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Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, we also have Amendment No. 59 in the group. It approaches the matter in a slightly different way, but they have the same objectives. The amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, provides for a statement of community interest to be included in the regional spatial strategy. We suggest that a statement of community involvement and consultationthe first of the subsectionsis part of the process in moving towards a regional spatial strategy. But the thrust is much the same.
At a regional level I acknowledge it is more difficult to ensure that all necessary views are collected, but that does not mean that there is no responsibility to do so. I prefer to think of such matters in terms of participation, because planning is one of the activities of governance. Like other such activities it requires public trust, credibility and support. The "experts" cannot know it all. Indeed, sustainable development and sustainability are unachievable without public involvement, because changes of attitude and behaviour are fundamental to sustainability. We all need to think of "we" and "our" responsibilities, not "they". It all takes time and effort, but that is well spent.
The draft consultation on PPS 11 includes an annex on community involvement. I hope that the Government are open to that. I am sure they are, because all Ministers know that in any subject the more participation from interested people, the better the outcome. If the Government support that approach then why not put it on the face of the Bill?
Lord Judd: One can ponder on whether the amendments are helpful or not in their precise wording, but I hope that in responding to them my noble friend will not dismiss out of hand the thinking behind them. If one is to make a success of this new strategic approach, and I want to see the policy succeed, it is essential that the maximum good will is generated among those who carry the relevant responsibilities.
We all know how life develops in the public sphere. If people are not involved, there is a tendency for energy, commitment and professionalism to go into the negative rejectionist mode, instead of endorsing
In saying that, I should declare an interest. I am an active vice-president of the Council for National Parks and a member of the north-west regional committee of the National Trust. I am also a supporter of various environmental agencies such as CPRE. Therefore, I hopenot because of my involvement in those agencies but because of the argument I put forwardthat my noble friend will be able to make reassuring comments in relation to these amendments.
Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: I was not present at Second Reading of the Bill, but I believe that no one quoted that memorable observation of the Deputy Prime Minister in the early stages of the previous Parliament in the context of the decision relating to Stevenage. In effect, he said of the administration that the green belt was the achievement of a Labour government and that they proposed to build on it.
I am the first to acknowledge that that should not be taken literally, but its spirit is bound to have aroused the suspicions of the noble Earl, Lord Russell, and the Minister must allow for us being vigilant during the passage of this Bill.
My suspicions are prompted by a further consideration. I was a veteran of the Commons Committee stage of the Greater London Authority Bill, as I told the Minister yesterday. The Mayor was responsible for ensuring the setting out of a large number of strategies. During the deliberations, I asked Glenda Jackson, who was at that stage leading for the Government, what would happen if the strategies were in conflict with each other. She memorably replied that they could not be because the Bill prevented them from being so. That did not seem to me to be a certain consequence of the relationship between human beings and legislation. I am wholly in support of the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Hanningfield to ensure a degree of restraint and contribution by electors within the regions concerned if the Bill were to become law.
Lord Plumb: I support my noble friend's amendment for many reasons. I have not today heard anyone refer to the areas of outstanding natural beauty. Those areas and their representatives are many. I declare an interest as president of the Cotswolds AONB and there are 17 local authority members. In addition, some 40 park wardens, all voluntary, work successfully in the areas in monitoring the activities there and the people who wish to visit such a wonderful part of the world. Those people need to be consulted because they are on the ground and are concerned.
I am concerned that on reading the Bill there appears to be some superimposing of yet another tier to govern the existing bodies. The areas of outstanding natural beauty, and that in which I have an interest, have with a good deal of support been built up over a short time. I remember saying at our first meeting, over which I was presiding, that it was remarkable that the representatives of some 17 local authorities were all in agreement.
They were in agreement on a matter of concern to them all and they are the people who really matter. Adding words to the Bill which would make it clear that full consultation must take place would be effective and would demonstrate to those concerned that they are to be consulted and involved.
Lord Bridges: As the noble Lord referred to areas of outstanding natural beauty, perhaps I may draw to his attention my Amendment No. 36 and three others which address the issue. I hope he will be able to support me on them.
Lord Rooker: The noble Lord, Lord Brooke, spoke of vigilance. If I were on the Back Benches, I would be watching myself here very carefully! That may be a Spoonerism, but I agree with him. There is no point of disagreement whatever. Furthermore, there is no departure between us on our aims. The Bill puts forward proposals for meeting those, together with background material, but there is no question that the involvement of the communities means that better quality decisions are reached. That is fundamental.
I shall deal with Amendments Nos. 2 and 59 together. I agree with all noble Lords that those with an interest in what the revised regional spatial strategy will look like should be consulted while it is being prepared. The regional planning body should from the very beginning plan for community involvement throughout the process. Perhaps the point of difference is how much we put on the face of the Bill and what is put in regulations and guidance. In terms of principle and practicality, there is no difference between us.
Baroness Hanham: I thank the Minister for giving way. He said that the regional planning bodies would be responsible for preparing the regional spatial strategy. Will he point me to the place where that is stated in the Bill?
Lord Rooker: Someone will give me a note and I will then answer the noble Baroness's question. It is not relevant to the point I am about to make, but it is a relevant point overall. There is a procedure which we explained yesterday to noble Lords who attended the meeting with me at which officials were present to answer some of the technical issues. I made it clear that that will happen, but at some point today I will explain the connection and how one will become the other. The answer is fairly straightforward, but I do not want to get it wrong off the top of my head.
Perhaps I may remind the House of our existing proposals for community involvement. In addition to the duty we are placing on the regional planning body to seek advice from counties and other authorities with strategic planning expertise in Clause 4, we are placing extensive statutory duties on the regional planning
Lord Hanningfield: Perhaps I may pose a question. Why are the Government putting on the face of the Bill a statutory duty for local authorities, district councils and so forth but not for the regional planning bodies? If the duty should be in the Bill for one section, why not for the other? That seems logical.
Lord Rooker: That is the point that I shall explain. We do not disagree with the principle or practicality of the consultation. The question relates to what is in the Bill as opposed to how it comes about in a statutory way. I shall explain that and, because it is important for those outside who watch our proceedings, I shall stick fairly closely to the briefing. Therefore, I shall go back and start that paragraph again.
Under the draft regulations to Part 1 of the Bill, the regional planning body will have a duty to consult certain bodies while preparing the draft revision of the regional spatial strategy. To the extent that the regional planning body considers that it is affected by the revision, the RPB must consult a specific list of bodiesfor example, county councils in or adjoining the region, local planning authorities in or adjoining the region, regional planning bodies for adjoining regions, and regional development agencies for the region and adjoining ones.
To the extent that it considers it appropriate to do so, at this stage the regional planning body must also consult organisations that represent the interests of particular groups; for example, voluntary sector bodiesexactly as the noble Lord, Lord Plumb, statedethnic minority communities or, indeed, businesses.
When the regional planning body publishes the draft revision of the regional spatial strategy, it must consult both the bodies that it has consulted during the preparation of the draft and any other bodies and persons which it thinks may wish to make representations.
The draft planning policy statement on regional planningPPS11sets out what that consultation should and could look like as initial ideas and options are turned into firm proposals. It will involve more than sending out draft documents and collating responses. We expect the counties and other bodies with strategic planning expertise to be closely involved or to take the lead on sub-regional studies or other work that will underpin the draft revision of the regional spatial strategy.
To involve the community more widely, planning policy statement 11 suggests that the regional planning body holds workshops or seminars across topics and themes in the review. Once the regional planning body has identified a preliminary list of issues for the revision, it should hold a one-day public conference to seek agreement that the issues identified are the right ones. It should consider establishing a group, chaired and comprised of people from outside the regional planning body and local authorities to be consulted at key milestones as the draft regional spatial strategy emerges.
The regional planning body should plan for consultation and community involvement from the very beginning. PPS11 requires the regional planning body, as part of its project plan for the regional spatial strategy revision, to set out how it will involve the community throughout. That involvement needs to be documented. Draft regulations place a duty on the regional planning body to submit to the Secretary of State, at the same time as the draft revision of the regional spatial strategy, a statement setting out how it has consulted stakeholders in the revision process and how the issues raised have been addressed in the draft revision document. That can be compared with what it said it would do in the project plan.
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