Clause 89

Part of Localism Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 6:30 pm on 15th February 2011.

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Photo of Greg Clark Greg Clark Minister of State (Department for Communities and Local Government) (Decentralisation and Cities) (also in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) 6:30 pm, 15th February 2011

Yes, I will come back to Parliament on that. I am very clear that there should be a strengthening of the duty to co-operate. We have heard some helpful suggestions. There is a clear suggestion that we should put sustainable development and its definition in the Bill. I have no objection in principle, although I am not persuaded that it would prove to be inimical to our joint purposes, but I will approach the matter with an open mind. If it seems possible to capture the suggestion in a way that does not preclude sustainability from having a major role to play, I will certainly do that.

The same applies to putting the framework in the Bill. It is clearly established in planning law that guidance is an important part of the ecology of planning. There are some suggestions that a reference to the significance of the NPPF would be helpful. Against that, however, I have heard some concerns in our discussions that link to the points made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich about not taking a year zero approach to things and completely designing the system from scratch. One of the features of the present regime with which the right hon. Gentleman is familiar is the importance of section 38(6) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004. That provision establishes the primacy of the development plan, which obviously needs to be consistent with national policy. If we were to establish in the Bill a new primacy for national policy that is different from how we have managed in recent decades, I would want to be cautious that we did not introduce something, albeit with the best of intentions, that changed the accepted understanding of the importance of the primacy of the development plan and that, in effect, interferes with section 38(6) without good purpose. If there is a balance of advantage in the approach, I think we can contemplate it, but it behoves us to reflect carefully on the representations that have been made, which I undertake to do.