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Lord Rooker: With respect, I do not accept that the guidance that I have considered is prescriptive. Also, I do not think that any of it is unreasonable. No regional planning body or its professional advisers would want to ignore it. It covers the very issues that need to be taken into account in terms of the national core output indicators. The guidance includes the regional services, minerals, waste and coastal management. None of the guidance is prescriptive. Hardly any of the sentences is longer than about eight or nine words. One cannot argue that there is a massive amount of detail for

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people to go through for all nine of the subjects listed. As I have said, I will double check that we genuinely need the words for the purposes that I have explained.

Lord Hanningfield: We have had an interesting debate in which several issues have been raised. I sought clarification of the issue and the Minister tried to give that. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, has raised more detailed matters and we can be grateful that the Minister will look at the matter again. Many of the amendments tabled are designed to clarify the Bill so that we understand it. The Minister has been helpful and I reiterate that I am pleased that he is considering the issues again. I hope that at the next stage we will have reached a better position on the matter. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 54:

    Page 3, line 32, at end insert—

"( ) the desirability of sub-regional strategies consistent with the objectives of the RSS;"

The noble Baroness said: I have worded the amendment in such a way because I do not want to be too prescriptive. That is why I have used "desirability". However, I wanted to raise the issue of sub-regional and cross-regional strategies that would recognise that in practice the needs and opportunities of any area do not necessarily coincide conveniently with administrative boundaries. Perhaps that is rather trite but it is true. By this I am suggesting operating at a level that is more than local but less than regional—as that term is defined by the Government. Strategic work is necessary of a scale that would allow for detailed consideration of major proposals and a level of public involvement.

It occurred to me that this issue should be raised before the Council for the Protection of Rural England published earlier this month a report entitled Mind the Gap. No doubt it had occurred to me because I have had the benefit of the views of at least one of the authors over a period. I was struck by a number of the conclusions in the report. Among them was that there was a pressing need for metropolitan sub-regions to undertake a cross-regional approach. Coming from Manchester, I have been aware during recent years that Manchester and Liverpool, which have very different and distinct identities, seem to have a growing awareness of the benefits of joint working on some matters. That was not the case when I lived there.

Another conclusion was that there was a need to look sub-regionally at spacial matters without separating them from other emerging sub-regional arrangements and sectoral strategies. We have touched on that at a regional level already.

We have also talked about keeping strategic planners interested in their jobs and contributing. That is another area of work that I would foresee the bodies undertaking. I would also see some part of the work of the body as adding to accountability. I have galloped through a hugely important subject. I am mindful of the time—some noble Lords have come into the

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Chamber for the next item of business. I have probably not been able to do justice to the matter, but I would be glad of the Minister's comments. I beg to move.

1.30 p.m.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her explanation, but we think that the amendment would represent a rather odd addition to the list of matters to which the regional planning body should have regard, as set out in Clause 5(3). Those matters are other key documents that the regional spatial strategy needs to be closely inter-linked or consistent with, such as national planning policies or the regional spatial strategy of neighbouring regions, not things that it thinks desirable.

What really matters with the amendment is not its proposed position in the Bill, but the approach that it assumes to the sub-regional planning structure and all that is implicit in it. Regional spatial strategies will contain a new emphasis on sub-regions. Where parts of the region have a particular and common set of needs—for example, those involving growth or regeneration—it may make sense for those sub-regions to have a specific set of policies beyond or instead of some of those applicable to the region as a whole. I want to make the issue clear on two counts. We expect sub-regional strategies, in the sense of parts of the region having a distinct set of policies, to be the exception not the rule, and that those sub-regional strategies will form an integral part of the RSS.

We cannot afford to see a proliferation of plans under the guise of sub-regional strategies that are poorly integrated and serve only to create confusion and uncertainty for local communities, local planning authorities and, importantly, the developers. That is one of the real problems with the existing system, as I am sure that most Members of the Committee familiar with planning will concur.

There may be occasions where sub-regional and cross-regional boundaries exist. The Milton Keynes south Midlands growth area may be an obvious example. In that case, it makes sense to have a separate sub-regional strategy document. However, it is worth remembering that that is prepared by the three regional planning bodies affected and will be adopted as alterations to their three regional spatial strategies.

If the amendment is simply intended to ensure that the regional planning body thinks about where it might need a sub-regional approach within the regional spatial strategy, I support it in principle. The Government would be entirely happy with that. However, in practice we regard it as unnecessary. Draft planning policy statement 11 is clear about what we expect in regard to sub-regions within the regional spatial strategy and the role that we expect county councils and other authorities with strategic planning expertise to play in undertaking any sub-regional work. Our concern, however, is that the amendment actually promotes a series of free-standing sub-regional strategies that will end up re-creating the very confusion and uncertainty that often arises with and

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through the current system of structure plans. That is something that we want to reduce—an overall objective that has been greatly welcomed.

The end of my brief states:

    "I beg the noble lady to withdraw the amendment".

I hope that I do not have to beg the noble Baroness, but that she will feel very comfortable about withdrawing it.

Lord Greaves: Before my noble friend responds to the Minister, can he tell us what a sub-region is? I try to look at such matters in practical terms, to work out in my mind how new legislation will apply in the region that I know best, which is the north-west. It is a huge and very diverse region extending from the Scottish border to Mow Cop, and from the Irish Sea right into the heart of the Pennines where I live.

At the moment, we have five large counties—Cheshire, Lancashire, Cumbria, Merseyside and Greater Manchester, the last two of which are far more than just Liverpool and Manchester respectively. In such a region, how many sub-regional strategies would the Government expect to emerge as part of the regional spatial strategy? What sort of size are we talking about? Are the Government saying that the sub-regions should essentially be based on geographical size or the number of people who live there? Is it all a matter of difference? Cumbria, with the Lake District, is clearly a very different place from Salford in the heart of Greater Manchester.

Curiously, "sub-region" is quite commonly used in the part of the world where I live. It is used to refer to not even the whole of Lancashire, and not west Lancashire or north Lancashire round Lancaster, but east Lancashire, which is the area from Blackburn to Colne, the Ribble Valley and so on. Can we expect a sub-regional strategy for east Lancashire, the whole of Lancashire, or what? What will the provision mean for those of us who will care about the policies and strategies in the areas in which we live?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: I would be rather reluctant to say that east Lancashire should have a sub-regional strategy, although it may be entirely relevant for it to have one. Is that not something best left to be determined in the locality? If we were to start dictating from the centre what a sub-region might look like, might we not be accused of taking even more authority to the centre? I am not sure that that is desirable, and the noble Lord probably does not see it as such. Different issues may well have a role in a sense, so that something might be a sub-region on economic matters but not in terms of geographical issues. I am very reluctant to start trying to define from the Dispatch Box what a sub-region might be. That is best left to the region as a whole to determine, perhaps based on the issues that arise in that region.

Baroness Hamwee: I expected various descriptions of the amendment, but "odd" was not one of them. Again, the Government seem to be afraid, or certainly

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to be avoiding, a bottom or middle-up approach. We have had discussions about one sub-region—the Thames Gateway—on a number of occasions already during our proceedings. The point that I particularly want to make is that such planning should have an evolution; it should evolve and perhaps be organic.

The Minister talks as though we would have one plodding stage of revising the RSS, and then perhaps have sub-regional strategies coming along. One would expect more than one revision to the RSS. By that time, sub-regional strategies may have been created, preceding a subsequent revision of the RSS.

I accept that the amendment may not have been the way to raise the subject but, on the substantive point, lunch precludes my complaining further. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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