Clause 89

Part of Localism Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 6:15 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) 6:15 pm, 15th February 2011

As I say, I am grateful for the opportunity to reflect on those. I hope that members of the Committee have seen the late set of amendments suggested by the Royal Town Planning Institute, of which I think the right hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich is a vice-president. It reflected seriously on these matters and shared with us a set of amendments.

I will give some commentary on the range of amendments tabled by the hon. Members for Birmingham, Erdington and for Worsley and Eccles South, and my hon. Friends the Members for Bradford East and for St Austell and Newquay, and also the RTPI’s suggested amendments. As on the abolition of regional strategies, there are grounds to divine a consensus as to how the matters should be approached. We have had a wide-ranging group of amendments, so let me refer to them in groups according to their theme and reflect on that.

The first theme is the question of whom or which bodies should be covered by the duty to co-operate. That is reflected in the Opposition’s amendments 153 and 154 and amendments 195, 196 and 198 tabled by my hon. Friends. The Opposition suggest that integrated transport bodies ought to be subject to the duty to co-operate. My hon. Friend the Member for Bradford East mentioned the idea that marine planning authorities should be subject to the duty. All those are perfectly sensible. It always was our intention that those bodies  should be subject to the duty to co-operate. We had it in mind to prescribe those bodies in regulations. They will include, for example, the Environment Agency, and bodies that could also be on the list if we were taking a more comprehensive set of amendments, but are not. It is our intention to capture those bodies and more besides. This should be a very general duty to co-operate, not confined to local authorities but extending to all the relevant public bodies that have a contribution to make on spatial planning.

I suggest to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington and my hon. Friends the Members for Bradford East and for St Austell and Newquay that we will consider the list. If we can, we will publish in draft form before we get to Report a list of the bodies that we have in mind for the requirement. I am sure that we can come to a common view as to which bodies should be there.

Let me turn to the next theme—the next set of amendments—which are the activities covered by the duty to co-operate. Amendments 155 to 157 were tabled by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington, while new clause 9, amendments 203 to 205 and amendments 199 to 202 were tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford East. The provisions represent different approaches, and it is interesting that the TCPA considers that there are two possible approaches, presumably both of which it considers to be valid. One approach is to prescribe in great detail the activities and types of plans and documents that should be promoted, while the other set of TCPA and other bodies’ amendments suggest a lighter touch approach, but with a requirement for a proper degree of co-operation to be reflected if the plan is to be adopted. That is also the essence of the Royal Town Planning Institute’s suggested approach. The RTPI’s suggestion reflects some of our discussions on earlier clauses. Giving an example in the Bill of one particular means of discharging the duty to co-operate—in other words, responding to the request for information—is dangerously narrow. It is meant to be helpful, but it might be interpreted as the only thing that is necessary to discharge that duty to co-operate. The RTPI feels that it is unhelpful to have that duty to exchange information.