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Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer moved Amendment No. 372C:

Page 141, line 31, at end insert--
("( ) The spatial development strategy shall include a strategic environmental appraisal of its policies and proposals.")

The noble Baroness said: I rise to move this amendment, which is tabled in the names of my noble friends. The amendment seeks to ensure that the SDS,

27 Jul 1999 : Column 1451

It is possible that the Government currently feel that the state of the environment report will adequately cover the effect that the SDS would have on the environment. However, we certainly do not believe this to be the case. I think that it has become more widely recognised in recent years that it is important to have environmental appraisals that, in current jargon, ensure an iterative process. As one is bringing in long-term plans, it is important that there should be a very specific requirement as regards what their environmental impact will be. That is very different from the state of the environment report; indeed, I believe that the two functions differ widely.

The SDS will be concerned with many issues, such as the impact on economic development and how it will feel to live and work in the city. However, that does not automatically mean that the sort of things that an environmental impact scheme assessment would take into account would be covered, unless there is a specific requirement for such an assessment to take place. I am pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, has obviously had a very similar thought. The large schemes developed in recent times, for which there has been a requirement for an environmental impact assessment, have allowed people to take a different view of what the planning system as a whole is supposed to achieve.

I hope that it will not be felt that the state of the environment report will fulfil this function, because it most certainly will not. Without this amendment, I feel that the environmental appraisal part of the policy and the proposals will be totally lacking. I beg to move.

Lord Clinton-Davis: It appears that there is an element here of dotting "i"s that have been heavily dotted and crossing "t"s that have been heavily crossed. I should have thought that all this is subsumed in what is already provided for in the Bill. I assume therefore that what is proposed is otiose. If I am wrong about that my noble friend will, of course, correct me.

Lord Dixon-Smith: Amendments Nos. 380 and 381A which stand in my name are grouped with Amendment No. 372C. It remains to be seen whether they are otiose. In any event that is a matter of opinion. However, what is certain is that however perfect the Bill may be by the time this Chamber has finished with it, it will still not be perfect. That may also be a matter of opinion. I do not intend to repeat what has been said because the two amendments I have mentioned which stand in my name are aimed at precisely the same point as the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, has proposed.

However, there are two points which are worth making. First, in Standing Committee in the Commons the Government said that they expected the mayor to carry out a full appraisal of the environmental impact of the spatial development strategy. However, for the life of me I cannot see why we should be afraid of spelling that out on the face of the Bill. I do not think that there is any disagreement between us on the matter.

Secondly, the Government have also proposed introducing environmental appraisal into regional planning guidance. Those are two strong reasons for

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supporting the suggestion that has been made. I do not know which amendment is superior or whether any of them are adequate for the purpose that is intended. However, I would be happy to be guided by the Minister if he can produce a better formulation. I await his reply with interest.

Baroness Hamwee: The noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, talked about dotting "i"s and crossing "t"s. However, it has to be said that this is a fairly dotty Bill already. The noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, in arguing for these amendments or something similar, mentioned the Government's proposals on sustainability appraisals. The Minister in another place argued that the Government could not be specific about a sustainability appraisal because as yet,

    "there is no national guidance on what such an appraisal might comprise or on how it should be conducted".

That seems to me to be remarkably unambitious for London. As and when national guidance is in place the mayor will no doubt have to have regard to it. However, I believe that that should not hinder the substance of what happens in London.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: Amendments Nos. 372C, 380 and 381A would require an environmental appraisal of the policies and proposals of the spatial development strategy during its preparation.

It is the Government's intention that the mayor should carry out a full appraisal of the environmental impacts of the emerging SDS, as was recognised by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. However, I say to the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, that this would form only one element within a wider sustainability appraisal which also considered the economic and social impacts of the policies and proposals of the SDS. I say again to the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, that this is in line with the approach now proposed for the new forms of regional planning guidance as set out in draft Planning Policy Guidance Note 11 published for consultation a few months ago.

Consultants have recently reported to the department on the feasibility of carrying out a sustainability appraisal in this context and how it might be undertaken. We intend to embrace the findings of this emerging work in our guidance to the mayor on the SDS on which we shall consult later this year.

This is a new and emerging concept and one which we therefore feel is not best dealt with on the face of the Bill. We believe that the appropriate way forward would be to make reference to the need for a sustainability appraisal--which includes an assessment of environmental impacts--in non-statutory guidance on the SDS. This would allow the guidance to be revised and refined as we develop this new method of assessment. I hope that these assurances will enable noble Lords to withdraw their amendments.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: I thank the Minister for that reply. I am glad that the Government appear to have recognised that this is an important area of emerging work and that consultants are assessing the feasibility of carrying out a sustainability appraisal and

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how it might be undertaken. I shall read her comments with care. In the meantime I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 264 agreed to.

Clause 265 [Public participation]:

[Amendment No. 373 not moved.]

[Amendment No. 373A had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

[Amendment No. 374 not moved.]

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 375:

Page 141, line 35, leave out ("and")

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 375 I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 376 and 377 which are grouped with it and which also stand in my name.

The current text of the Bill obliges the mayor to consult the assembly and the functional bodies on the first draft of the spatial development strategy. That is absolutely fine. The amendment extends this initial consultation. We believe that the mayor should consult the London boroughs and the relevant representative bodies at that stage. The Association of London Government is concerned that the boroughs are included only in the second stage of the process and yet the boroughs will be vital to the spatial development strategy. Although in some ways it will form a new dimension for London, it will also comprise their unitary development plans. The amendment seeks to involve the boroughs and the functional bodies at the first stage. One thus would stand a greater chance of bringing all these plans together in a unified way at the earliest possible moment. This should not impose any delay. The boroughs and other consultees can be subject to exactly the same time limits as the assembly. Therefore no problem should arise in that regard.

The Minister responsible for London recognised in the Commons that any sensible mayor is likely to consult the boroughs and others from the outset. Once again I suspect that there is no disagreement between us on this matter, except that we believe that it would be useful to have this provision on the face of the Bill. I have an awful suspicion that the Minister will tell me that I am wrong in that respect. However, that is fairly normal. I beg to move.

Baroness Hamwee: Amendment No. 377A which stands in my name is grouped with the amendments we are discussing. I support what the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, has said as my amendment makes the same point in part. I propose that the bodies and persons who are listed in Clause 27(2) of the Bill should be consulted at this stage. The spatial development strategy is excluded in the early part of the Bill under Clause 33 because of the rather different approach to consultation and some other matters. The spatial development strategy will be the poorer if the mayor is not allowed to consult and to learn from the experience of the boroughs in the preparation of development plans. The

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mayor should set a good example by drawing people into the process of building planning--not least in order to avoid at a later stage too many questions along the lines of, "How on earth did that happen?". We would like to see on the face of the Bill a greater provision for consultation.

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