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Baroness O'Cathain: I support my noble friend Lord Jenkin of Roding on this matter. The City of London is an important international financial centre and needs to be on an even keel with other financial centres in terms of being able to provide new premises, or to extend premises, or to refurbish premises within the same kind of timescale that applies in cities such as Frankfurt. I am told that the Corporation of London is concerned that if the amendment which refers to the 30,000 square metres is not carried, a serious delay will arise which could militate against the City of London retaining its pre-eminent position as leader in the area of financial services.
Lord Whitty: I understand some of the concerns in the City and other places to which the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, and the noble Baroness have referred. However, we are referring to Clause 264 and it seems to me that we are in danger of confusing what can be regarded as important in terms of the development of the strategy with the thresholds which can be regarded as strategic in terms of planning applications. This clause concerns the development strategy. Most of the issues the noble Lord addressed will not arise until we reach Clause 275 or thereabouts.
The strategy will require the mayor to look at the totality of London and to propose various strategic developments around London, some of which may be of a certain size and some of which may be of a smaller size but have strategic importance. All of the amendments as drafted seek to place some limitation on what the mayor can deem strategically important. One amendment, for example, relates to instances where the mayor cannot propose developments which do not directly affect other boroughs. It may well be that, in the strategic development context, the mayor would wish to establish, or arrange to be established, for example, a major conference centre, sports centre or even a railway station, the effects of which may not be easily assignable to more than one borough but would be quite important from a strategic point of view. It would therefore be unnecessary to try to constrain his ability to include that within the strategy.
Of course, the mayor should not interfere with matters that are best left at borough level. I totally agree with the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, that we do not want to reintroduce a two-tier planning structure except for very important planning applications. But here we are talking about a development strategy in a more general sense.
Lord Whitty: I apologise. I am misreading the clauses. In whoever's name it is, the amendment would fetter the mayor's ability to make proper and considered plans for London's future needs. The amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis concerned the River Thames. There was a general consensus that the mayor should be able to replicate what now exists in the strategic planning guidance for the Thames, which is currently the Secretary of State's publication. But the Thames is not homogenous in its character and the implications of development vary from place to place. It is therefore necessary for the spatial development strategy to reflect the power to deal differently with different parts of London. It would not therefore be appropriate to put this constraint on the mayor in that respect.
I have referred to Amendment No. 368B in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin. It is not appropriate here, but it would impose a restriction on the clause. Its implication is that the mayor could not, in relation to the City of London specifically, designate smaller developments as part of the strategic plan. Again, that is an unnecessary constraint. The argument about the threshold on planning applications probably comes later.
Lord Jenkin of Roding: Perhaps the Minister will give way. I entirely take his point that this matter might have been raised. I do not suggest that in the end this will be an amendment to the Bill. The amendment is a peg on which to hang this request. Perhaps, even at this late hour, the Minister will respond to the request rather than to the idea that this might be an amendment to this clause of the Bill. I accept his point, but the issue is a very real one which I hope he can address.
Lord Whitty: It may well be, and I am aware of that concern. In so far as we are dealing with amendments to particular clauses, it does not seem appropriate that I should go into detail in replying to this point. One has to determine a threshold above which matters automatically come within the planning purview of the mayor. Following the consultation--during the course of which various changes were made--it was felt that these were the appropriate thresholds. I could no doubt go into some lengthy correspondence with the noble Lord on this point. But in so far as we are trying to amend a clause of the Bill, I do not think I wish to detain Members of the Committee further, particularly as the noble Baroness has tabled an entirely different form of amendment which does pertain to the Bill, although I regard it as inappropriate. I understand that we may well return to this matter when we reach the planning process aspects of the Bill, possibly at a more appropriate time of day.
Turning to Amendment No. 368A tabled by the noble Baroness, Clause 264(5) already ensures that the spatial development strategy has to deal only with matters that are strategic. It does, however, imply that the mayor himself must make a judgment as to what is strategic; and while he has some discretion in making that judgment, it is of course the case that his judgment is reviewable in the courts.
The noble Baroness's amendment seeks to transfer the decision on what is strategic in a type of appeals process to the panel holding the examination in public. That is not right in principle, but it would also fundamentally change the role of the EIP panel. Under the Bill, the panel reports to the mayor. It does not take binding decisions, just as under planning legislation, generally speaking, inspectors or chairs of the examination in public would report to local authorities which take final decisions on the contents of their development plans. Even if we wished to transform that panel into an appeals and decision-making body over the mayor's own decisions, it would completely change the nature of the relationship and the panel as envisaged here. Given that explanation, I hope that the noble Baroness will not press her amendment.
I am sorry that my response has been slightly confused. A number of different points were raised. We shall no doubt return to some of them later. I hope that the noble Lord will not press the amendment--especially as it is now one minute past midnight.
Lord Jenkin of Roding: Before my noble friend withdraws his amendment, perhaps I may press the Minister once more on the particular issue of the criterion as regards the size of the buildings in the City of London. Is he prepared to consider something along the lines that I have suggested? I recognise that this should perhaps have been in a later clause, for which I apologise. However, it is a matter of huge importance to the future of the City. Perhaps even at this late hour, the Minister would be prepared to say that his door is open and he will continue to discuss the matter with the people involved.
Lord Whitty: I am always open to representations from the noble Lord and others. However, the decisions that have been made so far on this and on the consultation which has already been widely pursued throughout London have led the Minister for London to determine that these are the appropriate thresholds. Therefore, while during the progress of the Bill here and elsewhere we are prepared to consider further representations, at this point the Government are determined that the thresholds they set at the end of the consultation are the appropriate thresholds.
Baroness Hamwee: When I was speaking to my Amendment No. 368A I accepted that the role of those undertaking the examination in public was not the same as that of an inspector at an inquiry. Nevertheless, I ask the Minister to confirm that the examiners, those conducting the examination in public, would be entitled, in advising the mayor, to make comments on whether certain parts of the proposed strategy fall short of being strategic.
Lord Dixon-Smith: I thank the Minister for his reply which indicated sufficient reasons why I should be brief and we should end our debate this evening. The Minister raised points of concern, particularly as to the planning process which will cause me some anxiety, although I shall have the opportunity to raise them again since I have tabled other amendments which will deal with them. For example, a decision to put some major installation in a specific borough would be likely to have strategic implications for the whole of London. It may be a reasonable decision to take, but it could cause acute difficulty in the borough. The borough's unitary development plan may have been through the approval process. Nevertheless, it has to conform to the mayor's special development strategy and therefore it would require amendment after it had been examined in public. That would create a procedural hiatus. However, we can return to the matter.
The debate has gone on for a considerable time, but we have shown that a number of important issues lie behind the debate, even if it was not wholly appropriately placed in the Bill. Those issues are matters to which we will undoubtedly have to return at a later stage. For tonight, that is sufficient. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
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