Clause40

Commons Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 1:30 pm on 27th April 2006.

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Consent:procedure

Photo of James Paice James Paice Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I beg to move amendment No. 66, in clause 40, page23, line 28, at endinsert

‘including guidelines ontimescale fordecision.'.

Photo of Michael Weir Michael Weir Shadow Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow Spokesperson (Trade and Industry)

With this it will be convenient to discussamendment No. 106, in clause 40, page 23, line 36, at endadd—

‘(k) for theappropriate national authority on receiving an application to bedetermined under sections 38(1) and 39(5) to inform the local authoritythat acts as the local planning authority for the area in which theworks are proposed;

(l) for anyplanning authority receiving an application for development on commonland or a town or village green to bring such application to theattention of the appropriate national authority, community or towncouncil and any of statutory or voluntary commonsassociation.'.

Photo of James Paice James Paice Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

This amendment follows on from our earlier debateand the intervention by my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Mr.Dunne) about his experience of a time-consuming process in northShropshire.

Theamendment was suggested by the Woodland Trust as a result of seriousproblems that it has had waiting for the Secretary of State’sconsent to fencing when it has tried to reintroduce grazing for goodconservation management on parts of commons. It fits  entirely with our earlier discussion, and this time I am trying tointroduce into the procedure for consent in clause 40 a requirementthat the regulations include guidelines on the time scale for makingdecisions. Speeding up the process would be to the advantage ofeffective commons management, which is largely what the Bill isabout.

I have no doubtthat although the Minister will not want to accept the amendment as itis, he accepts the principle behind it, which is that speed is of theessence. If he does not want to include such a requirement in theregulations, he must put some predication somewhere that matters willbe dealt with as swiftly as possible so that decisions can be made andactions followtherefrom.

Photo of Roger Williams Roger Williams Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I rise tospeak to amendment No. 106. The protection of common land and town andvillage greens is an important matter for all the reasons that havebeen discussed. For various reasons, it is sometimes difficult toprotect such land from inappropriate development. For example, theowner may be absent or uninterested in the land, or the land may be soremote that development can occur on it without the appropriateauthorities being aware of it from the beginning. It is for that reasonthat the Government have introduced this part of the Bill, which dealswith the protection of common land and town and villagegreens.

The intentionof the amendment is to make such double protection even more effectiveand efficient. Almost all of clause 40 deals with things that must beincluded in regulations, and we would like to add that the nationalauthority should alert the local planning authority of potentialdevelopments so that it can take action to ensure that a planningapplication is solicited if one is needed for the work, or at leastkeep an eye on the land on which the development isproposed.

The secondpart of the amendment, which would require the planning authority togive notice, would make the most of the double protection that theGovernment want in the Bill. I hope that the Minister sees fit toaccept the amendment so that the requirement can be included inregulations and make the most of the intendedsafeguards.

I drawattention to a golf course that appeared on Cilsanws common, which isin a constituency that neighbours mine. It is causing considerableproblems to the commoners and the people who live around the common.Somehow, it appeared without planning permission or permission undersection 194 of the Law of Property Act. My amendment may not befoolproof, but it would contribute in some way to safeguarding againstcompletely illegaldevelopments.

As theMinister knows, it is always more difficult for a borough, nationalauthority or local planning authority to deal with a development afterit has been completed, as they must go through the process ofenforcement, appeals and goodness knows what. It is better to deal withit before it happens, and my amendment would in some way contribute toa more effective process andsystem.

Photo of Philip Dunne Philip Dunne Conservative, Ludlow

I rise briefly to support my hon. Friend the Memberfor South-East Cambridgeshire in relation  to amendment No. 66. I am grateful to him for referring to my previousintervention in support of it.

My point to the Minister isthat most amendments to common land management procedures are connectedto the growing cycle. The improvement of biodiversity and the reseedingof ground where grass needs to be replaced happen over not weeks ormonths, but an entire growing season. If we miss the growing season oneyear, it is one year later before we can start to take the measuresneeded. Putting pressure on the statutory authority to accelerateapplications is vital; otherwise those problems will persist for yearafter year.

Photo of Jim Knight Jim Knight Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Rural Affairs, Landscape and Biodiversity), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Rural Affairs, Landscape and Biodiversity)

We have no problem with the spirit of amendmentNo. 66. We agree about the desirability of improving timing andstreamlining, but clause 40 contains the powers necessary to prescribethe procedures and timing that must be adhered to when works on commonsare proposed. Equally, we can issue guidelines on timings if weconclude that that is more appropriate. We will consider the issues indetail and consult publicly about how we intend to operate the system.I hope that that provides the hon. Member for South-East Cambridgeshirewith the reassurance that he seeks.

I am afraid that we will alsoresist the amendment tabled by the hon. Members for Brecon andRadnorshire (Mr. Williams) and for North Cornwall. The first aspect ofthe amendment is unnecessary, because regulations under clause 40(2)(f)on the steps to be taken by the national authority on receipt of anapplication would require it to tell the planning authority ifappropriate. We intend to consult fully on the content of thoseregulations, and that will provide us with the opportunity to put thatcase.

The secondaspect of the amendment would require the planners to tell theauthority and others about planning applications for commons andgreens, but that would not be an appropriate legal requirement. Localplanning authorities must decide, with due regard to planninglegislation and guidance, what action to take on receipt of planningapplications and how to determine them.

We intend to issue to localauthorities guidance on the implementation of this legislation. Iexpect the guidance to draw planning authority attention to the issuesthat arise when development is proposed on a common—perhaps toavoid the bizarre example from the hon. Member for Brecon andRadnorshire of a golf course on a common for which there was nopermission. Having said that, I do not want to comment on an individualcase.

I expect theguidance to draw planning authority attention to those issues, becauseof the special protections that apply to commons. Commoners' rights overmany commons and some greens must not be prejudiced by any development.The sheep must be protected from the golf ball. I hope that, on thatbasis, the hon. Gentleman will not press hisamendment.

Photo of Roger Williams Roger Williams Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I am not satisfied with the Minister’sresponse. I am sorry to have caused him physical inconvenience at thisstage of the debate, but it is important to put in place as muchprotection as we can  for these precious national treasures. I am therefore tempted to pressfor a vote, and I intend to do so.

Photo of James Paice James Paice Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I moved the lead amendment, and I did not expectthe Minister to accept it—surprise, surprise. However, Iunderstand what he said, which was that, under clause 40, he will beable to introduce in the regulations some points about timings. That isimportant.

My hon.Friend the Member for Ludlow yet again inserted an important note ofcommon sense—this time about growing seasons and timing. It isimportant to receive a decision in time to act at the right time ofyear. Nevertheless, I look forward to holding the Minister to accountto ensure that he introduces such regulations. In expectation of that,I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave,withdrawn.

Amendmentproposed: No. 106, in clause 40, page 23, line 36, at endadd—

‘(k) for theappropriate national authority on receiving an application to bedetermined under sections 38(1) and 39(5) to inform the local authoritythat acts as the local planning authority for the area in which theworks are proposed;

(l) for anyplanning authority receiving an application for development on commonland or a town or village green to bring such application to theattention of the appropriate national authority, community or towncouncil and any of statutory or voluntary commonsassociation.'.—[Mr.Williams.]

Questionput, That the amendment bemade:—

TheCommittee divided: Ayes 6, Noes9.

Division number 2 Nimrod Review — Statement — Clause40

Aye: 6 MPs

No: 9 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

Questionaccordingly negatived.

Clause 40 ordered to standpart of theBill.