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(a) the use of land by or on behalf of an electronic communications code operator for a period not exceeding 3 months to provide access for and station temporary moveable telecommunications masts and associated apparatus, which is required for the sole purpose of temporarily replacing unserviceable telecommunications masts and associated apparatus; or
(b) the replacement of telecommunications masts and associated apparatus, including associated equipment and structures and the provision of means of access, which is required for the operation of the Electronic Communications Code Operators system where such existing telecommunications masts and associated apparatus has become unserviceable.
D1 Development is not permitted by Class D if the telecommunications masts and associated apparatus are not of the same type and capacity as the unserviceable masts and associated apparatus they are to replace.
(3C) For the purposes of subsection (3B) the Secretary of State may by order prescribe the development orders, or the classes of development described as permitted development in those orders, to which that subsection applies..
Caroline Flint: We now turn to matters pertaining to part 9 of the Bill, including a number of measures that we hope will streamline and speed up the planning system. I understand that those policies were generally welcomed in Committee, although a number of hon. Members had queries about how some things might work in practice. We propose six sets of Government amendments that will make the provisions clearer and easier to use. I will try, in a thematic way, to cover the issues raised and the way in which we deal with them in our amendments, and to respond to the amendments tabled by the Opposition and by some of my hon. Friends.
First, clause 149 enables the regional assembly to delegate its regional planning functions to the regional development agency. The clause is effective only where the regional assembly chooses to use it and the RDA agrees. Moreover, it enables only delegation, not transfer of planning functions. I know that concerns were expressed in Committee, and have been expressed since, that we may be accused of pre-empting the new legislation required to implement the sub-national review proposals. That is absolutely not the case. I would like to make it absolutely clear that the clause leaves unchanged the ultimate responsibility for regional planning to regional assemblies, whose membership is predominantly drawn from elected local government.
a local authority for an area within its region (whether singly or jointly).
First, regional assemblies can already delegate planning work to local authorities so there is no need for legislation to that effect. Secondly, those changes would mean that they were not allowed to delegate to the RDA, even if they wanted to, because RDAs are currently precluded from doing such work.
Amendments Nos. 311 to 313, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Betts), would mean that a regional assembly could delegate its work to the RDA, but if the Secretary of State were undertaking the same functions, she would not be able to do so. Under planning legislation there is a reserve power for the Secretary of State to act as the regional planning body. This is, of course, a last resort to be used if there were a very serious problem, such as the collapse of the regional assembly. In such a case, the Secretary of State may want to involve the RDA and the amendments would prevent that from happening.
Mr. Betts: I am listening carefully to my right hon. Friend on this matter; I tabled amendments just to express concern and raise the issue. Is she saying that those transfers would be encouraged on a voluntary and agreeable basis, and that the power is one of absolute last resort, which the Secretary of State would use only in those circumstances?
Caroline Flint: Absolutely. That is a very clear explanation of what we are saying. The power is one of last resort. We will not take planning powers away from regional assemblies in advance of new legislation, and we will make sure that the Secretary of State undertakes the role of a regional planning body only as a last resort. Only if the regional assembly were to cease to function, or refuse to carry out its duties, which I hope is highly unlikely, might we need to resort to delegating, but not transferring, powers to the RDA.
Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire) (LD): While I am reassured that the current Minister would regard the transference and exercise of those powers by a Minister as an act of last resort, we know from experience that assurances given at the Dispatch Box are not tantamount to guarantees out in the country. What reassurance can we have that a less benign Ministersomeone who prefers to centralise such decisions more than she wouldwould not use that power to centralise decision making and sweep away local democracy?
Caroline Flint: Clause 149 makes it clear that the delegation of planning functions to the regional development agency could happen only when the regional assembly chooses to use that power and the RDA agrees. That should be enough. I hope that those assurances are sufficient to enable hon. Members to decide not to press their amendments.
Clause 161 covers compensation for removal of permitted development rights. Government amendment No. 194 would reform local planning authorities liability for compensation for the removal of permitted development rights. It would allow for a maximum amount of time to be set out in secondary legislation between notice being given of a proposed restriction of permitted development rights and its coming into force. Only by giving such notice can the right of compensation be removed. We have already set out a minimum time between notice of a proposed restriction being given and its coming into force to ensure that residents have adequate notice of changes. However, we will consult on the maximum time limit in any secondary legislation to avoid cases in which the time limit was so long that residents would forget about the changes.
The amendment also makes it clear that when developments commence before notice is given, or during the notice period, and they can be lawfully completed, no compensation is payable. The right hon. Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry) has tabled amendments Nos. 323, 329 and 330, and I understand his reasons for doing that. Amendment No. 323 would apply clause 161 only to householder development. Amendments Nos. 329 and 330 would apply it only to classes of development that were specified in secondary legislation.
I recognise that the amendments imply concerns that clause 161 might have adverse consequences, resulting, for example, in farmers being prevented from carrying out seasonal duties such as providing land for camping, caravanning and so on. The National Farmers Union has made representations on that. We are equally keen to ensure that businesses retain the ability to carry out works without the need to apply for planning permission, when that is appropriate. However, it is important to get the detail right and we want to ensure that any changes do not have adverse consequences. That will mean more work with stakeholders. As a result of that, I expect us to revert to the subject in another place, and I am happy to meet the right hon. Gentleman to discuss it further. On that basis, I ask him not to press his amendments.
Mr. Curry: The Minister did not hear what I said. I said that I was grateful to her, that I looked forward to discussing the matter with her and that, in the light of that constructive approach, it would not be necessary to press the amendments.
Local member review bodies have created huge debate in local authorities and among those in the planning profession. Several hon. Members have supported the principle of local member review bodies, for which clauses 155 to 158 provide, while pointing out that it is important to sort out how they work in practice. We have discussed the provisions extensively with local government and planning professionals to explore that. I have also received several representations about what is workable. We need to consider whether, given the large number of planning reforms that we are asking local planning authorities to implement, it is also right to ask them to focus on the initiative.
Although I recognise that amendment No. 290 seeks to be helpful, it would be contrary to the principle of local accountability on which our proposals are based. It would allow local planning authorities to discharge their local member review body functions through panels of elected members drawn entirely from other local authorities. On that basis, I hope that the amendment will not be pressed to a vote.
Government amendments Nos. 190, 191 and 192 are minor technical amendments to ensure that, when delegated cases are exceptionally determined by a committee or sub-committee of a local authority in the first instance, the right of appeal to the Secretary of State remains. Amendment No. 190 inserts the necessary provisions for planning applications under section 78 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.
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