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Division No. 1

CONTENTS

Addington, L.
Ampthill, L.
Anelay of St Johns, B.
Astor of Hever, L.
Attlee, E.
Avebury, L.
Biffen, L.
Bradshaw, L.
Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L.
Buscombe, B.
Byford, B.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Coe, L.
Cope of Berkeley, L. [Teller]
Craig of Radley, L.
Dholakia, L.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Dundee, E.
Elton, L.
Ferrers, E.
Flather, B.
Fookes, B.
Gardner of Parkes, B.
Geddes, L.
Glentoran, L.
Goodhart, L.
Goschen, V.
Greaves, L.
Hamwee, B.
Hanham, B.
Hanningfield, L.
Harris of Richmond, B.
Henley, L.
Higgins, L.
Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, L.
Howe, E.
Howe of Idlicote, B.
Jopling, L.
Kimball, L.
King of Bridgwater, L.
Kingsland, L.
Kirkham, L.
Knight of Collingtree, B.
Linklater of Butterstone, B.
Livsey of Talgarth, L.
Lucas, L.
Mackay of Clashfern, L.
Maddock, B.
Mancroft, L.
Mar and Kellie, E.
Marlesford, L.
Mayhew of Twysden, L.
Miller of Hendon, B.
Montagu of Beaulieu, L.
Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Newby, L.
Noakes, B.
Northesk, E.
Northover, B.
Norton of Louth, L.
Oppenheim-Barnes, B.
Pilkington of Oxenford, L.
Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.
Rawlings, B.
Redesdale, L.
Rennard, L.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Rogan, L.
Roper, L.
Rotherwick, L.
Saatchi, L.
Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Sandberg, L.
Scott of Needham Market, B.
Seccombe, B. [Teller]
Selborne, E.
Selsdon, L.
Skelmersdale, L.
Smith of Clifton, L.
Strathclyde, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Tordoff, L.
Trefgarne, L.
Trumpington, B.
Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Wilcox, B.
Williams of Crosby, B.
Windlesham, L.

NOT-CONTENTS

Acton, L.
Ahmed, L.
Amos, B. (Lord President)
Andrews, B.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Ashton of Upholland, B.
Bach, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Bernstein of Craigweil, L.
Billingham, B.
Blackstone, B.
Blood, B.
Borrie, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Brookman, L.
Campbell-Savours, L.
Carter, L.
Christopher, L.
Clarke of Hampstead, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Colville of Culross, V.
Crawley, B.
Davies of Oldham, L. [Teller]
Desai, L.
Dixon, L.
Donoughue, L.
Dubs, L.
Elder, L.
Evans of Temple Guiting, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L. (Lord Chancellor)
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Faulkner of Worcester, L.
Filkin, L.
Finlay of Llandaff, B.
Fitt, L.
Fyfe of Fairfield, L.
Gale, B.
Gavron, L.
Golding, B.
Goldsmith, L.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Grabiner, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Grocott, L. [Teller]
Harrison, L.
Hayman, B.
Hogg of Cumbernauld, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Howarth of Breckland, B.
Howells of St. Davids, B.
Hoyle, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Janner of Braunstone, L.
King of West Bromwich, L.
Lea of Crondall, L.
Lipsey, L.
Macdonald of Tradeston, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L.
McIntosh of Hudnall, B.
MacKenzie of Culkein, L.
Marsh, L.
Massey of Darwen, B.
Merlyn-Rees, L.
Mitchell, L.
Morris of Aberavon, L.
Nicol, B.
Parekh, L.
Pendry, L.
Pitkeathley, B.
Prys-Davies, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Rooker, L.
St. John of Bletso, L.
Scotland of Asthal, B.
Sewel, L.
Sheldon, L.
Simon, V.
Stone of Blackheath, L.
Strabolgi, L.
Strange, B.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Temple-Morris, L.
Tenby, V.
Thornton, B.
Tomlinson, L.
Triesman, L.
Walpole, L.
Warner, L.
Whitaker, B.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Woolmer of Leeds, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

12.56 p.m.

Clause 50 [Duration of permission and consent]:

5 Feb 2004 : Column 826

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Carter): I should tell the Committee that if Amendment No. 121 is agreed to I cannot call Amendments Nos. 121A or 121B on the ground of pre-emption.

Baroness Hanham moved Amendment No. 121:


    Page 38, line 15, leave out from "amended" to "after" in line 18 and insert "so that"

The noble Baroness said: I shall not read out the group of amendments. They all refer to Clause 50.

Clause 50 would reduce the duration of permissions and consents from the default position of five years, as at present, to three years. We have received innumerable representations stretching well into double figures. It is fair to say that the provisions of the Bill have been universally condemned. Many concerns have been expressed. I shall try to summarise them for the Minister.

First, there is confusion as to why changes need to be made to the current system. Hence, the amendment to which I have added my name to remove Clause 50 from the Bill. Local planning authorities already have the power to shorten the consent from the default five years if they deem it necessary.

Instead of Clause 50, the Government should issue best practice guidance on when it will be appropriate for councils to exercise their existing right to issue shorter consents such as when there is a strong likelihood of housebuilders banking land or on very simple developments which could be completed quickly.

There seems to be general consensus that far from saving a local planning authority time and resources, as it will no longer be able to grant extensions to planning permissions, applicants will be forced to submit an entirely new application and the local authority will be burdened further. It will then have to devote much time to going through the process again simply because time ran out.

For many developments, three years will not be long enough. This short consent will serve only to put off potential developers. That is especially so for major brownfield, city centre and mixed use developments—precisely the type of development the Government are keen to encourage as part of their sustainable communities agenda. Marginal schemes on complex sites in regeneration areas will be made more difficult. Funding commercial and mixed development is already problematic as it is much more risky than traditional housebuilding. The changes in the Bill would make it harder still. What the Government are trying to achieve with one hand, successful urban regeneration, will be undermined by the other. By reducing the duration of consent, developers will be discouraged from taking on precisely that type of project.

Many of the organisations that I spoke to on the issue pointed out the number of processes, many of which are outside the developers' control, which must be completed before work can start on the site. That may involve subsequent consents from the Highways

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Agency, the Fire Brigade and the Environment Agency. Compulsory purchase may be necessary, and there will be issues such as decontamination of land, pre-letting, negotiating finance, tendering contracts and assembling interests. There will be many planning conditions that require details such as landscaping, drainage, internal plans and the external material for buildings to be submitted and approved before the planning can be implemented.

A three-year period will cause difficulties for many of the developers of which the Government are most supportive. In the vast majority of cases, it is costly for the developer to sit on land and it would be in their own interests to get on with the development as quickly as possible. It will not encourage developers to introduce desirable schemes more quickly. If permission is about to expire and planning policy and its planning merits still support the scheme, the developer will be able to renew the planning permission. Neither a local planning authority nor the Secretary of State will refuse planning permission for a project that they support simply because the original permission has not been implemented.

Clause 50(2) relates to outline planning permission. The effect of the Government's change to the planning Act is that an application to the approval of reserved matters must be made within three years of the grant of planning permission. The developer then has two years from the final reserved matters being approved by the local planning authority to begin development.

That has a number of strange results. First, while the Bill considers that full planning permission should be implemented within three years, outline planning permission will have five years or more. Three years are given to apply for reserved matters and some time for them to be approved, and two years afterwards. The Government's intention to reduce the period for implementing planning permission applies only to full planning permission.

Secondly, if reserved matters are approved and granted within six months of the grant of outline planning permission, the developer will have to start development in the next two years—that is, two years and six months after the grant of planning permission. If not, the permission cannot be implemented. However, the developer who failed to implement within two years and six months can make a further reserved matter application towards the end of the three-year period. That reserved matters application could be identical to the one previously approved. The local planning authority would have to consider it and, if it were approved, the developer would have a further two years to implement the permission. He would have resurrected the planning permission.

That is an odd result and comes about because the Bill proposes to revoke Section 92 of the planning Act, rather than amending the five-year period in the Act to three years. The Government have made a minor concession on the issue for the case of complex regeneration schemes, making provisions in the regulations for the local authorities to "look favourably" at requests for longer periods of durations for such schemes. However,

5 Feb 2004 : Column 828

that is really not enough. As a default position, experience shows that it would require substantial effort by developers to convince local authorities of the need for a longer time-frame than three years.

Beyond the clause stand part debate, I have tabled a number of additional amendments designed to change the effect of Clause 50 in a number of ways. Amendments Nos. 121, 121A, 122, 123, 125, 125A and 126 would remove the provision to reduce the default time limit for implementing planning permissions from five years to three years. That would prevent many of the negative consequences of the clause as it stands. Five years is a much more realistic time-frame, especially for major projects on complex sites.

Amendments Nos. 122A and 126ZA would remove the provision expressly stating that nothing in the clause prevents the development being started when the permission or consent is granted. I beg to move.

1 p.m.

Baroness Hamwee: We have two amendments in this group, Amendments Nos. 121A and 125A, and have put our names to several others. The short point is that we seek to understand why existing legislation is not being used. There is certainly widespread misunderstanding that local planning authorities can grant permission for periods that are more or less than five years, but it seems to us that we should not consolidate that misunderstanding or in any way support planners ignoring what they can or cannot do now.

I look forward to hearing what the evil is that the Government seek to cure. If it is "land banking"—to use a phrase now in common use—by developers, who are thought not be getting on with providing housing, for example, in particular, why is the amendment needed, given the provisions of the 1990 Act? Section 91(2) of that Act provides that the period within which a development must be started can be longer or shorter, and should be the period that the local planning authority considers appropriate, having regard to the provisions of the development plan and any other material considerations. I assume that will still apply, but I would be grateful if the Minister could confirm that, as it is not always easy to read one's way through interlocking provisions. Presumably, it would still apply but with a default period of three years. I simply do not understand why the existing provision is not an adequate tool.

I wonder whether the new provisions, proposed by the Government in Clause 50(1)(b), will encourage judicial review. I am not suggesting that legitimate opposition—or any opposition, perhaps, because until it has been tested one does not know whether it is legitimate—should be stifled. However, is it not better to have mechanisms in the planning legislation itself rather than have to go outside it and to use judicial review? If the Government are concerned that local planning authorities do not know what their powers

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are now, there must surely be a place for issuing fresh guidance to remind the authorities and make the position absolutely clear.


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