Compulsory acquisition of land for regeneration or relocation

High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:00 pm on 3 March 2016.

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Photo of Andy McDonald Andy McDonald Shadow Minister (Transport) 2:00, 3 March 2016

I beg to move amendment 22, in clause 48, page 18, line 8, after

“if the Secretary of State,” insert “reasonably”.

This amendment would require the Secretary of State to reach a “reasonable” decision when deciding whether to exercise his power to acquire sites for regeneration purposes, and would allow the decision to be challenged under this act if not reached reasonably.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 24, in clause 48, page 18, line 10, after “any land” insert—

“within the Act limits or in the vicinity of any station or depot the construction of which is authorised by the Act”.

This amendment would limit the Secretary of State’s power to compulsorily acquire land for regeneration purposes to land within the Act limits or in the vicinity of any station or depot, the construction of which is authorised by this Act.

Amendment 25, in clause 48, page 18, line 11, at end insert—

“(1A) Before acquiring land compulsorily under subsection (1) the Secretary of State, following consultation with the relevant local authority, must be satisfied that—

(a) the regeneration or development accords with the relevant development plan; and

(b) that there is no realistic prospect of the local authority exercising powers of compulsory purchase of the land within a reasonable time.”

This amendment would require the Secretary of State to be satisfied that any compulsory land acquisition for land regeneration accords with the relevant development plan and that there is no realistic prospect of the local authority exercising powers of compulsory purchase of the land.

Amendment 23, in clause 48, page 18, line 11, at end insert—

“(1A) The Secretary of State must define the term ‘an opportunity for regeneration or development’ in regulations for the purposes of subsection (1).

(1B) A statutory instrument containing regulations under subsection (1A) may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.”

This amendment would require the Government to define the term “an opportunity for regeneration or development” by statutory instrument.

Photo of Andy McDonald Andy McDonald Shadow Minister (Transport)

Good afternoon, Mr Hanson. I hope that everyone else had a wonderful lunch; I didn’t.

The amendment would require the Secretary of State to reach another reasonable decision—the man on that omnibus keeps coming back—so we are proposing to insert “reasonably”. Although reasonableness is the Minister’s middle name and everything that the Government do, we are told, is reasonable, there appears to be a curious reluctance to deploy the term in the Bill and to make the obligation reasonably clear and obvious. I implore the Minister, at least in this narrow context, to embrace the concept.

Without doubt, one of the primary benefits of investment in infrastructure projects such as High Speed 2 is the opportunity for transformative redevelopment in affected areas. HS2 has presented a number of opportunities that have been grasped. We also appreciate that projects on the scale of HS2 will be ongoing for a significant time. Not all opportunities for redevelopment of land can feasibly be identified in the early stages, so further opportunities might present themselves over the coming months and years.

In principle, therefore, we support a power for the Secretary of State to acquire land compulsorily for the purposes of redevelopment, but with certain caveats. The clause as drafted will grant the Secretary of State wide-ranging, blanket powers to acquire land, with little accountability or restriction. Our amendments seek to particularise and limit the powers granted and to ensure greater accountability if he or she chooses to exercise the powers. The amendment is self-explanatory. We have had a healthy discussion about reasonableness, but it is also worthy of note that the wording of subsection (1) simply states:

“If the Secretary of State considers that the construction or operation of Phase One of High Speed 2 gives rise to the opportunity for regeneration or development of any land, the Secretary of State may acquire the land compulsorily.”

We expect the construction phase to last some 10 years. Earlier, we had a discussion about the good sense of covering contingencies, although the Opposition have failed to convince the Government that such powers should not be totally and utterly open-ended. As drafted, the clear import and effect of the clause is not only on the construction phase, but on the operation of HS2—it states “or operation”.

The HS2 project has been planned for the long term. We salute our Victorian forebears for their engineering skill, invention and ingenuity. However, the network and the services on it have run for the best part of 200 years; it will soon be the 200th anniversary of the Stockton-Darlington line, the world’s first passenger train. The journey between Stockton and Darlington on Stephenson’s Rocket must have been something to behold. It would have been very dramatic with the man with the red flag walking out in front of the train as it made its way; it was not known what effect—

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I think the hon. Gentleman might find that it was Locomotion No. 1 on the first run.

Photo of Andy McDonald Andy McDonald Shadow Minister (Transport)

I stand corrected. The Minister is entirely right. The Rocket gets a lot of acclaim; it used to occupy pride of place in Darlington railway station, but it is there no more—there is a mere representation on the wall. I bow to my friend’s greater knowledge.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The Rocket, as the hon. Gentleman will no doubt recall, was the successful engine in the Rainhill trials, beating the Sans Pareil, which came second.

Order. I remind hon. Members that we are discussing the amendment but also that William Huskisson, a former Secretary of State, was killed by the Rocket on its first day out. I think that is a warning to Members of Parliament to stay away from this area and stick to the amendment.

Photo of Andy McDonald Andy McDonald Shadow Minister (Transport)

The point is that the man with the red flag was there to slow down the train because it was not known what impact the speeds would have had on the human form. If we do not get rid of the Pacers quickly, I think that man might have a job again. We need to move on.

Photo of David Anderson David Anderson Opposition Whip (Commons)

We will keep the red flag flying.

Photo of Andy McDonald Andy McDonald Shadow Minister (Transport)

Indeed. The point is that the Victorian railway has been around for a very considerable time. We have benefited enormously from Victorian innovation and taken it forward into the next generation of high-speed rail travel. Once completed, phase 1 will surely be in operation for hundreds of years—we all agree that it will be operational for two centuries. That is a wonderful prospect.

However, under the current drafting a Secretary of State will be able to enjoy compulsory purchase powers over the land for the entire duration of phase 1. That is a hugely significant power and I trust that the Minister can see the merit in qualifying that wide-ranging power. The amendment will not inhibit in any way the development or operations of phase 1. It will simply introduce some degree of reasonable objectivity into the Bill, so that in years ahead—we could be talking 50, 75 or 100 years—landowners can be assured that their land and property, left intact until then, is not unfairly or unexpectedly drawn into the operation of compulsory acquisition under the Act.

Thus far, there has been no such qualification. I trust that the Minister will agree with the logic of our position and accept the amendment.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

As we have just heard, clause 48 refers to compulsory acquisition of land for regeneration or relocation. It enables the Secretary of State to promote a compulsory purchase order if he considers that the construction or operation of phase 1 of HS2 gives rise to an opportunity for regeneration or development of that land. The clause further enables the Secretary of State to promote a compulsory purchase order to acquire land to relocate all or part of an undertaking where, as a result of the exercise of powers under the Bill, the former site is no longer reasonably capable of being used for the undertaking. Subsection (4) provides that the normal process relating to compulsory orders is to apply.

The power is included in the Bill because Ministers wish to maximise the potential economic benefits from phase 1 of HS2 to ensure that local areas make the most of the opportunities that the railway will provide and to support relocation of businesses. It is considered that phase 1 of HS2 will give rise to significant opportunities to promote or facilitate regeneration development. However, assembling a coherent and developable site is an essential part of bringing forward such development and that would not be possible without the ability to have recourse to the powers of compulsory purchase.

As we say in information paper C11, we see this as a backstop power. It would normally be for local landowners and local authorities to come together to assemble land to bring forward regeneration. However, that may not be possible in some cases and regeneration opportunities could be lost. Ebbsfleet is a good example because development, although now under way, has been much delayed and such powers could have enabled more effective land assembly earlier.

Of course, all that does not mean that phase 1 of HS2 will be able to take land wherever it wants. All the measure does is enable the Secretary of State to promote a compulsory order when the construction or operation of phase 1 creates regeneration or development opportunities. Such an order would then need to go through the normal process, including a local inquiry, if there were objections.

Photo of Jonathan Reynolds Jonathan Reynolds Labour/Co-operative, Stalybridge and Hyde

I think I get the gist of what the Minister is saying. When a regeneration project, perhaps in Manchester or on another part of the line, is connected to the benefits that HS2 will bring, does he expect the normal process of land accumulation and scheme formation to occur? Is this measure a reserved power should there be a legal problem in assembling the site? “Backstop power” was the phrase he used. Does he envisage that the normal process would apply for regeneration work to occur in a local area?

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The hon. Gentleman is right. The owners of land close to HS2 stations or areas where HS2 will have an economic benefit will be grasping such opportunities with both hands. The land will have achieved an uplift in value and the opportunities will be fantastic. Problems might include a particular landowner not wanting to co-operate or another acquisition problem. This is not just about land development, but about the relocation of businesses, and I can think of one or two such examples. We need to be sure that we can bring forward viable opportunities for businesses to be relocated, which will protect those particular jobs.

To promote a compulsory purchase order successfully, the Secretary of State would need to demonstrate three things. First, that a private purchase is not possible, so the land should be taken compulsorily. Secondly, that there is a reasonable prospect of the proposed development coming forward—in other words, that there is no obvious reason why planning permission would not be granted if has not been already. Thirdly, that there is a compelling public-interest need for the land. Taking an individual’s land interferes with their fundamental human rights, so it is only right that significant protections should be in place. The power does not change those protections at all. Although it extends beyond the construction period into operation, checks and balances will continue to be in place.

Although local authorities already have the power to make compulsory purchase orders, it does not always happen. The power is there to ensure that development does happen, and we would expect local authorities to take the opportunity to lead development in their areas. However, in certain circumstances local authorities might be unable to do so, either because regeneration opportunities straddle local authority boundaries or because a local authority does not have the specialist resource to undertake the compulsory purchase order process. In such circumstances, if development is not coming forward in a timeframe that maximises the opportunity, the Government will be able to use this power to accelerate the process, following consultation with the relevant local authority.

Of course, there are safeguards to protect landowners. Planning permission for any developments would need to be obtained in the usual way, and the compulsory purchase order would be made only if there was a reasonable prospect of obtaining planning permission and the compulsory acquisition could be justified as being in the public interest.

I turn to the amendments. The purpose of clause 48(1) is to ensure that the development and regeneration opportunities that HS2 presents are maximised in a timely manner. However, it is a backstop power. We expect local authorities or landowners to be able to capitalise on any opportunities. Indeed, that is already happening. For example, Birmingham City Council has already published its plans for the development of the Curzon Street area, and we support it on that. However, in the event that there are issues that impede development, such as effective land packaging, regeneration areas straddling different local authority boundaries and so on, we will have the ability to step in and to help the development progress. Any such developments that require land outside the Bill limits would require the promotion of a compulsory purchase order and, as I have explained, the rules are tightly drawn and must be adhered to.

Amendment 22 is unnecessary. The Secretary of State will always behave reasonably. As I said earlier, we have sought not to legislate unless necessary. Amendment 23 would also represent an unnecessary complication and restriction. We all want to see the benefits that the HS2 line will bring in regeneration opportunities, but a definition would add no help.

Amendments 24 and 25 were also proposed by the London Borough of Camden during the HS2 Select Committee process. The Select Committee considered the changes and declined to accept them. Instead, the Committee accepted amendments proposed by the promoter requiring the Secretary of State to consult local authorities before exercising any compulsory purchase of land under clause 48(1) of the Bill. The cross-party Select Committee agreed that course of action.

I hope that, having heard the points I have made, the hon. Member for Middlesbrough will withdraw his amendment and not press the others to a Division. What the Government are proposing is reasonable to all, whether they are on a Boris Routemaster or even an Enviro400 produced by those wonderful people, Alexander Dennis, in my constituency.

Photo of Andy McDonald Andy McDonald Shadow Minister (Transport) 2:15, 3 March 2016

I may have misunderstood, Mr Hanson. I thought that we were paying our attention exclusively to amendment 22. I realise that the Minister has spoken to others as well.

I said that the other amendments were grouped with amendment 22. The hon. Gentleman may speak to all amendments and vote on them individually.

Photo of Andy McDonald Andy McDonald Shadow Minister (Transport)

I am grateful. I will touch on the Minister’s remarks about the description of the backstop power. I fully understand the way in which he is presenting that and it appears eminently sensible to me. He set out a good case for that approach.

My only concern is that the measure is unlimited in time. I have said to the Minister that the HS2 operation will run for a considerable time, well in excess of 100 years, and my concern is about the principle of that power hanging around for that length of time. However, he has given me certain assurances on that.

Amendment 24 deals with geographical limit. My point is a similar one. I do not know whether the Minister can provide clarification, but at the moment there is no such geographical limit in the description of “any land”, which concerns the Opposition.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

Relocation of businesses might not be limited to areas close to the line. Indeed, I can think of one business that needs a railhead, so any relocation could be to a different place in the region to enable continued access to a railhead.

Photo of Andy McDonald Andy McDonald Shadow Minister (Transport)

That is helpful insofar as it goes, but in the Bill the implication is much wider. I understand that land could be identified for development in London or Birmingham, but the Bill will allow the Secretary of State to acquire land in the Outer Hebrides or the constituency of the hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun; he might welcome such acquisitions, but I am not sure that was ever the intent. I ask the Minister to think about whether there should be some qualification because, as the Bill stands, the Secretary of State could acquire compulsorily land that had absolutely no connection whatever with the HS2 project.

On amendment 25, the Minister gave a very full answer about the way in which local authorities can be engaged. If he is not going to accept the amendment, as he indicated he will not, he should understand that it does speak to some important issues. There is the method of local authority engagement that he described, which I welcome, but there is a risk of conflict between settled local development plans and the Secretary of State’s coming along to exercise these powers. They could find themselves directly in conflict.

If I heard the Minister correctly, he outlined how that engagement might take place and how matters might be resolved. Nevertheless, as it stands, the clause would give the Secretary of State pre-eminence over the wishes of the local people expressed through their representatives by way of their development plan or its equivalent.

Everyone in this place favours increased and greater devolution in one form or another. Unamended, the clause has the potential to drive a coach and horses through the principles of devolution and local accountability and power, because the pre-eminence is with the Secretary of State. The Minister has already commented, so I hope he will forgive my asking him to consider those remarks. I do not seek to press the amendment to a vote. The Minister might be able to offer some words of reassurance: that the Government do intend to work with local authorities in the full spirit of co-operation that we referred to earlier.

Amendment 23 deals with the better definition of the term “opportunity for regeneration or development”. I am not sure we have had that better defined today. The Minister has said there is no need for that to happen, but I can foresee circumstances where an objection would be raised. Might it not be better to have that settled as a definition, so that there can be no doubt once land has been identified for regeneration on those terms?

I do not intend to press these matters to a vote, but I would be grateful for further comments from the Minister.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

By all means. I have been trying to think of situations where land may need to be purchased a distance away from the line. I can think of two in particular. One involves businesses. There is a large car dealership, for example, at Old Oak Common; we will work with them to relocate so that the other development can take place. I am also thinking of the Hillingdon outdoor activity centre, which has been a particularly difficult community enterprise that we are seeking to relocate. It could be that the alternative site would be some distance away from the boundaries of the line.

The other issue is depots. Some of the work we are doing means that depots for other rolling stock facilities have to be displaced some distance away. In the case of businesses, the company might want to relocate tens of miles away, if that is convenient, although we would generally need to work with businesses that wish to retain their workforce and, therefore, not move particularly far away.

On timing, I am pleased the hon. Gentleman is confident that the line will run for several centuries. It is important to remember that local authorities already have compulsory purchase order powers and they could promote an order at any time. The clause, as drafted, would not create any additional uncertainty.

On geographical location, the compulsory order checks and balances would, of course, provide appropriate limitations. It would need to be demonstrated that the land did need to be purchased under CPO powers. Indeed, it could be argued that if the site were challenged by the landowner, they could come forward with alternative concerns.

I am pleased that we managed to react to the points the hon. Gentleman sensibly raised in amendments 24 and 25. Following the proceedings in the Hybrid Bill Committee, the Secretary of State is required to consult local authorities.

The co-operation and engagement of local authorities, particularly in the great cities of the north that will primarily benefit from this, have been outstanding. I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman’s colleagues in those Labour administrations that have engaged with us so effectively. They understand the importance of this for the north.

Photo of Andy McDonald Andy McDonald Shadow Minister (Transport)

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 48 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 49