Planning Bill

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New Clause 29

Local development orders: removal of requirement to implement policies
‘(1) Section 61A of TCPA 1990 (local development orders) is amended as set out in subsections (2) and (3).
(2) Omit subsection (1) (requirement to implement policies).
(3) In subsection (2) for “A local development order may” substitute “A local planning authority may by order (a local development order)”.
(4) In paragraph 2 of Schedule 4A to TCPA 1990 (revision of local development orders) omit sub-paragraphs (4) and (5).’.—[Jim Fitzpatrick.]
Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 30

Appeals: miscellaneous amendments
‘Schedule [Appeals: miscellaneous amendments] (appeals: miscellaneous amendments) has effect.’.—[Mr. Dhanda.]
Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 3

Geographically-specified national policy statements
‘(1) This section sets out the requirements for national policy statements which make particular reference to specific geographical areas under section 5(5)(d).
(2) Where a proposal for a national policy statement is made by the Secretary of State with implications for a specific geographical area, the Secretary of State shall commission and fund an assessment by the relevant local planning authority, or authorities, of—
(a) whether the proposal is consonant with the principles enumerated in the authority’s local development documents as defined in section 17 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004,
(b) the likely impact of the proposal on communities within the local authority area,
(c) whether the proposal meets with the approval of persons residing in the relevant local authority area, and
(d) any other matter which the relevant planning authority considers appropriate.
(3) A local authority area is within subsection (2) if any of the locations concerned is in the authority’s area, or a neighbouring authority’s area.
(4) A “proposal” in subsection (2) shall be defined as in section 7(3).’.—[Dan Rogerson.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
Motion made, and Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—
The Committee divided: Ayes 7, Noes 10.
Division No. 20 ]
Benyon, Mr. Richard
Curry, rh Mr. David
Duddridge, James
Jones, Mr. David
Lait, Mrs. Jacqui
Llwyd, Mr. Elfyn
Rogerson, Dan
Betts, Mr. Clive
Clark, Paul
Dhanda, Mr. Parmjit
Ellman, Mrs. Louise
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Healey, John
Michael, rh Alun
Mole, Chris
Sheridan, Jim
Watts, Mr. Dave
Question accordingly negatived.

New Clause 4

Amendment of the meaning of development
‘(1) The Town and Country Planning Act 1990 is amended as follows.
(2) In section 55 (meaning of development and new development), in subsection (2)(a) leave out “for making good war damage or works begun after 5th December 1968”.
(3) In section 336(1), leave out the definition of “war damage”.’.—[Mrs. Lait.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
Mrs. Lait: I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.
This is another attempt to tidy up the statute book in relation to planning issues. The new clause would remove from planning control the exemption to repair war damage caused in the second world war and the completion of basement works that were begun before 5 December 1968. I understand why there was an exemption for war damaged buildings when the Town and Country Planning Act was first introduced in 1947. We were keen to repair the infrastructure, provide people with houses and buildings in which they could work, and to generally repair the economy. However, as I said when we discussed a similar issue, it is now more than 60 years on. Have there been any planning applications to repair war damage in the past 10 or 15 years under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990? After 60 years, should there still be an exemption for second world war damage? The only possibility of such an exemption being needed is that in the process of developing a new building in or around London or other big cities such as Coventry, an unexploded bomb is found which has a consequential effect on planning permission.
As to the completion of
“basement works begun before 5 December 1968”,
if people are still waiting to complete them after 40 years, I have serious fears for the state of the building above the basement. If the Minister can explain why the provision is still on the statute book, I would have some sympathy with the proposal. Otherwise, my feeling is that after all these years we should be tidying up the statute book and getting rid of legislation whose time has passed.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Mr. Parmjit Dhanda): Having read the new clause many times and having tried to get my head around it, I have some sympathy for the proposal. However, as the new clause refers to basements and whether they need development consent post-1968, I must resist it, first, because it would not do what the hon. Lady hopes it will and, secondly, because, as she rightly says, it will be better to have clarity across the board in respect of developments and basements. We will consult on the matter per se during the summer and thus be able to provide more clarity about what is a permitted development. I hope that having considered those two points, she will withdraw the motion.
Mrs. Lait: If the Government want to take up an Opposition amendment, except in rare circumstances, they are always happy to change the wording, so the barrier to their accepting the new clause would be removed immediately. May I assume that the summer consultation to which the Minister refers is the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s consultation on heritage buildings, or can we look forward to a separate consultation? Will it also include the war damage and the basement issues, or do they remain as two separate issues in his mind?
Mr. Dhanda: To my mind, the consultation will take war damage into account. The hon. Lady makes a personal point about clarity. Reading the new clause brings to life the fact that the area is much more complex than most people probably realise. I hope that that answers her question.
Mrs. Lait: I accept the Minister’s assurances and look forward to the result of the consultation. On that basis, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.
Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn

New Clause 14

Amendment of Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990
‘(1) The Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 is amended as follows.
(2) In section 67(2) (publicity for applications affecting setting of listed buildings) after “situated” insert “or online on its own website”.’.—[Mrs. Lait.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
Mrs. Lait: I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.
The new clause would bring the conservation business into the 21st century. It proposes that publicity for applications affecting listed buildings should be online on a website, and if the Minister will accept it we can move on very quickly.
Mr. Richard Benyon (Newbury) (Con): I will take just 30 seconds. I mentioned this earlier. My local authority calculates that the cost of giving publicity to applications is around £63,000 on an annual basis. Multiplied across England and Wales, the change would save £10 million in public money. It would be welcomed by many small local authorities which are strapped for cash at the moment.
Mr. Dhanda: New clause 14 would amend section 67 of the Planning (Listed Building and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 relating to the publicity requirements for planning applications affecting the setting of a listed building. The intention of the clause is to allow local planning authorities to advertise such applications on the internet rather than in local newspapers.
Section 67(1) of that Act provides that the Secretary of State may prescribe publicity requirements for applications for planning permission in cases where the local planning authority considers that the development would affect the setting of a listed building. Regulation 5A of the Planning (Listed Building and Conservation Areas) Regulations 1990 sets out the specific publicity requirements for applications affecting the setting of a listed building.
The local planning authority is required to publish in a local newspaper and on site a notice indicating the nature of the development and naming a place where the application and related documents can be inspected. Where the local planning authority maintains a website for the purpose of advertisement of applications, the notices must also state the address of a website where the application and related documents may be inspected. More and more authorities have these websites, and that is making and will continue to make a difference.
There is therefore no need to change the primary legislation in the way proposed as the publicity requirements for applications affecting the setting of listed buildings could be changed by amending the planning regulations of 1990. We appreciate that, as the hon. Gentleman described, local planning authorities incur costs from advertising planning applications in local newspapers rather than on line. We will consider this issue as part of the review and simplification of the General Development Procedure Order 1995 referred to in the planning White Paper. I hope that the hon. Lady will therefore withdraw the motion.
Mrs. Lait: On the grounds of the Minister’s assurance, I shall be happy to do so. I look forward to reading the consultation document next summer. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.
Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.

New Clause 17

Decisions of Panel and Council (duty in relation to electromagnetic fields)
‘(1) This section applies in relation to an application for an order granting development consent if the decision-maker is a Panel or the Council.
(2) In deciding the application, the Panel or Council must ensure that it does not expose any person to any risk to their health arising from exposure to electric and magnetic fields with a frequency of between 30 and 300 Hertz.’.—[Mr. Benyon.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
Mr. Benyon: I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.
The new clause is fundamental and asks how far we are prepared to take risks with public health resulting from new developments. My name sits in solitary splendour on the new clause and I hope that I can persuade hon. Members on both sides of the Committee to support it. It would impose a duty on planners to consider health risks arising from extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields. I am sure that all members of the Committee know what those are, but if they would like some help, the cross-party inquiry into childhood leukaemia provided a very good definition in its paper published in July 2007. It states:
“Both electric fields and magnetic fields are created by the generation and transmission of electricity. The term EMF is used to describe the mixture of these fields to which people are exposed. Major sources of EMF in our environment include High Voltage Overhead Transmission Lines... electricity substations”.
4.45 pm
There is growing evidence of an association—I use that word carefully—between increased risks of childhood leukaemia and the location of homes and schools. Childhood leukaemia is the most common of all childhood cancers. There are 500 diagnoses a year and, while survival rates are improving, its incidence has doubled since the 1970s. I would be the first to concede that there could be many factors behind that, but there are certain milestones in the evidence that the Committee should consider, and the Bill provides a good vehicle for making radical changes.
In 2005, the Draper report, which was a ground-breaking piece of research funded by the Department of Health, found that children living within 200 m of high-voltage power lines from birth had a 69 per cent. increased risk of developing childhood leukaemia. That is nearly 70 per cent., which is a very high number indeed. In 2005, in response to that report, the Health Protection Agency set up the stakeholder advisory group on extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields, which made recommendations to the Government on practical, precautionary measures.
My new clause seeks, as a precautionary measure, to reduce the public’s exposure to EMF from sources such as high-voltage power lines. In April last year, SAGE reported that a ban on building new homes or schools within a specified distance of high-voltage lines was “the best available option” for obtaining a significant reduction in exposure to EMF from power lines. The cross-party group also defined extremely low frequency EMFs as having a frequency of between 30 and 300 hertz, and that is in the new clause. The Health Protection Agency has since recommended that the attention of local planning departments should be drawn to that evidence.
We are also assisted by a report from the World Health Organisation, which reported on the issue last year and made a number of recommendations. The first of two main recommendations stated:
“When changes to existing ELF sources are contemplated, ELF field reduction should be considered alongside safety, reliability and economic aspects.”
The second recommendation suggested:
“Local authorities should improve planning of ELF EMF-emitting facilities, including better consultation between industry, local government, and citizens when siting major ELF EMF-emitting sources.”
I am sorry to burden the Committee with jargon, but we have a situation where the Government are rightly shaping their opinion on the growing body of evidence. It would be a mistake to have to revisit the issue at a later stage when the Government will have to respond further to that growing body of opinion.
Many of us in the room are parents, and some of us have become parents recently. It is an extremely sensitive issue. It is hard to contemplate the experience of a family when a child is diagnosed with childhood leukaemia—there is not only the suffering of the child, but the fear and misery for the family. I do not want to play on the heart strings of the Committee, but want to look in a completely straightforward and scientific way at the direction in which the science is moving. Concern is felt across the House, and early-day motions 403 and 1784, which address the issue, have received 233 and 146 signatures respectively.
I finish by making two key points. First, the Government want to set national policy statements that the infrastructure planning commission will have to use when making decisions. There is an opportunity to include a recognition of the association between electromagnetic fields and childhood leukaemia, and to make applicants and the IPC recognise those factors in national policy statements. Secondly, it is extremely expensive to re-route a power line, and all relevant stakeholders in the application, including the Government, should address that key issue at the planning stage.
Chris Mole: The hon. Gentleman took great pains to assert that he was going to use the term “association” and yet the usual basis on which we make judgments is cause and effect. Cleary there is no evidence of cause and effect that is demonstrable in statistical terms because there can be relationships between two measurable factors that are not necessarily causally linked but exist in the same location for different reasons. That is why there has to be a science that does not move; new evidence might be gained but there has to be evidence of cause and effect before a decision to legislate is taken.
Mr. Benyon: I refer the hon. Gentleman to the words of the Minister of State, Department of Health, the right hon. Member for Bristol, South (Dawn Primarolo). She is responsible for dealing with that matter. She wrote to the charity Children with Leukaemia, saying:
“This issue obviously needs serious thought and we will be in touch with you once we have shaped our thinking in the light of all the advice that has now emerged.”——[Official Report, Housing and Regeneration Public Bill Committee, 17 January 2008; c. 353.]
It is clear from that that the Government recognise that there is a huge shift in the evidential basis for the assertion that there may be an association. It ill behoves us to say that there is no risk and that we should therefore just forget about it. It is of fundamental importance and massive concern to families up and down the country. The point is that if it can be included in the national policy statements and be dealt with at the planning stage, it does not have to be revisited later, when looking at re-routing, burying power lines or moving an electricity sub-station. There is an entirely practical cost element and an element based on emerging evidence. In addition, the Government are rightly thinking in that direction as well, all of which point towards including the new clause in the Bill.
Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy) (PC): I support the new clause. The hon. Gentleman ought to be congratulated on tabling it and on his arguments in favour of it. It is all very well talking about cause and effect, but surely where public health is concerned precautionary principles should take precedence over such balancing acts. There is a body of scientific opinion in favour of that kind of clause and he is right. If we take a precautionary line, we can avoid further health risks and/or costs.
It is a perfectly proper new clause and should have been in the Bill all along because we all know from our postbags how big a concern it is whenever one of those power lines is proposed anywhere near a school, for example. We are very busy bees at that time dealing with various complaints and so on, all of which could be avoided. I fully support the hon. Gentleman and I hope that the Minister will give the matter further thought and perhaps come back with something that might accommodate people’s concerns.
John Healey: I congratulate the hon. Member for Newbury on both his interest and his ingenuity in tabling the new clause. It is similar to one that was floated in the Bill on the Homes and Communities Agency just over 10 days ago. The serious point—and I am sincere in this—is that he is part of a significant all-party push behind a concern to have a more firm science base, which as my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich says needs to be more clearly established, and to see a suitably stronger Government policy response. He has given that process a significant shove.
The hon. Gentleman talks about the risk from extremely low frequency electric and magnetic fields. I am advised, for ease of reference, to call those fields ELF EMFs, which I will. The hon. Gentleman is right that the main sources of those fields is power lines, but ELF EMFs are also emitted by electricity sub-stations, household wiring and electrical appliances around the house. They are by no means confined to the situation that concerns him.
The hon. Gentleman touched on this, but guidelines are in place. The Health Protection Agency has, with additional advice, looked at how those should be beefed up. It has provided that advice to Government, and, as he said, we are rightly shaping our opinion on that at the moment. We need to do that, but legislating in advance of coming to a conclusion about understanding the extent of the risk and, therefore, what is necessary is a little premature.
One point of comfort to the hon. Gentleman is that we are clear, and ministerial colleagues have made clear, that any precautionary measures that we conclude are going to be required as a result of the concern and the potential risk of ELF EMFs will be implemented at the national level. Therefore, the specific duty that he wants to put on the infrastructure planning commission is probably not the right way to proceed and is probably jumping the gun. However, as I said, he has given the debate an important shove and helped to raise its profile.
Returning to the response that the Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, my hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Wright), gave on the Housing and Regeneration Bill about 10 days ago when the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Hurd) moved a similar new clause, as the junior Minister with responsibility for housing and planning, he agreed to meet the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood. I do not believe that that meeting has taken place yet and the hon. Member for Newbury may wish to join it. That seems a sensible way of bringing those two interests together. He may also wish to know that my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of Health, whom he quoted, is due also to see my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Dr. Stoate), who chaired the all-party parliamentary inquiry into these things, which also gave significant support to the impetus. On that basis, I hope that he does not feel that he needs to press his new clause to a Division. Again, I pay tribute to the way in which he raised the issue in Committee.
Mr. Benyon: I am grateful to the Minister for his remarks. Right from the outset, however, I should say that I should not be congratulated. The wonderful organisation Children with Leukaemia is excellent at bringing to the attention of hon. Members on both sides of the House the devastating affects of that illness, the science that relates to it and the experts’ direction of travel. I take the Minister’s point that there may be other opportunities to raise the subject. My co-conspirator, to whom he referred, is my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood. He was on that cross-party inquiry, chaired by the hon. Member for Dartford. If I can tag along with him to meet the Minister, I will.
I shall consult Children with Leukaemia and see whether there is another way in which we can make progress on this and continue the path of travel towards a consensus, as well as some form of legislative action, which will give great comfort to many people across the country.
Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.
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