, line 2, leave out “Act” and insert “Chapter”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 38: In clause 113, page 72, line 28, leave out from “, 109” to “(4)” and insert “and 109”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 39: In clause 115, page 74, line 20, at end insert

“(3A) Subsections (2) and (3) do not apply if the control of land changes from one emanation of the Crown to another.” — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 50: In clause 144, page 92, line 38, leave out “Department” and insert “council”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 51: In clause 145, page 93, line 42, leave out “carrying into effect this Part” and insert “taking steps under subsection (1)”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 56: In clause 160, page 106, line 15, leave out “a listed building” and insert

“(a) a listed building, or

(b) a building in respect of which a direction has been given by the Department that this section shall apply”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 57: In clause 160, page 107, line 3, after “council” insert

“or, as the case may be, the Department”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 59: In clause 167, page 112, line 22, after “council” insert

“or, as the case may be, by the Department”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 60: In clause 172, page 115, line 26, leave out from “within” to the end of line 27 and insert

“—

(i) in the case described in paragraph (a), within the period of 4 months from the date on which the application is refused or is refused in part or such other period as may be prescribed;

(ii) in the case described in paragraph (b), within the period of 4 months from the end of the period referred to in that paragraph or such other period as may be prescribed.” — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 61: In clause 174, page 116, line 36, leave out from “that it” to the end of line 37 and insert

“either of the matters specified in subsection (4).

(4) The matters are that—

(a) the advertisement was displayed without the person’s knowledge; or

(b) the person took all reasonable steps to prevent the display or, after the advertisement had been displayed, to secure its removal.” — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 64: In clause 197, page 129, line 22, after “(1)” insert “or (2)”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 65: In clause 197, page 129, line 25, after “(1)” insert “or (2)”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 66: In clause 202, page 132, line 38, at end insert

“, subject to any provision in rules made under subsection (5),”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 67: In clause 202, page 133, line 10, after “shall” insert

“, subject to any provision in rules made under subsection (5),”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 68: In clause 202, page 133, line 32, at end insert

“(7A) Rules made under subsection (5) shall be subject to negative resolution.” — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 69: In clause 202, page 133, line 37, after the first “the” insert “relevant”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 70: In clause 202, page 133, line 37, leave out the second “the” and insert “that”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 73: In clause 208, page 137, leave out line 1. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 74: In clause 208, page 137, leave out lines 16 and 17. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 75: In clause 215, page 140, line 2, after “it” insert “—(a)”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 76: In clause 215, page 140, line 2, after “or” insert “(b)”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 81: In clause 222, page 143, line 17, leave out “(except section 26)”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 82: In clause 222, page 143, line 18, leave out

“(except sections 103 to 105 and 119)”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 83: In clause 222, page 143, line 19, leave out “141,”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 84: In clause 222, page 143, line 20, at end insert “(e) Part 7.” — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 85: In clause 223, page 143, line 42, leave out from “under” to the end of line 3 on page 144 and insert

“under Part 3, 4, 5 or 7.” — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 87: In clause 224, page 144, line 30, leave out “prescribe” and insert “specify”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 88: In clause 224, page 144, line 31, leave out “prescribe” and insert “specify”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 89: In clause 226, page 145, line 27, at end insert

“(4) Rules made under subsection (3) shall be subject to negative resolution.” — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 90: In clause 229, page 147, line 14, leave out “Advocate General for Northern Ireland” and insert “Attorney General”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 91: In clause 229, page 147, line 18, leave out “Advocate General for Northern Ireland” and insert “Attorney General”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 92: In clause 229, page 147, line 21, after “provision” insert “—(a)”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 93: In clause 229, page 147, line 23, at end insert

“(b) as to the functions of a person appointed under subsection (1) or (2)”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 94: In clause 229, page 147, line 25, leave out subsections (5) and (6). — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 95: In clause 231, page 149, line 15, leave out “, adoption or approval” and insert “or adoption”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 96: In clause 231, page 149, line 35, leave out “, adoption”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 97: In clause 231, page 150, line 15, after “Environment” insert “or a council”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 98: In clause 231, page 150, line 20, leave out from “section” to the end of line 21 and insert

“any of sections 180 to 186”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 100: In clause 239, page 155, line 14, leave out “125(1) or”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 101: In clause 240, page 155, line 21, at end insert

“(aa) planning agreements under section 75;”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 103: In clause 243, page 158, leave out lines 43 and 44. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 107: In schedule 2, page 164, line 33, leave out from “in” to the end of line 34 and insert

“within the period of 15 years ending on the date on which this Schedule comes into operation;”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 108: In schedule 2, page 179, line 17, leave out “either sub-paragraph (2)” and insert “sub-paragraph (2), (3)”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 109: In schedule 3, page 185, line 26, leave out “council” and insert “Department”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 110: In schedule 4, page 189, line 18, leave out sub-paragraph (a) and insert

“(a) in subsection (1) for ‘a development plan for the area in which the land is situated’ substitute ‘a local development plan’;”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 111: In schedule 4, page 189, line 26, leave out from “24” to the end of that line and insert

“27(5), for the words from ‘with the substitution’ to the end substitute ‘with the substitution—’”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 112: In schedule 6, page 195, line 14, at end insert

“39A. In Article 15(1) for ‘Department of the Environment’ substitute ‘council within whose district the land is situated’.

39B. In Article 15(4), for ‘Department’, where that word occurs for the second and third times, substitute ‘council’.

39C. In Article 15(4), (5), (7) and (8) and in Article 16, for ‘Department of the Environment’ substitute ‘council’.

39D. In Article 17, for paragraph (2) substitute—

‘(2) Regulations under paragraph (1) may include provisions—

(a) as to the manner in which notices of appeals are to be given and the time for giving any such notice; and

(b) requiring councils to furnish the Department of the Environment and such other persons (if any) as may be prescribed by the regulations, with such information as may be so prescribed with respect to applications under Article 15.’”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 113: In schedule 6, page 196, line 35, after “125” insert “, 125A”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 114: In schedule 6, page 198, line 20, at end insert

“59A. In Article 80(13), in the definition of ‘development order’, for ‘the Planning Order’ substitute ‘the Planning Act (Northern Ireland) 2011’.” — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 115: In schedule 6, page 203, line 21, at end insert

“The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act (Northern Ireland) 2011

101. In section 26—

(a) in subsection (3) for ‘Article 84(2) of the Planning (Northern Ireland) Order 1991’ substitute ‘section 174(2) of the Planning Act (Northern Ireland) 2011’;

(b) in subsection (10)—

(i) in the definition of ‘advertisement’ for ‘Article 2(2) of the Planning (Northern Ireland) Order 1991’ substitute ‘section 243(1) of the Planning Act (Northern Ireland) 2011’;

(ii) in the definition of ‘relevant offence’, for the words from ‘Article 84(2)’ to ‘that Order’ substitute ‘section 174(2) of the Planning Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 (displaying advertisements in contravention of regulations made under section 129 of that Act’.

102. In section 31(1), for ‘Article 67 of the Planning (Northern Ireland) Order 1991’ substitute ‘section 129 of the Planning Act (Northern Ireland) 2011’.

103. In section 38, omit subsections (1), (2) and (3).” — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 116: In schedule 7, page 203, line 26, in the column on the right, at end insert “In Schedule 6, paragraph 4(1).” — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 117: In schedule 7, page 203, line 35, leave out “113” and insert “115”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 118: In schedule 7, page 204, line 6, after “Articles” insert “123”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 119: In schedule 7, page 204, line 6, leave out “, 127(2)” and insert “to 129”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 120: In schedule 7, page 204, line 8, leave out “and 3” and insert “1A, 1B, 3 and 4”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

No 121: In schedule 7, page 205, line 6, at end insert

“The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act (Northern Ireland) 2011.

In section 38, subsections (1), (2) and (3).”

 — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

The amendments in this group are technical. They include textual amendments to ensure a consistent approach throughout the Bill, typographical corrections, updating amendments and amendments prompted by comments from the Examiner of Statutory Rules. These amendments do not involve any change in policy and have been supported by the Committee. Therefore, I do not wish to prolong the debate by commenting on each amendment individually, but I will highlight key amendments.

Clause 174 allows a council to deal with the enforcement of advertisement control. Clause 174(3) re-enacts article 84 of the Planning (Northern Ireland) Order 1991 and contains defences where an advertisement is displayed in contravention of the advertisement regulations. Those defences have been amended by clause 37 of the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill as introduced. That clause provides that anyone displaying an advertisement in contravention of the regulations will not now be guilty of an offence if the advertisement was displayed without their knowledge, and they took all reasonable steps to prevent the display or to remove the advertisement after the display. It is anticipated that clause 37 of the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill will be brought into operation in advance of the Planning Bill. By the time that the Planning Bill is in operation, article 84 of the Planning Order will have been amended. Therefore, clause 174 needs to be amended to reflect amended article 84. Amendment No 61 provides that amendment.

Clause 202 sets out the procedure for the Planning Appeals Commission. The Examiner of Statutory Rules commented that the rules made by OFMDFM under clause 202(5) are subject to no Assembly procedure. Amendment No 68 applies the negative resolution Assembly control.

Clause 226 allows my Department to hold a public inquiry when carrying out any of its functions of the Bill. The provisions of the Interpretation Act (Northern Ireland) 1954 apply to such inquiries. My Department may make rules for the procedures to be followed during the inquiry process, and the rules are currently subject to no procedure. The Examiner of Statutory Rules commented that those rules should be subject to negative resolution. Amendment No 89 gives effect to that.

Under clause 227 and in relation to inquires to be held in public, subject to certain exceptions, the Department of Justice may direct, for example, for reasons of security, that certain evidence may be heard or be open to inspection only by certain persons. Clause 229 allows the appointment of a person to represent the interests of anyone prevented from hearing or inspecting such evidence. As currently drafted, the clause conveys that power on the Advocate General. My proposed amendment Nos 90, 91, 92, 93 and 94 update clause 229 to the effect that the Attorney General for Northern Ireland may appoint a person to represent the interests of any person prevented from hearing or inspecting evidence. The Department of Justice may make rules as to the person’s functions.

Those are the amendments in group 4.

Photo of Cathal Boylan Cathal Boylan Sinn Féin

Go raibh maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle. As the name suggests, the amendments in this group are largely technical. I will go through them very quickly.

At Committee Stage, the Committee was content with amendment No 22, having been given sight of the wording and an explanation by the Department. I support the amendment accordingly.

I cannot offer a Committee position on amendment Nos 23, 24 and 25, as the Committee agreed to the relevant clauses as drafted at Committee Stage. However, those amendments do not appear to contradict the wishes of the Committee or to alter any policy principles of the Bill.

The Committee supports amendment Nos 29, 30, 35 to 38, 50 and 51, 59 and 60, 73 and 74, 81 to 85, 87 and 88, 95 to 98, 100 and 101. They were provided to the Committee at Committee Stage to ensure a consistent approach throughout the Bill and, having been advised by the Department about their detail, members accepted the relevant clauses, subject to those amendments.

In relation to amendment No 39, during Committee Stage, members were content with clause 115, subject to a departmental amendment to allow the hazardous substances consent to remain in place if the control of land remains within the Crown. Therefore, I welcome the amendment on behalf of the Committee.

The Committee supports amendment Nos 56 and 57, which specify the range of buildings on which urgent works can be carried out. The Committee also supports amendment No 61, which reflects changes to the enforcement of advertisement control provided by the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill.

I cannot offer a Committee position on amendment Nos 64 to 67 and 69 to 70, as the Committee agreed the relevant clauses as drafted during the Committee Stage. However, those amendments do not appear to contradict the wishes of the Committee or alter any policy principles in the Bill.

Amendment No 68 amends clause 202 to require that any rules made under that clause for regulating procedures of the PAC should be subject to negative resolution. Such orders are not currently subject to any Assembly procedure and, on the advice of the Examiner of Statutory Rules, the Committee has recommended the amendment, and I urge the House to support it. Similarly, amendment No 89 makes rules for regulating procedures of the Department in relation to local inquiries subject to negative resolution. Again, those rules are currently not subject to procedure, and the Committee urges the House to address that by supporting the amendment.

Amendment Nos 75 and 76 tidy up clause 215, as requested by the Committee, and I welcome that.

With regard to amendment Nos 90 to 94, the Examiner of Statutory Rules drew the Committee’s attention to the fact that the Bill allocates the function of appointing special advocates for the purposes of clause 229 to the Advocate General. He pointed out that, as a consequence of that, rules under the clause would be made by the Lord Chancellor and laid before Parliament at Westminster in accordance with the negative procedure there. The Examiner of Statutory Rules suggested to the Committee that that is out of place in clause 229, which, in contrast to clause 228, is the fully devolved provision on the public interest relating to the security of premises or property other than that in clause 228. He, therefore, suggested that clause 229 should, more appropriately, confer functions on the Department of Justice and the Attorney General for the North and that all the rules made under clause 229 should be subject to draft negative resolution. Following consultation with the Department of Justice, the Department agreed to make those changes, and I welcome the appropriate amendments.

I cannot offer a Committee position on amendment Nos 103 and 108 to 121, as the Committee agreed to the relevant clauses and schedules as drafted during the Committee Stage. However, once again, I suggest that they do not appear to contradict the Committee’s position or alter any policy principles in the Bill.

On amendment No 107, the Committee was advised of the proposed amendment to schedule 2 and accepted the schedule as amended.

That concludes the Committee’s position on the amendments in group 4. I thank the Committee staff and the departmental officials for bringing the Bill to this stage. Go raibh míle maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle.

Photo of Danny Kinahan Danny Kinahan UUP 6:30 pm, 8th March 2011

Members will be pleased to know that I will be very quick. I support all of the amendments in group 4. However, on amendment No 56, I want to raise a slight concern. It seems to throw councils the ability to repair a listed building that is in danger, which may allow someone to let his or her building fall apart, knowing that the council will look after it. That is my only concern. We support the amendments.

Photo of George Savage George Savage UUP

Group 4 consists of technical amendments that I am happy to support.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

I thank Members for getting to this point and for their comments thus far. I welcome the fact that the Bill has reached its Consideration Stage and will move to its Further Consideration Stage on the back of today. The work that has been done thus far has been very useful. At the end of the process, we will have a Bill that is very significant in moving Northern Ireland forward through the planning legislation that it puts in place. Ultimately, as a consequence of the work that has been carried out by the Department, the Committee and the House, the Bill will make a real and considerable difference to planning in the future. I ask Members to support the amendments.

Question, That amendment No 22 be made, put and agreed to.

Clause 70, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 71 to 74 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 75 (Planning agreements)

Amendment No 23 made: In page 46, line 10, leave out from “council” to the end of line 11 and insert “appropriate council”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Amendment No 24 made: In page 47, line 15, leave out paragraph (b) and insert

“(15) In this section, and in sections 76 and 77, ‘relevant authority’, in relation to a planning agreement proposed to be made in connection with an application for planning permission, means—

(a) where the application has been made to a council, and the council has an estate in the land to which the proposed agreement relates, the Department;

(b) where the application has been made to the Department, the Department;

(c) in any other case, the council in whose district the land to which the application relates is situated.” — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Clause 75, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 76 (Modification and discharge of planning agreements)

Amendment No 25 made: In page 47, line 29, leave out from “council” to the end of line 30 and insert “appropriate council”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Clause 76, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 77 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 78 (Land belonging to councils and development by councils)

Amendment No 26 made: In page 49, line 16, at end insert “(c) Part 5.” — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Amendment No 27 made: In page 49, line 40, leave out from “(except” to “107)” in line 41. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Clause 78, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 79 to 83 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 84 (Control of works for demolition, alteration or extension of listed buildings)

Amendment No 28 made: In page 53, line 37, leave out “£30,000” and insert “£100,000”. — [The Chairperson of the Committee for the Environment (Mr Boylan).]

Clause 84, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 85 (Applications for listed building consent)

Amendment No 29 made: In page 54, line 28, leave out “directions” and insert

“the regulations or by any direction”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Amendment No 30 made: In page 54, line 41, after “councils” insert “or the Department”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Clause 85, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 86 to 101 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 102 (Acts causing or likely to result in damage to listed buildings)

Amendment No 31 made: In page 64, line 3, leave out “3” and insert “5”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Amendment No 32 made: In page 64, line 3, after “scale” insert

“or on conviction on indictment, to a fine”. — [The Chairperson of the Committee for the Environment (Mr Boylan).]

Amendment No 33 made: In page 64, line 11, leave out “3” and insert “5”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Clause 102, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 103 (Conservation areas)

Amendment No 34 not moved.

Clause 103 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 104 (Control of demolition in conservation areas)

Amendment No 35 made: In page 65, line 38, leave out from “consent” to “made” in line 39 and insert “conservation area consent made”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Amendment No 36 made: In page 65, line 40, after “any” insert “conservation area”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Clause 104, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 105 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 106 (Application of Chapter 1, etc., to land and works of councils)

Amendment No 37 made: In page 67, line 2, leave out “Act” and insert “Chapter”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Clause 106, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 107 to 112 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 113 (Call in of certain applications for hazardous substances consent to Department)

Amendment No 38 made: In page 72, line 28, leave out from “, 109” to “(4)” and insert “and 109”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Clause 113, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 114 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 115 (Effect of hazardous substances consent and change of control of land)

Amendment No 39 made: In page 74, line 20, at end insert

“(3A) Subsections (2) and (3) do not apply if the control of land changes from one emanation of the Crown to another.” — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Clause 115, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 116 (Offences)

Amendment No 40 made: In page 75, line 31, leave out “£30,000” and insert “£100,000”. — [The Chairperson of the Committee for the Environment (Mr Boylan).]

Clause 116, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 117 to 120 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 121 (Tree preservation orders: councils)

Amendment No 41 not moved.

Clause 121 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 122 to 124 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 125 (Penalties for contravention of tree preservation orders)

Amendment No 42 made: In page 80, line 26, leave out “£30,000” and insert “£100,000”. — [The Chairperson of the Committee for the Environment (Mr Boylan).]

Clause 125, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 126 to 130 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 131 (Time limits)

Amendment No 43 made: In page 83, line 23, leave out “4” and insert “5”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Amendment No 44 made: In page 83, line 27, leave out “4” and insert “5”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Amendment No 45 made: In page 83, line 30, leave out “10” and insert “5”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Amendment No 46 made: In page 83, line 37, leave out “4” and insert “5”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Clause 131, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 132 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 133 (Penalties for non-compliance with planning contravention notice)

Amendment No 47 made: In page 85, line 21, leave out “3” and insert “5”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Clause 133, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 134 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 135 (Temporary stop notice: restrictions)

Amendment No 48 made: In page 86, line 28, leave out “4” and insert “5”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Clause 135, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 136 (Temporary stop notice: offences)

Amendment No 49 made: In page 87, line 18, leave out “£30,000” and insert “£100,000”. — [The Chairperson of the Committee for the Environment (Mr Boylan).]

Clause 136, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 137 to 143 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 144 (Appeal against enforcement notice - supplementary provisions relating to planning permission)

Amendment No 50 made: In page 92, line 38, leave out “Department” and insert “council”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Clause 144, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 145 (Execution and cost of works required by enforcement notice)

Amendment No 51 made: In page 93, line 42, leave out “carrying into effect this Part” and insert “taking steps under subsection (1)”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Clause 145, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 146 (Offence where enforcement notice not complied with)

Amendment No 52 made: In page 95, line 15, leave out “£30,000” and insert “£100,000”. — [The Chairperson of the Committee for the Environment (Mr Boylan).]

Clause 146, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 147 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 148 (Enforcement notice to have effect against subsequent development)

Amendment No 53 made: In page 96, line 27, leave out from "level" to "scale" and insert "£7,500". [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Clause 148, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 149 (Service of stop notices by councils)

Amendment No 54 made: In page 97, line 13, leave out “4” and insert “5”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Amendment No 55 made: In page 98, line 6, leave out “£30,000” and insert “£100,000”. — [The Chairperson of the Committee for the Environment (Mr Boylan).]

Clause 149, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 150 to 159 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 160 (Urgent works to preserve building)

Amendment No 56 made: In page 106, line 15, leave out “a listed building” and insert

“(a) a listed building, or

(b) a building in respect of which a direction has been given by the Department that this section shall apply”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Amendment No 57 made: In page 107, line 3, after “council” insert

“or, as the case may be, the Department”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Clause 160, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 161 and 162 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 163 (Enforcement of duties as to replacement of trees)

Amendment No 58 made: In page 109, line 1, leave out “4” and “insert “5”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Clause 163, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 164 to 166 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 167 (Enforcement of orders under section 72)

Amendment No 59 made: In page 112, line 22, after “council” insert

“or, as the case may be, by the Department”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Clause 167, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 168 to 171 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 172 (Appeals against refusal or failure to give decision on application)

Amendment No 60 made: In page 115, line 26, leave out from “within” to the end of line 27 and insert

“—

(i) in the case described in paragraph (a), within the period of 4 months from the date on which the application is refused or is refused in part or such other period as may be prescribed;

(ii) in the case described in paragraph (b), within the period of 4 months from the end of the period referred to in that paragraph or such other period as may be prescribed.” — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Clause 172, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 173 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 174 (Enforcement of advertisement control)

Amendment No 61 made: In page 116, line 36, leave out from “that it” to the end of line 37 and insert

“either of the matters specified in subsection (4).

(4) The matters are that—

(a) the advertisement was displayed without the person’s knowledge; or

(b) the person took all reasonable steps to prevent the display or, after the advertisement had been displayed, to secure its removal.” — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Clause 174, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 175 to 187 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

New Clause

Amendment No 62 made: After clause 187, insert the following new clause:

Compensation: decision taken by council or the Department where consultee fails to respond under section 224

187A. Where a consultee fails to respond to a council or departmental consultation in accordance with section 224(3) and that council or, as the case may be, the Department—

(a) takes a decision under this Act to grant planning permission in the absence of such a response; and

(b) subsequently receives information which the council could reasonably expect to have been included in that response; and

(c) decides to revoke or modify planning permission under section 67, or make an order under section 72, due to the information referred to in paragraph (b); and

(d) compensation is payable by a council under section 26 of the Act of 1965 in connection with the decision under paragraph (c); the sponsoring department (if any) shall pay to the council the amount of compensation payable.” — [The Chairperson of the Committee for the Environment (Mr Boylan).]

New clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 188 to 193 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 194 (Effect of valid purchase notice)

Amendment No 63 made: In page 127, line 30, at end insert

“or

(c) the period referred to in section 191(2) has expired.” — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Clause 194, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 195 and 196 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 197 (Grants and loans for preservation or acquisition of listed buildings)

Amendment No 64 made: In page 129, line 22, after “(1)” insert “or (2)”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Amendment No 65 made: In page 129, line 25, after “(1)” insert “or (2)”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Clause 197, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 198 to 201 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 202 (Procedure of appeals commission)

Amendment No 66 made: In page 132, line 38, at end insert

“, subject to any provision in rules made under subsection (5),”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Amendment No 67 made: In page 133, line 10, after “shall” insert

“, subject to any provision in rules made under subsection (5),”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Amendment No 68 made: In page 133, line 32, at end insert

“(7A) Rules made under subsection (5) shall be subject to negative resolution.” — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Amendment No 69 made: In page 133, line 37, after the first “the” insert “relevant”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Amendment No 70 made: In page 133, line 37, leave out the second “the” and insert “that”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Clause 202, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

New Clause

Amendment No 71 made: After clause 202, insert the following new clause:

Power to award costs

202A.—(1) The appeals commission may make an order as to the costs of the parties to an appeal under any of the provisions of this Act mentioned in subsection (2) and as to the parties by whom the costs are to be paid.

(2) The provisions are—

(a) sections 58, 59, 95, 96, 114, 142, 158, 164 and 172;

(b) sections 95 and 96 (as applied by section 104(6));

(c) in Schedule 2, paragraph 6(11) and (12) and paragraph 11(1);

(d) in Schedule 3, paragraph 9.

(3) An order made under this section shall have effect as if it had been made by the High Court.

(4) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (3), the Master (Taxing Office) shall have the same powers and duties in relation to an order made under this section as the Master has in relation to an order made by the High Court.

(5) Proceedings before the appeals commission shall, for the purposes of the Litigants in Person (Costs and Expenses) Act 1975 (c. 47), be regarded as proceedings to which section 1(1) of that Act applies.” — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

New clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

New Clause

Amendment No 72 made: After clause 202, insert the following new clause:

Orders as to costs: supplementary

202B.—(1) This section applies where—

(a) for the purpose of any proceedings under this Act—

(i) the appeals commission is required, before a decision is reached, to give any person an opportunity, or ask any person whether that person wishes, to appear before and be heard by it; and

(ii) arrangements are made for a hearing to be held;

(b) the hearing does not take place; and

(c) if it had taken place, the appeals commission would have had power to make an order under section 202A requiring any party to pay any costs of any other party.

(2) Where this section applies the power to make such an order may be exercised, in relation to costs incurred for the purposes of the hearing, as if the hearing had taken place.” — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

New clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 203 to 207 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 208 (Interpretation of Part 11)

Amendment No 73 made: In page 137, leave out line 1. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Amendment No 74 made: In page 137, leave out lines 16 and 17. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Clause 208, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 209 to 214 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 215 (Correction of errors in decision documents)

Amendment No 75 made: In page 140, line 2, after “it” insert “—(a)”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Amendment No 76 made: In page 140, line 2, after “or” insert “(b)”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Clause 215, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 216 to 218 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 219 (Fees and charges)

Amendment No 77 made: In page 142, line 17, at end insert

“(7A) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (7), regulations made under that subsection may provide for the payment of a charge or fee in respect of an application mentioned in paragraph (a) of that subsection to be a multiple of the charge or fee to be paid under regulations made under subsection (1) in relation to the determination by a council or the Department of an application for planning permission for development not begun before the application was made.” — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Clause 219, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 220 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 221 (Grants to bodies providing assistance in relation to certain development proposals)

Amendment No 78 made: In page 142, line 41, after “understanding” insert “of planning policy proposals and”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Amendment No 79 made: In page 142, line 41, at end insert “other”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Amendment No 80 made: In page 143, line 8, leave out from “, with” to “Personnel,” in line 9. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Clause 221, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 222 (Contributions by councils and statutory undertakers)

Amendment No 81 made: In page 143, line 17, leave out “(except section 26)”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Amendment No 82 made: In page 143, line 18, leave out

“(except sections 103 to 105 and 119)”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Amendment No 83 made: In page 143, line 19, leave out “141,”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Amendment No 84 made: In page 143, line 20, at end insert “(e) Part 7.” — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Clause 222, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 223 (Contributions by departments towards compensation paid by councils)

Amendment No 85 made: In page 143, line 42, leave out from “under” to the end of line 3 on page 144 and insert

“under Part 3, 4, 5 or 7.” — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Clause 223, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

New Clause

Amendment No 86 made: Before clause 224, insert the following new clause:

Review of Planning Act

223A.—(1) The Department must—

(a) not later than 3 years after the commencement of this Act, and

(b) at least once in every period of 5 years thereafter, review and publish a report on the implementation of this Act.

(2) Regulations under this section shall set out the terms of the review.” — [Mr Boylan.]

New clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 224 (Duty to respond to consultation)

Amendment No 87 made: In page 144, line 30, leave out “prescribe” and insert “specify”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Amendment No 88 made: In page 144, line 31, leave out “prescribe” and insert “specify”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Clause 224, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 225 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 226 (Local inquiries)

Amendment No 89 made: In page 145, line 27, at end insert

“(4) Rules made under subsection (3) shall be subject to negative resolution.” — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Clause 226, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 227 and 228 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 229 (Directions: Department of Justice)

Amendment No 90 made: In page 147, line 14, leave out “Advocate General for Northern Ireland” and insert “Attorney General”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Amendment No 91 made: In page 147, line 18, leave out “Advocate General for Northern Ireland” and insert “Attorney General”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Amendment No 92 made: In page 147, line 21, after “provision” insert “—(a)”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Amendment No 93 made: In page 147, line 23, at end insert

“(b) as to the functions of a person appointed under subsection (1) or (2)”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Amendment No 94 made: In page 147, line 25, leave out subsections (5) and (6). — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Clause 229, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 230 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 231 (Rights of entry)

Amendment No 95 made: In page 149, line 15, leave out “, adoption or approval” and insert “or adoption”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Amendment No 96 made: In page 149, line 35, leave out “, adoption”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Amendment No 97 made: In page 150, line 15, after “Environment” insert “or a council”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Amendment No 98 made: In page 150, line 20, leave out from “section” to the end of line 21 and insert

“any of sections 180 to 186”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Clause 231, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 232 to 236 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 237 (Planning register)

Amendment No 99 made: In page 154, line 32, at end insert “( ) tree preservation orders;”. — [Dr Farry.]

Clause 237, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 238 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 239 (Time limit for certain summary offences under this Act)

Amendment No 100 made: In page 155, line 14, leave out “125(1) or”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Clause 239, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 240 (Registration of matters in Statutory Charges Register)

Amendment No 101 made: In page 155, line 21, at end insert

“(aa) planning agreements under section 75;”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Clause 240, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 241 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 242 (Regulations and orders)

Photo of William Hay William Hay Speaker

I will not call amendment No 102 as it is consequential to amendment No 20, which was not moved.

Clause 242 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 243 (Interpretation)ITC Franklin Gothic Book'; ">

Photo of William Hay William Hay Speaker

We are almost writing the script as we go along. Amendment No 133 has been debated and I call the Minister to move formally amendment No 133. Sorry, amendment No 103; I was just making sure that you were all still awake. [Laughter.]

Amendment No 103 made: In page 158, leave out lines 43 and 44. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Clause 243, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 244 to 246 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 247 (Commencement)

Photo of William Hay William Hay Speaker

Amendment No 104 has already been debated and is mutually exclusive with amendment No 105.

Amendment No 104 made: In page 160, line 16, at end insert

“( ) No order shall be made under subsection (1) in respect of Part 3 unless a draft of the order has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, the Assembly.” — [The Chairperson of the Committee for the Environment (Mr Boylan).]

Photo of William Hay William Hay Speaker

I will not call amendment No 105 as it is mutually exclusive with amendment No 104, which was made.

Amendment No 106 made: In page 160, line 16, at end insert

“( ) Sections 84 and 125 come into operation on Royal Assent.” — [Mr Kinahan.]

Clause 247, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 248 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 1 agreed to.

Schedule 2 (Review of old mineral planning permission)

Amendment No 107 made: In page 164, line 33, leave out from “in” to the end of line 34 and insert

“within the period of 15 years ending on the date on which this Schedule comes into operation;”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Amendment No 108 made: In page 179, line 17, leave out “either sub-paragraph (2)” and insert “sub-paragraph (2), (3)”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Schedule 2, as amended, agreed to.

Schedule 3 (Periodic review of mineral planning permissions)

Amendment No 109 made: In page 185, line 26, leave out “council” and insert “Department”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Schedule 3, as amended, agreed to.

Schedule 4 (Amendments to the Land Development Values (Compensation) Act (Northern Ireland) 1965 (c. 23))

Amendment No 110 made: In page 189, line 18, leave out sub-paragraph (a) and insert

“(a) in subsection (1) for ‘a development plan for the area in which the land is situated’ substitute ‘a local development plan’;”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Amendment No 111 made: In page 189, line 26, leave out from “24” to the end of that line and insert

“27(5), for the words from ‘with the substitution’ to the end substitute ‘with the substitution—”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Schedule 4, as amended, agreed to.

Schedule 5 agreed to.

Schedule 6 (Minor and consequential amendments)

Amendment No 112 made: In page 195, line 14, at end insert

“39A. In Article 15(1) for ‘Department of the Environment’ substitute ‘council within whose district the land is situated’.

39B. In Article 15(4), for ‘Department’, where that word occurs for the second and third times, substitute ‘council’.

39C. In Article 15(4), (5), (7) and (8) and in Article 16, for ‘Department of the Environment’ substitute ‘council’.

39D. In Article 17, for paragraph (2) substitute—

‘(2) Regulations under paragraph (1) may include provisions—

(a) as to the manner in which notices of appeals are to be given and the time for giving any such notice; and

(b) requiring councils to furnish the Department of the Environment and such other persons (if any) as may be prescribed by the regulations, with such information as may be so prescribed with respect to applications under Article 15.’ ”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Amendment No 113 made: In page 196, line 35, after “125” insert “, 125A”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Amendment No 114 made: In page 198, line 20, at end insert

“59A. In Article 80(13), in the definition of ‘development order’, for ‘the Planning Order’ substitute ‘the Planning Act (Northern Ireland) 2011’.’” — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Amendment No 115 made: In page 203, line 21, at end insert

“The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act (Northern Ireland) 2011

101. In section 26—

(a) in subsection (3) for ‘Article 84(2) of the Planning (Northern Ireland) Order 1991’ substitute ‘section 174(2) of the Planning Act (Northern Ireland) 2011’;

(b) in subsection (10)—

(i) in the definition of ‘advertisement’ for ‘Article 2(2) of the Planning (Northern Ireland) Order 1991’ substitute ‘section 243(1) of the Planning Act (Northern Ireland) 2011’;

(ii) in the definition of ‘relevant offence’, for the words from ‘Article 84(2)’ to ‘that Order’ substitute ‘section 174(2) of the Planning Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 (displaying advertisements in contravention of regulations made under section 129 of that Act’.

102. In section 31(1), for ‘Article 67 of the Planning (Northern Ireland) Order 1991’ substitute ‘section 129 of the Planning Act (Northern Ireland) 2011’.

103. In section 38, omit subsections (1), (2) and (3).” — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Schedule 6, as amended, agreed to.

Schedule 7 (Repeals)

Amendment No 116 made: In page 203, line 26, in the column on the right, at end insert “In Schedule 6, paragraph 4(1).” — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Amendment No 117 made: In page 203, line 35, leave out “113” and insert “115”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Amendment No 118 made: In page 204, line 6, after “Articles” insert “123”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Amendment No 119 made: In page 204, line 6, leave out “, 127(2)” and insert “to 129”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Amendment No 120 made: In page 204, line 8, leave out “and 3” and insert “1A, 1B, 3 and 4”. — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Amendment No 121 made: In page 205, line 6, at end insert

“The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act (Northern Ireland) 2011.

In section 38, subsections (1), (2) and (3).”

[The Minister of the Environment (Mr Poots).]

Schedule 7, as amended, agreed to.

Long title agreed to.

Photo of William Hay William Hay Speaker

I have never been as glad to see a long title in my life. [Laughter.] That concludes the Consideration Stage of the Planning Bill. The Bill stands referred to the Speaker. I ask the House to take its ease until we move into the next item of business.

(Mr Deputy Speaker [Mr Molloy] in the Chair)