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In a case where, for example, local development plans are out of date or inadequate and the agency wishes to take them forward, we need to have this power to confer this on the agency. UDCs have only development control functions. The problem that has been diagnosed is that they have encountered difficulties in working with a local plan which, for some reason, is not up to the task of delivering regeneration. We will overcome that with these powers because they will be able to have these additional plans as and when needed.

The clause gives the Secretary of State a necessary degree of flexibility when deciding which planning functions should be conferred on the new agency. The noble Baroness was arguing about modifications in this context. The amendment would restrict the range of planning powers that could be made available. The point is that whenever these were to be considered, they would be open to full consultation with the local authority about what was necessary. That clearly would be a very important point.

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Amendment No. 73B raises a specific issue. It removes the ability of the Secretary of State to make modifications to the functions or specified functions conferred via a designation order. There may be a misapprehension at the heart of this. We do not want the agency’s resources to be used on every minor household application that might come forward. I say to the noble Lord who raised the issue of the volume of household applications that we are looking at streamlining the households’ consent system. I suspect that we will have some fun with that on the Planning Bill. We want the agency to be focused on the complex project at the heart of the designation decision, so we need to be able to modify the role the HCA undertakes. It does not mean that the HCA is somehow exempted from requirements. I hope that will satisfy the noble Baroness on that point.

Amendment No. 73E would prevent the HCA having local planning authority functions concurrently with another body. We need that because it is based on real experience where UDCs have been given powers over development control. They have adopted practical arrangements with existing local planning authorities so that they can consider the minor planning functions. UDCs can then concentrate on the larger scale regeneration projects while the planning authorities continue to deal with the more routine planning problems. That is simply a question of good practice and common sense.

In Amendment No. 73F the noble Baroness asks us to insert:

That reflects some of her concerns on an earlier part of the Bill. The intent is that the HCA staff are not judge and jury in respect of development proposals. There is an issue of democratic accountability because they are not elected members.

I should say that the planning regime is a regime based on openness and transparency and that the HCA will be bound by it. There are clear statutory procedures for development control, for the preparation and maintenance of documents and involving community. We expect the HCA board to establish suitable arrangements for committees to accommodate instances where, for example, there might be conflicts of interest. As I replied previously on HCA issues, we think that it is perfectly manageable.

The noble Baroness’s final amendments were on the substitution of an affirmative order for a negative order. We expect these powers to be used so exceptionally that we think the negative procedure is sufficient, and we will have very rare opportunity to use it.

Government Amendments Nos. 71 and 72 are related. Amendment No. 71 is consequential on Amendment No. 72. Amendment No. 72 would remove the reference to the Planning Act 2008. This requires the insertion of the word “and” at the end of line 14 to ensure that there is no ambiguity over the definition of permitted purposes. The two amendments achieve that. That must be, surely, the simplest amendment in this long

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string, and I hope that no one is going to challenge me or, indeed, move an amendment to that amendment.

I am grateful for the opportunity to have the debate and for the patience of the Committee as I have responded at speed to those various amendments. I reiterate what I said at the beginning: these are very exceptional powers that will be part of a process involving local authorities, respecting their situation and attempting to work with them in every regard to provide them with the powers that they need, as well as to achieve what for so many is a major challenge, up and down the country, putting in place a sort of community development, which we so badly need, to close the gap on affordability and provide homes for families and individuals.

7.15 pm

Baroness Hamwee: With regard to taking out the reference to the Planning Act 2008, we would argue only if we thought that it was going to overtake this Bill.

I am very grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken. They have given me a great deal of material to take away and think about. I cannot find the fishing metaphor to respond to the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith. He cited Docklands, as he has done on previous occasions, in support of the need for a mechanism to bring local authorities together. That had an ad hoc UDC specifically for it; that is different from the provisions here, which are more far-reaching.

I am especially grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Ford. I am so pleased that she is playing such a big part in this Bill, because everything she says is so thoughtful. That sounds so patronising, but I do not mean it that way. It certainly makes me much more confident in the integrity of the processes as they have been put into effect, which is not going to stop me questioning whether the powers are right, but it has been hugely helpful.

On the skills matter and the shortage of planners, as my noble friend said, we all accept that. However, that does not lead me to the conclusion that powers should be transferred. It should be about making expertise available. I had not read Iain Wright’s comments in that light, perhaps because I had not picked up something that had gone before. It is not just numbers; it is expertise in dealing with difficult situations. I do not think that the way to deal with it is by making a constitutional change, if I can put it that way, because we are talking about democratic decisions. In the same way, that is the answer to a point that the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, made or intended to make about local planning authorities having a shortage and having to go to consultants. The problem is not one which for us leads to this solution.

On the cross-boundary issues and the whole issue of how one brings powers such as this into implementation, the point is that Milton Keynes was under a voluntary arrangement. The fact that the then Deputy Prime Minister vetoed other possible similar uses of the powers of English Partnerships leads me to the conclusion that we should continue

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questioning the clause, not accept it. In a similar way, almost the last point made by the Minister about the negative resolution being sufficient, because the situation is rare, is an even greater argument for an affirmative resolution.

She talked a lot about designation being an aspect of partnership. It is clear to me that we will have to come back to quite a lot of this on Report to talk about how that partnership comes about. One aspect of partnership is the concurrent functions mentioned in Clause 14(5)(a). Can the noble Baroness write to me to explain the detail of those? I am not sure whether she was saying that they refer to different subsets and aspects of a planning application—for instance, materials and reserved matters—as opposed to those that follow the main application. Would those be handed back to the local planning authority? The noble Baroness, Lady Ford, had a similar problem with that notion and it would be helpful to understand in more detail just how that would operate.

Finally, the Minister was absolutely right in her analysis of the words “necessary” and “appropriate”—that was precisely what I aimed for in the amendment. This has been an immensely interesting debate and I apologise to the Committee that it has been long-winded. No, it was not long-winded; it has just been long. I have already started to draft amendments for Report. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 68 not moved.]

Lord Greaves moved Amendment No. 68A:

“(b) the condition in subsection (2) is met.”

The noble Lord said: As it stands, Clause 13 on designation orders covers two areas—planning functions, which we have been discussing for the past hour and a half, and highways functions. My purpose is to take out all reference to highways functions and to remove Clauses 15, 16 and 17.

These highways functions are the adoption of private streets and appeals against them, and traffic regulation orders on private streets. It is not clear at all why the HCA should have such powers, even in a designated area. Highways authorities have expertise in these matters. They employ staff who know about them and can happily deal with them, even if the HCA has some or all of the planning functions for the designated areas. Putting these functions in the hands of the HCA would result in it taking on extra staff to duplicate what the highways authorities do already. That seems to be very inefficient. If all this is to take place in the spirit of partnership and co-operation, it is not clear at all why the highways authority cannot do in designated areas what it would do in any other areas. The purpose of my amendment is to find out why the Government feel it is necessary to give these extra powers to the HCA.

Perhaps the Minister could confirm my suspicion that this is legacy legislation that goes back quite a

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long way to 1993 or 1990, but I suspect that it goes back to the days before local government reorganisation in 1974, when a large number of authorities dealt with this very local highways function. Many small authorities and county councils would have devolved this kind of issue to urban districts and so on and the situation might have been complex and messy. That is not the case now. We are talking about quite large authorities—which grow larger by the year as the Government slowly reorganises into bigger authorities—which are either large counties, large boroughs or unitary authorities and which have plenty of expertise and specialist staff for dealing with this kind of thing. It is not right to encourage the HCA to set up new departments with new staff and to do it itself. I beg to move.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: I shall be extremely brief. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, referred to Amendment No. 70 as being benign; I suggest, for a particular reason, that the intention of the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, to eliminate Clause 15 from the Bill might be described as malign. I regard Clause 15 as the Lord Beaumont of Whitley memorial clause. He was a very distant cousin of mine. I cannot refer to him as either my late noble kinsman or my late noble relative because in my maiden speech I said that that was how I was going to describe my late noble father and my late noble mother. I cannot, therefore, use it for anyone else because I would simply confuse the Hansard writer.

At least once a quarter, Lord Beaumont of Whitley produced a Question on the Floor of the House as to what was going to be done about the 40,000 unadopted roads in the country and it seems to me that it is quite likely their adoption will be accelerated by the amendment rather than the opposite. Therefore, on behalf of my late noble distant collateral, I oppose the noble Lord, Lord Greaves.

Baroness Andrews: This puts me in an awkward position because the noble Lord has drawn our attention to an anomaly in the Bill. I can be as brief on this amendment as I was long-winded on the other one.

Lord Greaves: I am glad to have some slight confirmation that I have my uses coming to these meetings because sometimes I wonder.

Baroness Andrews: How can anyone dispute that? The anomaly in the Bill has been inherited from the powers of the current bodies, which reinforces the point made earlier by the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles. We consulted on the basis that the HCA would have powers no less wide than those of its predecessor bodies. To secure that, we modelled many of the provisions in the Bill on the legislation that framed the Urban Regeneration Agency, the Commission for the New Towns and the Housing Corporation. The condition to which the amendment refers was modelled on the Leasehold Reform, Housing and Urban Development Act 1993. I agree with the noble Lord that, given the exceptional circumstances under which the designation powers are likely to be considered, Condition 2 seems

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highly unlikely to ever provide justification for the use of the designation order powers. I agree with the intent behind the amendment. I would like to take the opportunity to consider it further and return to the matter on Report.

Lord Greaves: I cannot argue with that. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 68B to 70 not moved.]

Baroness Andrews moved Amendment No. 71:

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 71A not moved.]

Baroness Andrews moved Amendment No. 72:

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On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 73 and 73A not moved.]

Clause 13, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 14 [The HCA as the local planning authority]:

[Amendments Nos. 73B to 73F not moved.]

Clause 14 agreed to.

Clauses 15 to 17 agreed to.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: I suggest that the Committee stand adjourned until next Tuesday at 3.30 pm.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall): The Committee stands adjourned until Tuesday 10 June at 3.30 pm.

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