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Mr. Dhanda: : Amendment No. 167 responds to points made in Committee by the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill), which were also made by his friends in the Law Society. In particular, the hon. Gentleman identified a loophole in clause 135, whereby a local authority could indefinitely extend the period in which enforcement action may be taken against a promoter.
The amendment will allow local authorities to extend the enforcement period by issuing an information notice or seeking an injunction only in the four years following completion of a development or the point at which the breach of any requirements occurred. That changes the current drafting, which removes the four-year time limit for bringing prosecutions in cases in which a local authority has served an information notice under clause 140 every four years, or made an application for an injunction without imposing an extended time limit within which a prosecution must be brought. As members of the Committee will recall, the original drafting allowed the continual submission of information requests to cause the possibility of enforcement to hang over a developer for many years. We are grateful to the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst for making that clear to us. The amendment will prevent the four-year period from perennially recurring.
New clause 27 and the consequential amendments Nos. 168 to 183 cover a different matter relating to who can take enforcement action. Under part 8, any local authority could initiate such action, whether or not it took place in its local area. We believe that it should be for the authority whose area contains the development to decide whether unauthorised development has taken place and whether enforcement action is necessary. The new clause prevents any old authority, whether or not it is at all close to the development in question, from submitting an objection willy-nilly. It also clarifies which is the relevant local planning authority in areas where district and county authorities overlap. County authorities will have responsibility in the case of nationally significant infrastructure projects involving, for example, hazardous waste.
Amendment No. 279 makes a minor change to the Housing and Regeneration Bill, clause 13 of which sets out the planning functions that can be conferred on the Homes and Communities Agency. That reflects
existing powers in relation to English Partnerships. One of the functions is enforcement, under both the Town and Country Planning Act and part 8 of this Bill. However, as the Housing and Regeneration Bill will receive Royal Assent before this Bill, references to the Planning Act 2008 must be removed and added as a consequential amendment on Royal Assent for the Planning Bill.
I am delighted that the Government have accepted the objection raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill) to the original drafting and tabled their own amendment, which we welcome wholeheartedly. However, I want to make a minor point about the Ministers reference to the relevant planning authority under new clause 27. He said that the relevant authority in the case of, for example, hazardous waste was the county planning authority. I believe that it is the relevant authority exclusively in the case of hazardous waste. Perhaps the Minister can confirm that.
I fear that new clause 27 does nothing to help local authorities to deal with the responsibility that they are being given. The power to make decisions on an important scheme will be denied to them, but the responsibility for clearing up any mess will rest firmly with them.
I think it right for local authorities to be responsible for enforcement, but will they have the necessary resources? Some very technical conditions may be imposed. There are excellent planners in local government, but not many in each authority because of recruitment and training difficulties, and not enough of them given the number of applications with which they must deal. Certain authorities will have a huge burden placed on them. Although that does not necessarily relate directly to the specific wording of the new clause, I consider it an important point, and I hope that the Minister will be able to respond to it.
Mr. Dhanda: As much as it pains me to admit it, the hon. Member for Clwyd, West is quite right. I cannot think of any area other than hazardous waste, so he is correct. I disagree with the hon. Member for North Cornwall. I think this is a great opportunity for the IPC and local authorities to work in partnership. As the local delivery agency, the local authority is the right agency to be inspecting nationally significant infrastructure projects. Local authorities have a vested interest, so giving them the power to serve these notices for information, and allowing them to set time frames for changes to be made should a developer not fulfil everything required by the consent, is the right thing to do
Mr. Clifton-Brown: I am very grateful; the Minister has been generous. The hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Rogerson) made a very good point. The enforcement powers are likely to be time consuming and will require a great deal of expertise from senior planning officers. Therefore, small authorities such as my ownthe Under-Secretary knows it welland, no doubt, in North Cornwall will be overstretched in dealing with enforcement issues. Will there be any mechanism whereby they can reclaim costs incurred in taking enforcement measures?
Mr. Dhanda: I am not going to get into rewriting Finance Bills here and now in the Chamber. Local authorities, as well as benefiting from some of these big infrastructure projects, will want to play their part in inspecting them to make sure that those involved are adequately doing what is expected of them. The debate about how that will be resourced is for another day.
(1A) Subsection (1) is subject to sections [Deemed consent under section 34 of the Coast Protection Act 1949](4) and [Deemed licences under Part 2 of the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985](4).. [Mr. Dhanda]
in relation to any land if the relevant.
This section applies in relation to any land if it appears to the relevant.
committed on or in respect of any land.
committed on or in respect of any land.
in relation to land in the area of the local planning authority. [Mr. Dhanda.]
in relation to land in the Councils area. [Mr. Dhanda.]
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