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Lord Rooker: My Lords, I have nothing to say in answer. The business planning zones are a vital part of the Bill. It is not a confidence issue.

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, I wish I felt moved to say that I was going to press the amendment to a vote, because I might win it, with the Minister voting with me. I shall not do so today; I think this will die its own death. It is unfortunate that we will have in legislation something that is completely useless and will cause justifiable grievance, without having particular merit. We have tested this out—we have talked round it and through it. I think I could move the Minister substantially in our direction, although I doubt whether that applies to his colleagues behind him. However, for today, I will leave the matter alone. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Motion agreed to.


45Insert the following new Clause—
"Duration of planning permission and consent

(1) Section 91 of the principal Act (limit on duration of planning permission) is amended by inserting at the end of subsection (2) the words "and any other matters which the authority consider relevant".
(2) Section 18 of the listed buildings Act (limit of duration of consent) is amended by inserting at the end of subsection (1)(b) the words "and any other matters which the authority consider relevant"." The Commons disagree to this amendment for the following reason—
45ABecause it is not necessary to make the provision to which the Lords amendment relates.

Lord Rooker: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do not insist on its Amendment No. 45, to which the Commons have disagreed for their reason numbered 45A. In moving the Motion, I shall also speak to Amendments Nos. 46 and 47.

I recall that at earlier stages of the Bill's passage—I am not sure whether it was Report or Second Reading—the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, moved Amendment No. 45 to address the concerns that when

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a local planning authority considered the length of time that a planning application should remain valid, it should not consider such matters as the length of time it takes to assemble the site and organise funding. The noble Baroness intended the amendment to be helpful in the context of a three-year default period for the duration of a permission or consent. Section 91(2) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 and Section 18(1)(b) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 require the local planning authority to consider "any other material considerations". If a local planning authority, when considering the time needed for a planning permission, thinks that the time needed to assemble finance and land is relevant, that matter will be a material consideration to which the authority must have regard. The amendment is therefore not necessary.

Amendments Nos. 46 and 47 would leave out the provisions making the default period for the duration of planning permission and listed building consent three years. The Government proposed with Clause 50 to reduce the period of validity of a planning permission, listed building consent or conservation area consent from five to three years. Local planning authorities will be able to agree longer periods than three years where appropriate—for example, in complex regeneration projects. There is a right of appeal to the Secretary of State.

The clause also prevents a developer seeking to extend a permission by submitting an application to vary a condition. Any developer wishing to extend the time limit will have to submit a new application for planning permission, and the local planning authority will consider the entire application afresh.

Reducing the default period for permission and consent from five to three years is a crucial part of our agenda to speed up the operation of the planning system. The default period refers to the time limit for the commencement of development. A three-year default sends a clear signal about the importance of delivery. We are, of course, pressing local authorities to speed up their planning processes, and we are showing an even-handed approach towards developers with a three-year default period.

We know that circumstances can change, and a three-year default period will allow changes to national guidance to take effect more quickly. We previously introduced an amendment providing that where planning permission is granted and that grant of permission is subsequently challenged in judicial review proceedings, the duration of permission will be from the date of the grant until three years—or other period as directed by the determining authority—after the completion of the proceedings. That amendment was inserted in response to concerns raised by developers that the shorter validity period, coupled with the associated removal of the provision that enabled developers to seek to extend the life of the consent, could mean that the validity period had expired before the judicial review proceedings had been completed. I accept that that would be complete nonsense.

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During your Lordships' earlier consideration of the clause, it was argued that even expert lawyers would find it difficult to calculate when judicial review proceedings were concluded. We have been persuaded by that argument and have tabled amendments to deal with the issue.

Commons Amendment No. 46A in lieu of Amendment No. 46 provides that, where a planning permission is granted subject to a time limit by virtue of a condition imposed under Section 91 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 or, by virtue of Section 91(3), as amended in each case, and the grant or deemed grant of that planning permission is challenged, the period is statutorily increased by one year in relation to that permission. Commons Amendment No. 47A in lieu of Amendment No. 47 makes a similar change in relation to the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990.

The Government have listened to criticism during the consideration of the clause, as indeed we have during consideration of the whole Bill. We have proposed amendments to deal with problems arising from legal challenge. However, a three-year default period for planning permission is a central part of the programme for speeding up the operation of the planning system.

During consideration of your Lordships' amendments in the other place on 19 April, the spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats expressed sympathy with the Government's proposal to change the default period for planning permission from five years to three. He took the view that planning officers might not know that they could vary the period. He proposed that the Government should make it clear that local authorities could vary the period and that longer periods should be allowed, for example, for complex applications.

The Government have listened to that argument, and the Minister for Housing and Planning has today published a statement that makes it clear that the current flexibility to vary the length of permission or consent will remain. The statement notes that the time limit for commencement of development will normally be three years from the date of permission or consent, but a local authority may direct a longer or shorter period, as it considers appropriate.

The statement says that local planning authorities should look favourably on requests for longer periods of duration where there are valid planning grounds for such a request. There will be cases in which three years is unlikely to be long enough to allow developers to complete all the preparation needed before starting work. Longer periods are likely to be appropriate, as I have already said, in complex regeneration projects, for example.

The statement also notes that after the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill has completed its parliamentary passage, the Government will issue guidance to local planning authorities on the new provisions. In that guidance, we will make clear the need for flexibility on the part of local authorities in their dealings with applicants on the duration of permissions and consents.

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I hope that is considered to be reasonable. It certainly meets the points that have been made in this House and in the other place during the Bill's passage. We have listened and have tried to be practical where we can, while keeping the central message that there has to be some change.

Moved, That the House do not insist on its Amendment No. 45, to which the Commons have disagreed for their reason numbered 45A.—(Lord Rooker.)

6 p.m.

Baroness Hamwee rose to move Amendment No. 45B, as an amendment to the Motion that the House do not insist on its Amendment No. 45 to which the Commons have disagreed for their reason numbered 45A, leave out "not".

The noble Baroness said: My Lords in speaking to Amendment No. 45B, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 46B and 47B. Amendment No. 46B is slightly defective. Any defect is significant at this stage but, as the Minister says, I am reading out what it says on the Marshalled List, so I had better stick to what it says. It should read,

    "as an amendment to the Motion now before the House to leave out from "House" to the end and insert "do insist on its Amendment No. 46".

When I phoned the Public Bill Office last week to ask for guidance in drafting, they said, "It's very complicated, my Lady—you tell us what you want to do and leave it to us to draft it".

We do not at all take issue with the Government's objective of actually seeing the end product of the plans for much needed housing, or of achieving a very high percentage on brownfield land. The issues that we considered in the previous debate related to the length of the default period and to what the local planning authority can have regard in extending, or indeed shortening, that default period.

Most householder applications can be taken through to completion within three years—the side extension, the conservatory and so on. We talked at Report about the need to give sufficient time for an individual to get organised. I do not want to make things difficult for individuals, but I do not believe that that is the central issue. The issue is about achieving the significant developments.

The recent Barker review, which we shall debate in a couple of weeks' time, thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, identifies as a factor that the housebuilding industry's response to risk and the speculative nature of land leads to reluctance to build out large sites quickly. However, that is only one of five factors that are identified. The review talks of the increasingly complex nature of sites, especially brownfield sites, where significant remediation is required; the difficulties of site assembly, where ownership is fragmented; the planning system, its influence over the amount of land available, and whether the infrastructure is there to support the

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development; and the politically contentious nature of land use. However, the review has found little evidence, at least across the country as a whole,

    "to substantiate concerns that option contracts and the practice of land banking allow housebuilders to erect barriers to entry into the market".

The difficulties of site assembly, obtaining funding and dealing with contamination resulted in my being concerned about the reduction of the default period. I welcome the statement made today about site assembly and funding being capable of being regarded as material considerations. I should like to have heard that whatever the local planning authority believes is relevant is de facto relevant.

The other issue expressed to us as a concern by the industry related to obtaining consents from other agencies, such as the Highways Agency, the water authorities, the Environment Agency, English Heritage and English Nature. I would be glad to be corrected, but it does not appear to me that obtaining those consents would fall within what could be considered as material considerations.

I acknowledge the Government's amendment in response to concerns about how to calculate when a period starts running in the event of judicial review. However, that is not quite the end of the matter—nor, perhaps, is guidance, unless the new proposed guidance is very strong. We are waiting to see what it is like. Your Lordships may have received letters from the various industry organisations on that matter.

I share the concern that in practice local planning authorities will follow the statutory period and impose three years. I hope that what the Government do following these debates will mean that, if one told a planning officer that it was possible to vary the default period, the answer would not be, "Not a lot of people know that". I hope that these debates will have brought that out very fully into the open. Clearly the industry's concern, which I have shared because I share the Government's own objective, still remains. I beg to move.

Moved, as an amendment to the Motion that this House do not insist on its Amendment No. 45 to which the Commons have disagreed for their reason numbered 45A, leave out "not".—(Baroness Hamwee.)

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