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Amendment No. 229 is apparently an innocuous little amendment, but it is actually fundamental and complicated; if the Committee will bear with me, I will go through it. We are now on to the part of the Bill that deals with local impact reports. Local impact reports are the information and advice that a local planning authoritya local councilprovides to the Infrastructure Planning Commission once an application for an ADC has been submitted. The Infrastructure Planning Commission contacts the council and asks it for any information and views that it wishes to put forward at that stage. Clearly, that is to inform the
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is ambiguous and should be looked at. The word or gives rise to the question of whether someone can choose whether they wish to consult a county or a district council. I do not want to go into the realms of Boolean logic which, in this internet age, we have all had to learn to understand, but or usually has a different meaning to and. Perhaps our amendment should seek simply to remove or and insert and, although it would have exactly the same effect. Its purpose is to probe the meaning of the clause and to ask the Government whether they are prepared to make this matter clearer in legislation.
means. I am not sure why the commas are there. There was a time when commas never appeared in legislation. They have been put in to clarify the legislation and to make it easier to read. We are always not told not to change the meaning, but the presence of those commas implies that there is a pause and emphasises that it is an alternative. It does not mean a county council and a district council, and someone will decide in any application whether the county or the district is consulted and asked to produce the local impact report. I think the Minister has understood the point that I am making. It should be both, because the county council still has a residual strategic planning function, and specific planning functions in relation for example to minerals, and the district council is the main development control authority. Clearly they should both be consulted in any particular case.
Unitary authorities can be either districts or counties. The Isle of Wight is a unitary county, and there are lots of unitary districts. There is no problem with a unitary authority, because it is obvious whether it is a
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Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I am tempted to say that I am all at sea, but only as a way of bringing the topic back to the draft marine Bill and to my two amendments, which seek to clarify the disconnect between the proposals in that Bill and this one. If we had considered the draft marine Bill first, we would have seen why there is an inconsistency between the two Bills that might be remedied. We need a marine representative body in this Bill that would, after the draft marine Bill has passed into law, become the marine management organisation. This body would speak and carry out an impact assessment on behalf of the marine environment and have a duty of care in that area. Writing it into this Bill would make it clear that it had this role, and previous amendments that I have tabled in this area would all fall into place. I am sorry to ask the Minister to include this in her correspondence and in her considerations between now and Report, but dialogue with other members of the Government with an interest in this Bill might resolve the matter before Report.
Lord Woolmer of Leeds: On an associated matter, what is the position of national parks under the clause? They are certainly not mentioned in this clause or in Clause 99(7), which is intended to clarify the matter. If land involves national parks, will they fall under this clause?
Baroness Andrews: I have said many times that we are very keen to ensure that the local authorities have an enhanced role in this process, as they must as guardians of the local community and the local environment. The forensic attention which noble Lords have paid to those clauses has been well worth it. In essence, as I have said, the promoter of the project will consult the local authorities. The IPC will have to have regard to any report on the adequacy of the promoters consultation which they receive from a local authority consultee. Local authorities are statutory consultees.
In addition, Clause 58 requires the Infrastructure Planning Commission, on accepting an application for development consent, to invite the affected local authority or local authorities to produce a report of the likely impact on their local community. Clause 101 requires that the IPC must have regard to the local impact report when making its decision. Clause 102 requires the Minister to do the same in a case where they exercise their power of intervention to take over and decide.
The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, asked me a simple question: does the term local authorities cover county councils and district councils in two-tier authorities? The short answer is: yes, it does. I am pleased to confirm that there should not be any issue about that. The amendment duplicates the effect of Clause 99(5), which provides, among other things, that a local authority means a county council or a district council in England.
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The amendments to Clause 58, raised by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, seek to expand the requirement of the local impact report to the marine environment, as well as provide that local impact reports should be produced by the relevant marine body if the land or area to which the application relates, or any part of it, is coastal or offshore. Clearly, the intention is to ensure that in deciding the application the IPC should have proper regard to the appropriate marine policy and plans. He has also made amendments to Clause 101, which is the crucial decision test clause.
Although we are absolutely clear that marine policy and marine plans, where relevant, will be important to considerations in decisions on applications for development consent, the Bill provides for those in a different way from the assessment of local impacts. We consider that the right place for the consideration of the marine environment will be the NPS and the marine policy statements. This is an important point and I want to reassure him that we will require that the NPS and the relevant marine policy will be consistent. The NPSs have to draw together all relevant policy into a framework that everyone sees is consistent in order for the promoters to develop their projects and for people to understand the balance of various arguments and interests. Within that, the IPC will take the final decision.
In addition, we envisage that where the development requires the consideration of the marine environment, the relevant marine body would be a statutory consultee. I am happy to confirm that. I have also said that I will write to the noble Lord and that I will explore the issue of the interrelationships before Report stage. If issues arise about this interface, I hope that we can discuss them outside the Chamber so that he can be reassured that we are doing out best to make sure that government policy, as always, is seamless.
Lord Woolmer of Leeds: While I am grateful to my noble friend for responding to my point, the definition of a local authority to produce an impact assessment applies to where land is in that local authority. Major wind farms can have a significant impact in a local authority area even though the land and the wind farms are not in that area. Would a local authority in an area affected by a proposal have any right to conduct an impact assessment even if the land where the development would take place is not in its area?
Baroness Andrews: I see my noble friends point and my understanding is that this applies to local authorities. Perhaps I may come back to my noble friend on that point and that made about the national park. This relationship between responsibility and land is complex, but I am happy to clarify it to make sure that we all understand what it means.
Lord Greaves: Yet again the noble Lord, Lord Woolmer, has made a good point about national parks, and given another reason why this should not be left to secondary legislation. National parks are a special case because they are local planning authorities. Perhaps the reason why all these local authorities are in here is that they are all wonderful democratic representatives of their communitiesand no doubt some of them are. At least I hope that some of them are; I hope that mine is, for a start. The real reason they are in the Bill is that they are local planning authorities, and this is a planning Bill. If local authorities had nothing to do with planning, they would not be in this legislation, however good they are at representing their communities. It emphasises the importance of national park authorities as planning authorities and why, as a special case and without listing all the other bodies in the world, they ought to be in the Bill.
I am grateful to the Minister for her comments on the county/district issue. The definition in Clause 99(5) and elsewhere in the Bill should be broadened so that a two-tier system is defined separately on another line. In two-tier areas, it is both the district and the county. That is an answer to the conundrum and I hope that the Minister will think about doing that. The point needs to be made clear.
I said that I would comment briefly on the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, on the draft Marine Bill provisions. Again, I should like to associate us with the many points he has made on the relationship between that draft Bill and this legislation. This may not be the right place in the Bill to put something in, but many people have huge expectations about the impact and effect of the Marine Bill, assuming that we get it in the next Session, as we all hope we will. Marine policy statements will be vital, as will marine plans. In effect, it will be a planning Bill for offshore areas and will introduce the marine conservation zones on which everyone is pinning what are perhaps too great hopes. However, we hope that at least some of them will be effective.
I can see concerns developing unless the Minister can clarify two points. The first is that the provisions of this Bill need to be in place before the provisions of the Marine Bill and that decisions may be taken which it will be too late to reverse by the new marine management authority when it gets to work. There is a risk that the authority will be pre-empted and that parts of the marine environment will be degraded by development taking place under this Bill, which is development orientated. The Marine Bill is more concerned with the environment and the need to balance all the interests involved.
Secondly, from what the Minister has been saying, the new national planning system for these big projects will take precedence over the rest of the planning system on land, and she is telling us that it will take precedence at sea as well. That is going to come as quite a disappointment to many organisations and people who have been campaigning for so long for the Marine Bill. The Infrastructure Planning Commission will be able to give permission for something like 30 to 40 offshore wind farms. That will happen before the Marine Bill is ready, thus pre-empting marine policy
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( ) the single Commissioner handling the application,
The noble Baroness said: I shall not speak to the substance of the amendment. I move it only to speak to a procedural point which I raised briefly with the Minister and to reassure those who may be watching our proceedings at 6 am tomorrow on the Parliament Channel or on whatever other modern technology. I have a hand-held device, which is very helpful.
The point is that yesterday the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, and I agreed with the Minister not to move a clutch of amendments in order to make progress on the Bill. Those amendments are not necessarily unimportant; in some cases we are seeking clarity and in others we are making points where we disagree to a certain extent with the Government. In return for not moving them, the Minister has offered to write to uswhich we have readily acceptedto give certain assurances. But we are concerned that what the Minister has to say should, through some means or other, be a matter of public record.
This is where the point about computer technology comes in. I have seen a letter from the leader of the Bill team and he entirely takes the point. He states that one option is for me to say that I am not moving amendments and that the Minister will be writing to give a formal
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Baroness Andrews: I am grateful to the noble Baroness for enabling me to thank her and the Official Opposition Front Benchthe noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, in particularfor their extraordinary co-operation on a Bill which we all think is very important. We are all conscious that time has caught up with us and I am extremely grateful to them. I shall certainly do everything I can to ensure that everyone who is interested in the amendments knows about them. We can deploy all the noble Baronesss suggestions. I am happy to answer Parliamentary Questions, to write to noble Lords and to put the correspondence in the Libraryor, indeed, to do anything else they would like me to do. I wish I had one of those hand-held machines too; it would be easier than running back and forth to the Box.
I thank noble Lords for their co-operation. We have debated some of the issues before, and we will debate them again, but there are specific issuesabout the single commissioner, for examplewhich I know the noble Baroness will want to talk about and have on the record. Let us continue and have that conversation between now and Report.
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I apologise for raising the point, but I understood that it was not proper procedure to use such a device in the Chamber. I do not wish to be pedantic, and I am a very junior Member of this Committee in terms of my experience, but it sets a precedent. The Minister has said that from her point of view it might be rather useful. I think that the procedures of the Committee do not permit that sort of communication with the Box, and it is probably preferable not to encourage it.
Baroness Hamwee: I consider myself reprimanded. I have referred to it before and on the first occasion I was thanked by the Minister responding on behalf of the Government for having done so and legitimised it, as it were. How useful it is depends on how fast you can type. I am grateful to the Minister and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
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