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Lord Rooker: The declaration of interests in this place has always been a mystery to me. They are peculiar and I do not see why they have to be declared. I do not think that one has to apologise in this place for being a member of a local authority, but an apology is almost what a declaration of interest amounts to here. It has nothing to do with the Bill.

I have had a note that might help the noble Baroness. If there are any lacunas we will consider them. There will be nothing in the regional spatial strategy that is not in the regional planning guidance, but some parts of the existing regional planning guidance will not become the regional spatial strategy. It will be that way round. I am not sure about the mechanism for transferring one to the other; it may just be a direction. We will clear up those issues during the Bill's passage.

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Lord Avebury: The Minister said that the existing regional planning guidance becomes the RSS, except for those parts that they decide to strike out. Could that be embodied in Clause 1(2)? Instead of giving the Secretary of State carte blanche to implement whatever policies he likes in the RSS, it could limit him to such of those policies as are embodied in the regional planning guidance at the moment when the Bill comes into effect, or something similar.

Lord Rooker: That sounds okay, but I think that my right honourable friends might have a problem with that, simply because the process of achieving regional planning guidance is one where there is a prescribed set of procedures which the Secretary of State has to ensure that he follows. So, I do not think that that will be a runner. However, it is a suggestion made in Committee and we shall consider it.

Baroness Hamwee: Before the noble Lord responds on his amendment, perhaps I should remind my noble friends, if no one else, of the amendment to which the Committee agreed a few moments ago. I for one will not roll over, accept this and say, "We know that this will be undone at the other end when the Bill goes back there". Clearly, there are knock-on effects as to who creates the regional spatial strategy, which, as I have said before, for reasons of practicality have not been addressed in all our amendments.

Perhaps I may add briefly to what has been said. If there is no reference on the face of the Bill to a statement of community involvement as regards the regional spatial strategy but there is, and I welcome it, as regards local development, it must be implicit that less weight is attached to it—even though it is spelt out at 15-page length in guidance—if it does not appear in primary legislation.

Lord Hanningfield: As regards the amendment I moved a few moments ago and the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, I am grateful to the Minister for the way in which he pointed out what might be in secondary legislation and for going through all the consultees, and so forth.

The fact that this is not on the face of the Bill is worrying. When we refer to regional spatial strategies, often we are referring to numbers of houses within a community. The Minister knows very well—earlier, he declared my interest as leader of Essex County Council rather than me having to do that—that I am involved in two particular areas: the M11 corridor and the Thames Gateway, where considerable amounts of housing and infrastructure development are planned. To say that the region would not consult and involve those communities in that area—my noble friend referred in the earlier debate to his involvement in a discussion on development in the region—is disappointing. We are not talking about many words here. To repeat what was said by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, if it is included for local authorities why not for the regional spatial strategy?

We have heard what the Minister said and we shall read and consider it. But this is an issue to which we might have to return. However, I hope that the

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Minister will think again and include these few words in the Bill. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Greaves moved Amendment No. 3:


    Page 1, line 6, at end insert—


"( ) The RSS shall consist of—
(a) a concise strategic framework for the spatial dimension of Government policies in delivering and maintaining sustainable economies, communities and environment in that region, including other regional strategies and programmes that have a bearing on the use of land such as (but not limited to) the regional economic strategy, the regional housing strategy and the regional cultural strategy;
(b) the regional transport strategy;
(c) policy and general proposals in respect of the development and other use of land in that region (including measures for the improvement of the physical environment and the management of traffic); and
(d) such other matters as may be prescribed."

The noble Lord said: The subject of Amendment No. 3 has been trespassed upon in a debate on the previous grouping. The same question arises as to what should be on the face of the Bill and what we should leave unsaid and assume will come out all right in the wash when all the guidance, instruments, and so forth are produced.

Regional spatial strategy is a relatively new phrase. It is used with increasing frequency and is at the very heart of the Bill. Yet nowhere in the Bill does it state what is meant by those three words. The purpose of tabling the amendment is partly to tease out from the Government what is meant by regional spatial strategy but also why it should not be set out clearly on the face of the Bill as previous planning legislation sets out, for example, the scope of a structure plan and other elements of the planning system.

The regional spatial strategy has been explained in various documents, in particular the annex to RPG11 and the information in PPS11, in other explanatory information and in interesting comments by the Minister. It is clear that the RSS will consist of two things which eventually will be the legacy of the two elements that will go into the RSS at the very beginning. The first is the regional planning guidance. In the debate on the previous grouping the Minister explained which parts of the RPG will become the bulk of the temporary RSS, the transitional RSS. The second part will be the successor to the existing structure plans in the case of county councils and to those parts of the unitary development plans in the case of unitary local government.

There are two clear sections to RSS. At the beginning they will be very obviously separate and different. It seems to me inevitable that that will continue to be the case even after the revisions have taken place. Therefore, we should set out what the RSS consists of. I do not claim that the words I suggest are the last words in perfection. But I have set out in paragraphs (a) and (b) what seems to me to be a concise summary of what the Government have stated in RPG11 and PPS11 will be in the RSS.

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Paragraphs (c) and (d) contain the wording that applies to structure plans in the 1990 Act, with a little missed off the end. In other words, the Government state that this is what the RSS will consist of as it becomes the transformation of the RPG; this is what the RSS will consist of in so far as it will take on immediately the existing structure plans and, in due course, those structure plans will be turned into sub-regional strategic planning documents. That, as far as I understand, is how it will work.

Having read much of the Bill, much of the documentation and listened to the Minister, I am increasingly surprised that he claims that this will be a simplification of the system and will reduce the number of layers and complications. The more we look into it, the more complicated the whole issue seems to be.

I tabled the amendment to ask the Government, first, why the definition of RSS, which is so important and so fundamental to the Bill, should not be on the face of the Bill and, secondly, to probe as to how, once the transitional phase is over and we have the RSSs in all their new super-efficient up-to-date glory, they will differ from existing regional planning guidance. Obviously they will differ in detail, but how will they differ in scope and style, in so far as they refer to sub-regional strategic planning, from the existing structure plans?

The more I read about this, the more it seems to be about process. However, in 10 years' time the documents will not differ much from existing structure plans; they will just have been put together by different people in a different process. In the case of Lancashire, for example, if the North West planning body decided to appoint Lancashire County Council as its agent for sub-regional planning in Lancashire, which would be sensible and practical, the documents will be put together by the same people, the only difference being the political accountability. So how will RSSs differ on those two levels and why should this not be on the face of the Bill? I beg to move.

Lord Cobbold: Amendment No. 7 stands in my name and is grouped with Amendment No. 3. It addresses the same basic point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves—what should be on the face of the Bill? We both believe that the Bill needs to be more specific about the issues that should be covered by the RSS. The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, has provided a detailed list of appropriate topics. My amendment is more concise, which should appeal to the Minister. It simply proposes the specific inclusion of major transport and infrastructure provisions. It seems to me that the reference in Clause 1(2) to development and use of land within a region is too vague. It does not seem necessarily to cover major regional planning issues such as motorway or trunk road construction and airport development. These are of major strategic importance at regional level. I look forward to the Minister's response.


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