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Yvette Cooper: Our concern is that new clause 18 would not necessarily add anything to local authorities' powers to deal with the problem of land in the green belt not being properly maintained. The new clause attempts to deal, for example, with development that takes place under permitted development rights, and with land that has been largely neglected when, contrary to people's expectations, the issue of planning permission has not been addressed. But, in fact, the new clause would not satisfactorily address the real problem that we have been discussing. Local authorities already have powers to deal with such land.

There is a wider range of issues that we need to consider, but at this stage it would not be right to support the two new clauses, given that considerable work is already under way to address the problems to which they refer.

Mr. Andrew Turner: It would be fair to begin by thanking the Minister—I hope that I do her no damage in doing so—for her powerful response to the two new clauses. She has demonstrated that her Department is taking the matter seriously. My right hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Sir John Stanley) referred to what is by far the worst example of which I have heard in dealing with such matters. There are a couple of issues that still concern me, one of which is that, whether an enforcement notice, an article 4 direction or—as in most cases—an injunction or compulsory purchase order is being served, it is necessary to know the owner of the land. As we discussed in Committee, where land has been divided into penny packets, the process by which ownership is discovered is both difficult and expensive.

I particularly commend to the Minister three measures, two of which were advanced by one of my colleagues. The first is to reverse the presumption on an

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article 4 direction, and the second is to make it possible to serve an injunction against a person or persons unknown in relation to land. I also wonder whether ignoring an article 4 direction might be made a criminal offence. That would certainly seem possible.

I warmly thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Malling, my hon. Friends the Members for Chipping Barnet (Sir Sydney Chapman), for Croydon, South (Richard Ottaway) and for Cotswold (Mr. Clifton-Brown), and the hon. Member for Ludlow (Matthew Green) for their contributions.

We need to address the high costs that fall on local authorities—meaning, of course, local people—which have to be recovered somehow. I hope that the Minister will look at that matter in the enforcement review. She has demonstrated that a range of different possible solutions are being considered, and I hope that one, or perhaps more, will be found to be appropriate before the Bill completes its passage through the House.

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion and clause, by leave withdrawn.

New Clause 8

Planning: Retrospective Applications

'. In section 73A (planning permission for development already carried out) of the principal Act after subsection (2) there is inserted—
"(2A) An application for planning permission made to a local planning authority under subsection (1) shall be assigned as a retrospective application.
(2B) In considering a retrospective application the local planning authority shall—
(a) consider the application as if work on it had not begun;
(b) have no regard to any financial loss involved to the developers or others should the application not be approved.
(2C) If planning permission is not granted the local planning authority may require that the site be restored so far as practicable to the state that it was in before development commenced.
(2D) In determining any appeal from a refusal to grant planning permission in respect of a retrospective application, the Secretary of State shall be bound by subsections (2A) and (2B) above.".'.—[Mr. Andrew Turner.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

9.30 pm

Mr. Andrew Turner: I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Deputy Speaker : With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments:

No. 33, in page 27, line 42 [Clause 43], at end insert—

'(c) The applicant shall have a right of appeal to an Independent Inspector appointed by the Secretary of State when an application is not determined under (a) or (b) above.'.

No. 81, in page 36, line 14 [Clause 47], after 'years', insert

'beginning on the later of—
(i) the date on which the permission is granted, and
(ii) the date on which the last of all associated consents, permissions or clearances in relation to the development has been granted or given by any

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government or statutory body where application for such consent, permission or clearance was made as soon as reasonably practicable.'.

No. 82, in page 37, line 13 [Clause 47], after 'three years', insert

'beginning on the later of—
(i) the date on which the consent is granted, and
(ii) the date on which the last of all associated consents, permissions or clearances in relation to the works to which the listed building consent relates has been granted or given by any government or statutory body where application for such consent, permission or clearance was made as soon as reasonably practicable.'.

Mr. Turner: Since I tabled the new clause—indeed, in the past two or three minutes—information has come to light from the Minister about the work that she is doing in the enforcement review. I am pleased to hear that. In a letter that I received on Friday, the Minister wrote that she was looking to make an announcement about the outcome of the enforcement review in the new year. I am grateful for that.

I tabled the new clause because many would agree that a retrospective application appears to be an easy way of obtaining planning permission, and it is a way that people greatly resent.

Mr. Hayes: My hon. Friend is right, but the situation is worsened by the fact that local authorities are not always confident about enforcement. When they do press to enforce, they do not feel that they have the necessary backing or that the law is sufficiently behind them. That has led to a culture in which they are reticent about enforcement. It is partly a question of time and resources, but it is also about that culture and that lack of confidence.

Mr. Turner: I agree with my hon. Friend, and it is a matter that disturbs residents enormously, even when they see something small. One example from my personal history was when someone built a shark in the roof of their house, something that was greatly resented by my neighbours in my street, which happened to be the street in which the house with the shark was located. It took something like three years for the proper enforcement action to be taken, for a planning application to be procured and so on. I believe that the shark remains in the roof because Ministers eventually upheld the appeal against enforcement action.

Richard Younger-Ross (Teignbridge): I rather liked the shark. I hate to disappoint the hon. Gentleman, but I thought it was quite witty. However, I agree with the hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr. Hayes). In my constituency—100 yards from where I live—a retrospective application was made to raise a roof 600 mm higher than was in the original application. I persuaded the local authority to turn it down and to make the applicant appeal. They did, and guess what? The Minister supported the eyesore, which was then constructed. It is difficult for politicians to tell an authority to do something, because Ministers and the Government might not support it.

Mr. Turner: I am sure that the hon. Gentleman had as much egg on his face as he usually appears to have on his

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tie as a result of being overruled by the Minister. I sympathise. When one has gone to some considerable lengths to persuade a local authority to behave in a particular way, one easily can be undermined. I tabled the new clause because, on 23 October, in Committee, the Minister said that she had hoped to respond to the enforcement review before the end of the year.

If the review has slipped for the good reasons that she mentioned earlier—to give officials the opportunity to consider retrospection and to ensure that the review can feed into the Bill—I forgive her absolutely for not meeting that self-imposed deadline. However, it is of considerable concern to residents that applications made retrospectively should not be seen as an easy way of getting planning permission.

I gave some examples in Committee. I shall not go through those again; I am sure that those hon. Members who have read the Hansard report of the Committee proceedings will have seen those examples, and others may not be interested in them.

Mr. Hayes rose—

Mr. Turner: I see that my hon. Friend is seeking to intervene.

Mr. Hayes: I just did not want my hon. Friend to feel that he should not regale the House with examples. It is important that he emphasise his point with specifics. I could certainly give many examples from my constituency. We need to bring the issue into sharp focus.

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