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I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, spoke to Clause 116. My amendment was more extensive than his and I probably did not do it full justice,
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The noble Lord said: The first two amendments in this group concern the status of green-belt land where it is affected by a development proposal under a national infrastructure project scheme. I understand that the Minister can give us assurances on this matter. If that is the case, there will be no need for us to take it further. I look forward to hearing what he has to say. I beg to move.
Lord Adonis: I believe that the noble Lord seeks assurances from me on the development of green-belt land. I think that I am in a position to give him those assurances. Indeed, my speaking note says that there is not a cigarette paper between him and the Government on the overall aims. I hope that is always true of the detail.
The term green belt relates to land that is designated as green-belt land in accordance with the 1938 green belt Act. Under that Act, local authorities were given powers to hold certain land surrounding London and other metropolitan areas on trust, and development of that land is subject to restrictions over and above those imposed by the Town and Country Planning Act. Where land is designated as green-belt land for the purposes of the 1938 Act, a separate consent is required from the Secretary of State to enable the land to be developed. It might be helpful if I refer to this as statutory green-belt land.
There is a second category of land, which is land designated as green-belt land by a local authority in its local development plan. Such land is currently protected from development by both local and national planning policy, which prohibit inappropriate development in the green belt except in very special circumstances. This type of designated green belt is not the same as statutory green-belt land as designated under the 1938 Act. While the development of this designated green-belt land requires planning permission in the usual way, it does not also require a separate consent from the Secretary of State under the 1938 Act.
The Planning Bill deals with both these types of land by means of the single consent regime. As noble Lords will see from Clause 32, the single consent regime means that promoters will make a single application to the IPC instead of separate applications under the 1938 Act and the Town and Country Planning Act. An order granting development consent could, depending
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However, I can assure the noble Lord that it is our intention that the commission and the Secretary of State will be required to adhere to the policies set out in any relevant national policy statement, particularly in relation to the protection of green-belt land, whether statutory or non-statutory, and to take into account such other factors as may be prescribed in all decisions on whether to grant consent for a development in the green belt.
We intend that national policy statements will explicitly reflect existing policy on green belt as set out in PPG2, thereby requiring the IPC to reach a decision on the same basis as local planning authorities currently do on applications in the green belt. We also intend to make subsequent regulations that require the commission or the Secretary of State to take into account the purpose for which green-belt land is held when deciding whether to grant consent for NSIP development on green-belt land. In that way, the special status of green-belt land will be protected to the full extent that the noble Lord would wish to see.
Lord Cobbold: Perhaps I may speak to my Amendment No. 406. It comes at the beginning of Chapter 2 of the Bill, which is entitled, Other changes to existing planning regimes. Given this opportunity, I felt that it was important to raise an issue about which I feel strongly, which I have raised with the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, and with her predecessors on several occasions. I declare an interest in that I am a landowner in the green belt in Hertfordshire.
Those principles have been most effective and have preserved the countryside wherever they exist. One problem, however, is that they freeze all development in villages and hamlets that fall within a green belt; thus, except in very special circumstances, the natural evolution of those villages and hamlets is blocked. As I said on Second Reading, there are many small and medium-sized sites in green-belt locations where a modest, well-designed and appropriate development could be permitted without threatening the openness of the surrounding green belt. According to paragraph 1.4 of PPG2, openness is the most important attribute of the green belt.
There will be differing views on what is appropriate development, and they will vary depending on the characteristics of the particular site. There is likely to be demand for affordable housing to enable the next generation of village dwellers to stay in the area; but appropriateness should not be limited to affordable housing. Some infilling and freestanding housing should not be ruled out provided that, as the amendment states, it is,
The amendment is designed to give a degree of flexibility to local planning authorities in aiding the natural evolution of villages and hamlets in the green belt, without compromising the five purposes of including land in green belt as set out in PPG2.
Lord Reay: I am not a landowner in the green belt, but I support the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Cobbold, who spoke convincingly on this subject at Second Reading, when he drew the picture of a blanket freeze on all development in villages and hamlets in the green belt, making it sound like a blight that they were suffering from. He provided quite a contrast to the experience of almost any other village in this country in the past 20 years. The amendment is cautious and the noble Lord surrounds the prospect of development with every sort of condition, and I would have thought that his amendment could be supported.
Lord Jenkin of Roding: I am sorry, but I was trying to discover where we were. The solution is that the Chamber did not give my noble friend leave to withdraw his amendment, which we are still discussing. I wish to comment on the interesting point made by the noble Lord, Lord Cobbold. As Secretary of State, I was heavily involved with this issue and I published proposals for planning authorities, when drawing the boundaries of green belts around small towns and villages, to leave enough space for the kind of natural development to which the noble Lord referred. I was immediately howled down by all the environmental interests: they said that I was proposing to cover the green belt in concrete. That was complete nonsense, although the matter is of course sensitive.
However, I am sure that I was right and it is wrong to draw a line that follows the existing houses all the way around a village and to state that everything outside it is the green belt, subject to all the extra restrictions. That is nonsense and I hope that the Government will recognise, in continuing to administer green belt policy, that natural development should be allowed. My chief official used to say that the man who gets the last house at the end of the road at the edge of the green belt becomes the secretary of the local conservation society.
Lord Adonis: The Government share the concerns of the noble Lords, Lord Cobbold and Lord Reay, that communities should be able to evolve over time for precisely the reasons also set out by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin. However, we are in no doubt that the existing controls set out in PPG2 already provide robust protection to the green belt and local flexibility to enable proportionate development in villages. PPG2 places a presumption against inappropriate development
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Lord Adonis: They may say that, but the policy, under paragraph 2.11 of PPG2, enables local planning authorities, through their development plans, to set out policies allowing infill development if such development would not have an adverse effect on the character of the village concerned. That precisely meets the point made by the noble Lord. Of course, we cannot substitute our judgment for the judgment of local planning authorities in this matter, but PPG2 does provide precisely the flexibility that the noble Lords, Lord Reay, Lord Cobbold and Lord Jenkin, sought. Therefore, existing planning policy guidance meets their concerns.
Furthermore, to help meet the specific needs of local communities for affordable housing, local planning authorities may set out a rural exception site policy in their development plan. Such a policy enables the authority to release small sites which would otherwise not be released for housing, within and adjoining existing small rural communities in the green belt, to provide affordable housing to meet local needs in perpetuity. So the person who buys the last house in the village and becomes secretary of the local conservation society might be in for a rude shock.
Lord Cobbold: I thank the Minister for that reply, but I know what is in the box of existing villages in PPG2it is very out of date; this issue needs to be restated and the Bill is an ideal opportunity for that.
Lord Dixon-Smith: I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Cobbold, for forgetting that he had an amendment in this group. It is a significant group and the Minister has dealt with it as best he can. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
(aa) section 10 (compensation for injurious affection);
( ) An order granting development consent may include provision authorising an electric line to be kept installed above ground only if the decision-maker is satisfied that no person will be exposed to any risk to their health arising from exposure to electric and magnetic fields with a frequency of between 30 to 300 Hertz.
The noble Lord said: I do not think that this amendment, on the hazards of exposure to magnetic fields, has been debated. As everything that can be said about the matter has been said, I do not intend to move the amendment. However, I am grateful for the Ministers assurances that she will keep an eye on what is going on.
The noble Lord said: I shall speak also to Amendment No. 376 and reply to the other amendments in this group tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and the noble Lord, Lord Greaves. With the leave of the Committee, I shall first speak briefly to my amendments and then reply to the others after the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, has spoken to them. It may be as well if I reply to him rather than seek to pre-empt what he has to say.
Amendments Nos. 375 and 376 are technical drafting amendments. Clauses 124 and 126 deal with applications for development consent orders which would involve compulsory acquisition of land or rights over land owned by local authorities or statutory undertakers or by the National Trust. In both cases we want the relevant local authority or statutory undertaker or the National Trust to be able to make representations against the relevant application. However, the current wording of the clause allows for representations about any application. These amendments remove confusion about which application is being referred to. I beg to move.
Lord Greaves: My noble friend Lady Hamwee and I tabled Amendments Nos. 379 and 382 and have given notice of our intention to oppose the Question that Clauses 127 and 128 should stand part. Most of this is about commons. Some of us remember fondly the passage of the Commons Act 2006 through this House. It seems that ever since then we have had one Bill or another each Session in which the issue of commons bubbles up. I welcome the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, to the commons corner and to the technicalities of what is often seen as a side issue, though it is quite important.
Amendments Nos. 379 and 382 were originally tabled as holding amendments so that we had something on these clauses in the Marshalled List. Amendment No. 382 is about rights of way. My purposeit may well be a technical issue that can be answered afterwards in writingis to find out what difference this clause and the Bill will make to the procedures on non-vehicular rights of way as regards extinguishment, diversion and so on. How will this work under the new system compared with how it works under compulsory purchase orders at the moment? I am not talking about normal procedures but about compulsory purchase orders under existing legislation. How will this change it, if at all?
The rest of the points refer to commons. Clause 126 concerns compulsory purchase orders for existing commons or for replacement land where an existing common is to be compulsorily purchased and used for something else. Clause 127 is a very similar provision about the compulsory purchase of rights over commons. Of course, the ownership of a common and the people who have commoners rights and other rights on the common are two separate and different things. I want to probe the relationship between the two and the changes from the provisions in the Commons Act 2006 and in previous commons legislationSection 9 of the Acquisition of Land Act 1981 and, most recently, the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008. Your Lordships' House last discussed commons during passage of the latter legislation.
There are three broad issues. The first is how Clauses 126 and 127 vary, if at all, from the existing provisions in Section 9 of the Acquisition of Land Act 1981. I have had a good look at this legislation and can find only one variation, though there may be others; it concerns the Secretary of States decision on whether to order a public inquiry into a proposal to compulsorily purchase a common. Section 9 of the Act requires the Secretary of State to consider any representations made before deciding whether to have a public inquiry. That provision seems to have been missed out of this Bill. I would like to know whether that is so, and, if so, why it is. It is a small point, but it is a safeguard.
The then Housing and Regeneration Bill had very similar provisions on the compulsory purchase of commonsin that case, by the Homes and Communities Agency, which may be the other major national organisation that the Government are setting up with new planning powers. Why are there differences between the way in which the Housing and Regeneration Act,
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The Housing and Regeneration Act provisions seem easier to read, simpler and more elegant. Perhaps we have had two lots of parliamentary draftsmen inventing the wheel together and coming up with different shaped wheels. It is not clear to me why, in two Bills that have gone through Parliament so closely together and everyone accepts are very closely linked in how development, regeneration and planning powers are to be used, we have two different ways of setting out the proposals.
There is a second broad issue which we also raised when discussing the Housing and Regeneration Act, when the Government came up with a satisfactory solution as the legislation went through your Lordships' House. We have to tackle the same issue herethat the provisions for the acquisition of commons by people carrying out development appear to apply only to acquisition by compulsory purchase, not to acquisition by agreement. As I said, the issue was resolved satisfactorily during passage of the Housing and Regeneration Act though it seems to need to be resolved again here. Part 2 of Schedule 2 to the Housing and Regeneration Act contains the provisions included as a result of representations raised here.
One problem is the question of how replacement land or rightseither land or rights over land that the developers already possessare to be provided if a common is acquired by agreement rather than compulsion. How it should happen if there is a CPO is all set out in the Act: as a condition of that CPO, replacement land or replacement rights must be there. If the land is acquired by agreement, they do not have to be. That is the fundamental issue that needs sorting out.
If land has been developed that has not gone through the proper procedure of registration and replacement land being provided, that land may remain as a common and people who are occupying that land for whatever purpose may find that those common rights still exist and have not been removed. There does not seem to be a procedure in the Bill for adequately removing them.
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