Select Committee on Unopposed Bill Committee Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20-39)

Wednesday 12 May 2004


20. CHAIRMAN: I think that would be helpful, yes.

21. MR THOMPSON: As you know, the current position is that promoters of Private Bills are required to make a statement of compatibility with the Human Rights Act. The relevant Minister is then required to report on this and the Joint Committee may itself, quite separately, consider the position.

22. The promoters' statement, from the Council's Head of Legal Services, will be found in the Explanatory Memorandum in the usual terms and the relevant Minister (in this case in the ODPM), Phil Hope, duly approved this on 12 January, having regard to the background information that is supplied to the department for this purpose.

23. At the beginning of February the Joint Committee wrote to Ipswich Council (this is recorded in its second progress report) querying what consideration had been given by the Council to residents' rights to respect for their private lives. The Committee was here referring to the right under Article 8 of the Convention which states that everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence. That particular Convention right is probably best known for the safeguards which it provides in relation to privacy, correspondence and personal privacy. However, also, in accordance with developing case law under the Convention, it does provide some protection in other areas, including protection against excessive environmental impacts, such as noise nuisance in certain circumstances. So that was the issue that was being raised by the Joint Committee.

24. We wrote back to the committee, explaining, amongst other things, that there were only about 25 individual dwellings on the streets affected (these are flats above shops, pubs and offices on the streets concerned) and that the streets are already busy town centre streets, that no particular private vehicular rights are being interfered with and that case law indicates it is only substantial noise pollution which would trigger Article 8 rights. The Committee then reported - and I am now referring to its fourth report - that these were indeed significant factors but that it found it difficult to accept, simply upon the basis of this correspondence, that the establishment of a market would not have a significant effect on the amount of noise and nuisance in an area; that Article 8 was therefore, in its view, engaged in that sense but that the interference was likely to be justifiable under Article 8(2) which provides a derogation for interference by a public authority acting in the public interest.

25. So, in a nutshell, what the Committee was saying to us in this exchange of correspondence was that we had made some good points but there was an issue which it felt we had not addressed but, had we done so, they felt we would have been able to answer it - the point being that possibly Article 8 is engaged and there is a potential impact on local residences, but that in all probability it is proportionate, if, as indeed is the case in this Bill (and the basis on which it can be a Private Bill), there is a public interest case for the legislation.

26. We can indeed answer the public interest case, but can I just say that whilst appreciating the natural caution in the Committee's report we have taken the view that the market will not have a significant noise and nuisance impact; it is already in existence and this is a busy town centre.

27. Summarising the position in terms of the Article 8 impacts, there are four points which I would like to highlight and which representatives of the Council can elaborate upon. The first is that in practice there will not be any truly significant additional impacts in terms of noise and nuisance; it is an existing town centre with a market there, we are just extending it to these additional town centre streets. Such additional impacts, if any, as do occur, are not different from others arising by virtue of lawful activities and the ordinary conduct of business in what is a busy town centre.

28. Thirdly, under the Bill, the Council would retain the power to designate the streets in question as market streets and it can, therefore, regulate the position to avoid any excessive disturbance. It is just, if you like, another power that the local authority will have and which theoretically could be exercised in an abusive way but which, in practice, will not be. In any event, the Council is under a duty to be Convention compliant.

29. For the reasons which I have highlighted earlier, there is a real public interest basis for this change in the law - that being because it is necessary and desirable to expand the market to safeguard and enhance its existence it needs to expand to ensure its continued viability. This is in the interests of the economic well-being of the existing market and town centre, and it is in the interests of all those with rights and interests in the market, including the existing market traders.

30. So what we say is that, in summary, there is good cause to expand the market and to change the law for this purpose in the public interest and for the benefit of the local community, and that any impact which this has is certainly proportionate to that public interest. For those reasons we believe and feel that it can be concluded with confidence that there is not a human rights problem arising, and I think that is the basis upon which the Joint Committee left it - the supposition was that that is how it was to be.

31. I was now going to turn to the text of the Bill but this might be a convenient moment to pause, if there are particular questions, to invite Mr Chippendale and Mr Turner to pick up on those.

32. CHAIRMAN: If I may start, first of all, by saying that I certainly acknowledge that street markets, covered markets and farmers' markets, really make a very valuable contribution to choice in shopping and, indeed, to the vitality of town centres. You have certainly started to make that case. I wonder whether there is anything further that your colleagues would like to add to that because that, in terms of the expansion of the market, is crucial for us to know.

33. MR THOMPSON: Can I invite them to say so in their own words. Perhaps they can also pick up on the public consultation that preceded the promotion of this Bill and which did demonstrate a degree of public support.

34. MR TURNER: If I can start by dealing with the consultation. Before the Council decided to embark upon the process of promoting this Bill a very significant consultation exercise was carried out involving press articles, newspaper advertisements and we actually wrote to every premises, be it domestic or business, that was in the area delineated on the plan. The result we got was fairly strong support. There were a number of individual issues raised which the Council believes it can address, but there was good support for the proposal.

35. MR CHIPPENDALE: Just to add to that, for sometime we have had a good working relationship with the market traders who have been operating the market now for a couple of years, but they would not have been attendees of the market for much longer as the market at the Civic Centre site was declining. They were very keen to relocate; the site identified in the Local Plan was not deliverable, unfortunately, because the development that would support that was not taking place and it was, in fact, the market traders working with us that identified the Cornhill as a site, submitted a planning application for that, and were successful in securing that as a nucleus for an expanding market. So we do see it as not only very important to Ipswich but very important that the location is on and round Cornhill.

36. SIR JOHN BUTTERFILL: If I may, Chairman, on that subject and on the public consultation. Do I understand that in fact you wrote to all of the traders and residents within the designated roads and made it clear to them what was proposed? I am thinking particularly here of Princes Street and Queen Street where I think there are probably more residential properties but, also, to a lesser extent in Butter Market and in Lloyds Avenue?

37. MR TURNER: We did everything we possibly could to try and identify them. I cannot categorically state that one was not missed but we did everything possible to do that and we did make it clear; we sent a copy of the plan you have before you showing where the market would be held.

38. SIR JOHN BUTTERFILL: You did. Did any of them object? Were there any objectors amongst them?

39. MR TURNER: There were some concerns that were raised which I can talk to you about, if you would like.

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