Planning Bill

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Clause 164

Charging authorities
Mr. Betts: I beg to move amendment No. 437, in clause 164, page 93, line 12, leave out ‘which authority’ and insert
‘that the local planning authority (within the meaning of Part 1 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990)’.
The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: Government amendment No. 537
Amendment No. 592, in clause 164, page 93, leave out lines 15 to 18.
Amendment No. 37, in clause 164, page 93, line 17, leave out from ‘London’ to end of line 18.
Amendment No. 438, in clause 164, page 93, line 19, leave out subsection (3).
Mr. Betts: I will not detain the Committee too long, as this is a point of clarification to ensure that the authority that can collect the levy is the planning authority. That is useful with regard to any symmetry that we need to develop between the LDF process and the CIL, notwithstanding the comments that the Minister has just made about the consultation that is going on about how the two relate to each other. However, there are also concerns within local government and the Local Government Association that the primary body must be the accountable and elected local planning authority for the area. When Sir Simon Milton gave evidence to the Committee, he made the point that local government in general was supportive of the collaborative arrangements between local authorities when they would come together to look at the infrastructure needs of a wider area, typically a city region. I have been a long-term supporter of the concept of city regions and welcome the approach that the Government have adopted of allowing the development of city regions to come about organically, with local authorities determining the best way forward for that area on a voluntary and collective basis.
There is still concern that at some point the Government might decide that a city region authority, rather than a local planning authority, could have the power to decide on and collect the levy, which would be against the spirit of city regions developing by collaboration and collective agreement and could lead to some imposed organisation funding itself through the levy.
A further concern is probably that, given a regional development association’s new strategic planning powers, it might be possible at some stage that the Government will consider it as an authority that could collect, or even determine, the levy for its area. My amendment seeks to specify absolutely and clearly that the authority in question is the local planning authority——the local elected body in the area. It should be responsible not merely for planning policy, but also for the determination and collection of the levy.
Mrs. Lait: Welcome back, Sir John. I have great sympathy with the proposal of the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe. As he succinctly put it at the end, we have always maintained that only democratically accountable bodies that are capable of raising taxes should be charging bodies.
As we see from the Government’s new clause, they are hoping that RDAs will take over responsibility for planning as well as housing and they will need to fund those responsibilities. The concern is that the RDA could insist on a charge that it would levy as part of the community infrastructure levy, but it would not be democratically accountable to the people from whom it is raising the money or to whom things will be done.
Amendment No. 592 would delete any body other than a local authority from the list of charging authorities in the regulations, including the local planning authority, which I think the Government try to define in Government amendment No. 537. I will leave that to the Minister. The list goes on to specify the Secretary of State, the Welsh Ministers, the Mayor of London, and
“any other authority with responsibility for town and country planning.”
As the RDAs are being given responsibility for planning under the Government new clause, it leaves open the opportunity for them to charge. It also leaves open that opportunity for the Mayor of London, who, as we know, notoriously has control over the London Development Agency on housing and planning under the Greater London Authority Act 2007, which we fought all the way through the Commons, will continue to oppose and do so here.
Dan Rogerson: I am grateful to the hon. Lady and the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe for raising this issue because it will concern a lot of people, particularly with regard to the regional development authorities. Does she think that local authorities will have the power, if they are making the charge, to spend it or to hand it over to other bodies? Earlier, I raised the question of health facilities, which would be provided by the PCT or the strategic health authority. The concern is that there would be a desire in the community for a health facility, but the only people who could charge the money would be the local authorities. Do they have the power to hand over that money?
Mrs. Lait: It is not for me to interpret the non-existent rules and regulations for the community infrastructure levy or even the guidance, sparse as it is. However, as I understand it more and more local authorities are working closely with the health authorities, the police and a range of other bodies to come to a coherent view on what is required within their communities. That is certainly developing in the outer-London suburbs and I hope that it is the same in Cornwall. Provided that that situation remains robust, there is no reason why the local authority cannot be the agreed charging authority on behalf of all those who are looking towards the community infrastructure developments.
That situation would apply for a jointly agreed road. I will cite the example of a road going from Bexhill to Hastings, which involves Rother district council, Hastings borough council, East Sussex county council and even the South East England Development Agency. The local county council will build the road and will be tolling it. That is already working on a property basis and there is no reason why it should not. That should free up the sort of housing that the Minister wishes to see.
On that basis, when we get to it, I would like to press amendment No. 592.
Will the levy be an accumulation of the needs of different authorities? After all, if a housing estate is built in some parts of the world, issues such as refuse collection will fall on one tier of local authority and other issues, such as highways and schooling, will fall on a different tier. Will that be worked out by an informal agreement, or is there some mechanism by which costs will be apportioned to permit precepting?
What will be the role of organisations like development corporations? Just as a detail, does the Olympic delivery body have the right to precept or levy the charge? The biggest development in the country is probably the Olympic development in the east end of London. I guess that Hackney is the lead authority on that.
Mrs. Lait: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving me this opportunity. It is the Mayor who precepts on behalf of the Olympic development authority and, until we have a change of Mayor, the current Mayor is threatening to precept the London boroughs to infinity.
Hon. Members: And beyond!
Mr. Curry: That causes two reflections. The first is how glad I am that my constituency is 250 miles north of London. The second is that if the Conservative candidate were to win the mayoral election, it would be regarded as a victory by both sides of the House. I would like the Minister to clarify some of these matters. He says it is a framework Bill, but it is difficult but it is difficult to understand that until we know what is to happen inside it. The detail is everything in this sort of legislation. In the case of a project that makes calls upon infrastructure for which different bodies are currently responsible, is there a precepting mechanism for the allocation of that, or is it done by collaboration? It sounds like a tedious, bureaucratic question, but tedious bureaucracy lies at the heart of many of the things we have to deal with.
1.30 pm
Mr. David Jones (Clwyd, West) (Con): I add my voice to the note of concern raised by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe and my right hon. and hon. Friends. According to subsection (2), one of the potential charging authorities is the Welsh Ministers. The Welsh Ministers are a very acquisitive bunch of people. They are acquisitive both in terms of legislative competence—we shall shortly debate potential framework powers to give them legislative power in this area— and finance. The Local Transport Bill, which is before Parliament, seeks to give them the right to impose road charges on trunk roads in England and Wales. When I see the Welsh Ministers are a potential charging authority, I immediately react with alarm.
I am also concerned that the clauses relating to the application of the proceeds of any levy are very widely drawn. I am worried that a CIL charge, referable to a project in my constituency of Clwyd, West, could find itself being applied to a project in Cardiff, or even Cardiff, South and Penarth. That is not the sort of result that I would be keen to see but it seems to be a consequence of the very wide terms in which the application powers in the clause are drawn.
I seek reassurance from the Minister that if the Welsh Ministers were indeed to be the charging authority in respect of any CIL charged in Wales, they would be obliged to apply the proceeds of that levy to the local authority area in respect of which it is referable. The Minister said this morning that this was an important power that the Government intend to put in the hands of local planning authorities. I seek reassurance that that power will remain with the relevant local planning authority and not disappear into the coffers of Cardiff bay.
John Healey: Perhaps we can start at the starting point. There is wide recognition that the sort of infrastructure that we shall look to this levy to help support and fund can often be outside the local authority’s boundaries. That infrastructure can be just as critical to the potential growth and prosperity as infrastructure within those boundaries and in some cases can relate to the specific development site.
Alun Michael (Cardiff, South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op): I endorse entirely what my hon. Friend is saying. It makes the reference to Cardiff, South and Penarth a few moments ago quite appropriate. The impact on traffication and access to rail services as a result of the development in the Sport City in Cardiff bay has serious implications for the traffication in the Vale of Glamorgan council area. Indeed, one of the strengths of the recent arrangements is that payments from the Cardiff Bay development were applied to it.
The Chairman: Order. First, this is a long intervention and, secondly, it is going rather wide of our discussion.
John Healey: I enjoy these detailed discussions in Committee, which often come up with new, ground-breaking terms. “Traffication”, which my right hon. Friend has just introduced into our debate, is one that I will treasure and savour. I may even find an opportunity to use it at a later stage if I can find an appropriate way of doing so.
The starkest example of the argument was made by the hon. Member for Milton Keynes, South-West (Dr. Starkey), the Chair of the Select Committee on Communities and Local Government, which shadows the work of the Department. On Second Reading, the hon. Lady pointed out the importance of junction 13 on the M1 to Milton Keynes. As she said, the junction is critical to the future success and growth of Milton Keynes, but it is in a different local authority area, a different county and a different region, hence the argument for having a system that is capable, in the right circumstances and in the right way, of delivering a portion of the levy that can support such infrastructure. That is what the provisions in this part of the Bill are designed to do, as our policy document, which was published last week, set out clearly.
Mrs. Lait: The Minister for Local Government and his fellow Ministers regularly say that they want to devolve powers to local authorities. If that junction on the M1 is so important, the local authorities will be well aware of it. Why will the Minister not allow the local authorities to come together across county boundaries and artificial regional boundaries to decide themselves what they want to do and let them get on with it? Why does he not trust them?
John Healey: Indeed we do. We are giving them the power to choose to introduce a community infrastructure levy and the potential to collaborate and pool some of the proceeds of it from their areas. That is our starting point and the main basis of the Bill. However, there may be circumstances in which that approach will not work and in which there is a stronger case for having a community infrastructure levy at a regional or sub-regional level, and the amendments provide the means to do so.
It is precisely that tricky territory that we are discussing in detail at the moment. We are consulting on how best to ensure that we have a community infrastructure levy regime that could be used in such circumstances to support the infrastructure. It is important to retain the flexibility that is set out in clause 164(2) to allow that to be done.
Amendment No. 592 seems designed simply to prevent the Mayor of London becoming a charging authority and being able to impose a community infrastructure levy. I am not sure whether the hon. Lady consulted the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Johnson) about removing that power, and I do not know whether she is aware that, were she to do so, she would create a £300 million black hole in the potential finances of the Crossrail scheme. The consequences of the hon. Lady’s pressing her amendment to a Division could be much wider than she might realise, and it would rule out the possibility of an important element of Crossrail funding.
The hon. Lady gave us the lovely image of the Mayor of London taxing to infinity to support the Olympics. With several of my hon. Friends, I chime, “to infinity and beyond.” The hon. Lady may not have children as young as mine and those of some of my hon. Friends and she may not know that that was a reference to Buzz Lightyear. I thought at the time that perhaps it had gone over her head, just like the jokes that other hon. Members have shared about West Ham.
Mrs. Lait: I understand the jokes, I just do not appreciate them.
John Healey: Perhaps I had better move on before you rule me out of order, Sir John.
The Chairman: I would be grateful.
Robert Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con): West Ham always go towards infinity, as we know, and occasionally get a goal.
The Minister referred to the Mayor of London’s plans and to Crossrail. Nothing under our amendment would prevent the London boroughs through which Crossrail will run from levying the community infrastructure levy and entering into an agreement with Transport for London or the Mayor as to any apportionment between them. That works frequently under section 106 agreements. Does he accept that it is a bit of a red herring to raise the loss of Crossrail? Will he also find time to read the very interesting remarks made by the hon. Member for Henley, in which he talks about his determination to work as a partner of the boroughs, rather than in confrontation with them? That approach would fit exactly with the proposition that we make.
John Healey: I have not made a habit of studying the remarks of the hon. Member for Henley, and I do not propose to do so.
Amendments Nos. 37 and 592 would prevent other bodies that have town and country planning responsibilities from being empowered to charge the levy. That would remove the flexibility that we think will be important to encompass possible future changes to planning responsibilities. For example, we are consulting with interested parties about whether the IPC should be able to charge the levy for nationally significant infrastructure projects. I stress that clause 164(2)(e) will not permit the Secretary of State to make regulations empowering regional development agencies to become CIL authorities, which the hon. Member for Beckenham was very exercised about. That is because they currently have no responsibilities for town and country planning.
Mr. Curry: I thought that we had finished discussing the IPC a little while ago. I had not realised that it might be a taxing authority. The Minister has just told us that the IPC might raise the levy. Should we not have been discussing that when dealing with the IPC? It is a rather big afterthought.
John Healey: It is not an afterthought at all. I am making the case for the flexibility that we propose in the Bill for decisions that we will take, after the required discussions and consultations, over which authorities should be appropriate planning authorities. Those will be set out in regulations and will be subject to the established scrutiny and debate process through the affirmative resolution procedure of this House.
I want to deal with the question of the regional development agencies and to reassure the hon. Member for Beckenham as far as I can. Because of the amendments that we propose to make to the Bill, it may be that in future an RDA could take on some of the planning functions that are currently carried out by regional assemblies. Subsection (2)(e) gives a discretionary power for the Secretary of State—it is discretionary rather than a requirement—to make
“any other authority with responsibility for town and country planning”
Amendment No. 438 would also prevent the regulations from permitting or requiring charging authorities to act jointly. We need the regulations to be able to enable or require authorities to act as a charging authority as if they were one body, without being challenged for acting under the dictation of another, or for fettering their discretion. For instance, if local planning authorities have developed joint core strategies, it may make sense for them to be joint charging authorities for the purpose of the CIL. I would have thought that the hon. Member for Beckenham and her right hon. and hon. Friends would be looking to encourage that sort of thing, rather than prevent it.
1.45 pm
Finally, amendment No. 438 appears to remove the possibility that the regulations could allow a different approach to deciding on the charging authority in different cases or circumstances. Given that not all areas are the same, administratively, geographically, or economically, a certain degree of flexibility seems reasonable and justified. That is why Government amendment No. 537 enables regulations to empower certain local authorities that are not local planning authorities to charge the community infrastructure levy. In that instance, we are responding to concerns that have been raised with us by bodies that might come into that category, such as national park authorities.
Dan Rogerson: I do not know the answer to the question that I asked the hon. Member for Beckenham earlier on, but the Minister may be able to provide it, as it is a crucial question for me. Under section 106 agreements currently, are the moneys collected by the local authority, then handed over to other service providers, such as those for health? That is only an example; there may be other key areas that it wishes to fund. Or are those side agreements brokered as part of the section 106 process by the local authority?
If it is felt necessary to set down in the Bill exactly which authorities can have a call on that money, and if some authorities that are not planning authorities, such as primary care trusts, are not specified, does the local authority have the power to hand money over to them as opposed to brokering an agreement whereby the developer pays the money straight to the PCT? I appreciate that that may be a technical question. Health facilities are mentioned in the document that has been published so far, so I am assuming that local authorities are able to do that. I would be grateful if the Minister confirmed that that was the case.
John Healey: That is a different question, which is connected not with the provisions of the Bill but with the operation of section 106 agreements. I understand that local authorities do have the scope to do as the hon. Gentleman suggests. I will check that matter out and, if I need to, I will contact him further about it.
Mr. Betts: I shall raise two matters. My hon. Friend has answered the question about the RDA directly, which I am pleased about.
On the matter of the sub-regional arrangements, along with the LGA, my feeling is that charging authorities should come together as a planning authority collectively and voluntarily to provide appropriate arrangements. I think that I heard my hon. Friend correctly when he said that, essentially, the powers in amendment No. 164 are discretionary for the Secretary of State, and that there will be ongoing discussions with the LGA and other interested parties to find the most appropriate way to achieve those objectives. On the basis of that reassurance, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment made: No. 537, in clause 164, page 93, line 14, at end insert—
‘(aa) a county council, a county borough council, a district council, a London borough council, a metropolitan district council, the Common Council of the City of London or the Council of the Isles of Scilly,’.—[Mr. Healey.]
Amendment proposed: No. 592, in clause 164, page 93, leave out lines 15 to 18.—[Mrs. Lait.]
Question put, That the amendment be made:—
The Committee divided: Ayes 6, Noes 10.
Division No. 19 ]
Benyon, Mr. Richard
Curry, rh Mr. David
Jones, Mr. David
Lait, Mrs. Jacqui
Neill, Robert
Rogerson, Dan
Betts, Mr. Clive
Clark, Paul
Ellman, Mrs. Louise
Ennis, Jeff
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Healey, John
Michael, rh Alun
Mole, Chris
Reed, Mr. Jamie
Watts, Mr. Dave
Question accordingly negatived.
Clause 164, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
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