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Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his constructive response to the Statement. I hear what he says about the nature of the shares. I did not say that the shares carry no risk. The reason the taxpayer has the right to a return is that of course there is risk attached to lending. I was merely indicating that the Government are concerned to minimise the risk—hence the choice for the preference shares. I hear him when he says that the Government should strike a harder bargain in order to bring additional returns to the taxpayer. That is an important consideration, but he will appreciate that at present it is equally important, if not more so, for us to be able to restore confidence in the banking system. That is why we will be concentrating on that matter.

On small businesses, the noble Lord will recognise that that is exactly why the Government, having produced proposals that will reassure depositors, recognise that there is more to deal with than just small depositors. That is why the other proposals for the banking system are included in the Statement. I hear what he says about the mass exodus of resources. It is possibly the case that if everything had been left to “devil take the hindmost”, the effects could have been quite calamitous in terms of transfers across the exchanges. The noble Lord will appreciate, though, that the Statement represents a response that is reflected in other countries, too, particularly in the European Community. It is that general response that will guarantee that we do not have the calamitous consequences that he suggests might have followed from one state acting in a particular way—even one with relatively modest resources.

Planning Bill

4.30 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


Clause 5 [National policy statements]:

Baroness Whitaker moved Amendment No. 28:

28: Clause 5, page 2, line 38, leave out “and”

The noble Baroness said: The amendments in this group are intended to ensure that good design is integral to the process of planning. The reason why they are necessary can be seen all around us. People are entitled to properly designed infrastructure sited optimally within our landscape, including the built environment. Infrastructure will not function properly unless it is well designed. There are good architects and designers in this country who work to the highest standards, but there is not yet a culture or an expectation of good design among those who make planning decisions and planning proposals. Indeed, there is a deficit of design capacity among the planning community.

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We must overcome this if we are to implement the newly central processes of the Planning Bill and seize the economic opportunities that it creates. I know that my noble friend is sympathetic to the importance of good design and I hope that these amendments or something like them will therefore work with the grain of government policy.

I shall summarise the amendments briefly, because I know that a wide range of distinguished commentators from all sides of the Chamber is waiting in the wings. Amendments Nos. 28 and 30 would ensure that good design is inherent in the national policy statements and Amendments Nos. 35 and 37 would ensure that the Secretary of State personally endorses the element of good design in the policy statement. Amendment No. 60 would guarantee the same for reviews of the NPS, giving good design the same status as sustainability, to which it is allied but not coterminous.

The same parallel is made at Amendment No. 86 to cover the whole exercise of the Secretary of State’s functions, so that sustainability would not be seen as being on a lower level than good design. Amendment No. 429 makes this clear by amending the Town and Country Planning Act accordingly. It fits the CABE-inspired, tried-and-tested review panels into the planning system. It is also important that their findings should carry evidential weight in appeals where applications have been rejected on design grounds.

Amendments Nos. 173, 174, 180, 213, 249, 250, 334 and 359 would mainstream design into the operations of the IPC, so that applications for consent, model provisions, the IPC’s acceptance of applications, the content of development orders and the capacity of the panels that make the settled decisions all fully take the need for good design into account. The IPC might best implement amendments along these lines by taking advice from the independent panel, much as operates in some parts of the USA, with the advice being publicly available. I owe this suggestion to the Royal Town Planning Institute, whose view I am sure the Minister will respect. It also chimes with the opinion of good London borough chief planning officers.

Amendment No. 334 would ensure that if the Secretary of State needed to halt the progress of any consent, she could also do so if the design was not good enough. On Monday my noble friend resisted the proposal that the IPC should include accounting for the quality of design among the prescribed contents of its annual report. There are examples of that kind of accountability and I hope that she will reconsider, particularly given the wide range of support that the proposal had.

Finally, Amendments Nos. 440 and 441 would ensure that the operation of the community infrastructure levy also includes proper consideration of good design. The local authority would be prompted to mainstream design in its thinking and ensure that it had good advice available. Good design is not an extra, a frill or a luxury; it is absolutely fundamental to planning that people can live comfortably with. That is why these amendments, or something like them, are essential. I beg to move.

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Lord Howarth of Newport: I declare an interest as an honorary fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects. My noble friend Lady Whitaker and I tabled the amendments in this group because we believe that it is profoundly important that planning policy explicitly requires conscious and continuous commitment by developers and planners alike to high-quality design. We have sought through the amendments to reinforce at every stage in the planning process, whether it is the new process for major infrastructure projects or the reformed town and country planning regime, a drive to ensure good design. I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Best, whose standing in the fields of housing and local government gives him a special authority in these matters, for adding his name to the amendments.

My noble friend has explained the purport of our amendments. A number of them lay duties on the Secretary of State, or create powers for her, in relation to design, in her oversight of national policy statements and the Infrastructure Planning Commission. Others lay corresponding duties on the IPC. Other amendments lay a duty on applicants for an order by the IPC to demonstrate full regard for good design. Then there are amendments that bear on local authorities.

Amendment No. 429 would introduce a new clause amending the town and country planning regime. The Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 would be amended to create a duty on planning authorities to exercise their function with the objective of contributing to the achievement not only of sustainable development, which is already in that legislation, but also of high-quality design in the built environment. The new clause goes on, therefore, to require the Secretary of State to promote the availability of design review panels in every region and, on appeal, to give weight to any recommendations in respect of the application made by a design review panel. The Barker and Callcutt reports made strong cases for design review, and the amendment goes with the grain of their advice.

Of course, the amendments may not be technically perfect. No doubt they are not sufficiently systematic and comprehensive, either. We can remedy that on Report. I very much hope that my noble friend the Minister will wish to take the lead in doing so. None of us has any desire to write into the Bill unworkable or excessive provisions. What we need is provisions on the face of the Bill that convincingly secure the commitment of the system to promoting good design. We would all prefer, I take it, that the Government should come forward with their own amendments to achieve this in an effective and sensible way. Meanwhile, the thrust of these amendments is clear and they will at least serve illustratively. I know that they reflect the serious concern on all sides of your Lordships’ House, demonstrated earlier in the year in our debates on architecture and on the Housing and Regeneration Bill, that the Government should take an appropriate lead in promoting high-quality design in the built environment. I know, too, that my noble friend the Minister, who of course genuinely appreciates the importance of good design, will want to be responsive to the feeling of the Committee.

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Let me deal with some of the objections that I can anticipate and that my noble friend may feel she has to put to the Committee at this stage. It may be objected that the amendments are unnecessary, as the Government’s requirement for good design has already been expressed in planning policy statements 1 and 3 and these PPSs will provide a context for the formulation by the Government of their national policy statements as well as for the IPC and practitioners within the wider planning system. That is what my noble friend was saying on Monday in her response to our debate on Amendment No. 17. She said:

“The keystone planning document overarching everything that we do in planning is policy statement 1. In policy statement 1 there is a very clear recognition of the importance of design and sustainability. That is the principal driver”.—[Official Report, 6/10/08; col. 69.]

If my noble friend were again today to make the case that because of PPS1 we do not need anything in the Bill, I would not, I am afraid, draw sufficient comfort. Welcome as is her affirmation of the Government’s view of the importance of design, and admirable as are the principles set forth in PPS1, a planning policy statement is only guidance. Planning policy statements are expressed in highly generalised terms. They read as aspirations. Aspirations need underpinning.

Yesterday, at the briefing that the Minister so helpfully organised for us, we heard a person from the British Wind Energy Association say that planning policy statement 22 is “blatantly disregarded”. We also heard the representative of the Royal Town Planning Institute, an experienced planning inspector, plead for “clear ground rules”. He said that when you have them, a planning system works well; when you do not, you are in the sort of difficulties that are all too familiar and that this legislation needs to get us out of.

We have had planning guidance for many years, but in practice guidance has allowed too much that has been poorly designed to receive planning permission and to be built. We need to go beyond guidance and aspiration to explicit duties, laid precisely and unevadably on Ministers, infrastructure planning commissioners, developers, planning officers, planning committee members and inspectors, as they perform specific functions within the planning process.

I believe that the Committee will take the view that the requirement for good design must be explicitly articulated in the Bill. If it is, all concerned in the planning process will know for sure that they have to go beyond lip service and genuinely take design seriously. They will know that it is not only the non-statutory desire of the Government but the will of Parliament written inescapably into the law. Local planning authorities will have a new certainty that it is their duty to insist on good design, using design review, using the Building for Life standards, strengthening their own design skills, appointing design champions and rejecting substandard design. Local planning authorities have made it clear in their responses to surveys that they want to do better in matters of design. If they have clear legislative endorsement, they will set about doing so.

It may then be objected that it is unaffordably expensive to insist on good design, perhaps particularly for local authorities. If my noble friend were to make that suggestion, I would have to respond that, with

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great respect, she cannot have it both ways. If the duty is already there in the planning policy statements, it will be no more expensive to reiterate that duty and to remind and clarify in this legislation, as indeed the Government did a few months ago in the Housing and Regeneration Act.

In any case, good design need not cost more than mediocre design. Imagination and the exercise of skill are not intrinsically expensive. We all know, of course, that improved professional skills, notably in design, are widely needed. CABE has produced dismal statistics for the lack of adequate skills in planning authorities. Reform of the curriculum leading to professional qualification, so as to give greater prominence to design and to a common element of training in design, is needed, so that we have more planners, surveyors, transport engineers and, indeed, architects who understand and value good design. However, that is a matter of educating differently, not of spending more. The RTPI, RIBA and other professional and academic institutions are working on that and I hope that the Academy for Sustainable Communities, housed within the Homes and Communities Agency, and Ministers themselves will give vigorous leadership here. Meanwhile, with the deficiencies in design skills across the country, it is the more important that we write the requirement for good design into this legislation.

Even if there is a marginal extra cost up front in ensuring that the design is really good, that cost will start to be offset by the public’s more ready acceptance of well designed projects, leading to fewer objections. With design review, planning decisions will be speeded up, there will be fewer appeals and there will be faster progress in the realisation of projects. More significantly, there is abundant evidence—as the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, reminded us on Monday—that extra investment in design at the outset is recouped many times over in savings on the lifetime costs of the building or installation. If anyone doubts that, I refer them to CABE’s publication, The Cost of Bad Design.

4.45 pm

The Government want a great deal of new infrastructure to be built rapidly; that is what the legislation is intended to enable. At the same time, scarcity of capital and weakened financial confidence will make it harder to finance big construction programmes. The more pressures there are on time and finance, the more important it is for DCLG to build into legislation safeguards against cutting corners on design quality. If other departments working on national policy statements—DBERR, Defra, DECC—are impatient and anxious not to have their proceedings complicated by what they may take to be fancy requirements about design, the more it is DCLG’s responsibility to carry the flag for the civilised values that the public want. I hope that the Secretary of State will, if necessary, remind colleagues in other departments of what she said in her speech to CABE, that it is,

More of such leadership may be needed.

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It may be objected that good design is too woolly a concept to be subject to legislation or that aesthetics are not a proper matter for legislation. In fact, the principles of good design have been expounded in numerous documents issued by DCLG and CABE. DCLG energetically and rightly promulgates the Building for Life design standards. Good design is explained and demonstrated in the practice of the design review panels that already exist. If it was appropriate for the Government to insist that the national agency responsible for promoting new social housing and regeneration should have a specific duty to promote high-quality design, it should follow that the national agency responsible for approving proposals for major infrastructure should equally have regard for high-quality design. Major infrastructure projects—roads, railways, docks, waste disposal installations, gas terminals, power stations and airports—will be visually conspicuous. It is essential that they should be not only functional and sustainable but also visually pleasing.

Functionality, sustainability and aesthetic appearance are three indispensable elements of good design. They should be understood as an indissoluble trinity: they are complementary and all three are equally necessary. Functionality is taken for granted and the Government are happy to write a requirement for sustainability into the Bill, but it will be no good if we legislate for a two-legged stool. Functionality and sustainability are part of good design, but they are not the whole story. The Bill must make it clear that all three aspects of good design are needed.

We are talking here of values, of the character of our nation. If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing well. We should do as well as the best in other countries. If public policy in France secures the stunning aesthetic quality of the Millau viaduct, designed by the noble Lord, Lord Foster, and Spain achieves the design quality of the Madrid airport terminal by my noble friend Lord Rogers, we should leave nothing to chance in our commitment to achieve comparable design quality in Britain. We can do it. The noble Lord, Lord Foster, designed the Stansted terminal. However, infrastructure design of that quality should be neither exceptional in Britain nor a matter of luck.

It would be defeatist and barbaric to set out, consciously and deliberately in this legislation, to tolerate the mediocre, let alone the downright ugly. In her wonderful biography of Pugin, whose spirit we should always respect in this place, Rosemary Hill wrote:

“In the debates that dominated the early months of 1851 design and politics, religious freedom, architecture and the modern city were all intermingled, for all were expressions of England’s growing self-consciousness on the world stage”.

Sir Joseph Bazalgette, who created the Victorian sewer system, declared that it,

and it was. Think of London’s pre-war power stations. One became Tate Modern and epitomises contemporary London. Battersea Power Station was an inspirational design; its image has appeared on album covers and film sets, and it deserves a better future than we have managed to offer it in our own time. What self-respect will we have in our generation, and what judgment will

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we suffer by successor generations, if we leave a legacy of shoddy, dull, demeaning building? Our determination should be to match and surpass the vision and achievement of our forebears.

Lord Best: I am delighted that my name is attached to these amendments, and I shall read and reread the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, and the brilliant, masterly speech of the noble Lord, Lord Howarth. However, my comments will be rather brief. In our discussions on Monday there was support across the Committee for the concept of design playing a bigger role in the Bill, even though the earlier amendments on the subject did not gain much approval from the Minister. I hope that at least some of this long list of additional amendments may find their way on to the statute book. I made the point, which was well elaborated by the noble Lord, Lord Howarth, that major infrastructure projects—and indeed all projects which serve not only utility but beauty—will last, as have the Victorian monuments. If we construct shoddy buildings that no one appreciates, they will not last and the savings gained on day one will soon be lost.

Given the need to find many billions of pounds to fund the major infrastructure projects of tomorrow, the anxiety is that design will be the first casualty of financial constraint in the present credit and banking crisis because it is so easy to skimp on it. We are likely to see more projects going down the private finance initiative route, but those projects are not noted for their architectural merit. I declare an interest as an honorary fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects. What has happened to its proposals for smart PFI procedures that would build into the PFI mechanisms a greater emphasis on design, which seems to have been lost along the way? I hope that design will be given the prominence it deserves somewhere in the Bill, whether that is done through the PFI or other routes.

Lord Jenkin of Roding: Like the noble Lord, Lord Best, I admired the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Howarth. He has given far more attention to this subject than I have, even though in a former manifestation I had to address some of the issues he described. The noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, spelt out how this group of amendments is designed to improve the Bill and I support the thoughts behind them.

It is not entirely true to say that the planning system has tended to ignore design. On Monday, I reminded the Committee that His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales memorably described the original design for the National Gallery extension as being like a carbuncle on the face of a well loved friend. In the same speech, which I believe he made on the 150th anniversary of RIBA at Hampton Court, he also described a Mies van der Rohe design for a major building in the City as more suitable to downtown Chicago than to the City of London. I remember expressing considerable indignation to His Royal Highness’s private secretary because he seemed to have made two of my most important planning decisions for me. However, it was very important that he did so because the Mies van der Rohe building in particular involved an architect of major international reputation and significance.

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The building had been promoted by my noble friends and 20 years had elapsed between its original conception and the point at which the planning application had to be decided.

I do not think that those who were my officials at that time will mind my saying that they advised me strongly to accept the Mies van der Rohe building and to reject His Royal Highness’s criticisms. I went to the City and spent most of a morning with a senior official and various pictures and mock-ups of what the building would look like from different angles around the site. I came to the firm conclusion that His Royal Highness was right and that my officials were wrong. That was the decision.

I remain perturbed, however, at the official advice of the department. I think that the officials were impressed by the apparent distinction of the architect rather than by what the building would look like on the site. Anyone who visits the site now will recognise that there is a very beautiful building there which is a vast improvement on what had been there before.

I am seeking to illustrate a point to which the RIBA has drawn attention and which the noble Lord, Lord Howarth, has just mentioned. There is huge dearth of design skills both in local authorities and, I suspect, in many government departments. On the local authority side, I often heard from developers who had engaged distinguished architects and had had to give them the very firm instruction, “Do nothing unusual. I want planning permission quickly”. One has heard also of architects who have designed striking buildings for particular sites only to have them firmly turned down by a local authority planning committee which simply did not approve of the genre and wanted something more normal. This has been one of the real problems affecting local authority planning applications. Sometimes it is not the planning officers and their staff, who may well be good people; often it is the local authority’s members themselves who seem to have no appreciation of what they are on about. They want something that will be, they say, “harmonious with its surroundings”, and tend to resent anything in the least bit unusual.

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