New Clause 11 - Local powers to establish permitted development rights

Growth and Infrastructure Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:45 pm on 6th December 2012.

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‘(1) Section 57 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (planning permission required for development) is amended as follows.

(2) In subsection (3), after second “order”, insert “issued by the local planning authority”.

(3) After subsection (3) insert—

“(3A) Where a local planning authority propose to make an order under this section they shall first prepare—

(a) a draft of the order; and

(b) a statement of their reasons for making the order.

(3B) The statement of reasons shall contain—

(a) a description of the development which the order would permit; and

(b) a plan or statement identifying the land to which the order would relate.

(3C) Where a local planning authority has prepared a draft local development order, they shall consult, in accordance with regulations, persons whose interests they consider would be affected by the order.”.’.—(Roberta Blackman-Woods.)

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Roberta Blackman-Woods Roberta Blackman-Woods Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

I am acutely conscious of how short of time we are, but the new clause is extremely important, so I will spend a couple of minutes going through its purpose. I take the Committee back to the statement made by the Secretary of State on 6 September 2012. It was one of the panic measures brought forth on that day to suggest that the Government were doing something to address the need for growth. The Minister has referred to that statement on numerous occasions, and it is generally known as the panic letter from the Department for Communities and Local Government. The Secretary of State said:

“We will consult shortly on changes to increase existing permitted development rights for extensions to homes and business premises in non-protected areas for a three-year period.”—[Official Report, 6 September 2012; Vol. 549, c. 34WS.]

The Minister will know that that policy has met with widespread derision, not least from his own Back Benchers, who are extremely worried about suddenly having permitted development extended from 4 metres to 8 metres for detached properties and from 3 metres to 6 metres for semi-detached or terraced properties. The policy also applies to businesses. His Back Benchers are concerned about huge extensions going up all over the place, greatly annoying neighbours while producing little growth.

The Secretary of State kept his word, and after considerable time produced an interesting consultation document, which states that the purpose of the policy is to allow people to build conservatories while respecting the amenity of neighbours. The Opposition ask how that will be achieved without a planning system to negotiate between the two neighbours involved.

I know that we are not allowed props, Mr Howarth, but I have some pictures for Members to look at afterwards showing some truly horrendous extensions made to properties. Councils have had to step in and use their planning powers to ask that extensions be removed because people have gone ahead and built them without planning permission, greatly upsetting their neighbours by intruding on their amenity and reasonable use of their property.

My point is that the planning system had to step in and sort out the problem. The Minister is giving people up and down the country a licence to build completely inappropriate extensions that will have to be sorted out by a planning authority at some future date. The new clause seeks to give local authorities the power to decide whether to extend permitted development rights. We think that that is in keeping with localism, and we cannot see any reason why he would not accept the new clause.

Photo of Nicholas Boles Nicholas Boles The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

We have learned quite a few things in the past few weeks about the Opposition. We have learned that they are willing to, and they urge us to, stand idly by while those few authorities that completely fail to discharge their responsibilities to plan and make decisions in a timely way fail their people.

Photo of Nicholas Boles Nicholas Boles The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

I will not give way because we do not have much time and the hon. Lady took up a great deal of it.

We have learned that they prefer to fetishise affordable housing promises in documents, rather than prioritise building homes that will put an affordable roof over families’ heads. We have learned that they will not trust people to make decisions about their own properties without the approval of local politicians and bureaucrats. We have learned that their answer to any question about growth is more borrowing by Government and more debt for Government. Government Members reject all those points.

As the hon. Member for City of Durham well knows, the new clause is completely unnecessary, as the exact requirements that she seeks to add to the Bill already appear in secondary legislation. Local planning authorities already have well established powers to adapt national permitted development rights to their local circumstances via article 4 directions and local development orders. Those routes provide a simple, stream-lined, locally accountable way of restricting or extending permitted development rights to meet local needs and encourage local growth. I hope that the hon. Lady will detach the new clause, which is clearly a little end-of-the-pier show, political posturing, and allow us to conclude the Bill.

Photo of Roberta Blackman-Woods Roberta Blackman-Woods Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government)

I am so very disappointed now. I do not think the Minister has engaged for one moment with the purpose of the new clause. It says that if he wants to extend permitted development rights, he should simply trust local authorities with the localism that he suggests he has supported all along and enable them to decide. I am sure that he would like to go away and reflect further on the comments he has made. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of George Howarth George Howarth Labour, Knowsley

I call Roberta Blackman-Woods to move new clause 12, with which it will be convenient to consider new clause 13.

Question proposed, That the Chair do report the Bill, as amended, to the House.

Photo of Michael Fallon Michael Fallon The Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

On a point of order, Mr Howarth. I hope that it is not inappropriate at this stage, before the Question is agreed, to thank, on behalf of the Committee, you and your co-Chairman, the Clerks, the staff, the Doorkeepers and the Hansard writers, who have looked after us over the past few weeks. I also thank my colleague, the Planning Minister, who bore the burden  of the Bill and managed to fit the Committee sittings round his increasingly complex television schedule, for which we are grateful.

I thank all members of the Committee. It has been a good-natured Committee, although there have been disagreements. It has certainly been an expeditious Committee; we dealt with 28 clauses, four schedules and 13 new clauses in under the time allocated to us. It has also been a hard-working Committee; every Committee member who attended has spoken and raised points. Although we have not been able to agree with all those points, they have all been worth while, and I hope that we have been able to give some assurance that points are being listened to and addressed.

Photo of Roberta Blackman-Woods Roberta Blackman-Woods Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government)

Further to that point of order, Mr Howarth. I, too, would like to thank you and Mr Davies for how you chaired the Committee. I thank the Committee Clerks, Mr Mark and Mr Flaherty, the Hansard reporters and the Doorkeepers for doing such an excellent job. I want to say to Government Members that for some time, I thought that they had all taken an oath of silence, so I was very glad that clause 7 seemed to bring them alive, and we have seen that again today with clause 23. I thank them all for their contributions. They raised a number of questions for us to think about, which is interesting, because generally speaking, it is for us on these Opposition Benches to raise questions for the other side to think about. I thank them for their contributions.

I thank my fellow shadow Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh South, who spoke eloquently and quite brilliantly, and we should pay tribute to him for that. As we have said, almost everyone—everyone on the Opposition side, in any case—contributed to the Committee. I particularly want to thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich. The Committee could all see why he was such an effective Minister, because he used all his knowledge and experience to completely destroy the Ministers’ arguments on a number of occasions. I wish to thank him very much for that. My hon. Friends the Members for North Tyneside and for Sheffield Central did much, not least to tell us about how the Bill would have very little impact on their constituencies, given that those areas desperately need growth. I thought that they made their points really well.

In addition to raising a number of excellent points in the debate, my hon. Friend the Member for Scunthorpe has been a really affable Opposition Whip. I think that we should thank the Whips, so I thank my hon. Friend and the hon. Member for Staffordshire Moorlands. The two of them are very much in danger of giving the Whips Office a good name.

I also thank all the representative bodies that gave us help. The Opposition particularly value that. We have had help in putting together some of the amendments and new clauses in order to scrutinise the Bill. I want particularly to highlight the Campaign to Protect Rural England, the LGA, the TCPA, the National Infrastructure Planning Association and many others, including the Open Spaces Society.

Lastly, I thank the ministerial team. I have to say that I was not always satisfied and I was often disappointed, but I know that they went out of their way to help as much as they could and I am very grateful for that.

Photo of George Howarth George Howarth Labour, Knowsley

On behalf of Mr Davies and myself, let me say that the only people who needed to be satisfied in these proceedings were Mr Davies and me—and that is not an invitation.

I thank all members of the Committee for the good-natured, quite disciplined way in which they conducted themselves and particularly the Whips, because it makes things so much easier if they can agree, which it seems to me they did do on almost all occasions. That makes for the smooth conduct of the proceedings. As I said,  the proceedings were always good-humoured. On occasions, they even bordered on poetic, but we will leave that to stand. On behalf of Mr Davies and myself, I thank the Clerks, Hansard and the Doorkeepers for the help that they have given us in order for us to get to this point.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill, as amended, accordingly to be reported.

Committee rose.