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Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, perhaps I may answer the three points which the noble Baroness made. While the conclusion of the consultation may be at slightly different times, the view taken of the outcome of the consultation will not be taken on one area in advance of the other.

As regards the noble Baroness's concern, I hope that on reading Hansard, she will feel that we have not in any way allowed people to use the term "where relevant" as a way of avoiding the issue although no one, including the noble Baroness, would deny that there may be some difficult judgments to be made. But those cannot be made on the basis of denying the relevance of sustainability.

Finally, in relation to the exact language to be used in parliamentary drafting, I should be far happier to take the course which the noble Baroness suggested and write to her on that matter.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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[Amendment No. 6 not moved.]

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 7:

Page 3, line 27, at end insert (", and
( ) have regard to regional planning guidance for its area").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, with this amendment, we return to the issue of regional planning guidance and its relationship with the strategies of the various agencies.

In Committee, when we debated this matter on an amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, the Minister referred us to the draft guidance which was to be published on the strategies. She made the point that the RDAs must work with the regional planning body but that the new institutions which will create the regional planning guidance do not exist as yet and that their relationships with the RDAs will have to evolve.

I accept that, but a distinction needs to be made between the bodies which are responsible for regional planning guidance and their product; in other words, the guidance. The development of the bodies creating the guidance does not preclude dealing now with the relationship between the guidance and the agencies' strategies.

The Minister said:

    "Like any other body, an RDA will be expected to work within the framework"--
by that he meant the framework of the regional planning guidance and development plans--

    "This is not at issue".--[Official Report, 7/10/98; col. 521.]
However, he then went on to describe what seemed to be quite a circular relationship.

We now have the draft guidance on the strategies which, at paragraph 23, refers to the complementality and mutual responsiveness of regional planning guidance and the agencies' strategies. Yet, it states that,

    "the proposals in regional planning guidance for the provision of regionally or sub-regionally significant housing, transport and other infrastructure should have regard to the agency's strategy".
In other words, there is a sentence in there which makes regional planning guidance subsidiary to the agencies' strategies.

I believe that either regional planning guidance on the one hand or the RDAs' strategies on the other must be paramount. That is not to suggest that in the development of regional planning guidance, the body responsible for it would not have regard to the agencies' own developing strategies. Indeed, I should expect a close, detailed and careful dialogue between the two organisations. But when push comes to shove, which is paramount? Which is to govern?

I do not suggest that there is any lack of importance in the work to be carried out by the RDAs but I believe strongly that they should be subject to the same planning framework as everybody else. The creation of regional planning guidance is often a pretty tortuous process. That is because of the work that goes on to ensure a dialogue with all interested parties. There is a whole area which I shall not develop at this point, but I have in

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mind the democratic aspects of the formation of regional planning guidance and, indeed, the whole consultation process.

Therefore, while I accept and support the role that regional planning guidance will have in helping to achieve an urban renaissance by reconciling rural and urban interests, and so on, it seems to me that RDAs should work with the grain within the framework of the planning guidance of their own regions and not be put in a position where that can be set aside or ignored. I beg to move.

6 p.m.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, I do not wish to repeat the points made by my noble friend, but this is a subject about which that I feel most strongly in connection with all the amendments. That is partly because we have now reached a time when it is most important that the public should receive the right messages as regards what is happening in this respect. Planning guidance that is on the table now has taken literally years to develop and will be effective for years into the future. It will send the wrong message at the start of the establishment of the development agencies if they were able in any way to disregard or not pay very full attention to a process in which dozens of local authorities have participated. Indeed, hundreds of meetings have taken place in various areas and that work has finally come together in the form of planning guidance. We should not be so cavalier as not to take that fully into account.

We frequently hear about how we must consult members of the public and the latter often turn out on a rainy night to voice their opinions. Indeed, there are few subjects that they turn out for so strongly than matters concerning planning for their area, especially when it comes to housing development and transport. Therefore, if we wish to send the correct message to them about how development agencies will be responsive to their regions, this amendment will prove to be particularly important. At a time when we are all promoting the message that we will involve and consult members of the public and act upon that consultation, I should like to think, like my noble friend, that for the forthcoming years the relationship between the development agencies and the regional chamber will be a good one. We have conceded that that is not defined at present but, as we have a lack of definition, I believe that we need to be very clear about the role of planning guidance.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I totally agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, that we do not want to send the wrong message in this respect. Whatever I said in Committee and, indeed, what I will say now is not intended to cut across that at all. We should make clear that the current position, whereby regional planning guidance provides the land-use planning framework for the regions, will not be changed by the creation of regional development agencies. RDAs will, like any other body, work within the land-use framework provided by RPG and local authority development plans. RDAs will, like anyone else, be required to seek planning permission from local authorities in the normal

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way. Any proposals that they make will need to be consistent with RPG and local development plans; otherwise they will be subject to the normal arrangements for applications from anyone which depart from the development plans. Similarly, in formulating their regional strategies, RDAs will have to have regard to the strategic planning context for the region as set out in RPG.

That is the position for all organisations which are making plans with land use implications. That is why we did not think it necessary to put a provision on the face of the Bill in the manner suggested by the amendment. The amendment also raises a slight legal difficulty by not limiting the reference to regional planning guidance to that issued by the Secretary of State.

As I said in Committee, this is an organically developing process. Noble Lords will undoubtedly be aware that RPGs are currently being reviewed in most regions. The arrangements for producing RPGs themselves are under review in order to improve regional accountability. My honourable friend Dick Caborn, the Minister for Regions, Regeneration and Planning, has consulted on proposals which are intended to provide a greater input from the regional planning body into RPG and to bring some broader considerations into land-use planning. Thus, while under the previous arrangements draft RPG was prepared by government for consultation in the region, in future it is intended that the regional planning body will prepare draft RPG and be responsible for consulting within its region. Such a draft RPG will then be submitted to the Secretary of State, for him to issue if he is content with it following a public examination in front of an independent panel.

Therefore, in practice, revised regional planning guidance will be reviewed and developed more in parallel with RDAs formulating their strategies. As these strategic documents develop, I agree that the relationship between the various bodies producing them is of the highest importance. The draft guidance on the strategies of RDAs that has been issued for consultation, and to which the noble Baroness referred, seeks to outline the relationship between RPG and RDAs' strategies against that background to make it clear that the RPG and the local development plans provide the land-use planning framework for the RDAs. However, that will also recognise that the review of RPG and the strategies of RDAs will be an iterative process which will require constructive and collaborative working and on-going dialogue. Thus, in developing its strategy, the RDA will need to have regard to RPG, and to the developing thinking of the regional planning body, as it reviews the planning guidance. By the same token, the regional planning body, in reviewing RPG, will need to be responsive to the developing thinking of the RDA on its regional strategy.

Moreover, because this is an iterative process it would not be appropriate to seek to impose a hierarchical relationship between the RDAs and the regional planning bodies. Their work has different purposes. The RDAs will certainly have to observe the planning procedures but the focus of the two strategies will be

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different. Inevitably there will be issues of mutual interest for those who are drawing up both strategies, but the focus of each strategy will be different.

However, having read the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, I looked again at the wording in the draft guidance on the RDAs' strategies which has been issued since the Committee stage. I think that I would accept that the drafting of the relevant sections may not be as felicitous as all that and may not bring out as clearly as it might the relationship that we intend. Whatever the result of the debate on this particular amendment, I can assure the noble Baroness that I shall draw these comments to the attention of my honourable friend the Minister for Regions, Regeneration and Planning so that he can take that into account in terms of the final version of that guidance. In the light of my assurances and the slightly complicated developing situation, I urge the Baroness not to press the amendment.

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