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Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, I support the amendment. My noble friend Lord Jenkin made it clear that he spoke mainly about the City of London. I believe that the problem is bigger than that and involves most of central London and, increasingly, areas like Southwark which will undergo a very dramatic change in a short time. Wherever and whenever this situation exists, the essential point of the amendment is that the building proposed is not to be any larger than the previous one. Everyone feels strongly if suddenly a building doubles in size, which of course has strategic importance. My noble friend makes a very relevant point. Anything that holds up the process for an abnormally long time, which I believe may happen, can be very damaging. I support the amendment.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, with the leave of the House, I speak first to Amendment No. 543YA. It arises from a government commitment during Committee stage to consider an amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith.
We have always made clear that the mayor will be liable to the costs of holding an appeal inquiry and the costs of other parties where he or she has directed a refusal of planning permission unreasonably. We have taken the power in Clause 303(9) to do so by modifying the relevant provisions of the Town and Country Planning Act.
However, the noble Lord was concerned that the mayor might be able to evade costs by not actually appearing at an inquiry and considered that the provisions should be on the face of the Bill. We have accepted the noble Lord's arguments and the amendment ensures that. I trust that on this occasion I can look forward to his support on that amendment.
I turn now to the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin. The requirement for the mayor to be consulted on a small number of the most significant development proposals, coupled with the fall-back power to direct refusal, is an important element in ensuring that the strategic dimension is taken into account in the consideration of planning applications, which otherwise are entirely a matter for the boroughs.
This in no sense re-establishes a two-tier system or a second-guessing operation of the kind described by the noble Lord which occurred on occasion during the era of the GLC. We have indicated our intention to ensure that the applications to be notified to the mayor are limited and clearly defined, using clear numerical definitions to achieve that. That will help bring certainty for boroughs, developers and others, and will
These arrangements will give the mayor the ability to advise boroughs on the strategic aspects of a planning application. In giving that advice, the scale and nature of any existing development would clearly be something for the mayor to take into account.
In response to the noble Lord's request for some advice on the secondary legislation and guidance which we shall issue under this clause, we shall be publishing shortly for consultation draft statutory instruments and a draft circular that will govern the mayor's use of the power of direction. These arrangements will ensure that the mayor cannot unduly delay a decision on a planning application, a point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner. As we have already indicated--I think in the statement by my colleague Nick Raynsford--the time during which the mayor can use the power of direction will be limited to 14 days once the local authority has resolved to grant planning permission.
The mayor will have to give clear reasons, based on strategic grounds, for the use of a direction. I know that the noble Lord, and others outside this House, have been particularly concerned about the City of London. I am confident that the numbers will be much smaller than those he quotes. We recognise the importance of the City. That is why the criteria for notifying the mayor of applications within the City will, quite rightly, be higher than elsewhere in the capital. Indeed, we amended quite substantially the thresholds in our original consultation paper in the autumn of last year in the light of similar comments received.
From the response to the consultation paper from the City, our calculations indicate that in 1997 only 15 applications in the City would have had been referable under the original proposals for size thresholds; and with the amended thresholds just nine of the City's applications would have been caught by the revised proposals we announced in March. There is something odd about the arithmetic here because that is out of a total of over 1,000 planning applications in the City in 1997. By my calculations, that is around 1 per cent, not the 10 per cent referred to by the noble Lord. The provisions for the City seem limited to very major applications. I appreciate the noble Lord's point about no change in use. However, an application of that size may well have the kind of features which need to be taken into account. If it is straightforward, then the procedure requires the mayor to deal with it very quickly; and in most cases, therefore, that would be nodded through.
As regards London as a whole, we estimate that the mayor will need to be consulted over about 150 to 250 applications, as the noble Lord said. Spread across London, where we are talking about 70,000 applications in total, those are very few indeed. I emphasise that I refer to consultation. It does not mean that the mayor will intervene. The mayor may well intervene in far fewer cases than that implies.
We need to be clear about the figures and the potential. I accept that there will be some major developments in the City which will have to go through this process. The noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, may be right that there will be some other large developments. The use in the development in Southwark to which she referred would be substantially greater than the current use. If the figures rose above the threshold, it is right that the mayor should have the opportunity to intervene.
I hope that we are not conveying to noble Lords that we wish to compromise the ability of the City or other areas--I am very much in favour of the regeneration of the London borough of Southwark--to maintain the City's important contribution and to build and improve on the newly revived parts of the London borough of Southwark and elsewhere. The arrangements that we are putting in place do not inhibit any of that development but ensure that the developments across London as a whole fit together and do not compromise those strategic priorities.
The detailed arrangements which we intend to put into place through secondary legislation and guidance will contain sufficient safeguards. I hope, therefore, that the noble Lord will not pursue the matter today. I hope that when he sees the consultation document and the legislation arising from it he will recognise that his anxieties have been met.
Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, before the conclusion of the debate, perhaps I may say that I am grateful to the Minister for picking up the point we raised earlier on the costs of planning inquiries. We seem now to have a satisfactory answer for which I thank the Minister.
Lord Jenkin of Roding: My Lords, I shall not bandy figures with the Minister. I have a calculation which will justify the figures I used. He probably has one. But at this hour and with more of the Bill to deal with that would be a waste of time.
I am grateful to him for having acknowledged that there is concern here. If his figures are right, much of that concern should be met. Given the structure of this part of the Bill, it is of course inevitably right that the mayor should have the power to be consulted on developments which would have truly strategic significance. Part of the case made by the City and others is that merely replacing an old outdated building with a modern building with all the necessary infrastructure for modern communications, and so on, but with no increase in the size and the floor area, does not amount to a strategic development. During Committee stage I said that perhaps the increase should be the trigger which would provoke a reference to the mayor. I understand that the Government have not accepted that point.
If the guidance can provide that only if the new building is of real strategic significance to the mayor's overall plan for London as a whole would he seek to call it in, I think that much of the anxiety would be removed.
However, regulations and guidance are the next stage. As I indicated, I do not intend to take the opinion of the House. But I would not wish the Minister to be under any doubt that the matter is regarded as of grave seriousness by those concerned with the development process. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
After Clause 303, insert the following new clause--