Register of applications
John Healey: I beg to move amendment No. 356, in clause 34, page 17, line 32, after consent, insert
(aa) consultation reports received by the Commission under section 32(3)(c),.
Clause 34 requires the commission to maintain a register of applications for orders granting development consent and publish that register or make arrangements for its inspection by members of the public. As currently drafted, the clause requires the commission also to make applications received available for public inspection, along with any accompanying documents and information. That will ensure that the pre-application stage is transparent and open to everyone involved or interested.
The amendment will add the pre-application consultation reports to those documents that must be available for public inspection. As we said, those reports are referred to in clause 32(7) and, in short, cover the consultation carried out for a proposed application, the subsequent results and also the account that has been taken of the consultations results.
Overall, I hope that hon. Members will agree that that adds to the openness and transparency of the process. It ought to be a welcome amendment, and I hope that it will be.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause 34, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Applications by the Crown for orders granting development consent
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
The Chairman: With this is will be convenient to discuss amendment No. 261, in clause 173, page 97, line 20, leave out 35.
Robert Neill: I spoke too soon, as I had forgotten about amendment No. 261 and apologise for disappointing hon. Members. I shall try to make up for it by being brief.
The purpose of the amendment is to tease out from the Minister a little more of the reasoning behind setting up a special regime to apply to the Crown in relation to the applications under clause 35, as it is not entirely clear to us. We appreciate that the Crown occasionally has difficult situations, but would like some explanations for that special procedure. Under what circumstances will applications be made by the Crown, and what kind of difficulties could arise as a result of the Crown being subject to the law?
Dan Rogerson: Although my amendment to delete the clause will not be considered, I would like to explore this clause further. The hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst quite rightly said that we need to explore the circumstances in which the Government may depart from the provisions that everyone else in the country has to conform to.
Also, will the Minister define what is meant by Crown land? Does it include, for example, Duchy of Lancaster land or, in the case of my own constituency, Duchy of Cornwall land, because that land serves a different purpose from Crown land, which is used for purposes on behalf of Government and the nation as a whole? I would be interested to have some clarification of exactly what is covered by this measure. I hope that the Minister can see the distinction that I am making about estates in which the primary purpose is to raise revenue for particular members of the royal family.
The hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe, whose amendment prompted the debate on clause 32, referred to the potential conflict of interest in the Secretary of State determining applications. He saw that as a potential criticism of his own argument. Here, we could have the conflict of interest above all others if the Government are able to impose particular strictures upon anyone else who applies to construct a development. They could completely disregard the applicant for their own ends. It would be helpful for us to hear from the Minister how often he thinks that such action would be appropriate. Even if he is able to clarify the matter, I am a little uneasy with the whole concept. I think that members of the public and people in industry who are forced to live by the Bill would feel aggrieved if the Crown were able to sidestep the regulations that are imposed on everybody else. I will be interested to hear what the Minister has to say.
John Healey: I shall do my best. I would say to the hon. Member for North Cornwall that it is quite unlikely that the Duchy of Cornwall or the royal family would want to promote a nationally significant infrastructure project on their land.
Dan Rogerson: Just as the Minister is getting goingI am aware that the Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury, the hon. Member for St. Helens, North, will be raising his eyes about the progress that we are makingI would like to mention that there are significant plans for housing developments on land owned by the Duchy of Cornwall, which may have complicated implications for infrastructure projects. That is the circumstance that I foresee. Obviously, we also want to hear what the Minister thinks is appropriate on the wider issue of Crown lands.
John Healey: The hon. Gentleman must appreciate that this regime does not cover housing. We have already dealt in some detail with the criteria that qualify an application for a project. This is principally about Crown applications for Government projects, such as highway projects in which the Highways Agency would be the promoter. The measure is designed to be a fall-back provision that is used in special circumstance. Hon. Members will recognise that occasionally domestic or
Let me give an example. The foot and mouth crisis required the urgent provision of infrastructure in order to deal with the large quantities of animal waste that resulted from the necessary culling that took place. The provision is designed to deal with that sort of circumstance.
The regulations we propose would be subject to the negative procedure in the House and would, therefore, be subject to an annulment resolution of either House. It is an important power that we are only likely to consider using in special circumstances and occasionally. I hope that that explanation gives hon. Members some reassurance.
Robert Neill: I will not make any cracks about Duchy Original wind farms or anything of that kind. I understand the Ministers point and I will not seek to press the clause to a Division.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 35 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clause 36 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Mrs. Lait: On a point of order, Sir John. Before I launch into moving the amendment, I seek your guidance on a matter that I raised at the beginning of this mornings sitting. The Minister kindly indicated to us that he was hoping to get the consultation on the community infrastructure levy out in plenty of time for organisations and ourselves to be able to consider amendments. I now understand that it will be next week before that consultation goes out, which makes it exceedingly tight for us to be able to get advice from the bodies that are most directly concerned and to table amendments, particularly if we were to be able to move on to consideration of that next Friday. Could you give us some guidance as to how we could cope with that situation, so that we can have a proper debate on the levy?
John Healey: I thought that I made my intention clear this morning. I said that we would get the consultation out, that it would not be, as the hon. Lady mistakenly argued this morning, about consultation on the draft regulations, but it would be a consultation that set out more fully our approach to developing the community infrastructure levy. We aim to do that in good time for the debate in the Committee and that remains my intention.
Duty to consult
and who must include residents affected by the proposed application.
The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 12, in clause 37, page 18, line 22, leave out may and insert shall.
No. 168, in clause 38, page 18, line 39, leave out or.
No. 169, in clause 38, page 19, line 2, at end add
(h) a parish council,
(i) a community council in Wales, or
(j) a community council in Scotland..
No. 63, in clause 42, page 20, line 8, at end add
and those who might be significantly affected by the development.
Government amendments Nos. 357 to 359
No. 174, in clause 42, page 20, line 21, leave out subsection (5) and insert
(5) The Commission must commission an independent third party (third party) to undertake such community engagement in relation to an application for development as the relevant local planning authority considers appropriate within a set period (the community engagement period) of not more than six months.
(6) The third party shall be required to publish a report (the community engagement report) on its work within 14 days of the end of the community engagement period.
(7) The community engagement report will publish responses from interested parties, including but not limited to those defined as Categories 1, 2 and 3 in section 39.
(8) The applicant must within three months of the publication of the community engagement report publish a response to indicate its intentions to change the application.
(9) The application for development consent may not make progress until such time as the applicant has complied with subsection (8).
(10) If the applicant has not complied with subsection (8) after a period of six months the application shall be deemed to be withdrawn..
No. 15, in clause 50, page 25, line 29, at end insert
and who must include persons consulted under section 37(1)(a).
No. 297, in clause 80, page 37, line 30, leave out and.
No. 298, in clause 80, page 37, line 31, at end insert
(c) an independent third party (the third party) who shall undertake community engagement as set out in subsection (7), and
(d) senior officers and councillors of the relevant local planning authorities,.
No. 321, in clause 92, page 42, line 21, leave out or.
No. 322, in clause 92, page 42, line 22, at end insert
(f) the person is a relevant parish council,
(g) the person is a relevant community council in Wales, or
(h) the person is a relevant community council in Scotland..
No. 279, in clause 92, page 43, line 9, at end insert
(ea) a parish or town council in England, or a community council in Wales,.
Mrs. Lait: I rise to move our amendments Nos. 11, 12 , 15 and 279. I think that there is general agreement for all the amendments that we must get the categories of people who are consulted
The Chairman: Order. The hon. Lady can speak to the other amendments, but at this stage she can only move amendment No. 11.
Mrs. Lait: I am sorry. That was a procedural mistake and I thank you for your guidance, Sir John. I will, indeed, speak to amendment No. 11, which sets the tone for all the amendments in the group. They are all to do with trying to get the pre-inquiry consultation, and the people who need to be consulted, correct.
There is concern, across a broad front, that the lists in the clause are tight. They mention various organisations and people. I assume that, where the Bill mentions persons, it means that people are able to represent the organisations. However crucial the contribution made by organisations to the development of the national policy statement, if they have a particular interest in an area, they will probably tie the IPC in knots by demanding the right to represent their views on a particular application because of their detailed interest in it.
We see the practice emerging of developers realising the importance of good consultation before putting in an application. Frankly, they recognise that sorting out the problems before putting in an application has the benefit that it will go through much more speedily. We strongly support pre-inquiry consultation because it is a key element in speeding up planning inquiries, whether it goes through the IPC or through our preferred route of an improved Planning Inspectorate. It is therefore crucial that the right people are consulted, and that includes all who feel that they have a legitimate point to make.
In amendment No. 11, we suggest adding to clause 37 the words
residents affected by the proposed application.
However, as I understand it, clause 39 confines those who must be consulted to the owners, lessees, tenants or occupiers of the land, or persons who are interested in the land or who have the power to sell, convey or release it. My reading of a person who is interested in the land, coupled with the phrase has power...to sell, implies that it is someone with a direct interest in the land, and not necessarily a person who is concerned about the development of the land and its impact on their community.
If my interpretation is rightI hope that the Minister will assure me that I am wrongit could, for instance, mean that someone whose property was not necessarily contiguous with the property being developed but who happened to live in the village and who had a problem with sight lines, or one of the many other of the complaints frequently made under the planning system, could be ruled out from making a complaint or from applying to be represented.
Because pre-inquiry consultation is improving, I want to be assured that organisations that represent people with a direct interest can continue to insist on being consulted. I have in mind evidence from the Wildlife Trust, which I am sure other hon. Members have received, particularly about electricity cables in Kent. Because the trust was consulted by the developer before the inquiry, it was able to resolve many of the issues, some to do with the habitats directive and especially the habitat of the marsh harrier, and a number of other clear and direct matters that were of benefit to the environment. That was done under the auspices of a formal group. In the spirit of getting the pre-inquiry consultation right, I would not want such organisations to be unable to represent local residents
Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy) (PC): I rise not only to support amendment No. 11, but to speak to amendment No. 63, which I tabled. Although that amendment nominally address clause 42, it is along precisely the same lines as amendment No. 11 to clause 37, which is on the duty to consult.
As the hon. Lady rightly said, it appears from clause 39 that those who will be consulted will have a proprietary interest in the land. Under clause 39(2), they will either be a person interested in the land or someone who has
power...to sell and convey the land, or...to release the land.
That is far too prescriptive. I would therefore like us to add the words
and those who might be significantly affected by the development.
The wording of my amendment is not fanciful. If we look at clause 13 and the various examples of nationally significant infrastructure projects, we see that we have at least 12 or 13 bad neighbours. The clause refers to the construction of waste treatment plants, hazardous waste facilities, railways, which can be intrusive, highways and pipelines, as well as to the extension of airportswe all know about thoseand the underground storage of gas. Indeed, some large gas pipelines are currently being sent through south Wales and are causing grave concern in many communities throughout the area. However, I am thinking more of airports. Sticking strictly to the proprietary interest line that a person must be interested in the land contiguous to the development tends to miss the point. Those who can be badly affected by airport extensions can live miles away from the land that is being developed.
That is why I think that the Bill should be amended. My amendment is along the same lines as the hon. Ladys, with which I do not disagree. We are both aiming at the same end producta thorough inquiry that places an obligation on the IPC to consult properly all those who might be badly or substantially affected. That is the very least that we should be aiming for in this aspect of the Bill.
Dan Rogerson: The amendments that I tabled fall into two groups. Amendments Nos. 168, 169, 321 and 322 refer to the inclusion of parish councils or their equivalent in the provisions. I might have been over-zealous in my reference to community councils in Scotland, given that their appearance in later amendments makes that superfluous. However, it is important that parish councils are included in the process.
There are 70 parish councils in my constituency, all of which very much enjoy their role as statutory consultees on planning applications[ Interruption. ] I think that some hon. Members are surprised that there are 70 in my constituency, but I try to get to as many of them as I can. They take their role in planning applications seriously, and they quite often dispute with the district council whether their views have been taken into account. At that point, anyone who has
Parish councils would be a useful addition to this and later parts of the Bill. They provide an excellent forum for ensuring that information about a proposed development is filtered out into the community and that those views are reflected back. I hope that the Minister will be able to accept that they ought to be added and that they are missing from the Bill. If he feels that my amendments are not elegant enough, perhaps he will undertake to examine at the issue and return to us later.
My second point relates to an issue that concerns me a little: developers being asked to undertake consultation. The most important thing about consultation is that it should be meaningful. As it is part of the speeding up the process, anything that happens at the pre-application stage will later be relied on for evidence, if the application is considered. Let us take the example of a community that feels aggrieved about something on which the IPC is due to make a decision. The local people might feel that the consultation undertaken by the applicant at the pre-application stage, or someone appointed by the applicant, does not entirely reflect their views. While the IPC will no doubt want to hear that that evidence is robust and that the consultation has taken place properly, amendments Nos. 174, 297 and 298 would provide for the employment of a third party to undertake that consultation. The third party would be appointed by the IPC, although the charge would fall upon the applicant.
No doubt the Minister will say that it would not be right for the IPC to get involved in such a way prior to the application. However, that would be a way in which we could guarantee that the important pre-application consultation, which seeks to improve applications and overcome one of the factors that can delay them, is robust and not just fair, but seen to be fair by those in the community concerned. I hope that the Minister will consider the amendments and tell us how the Government feel these points can be taken into account.
John Healey: I do not think that there is any significant difference in our objective of having the most effective and thorough pre-application consultation and ensuring that those who may be affected or who have an interest are included in that process. All hon. Members would recognise that the consultation at the pre-application stage is one of the cornerstones of the Bill. It is a new requirement, as witnesses at our evidence sessions confirmed. It will put a new requirement on project promoters that will lead to better applications and new opportunities for local communities, local residents and others to put forward their views. It will be an opportunity not just to put forward views, but to influence the development of a promoters proposal. Indeed, there is the example of local residents working with the Wildlife Trust in Kent. Once the application was submitted, it went through a process like this and was vastly improved.
Amendments Nos. 11 and 63 are not necessary to achieve the aims of the hon. Lady and the hon. Member for North Cornwall. Taken as a whole, the provisions in part 5 already set a strong requirement to consult local communities and the people affected. Clauses 42 to 44 will require the promoter to prepare a statement setting out how the local community will be consulted, to
Clauses 37 and 39 have a different and more specific purpose. They will require consultation with anyone with an interest in the land, anyone who might be entitled to a compensation claim, even under the Compulsory Purchase Act 1965 or the Land Compensation Act 1973, and those who may be entitled to a claim for nuisance. The measure applies to owners, lessees, tenants, occupiers of land, and other parties with such interests. In addition, other statutory consultees can be specifiedthere is provision to do so under regulations. That answers the hon. Gentleman, but we will consider the points he raised. I have already invited the Committee to make suggestions about what we should consider under the process. We will use the regulations to specify consultees after proper and widespread consultation.
That also answers the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst, who asked about the position of harbour authorities during a debate on part 3 of the Bill. Of course, they come into precisely the category that I am talking about. We would consider their position under the power I described.
Mr. Llwyd: Clause 39(5)(c) is about persons who might have a claim for nuisance. Will that category catch those whom I described as being significantly affected by a development? For example, will it catch a person who lives two miles away from a new runway? Would they come within the ambit of the measure? It would be encouraging if they did.
John Healey: I cannot say that such people will necessarily be caught by the measure because I cannot anticipate what circumstances will arise. However, the general provision for the consultation requirements of a promoter in the local area and community are likely to encompass the sort of people whom the hon. Gentleman has in mind. To be honest, it is difficult to think of people who should be consulted who are not covered by the proposals as they stand. Local people, those who have a direct interest and those whose interests could be affected are covered.
I have addressed the question of parish and community-level councils but, in summary, the strong duty to consult the local community at the pre-application stage is set out in this part of the Bill. I have covered hon. Members concerns. In addition, when a person makes a written representation on a particular application, they will automatically become an interested party under clause 92.
Finally, the hon. Member for North Cornwall proposed third party intervention. Specifying the requirements and responsibilities on the promoter, giving them the principal responsibility to undertake those effectively, and giving ourselves the capability to elaborate on them later represents the better approach and the right one. The responsibility should properly sit with the promoter.
Dan Rogerson: Let me give an example. There is an application to build a wind farm in my constituencyI have heard of similar things happening in north-east
John Healey: I understand that point, but we are setting out a framework that will require certain things to be undertaken by any promoter during consultation. The commission must be satisfied that the promoter has complied with their duty of consultation before it can accept the application. It must also have regard to the representations that the local authority makes, specifically about how adequate the consultation has been. The circumstances in which the pre-application consultation will take place will be clearly specified and there will be significant requirements on the promoter.
The responsibility must rest with the promoter to undertake the consultation and we all want to ensure that promoters do it in certain ways. Under the Bill, the commission must be satisfied that that has been done properly before it even accepts the application for subsequent consideration.
Dan Rogerson: In the example that I gave, a crucial point for those who oppose the development is not that the consultation has not taken place. They do not dispute that it has. Their concern is how the evidence will be reported back to the commission. I am not clear about how the commission can determine whether the information that is presented to it is a fair reflection of the consultation that has taken place. For example, there is no representative of the commission in the church hall while it is going on and there is no one to say what members of the public did or did not say while looking at the displays. The concern I have is that the developer will be able to present the picture that it has talked to people in the local community and that they are happy with the project, subject to one or two changes, when that is not a fair reflection of what went on at the public meeting.
John Healey: I have touched on this point, but the commission will have the scope to set standards and requirements on the pre-application process in addition to what is specified in the Bill. It is obliged to make an assessment of the extent to which that has been carried out. The local authority is in a formal position to file a report and make representations on the adequacy of the consultation. I hope that the hon. Gentleman feels that this process will create greater confidence and help to create better applications. The application might not be entirely accepted by local interests, but it will be a better application as a result of the consultation.
Mrs. Lait: I am grateful to the Minister for his assurances on amendment No. 169 on parish and community councils. We tabled a similar amendment and look forward to those bodies being included in the list of the statutory consultees.
I am grateful, too, for the Ministers explanation of his reading of how the clause relates to the amendment. I am therefore unlikely to press it to a vote, but I was interested that he did not refer to Government amendments Nos. 357 to 359. I was waiting to hear him speak about them and I deliberately did not refer to them. If I read them correctly, those amendments will require the local authority to reply to a consultation within 28 days of the date that it is received. A serious consultation will take much longer. In due course, we will come to how I envisage such a consultation being conducted.
With regard to the example cited by the hon. Member for North Cornwall, I imagine that local people would feel most aggrieved about a wind farm application if they had only 28 days in which to be consulted and to make their views known about its impact on them singly, collectively, as a community, as residents, as activists or as people whose land is contiguous to the development. With the best will in the world, it would take them considerably longer than 28 days to get legal advice about their powers and responsibilities and about the impact a planning application for a wind farm might have on them or their neighbours.
I want the Minister to enlighten us on the thinking behind the 28 days limit for the local authority, because it entirely ignores the speed at which local authorities progress, as even setting up a committee for a local authority to consider an application takes longer than 28 days. If an officers authorisation is required to confirm that the consultation is adequate, aggrieved councillors will complain. If the reference is to a portfolio-holder or the cabinet, they do not necessarily meet every 28 days. Some clarification of the Governments amendments would be useful in helping us to decide how to treat the proposals.
John Healey: The hon. Lady is concerned about local authorities, but applications will not come out of the blue. There is a statutory minimum period. Some applications will be more complex than others and it is plausible that a promoter will decide that a longer period is needed for complex proposals or that the information is not required in the 28-day time scale. In such cases, the promoter could set a longer deadline.
The proposals refer to the pre-application process and are a new, additional requirement on promoters. They are an innovation in the application stage and represent a useful marker in the Bill, which tries to strike a balance between ensuring that the work in preparing and contributing to applications is done without delay and giving those who have an interest or a viewpoint the chance to register it with the promoter.
Mrs. Lait: I remain dissatisfied with the Ministers reply and I need to think much longer and harder about it. However, I intend to withdraw the amendment so that we can devote more thought to the matter and return to it on Report.
Dan Rogerson: I, too, was pleased that the Minister said he would consider parish and city councils as statutory consultees. He said he would consult on who should be on the list, and I hope that he will take into account my submission that parish and community councils should be included.
The second group of amendments is about who commissions the research and undertakes consultation at the pre-application stage. The Minister said he would ensure that the proposal is tightly drawn so that the commission can be confident that the report it receives accurately reflects the views of people in the community. On that basis, I will not press my amendment to a Division so that we can debate it at a later stage.
Mr. Llwyd: I have one question for the Minister on my amendment No. 63. Will people who might be significantly affected by the development be covered by clause 39(5)(c)? In other words, would they be able to mount a claim for nuisance? If he cannot answer now, I would be obliged if he would write to me in due course.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
(ca) the relevant passenger transport authority or authorities in cases where the proposed application would have impacts on the provision of transport in their area or areas,.
The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment No. 84, in clause 50, page 25, line 33, after London,, insert
(ca) the relevant passenger transport authority or authorities in cases where the proposed application would have impacts on the provision of transport in their area or areas,.
Mr. Betts: I shall try to be brief, in anticipation that my hon. Friend the Minister will be even briefer and say that he accepts the amendment.
We have discussed the nature of the applications that will be dealt with by the IPC which could have transport implicationsindeed, they could be about transport projects. It is therefore entirely logical that the authority within the public sector that is concerned with transport mattersthe passenger transport authorityshould be named as one of the organisations, even though it is not technically a local authority, that is consulted about applications and notified by the commission under clause 50 of an application being accepted.
There will be some anomalies if we do not include transport authorities. In south Yorkshire, for example, the PTA is responsible for passenger transport matters,
A PTA comprises members of the various district councils in the county area, but it is a separate statutory body with rights and powers that it exercises without reference to the district council. It therefore ought to be involved in the consultation and notification process. If we get to the position under the Local Transport Bill in which passenger transport authorities become integrated transport authorities and take on some of the wider roles of transport, including road transport in their areas, surely they would need to be consulted. Consultation about road matters that currently goes to the district council might in the future go to an integrated transport authority, which would be the successor body to the passenger transport authority. That would clearly need to be reflected in the Bill.
My amendments would clear up some of the current concerns about the neglect of passenger transport issues, and the fact that county councils, as the relevant bodies, will be consulted but transport authorities in the old metropolitan areas will not. For those reasons, they are at least worthy of the Ministers consideration, if he cannot accept them immediately.
John Healey: I believe my hon. Friend will accept that the sort of applications that we are considering for the IPC will vary greatly in terms of the impact on a particular area, depending on the type of infrastructure that is proposed. In some cases, the local transport authority will have a great interest in the proposals, but it may well not in others. We are seeking to set out those parties that will have an interest in each and every national infrastructure project application, and which therefore must always be consulted as a matter of course.
I do not think that my hon. Friend has made the case that passenger transport authorities fall into that category. The proper place to deal with his concerns is in secondary legislation. I shall indeed reflect further on his comments in that context, but the Bill is not the proper place to deal with his concerns.
Mr. Betts: I am prepared to accept my hon. Friends explanation and assurance that he will reflect on the amendments. I hope that there will be a proper place for passenger transport authorities as consultees to be incorporated in legislation, and I accept his assurance that that is secondary legislation. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 37 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Further consideration adjourned.[Mr. Watts.]
Adjourned accordingly at twenty-eight minutes past Seven oclock till Thursday 24 January at Nine oclock.
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