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The Government suggest that leaders’ boards working with the RDAs might be the answer. I fear that it will not be if you really want to achieve success, develop the economy, build houses and provide a satisfying solution, given that, as I have just said, a vast amount of the country is covered by two tiers—it is very rural with a series of large towns in it. I have been involved in this process for a long while. I want to see agreement on the building of houses and development, but it works much better from the bottom up than it does from the top down.

The amendment sets out a number of bodies that should be part of creating the regional strategy; it should not be only the leaders’ board. Obviously the RDA and the leaders’ board will decide ultimately, but the process should be bottom-up, with lots of people participating and being involved; if it is not, it will not work. I think that everyone agrees that the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 has not worked terribly well in giving planning powers to the regional assemblies, otherwise we would not now be giving them to the RDAs; the Government have admitted that by proposing something different two or three years later. The Government should acknowledge that the process should be much more bottom-up and that these various bodies should be consulted and involved in the construction of the regional strategy. I beg to move.

Lord Judd: My Lords, I apologise for having jumped the gun a moment ago, but all these amendments cover much the same territory. The noble Lord, Lord

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Hanningfield, moved his amendment very well. While I take second place to no one in my support for the Government in wanting to get planning streamlined and to be able to get ahead with it and so on, it will not work unless people have been properly consulted. It will run into all kinds of problems if people feel that they have been bypassed.

I shall speak to Amendments 160, 164, 165 and 168 and, in doing so, I should remind the House that I am president of the Friends of the Lake District and a vice-president of the Campaign for National Parks. I shall speak for a little longer than noble Lords have been speaking so far today, but that is because I shall be speaking to all four amendments. On aggregate my time will not exceed four minutes per amendment.

We all realise that leaders’ boards will be very important bodies. They will be responsible for the development and sign-off of the regional strategies. The regional strategy under planning law, once approved, becomes part of the development plan covering the national parks and other areas. Amendment 160 seeks to ensure that each leaders’ board has on it representation from each type of authority. There are good reasons for ensuring that all types of authority are represented, but I shall focus on the area that I know best—the national park authorities.

The critical question is whether the arrangements will provide adequate representation. There are strong grounds for believing that they will not. The statutory purposes and functions of national park authorities, as set out in Parliament, are unique. Arrangements therefore need to reflect the “national” in national parks. I am well aware of much of the work that the national park authorities are doing to support local communities, as they take it very seriously, but we should not forget that national parks are just that—national—and that local authorities are responsible for their areas and local communities.

This significant difference needs to be recognised in the institutional arrangements. It may well be possible for district councils within a region to come together and establish a form of representation, but it would not be possible for local authorities to represent the interests of national parks, because the functions, purposes and audiences are different. Planning is the key to delivering national park purposes, and Parliament has decreed that national park authorities must have spatial planning powers. Indeed, spatial planning is a crucial tool in delivering national park purposes for the nation. The new regional strategies will be pivotal to the region—indeed, they will form part of the development plans of the national parks—and yet if a region wishes to exclude a national park authority from the leaders’ board, with the effect that it does not sign off the regional strategy, it is perfectly entitled to do so under this legislation.

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The new arrangements would weaken the existing approach. The national park authorities are named authorities under Section 4(4) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004. For this reason, NPAs have a seat on regional assemblies, which enables them

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to engage with regional partners. What is proposed represents a significant weakening of the current arrangements.

As we all know, the NPAs are not party political, yet they provide significant benefits for the nation. This means that they need the support of central government to ensure that their needs are met when new regional arrangements are being established, which itself has been a highly political process. Under the Bill as proposed, national park purposes would probably be undermined. If NPAs are not represented on leaders’ boards, the interests of national parks are unlikely to be addressed and the delivery of the national park purposes would be undermined. For example, the NPAs take seriously the need for affordable housing for local communities, but under the Bill decisions over housing numbers, locations and other infrastructure, which will have a direct bearing on national parks, could very well undermine or erode the special quality of those parks. The NPAs are at pains to balance both considerations in meeting the social need for housing.

NPAs are facing considerable development pressures on their doorsteps and will do so more in future. This demands that national park purposes are always reflected in the decisions that ultimately affect them. Where development policies are accepted as essential for the regional strategy but they erode the national park special qualities, it is necessary to have an informed representative on the leaders’ board who can propose counterbalancing or mitigating policies.

As the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, argued, better planning requires less ministerial intervention. Without better planning arrangements, ultimately there will be more ministerial intervention. Ensuring that all parties are involved at an early stage in planning to iron out potential conflicts of policy will help to reduce the need for ministerial intervention. As I understand it, that is exactly what the Government want, but this requires bodies to be involved from the earliest stages.

I was heartened by my noble friend’s comments in Committee when she said:

“The National Park authorities are participating authorities responsible for drawing up the scheme for the leaders’ board. We said in the policy document that they can but do not have to be on the board, but they must be part of the board’s membership and its operation and they would be consulted on the draft strategy and Clause 72(3), to be provided in regulations. Again, I am happy to write to the National Parks Authority, setting that out and ensuring that everyone is clear about that, because it is such a critical partner in this”.—[Official Report, 24/2/09; col. GC 63].

Surely if it is my noble friend’s sentiment that they must be part of the board’s membership, that needs to be reflected in the Bill.

In 1995, Parliament gave the national park authorities independence under the Environment Act. This was in recognition that an arrangement whereby the national park authority, with national purposes, was effectively a sub-committee of a local authority was not appropriate. However, this Bill, if not amended, could lead to national park authorities having to look to local authorities to represent them; they would lose the independence we entrusted to them.

My noble friend may point to the participating authority status which national park authorities are said to enjoy. While this is a fluid process, my

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understanding has generally been that national park authorities have needed to bang on the door to be let into discussions, rather than being invited genuinely to participate. In any case, the participating authority status will mean very little after the Secretary of State has approved the scheme for a leaders’ board in each region. It is a temporary status in this respect.

The national parks cover many administrative boundaries within a region. This enables them to take a wider perspective, which is helpful in addressing strategic planning issues such as climate change. It also means that it would prove extremely difficult for the interests of the national parks to be adequately represented by the local authorities sitting on the leaders’ boards. In addition to ensuring that the interests of national parks are addressed, national park authorities can bring significant beneficial expertise to the table; for example, regarding rural areas and sustainable development. This year is the 60th anniversary of the visionary National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. It would be sad if 2009 marked a weakening of the special role of the parks.

The ground covered by Amendment 164 was first discussed in Committee, when it was examined by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and the noble Lord, Lord Tope. This issue has attracted cross-party interest. It is also regarded as important by the CPRE and by the County Councils Network. The Local Government Association has also expressed concerns. My noble friend’s response on day seven of Committee was that NPAs and the boards would be involved by virtue of being named participating authorities. This status means that the NPAs should be involved in agreeing a scheme for leaders’ boards. It does not mean, however, that the regional planning board needs to seek the advice of a national park authority in preparing a regional strategy, as is the case now.

My noble friend said in Committee that she would write to the national park authorities on this point. Whatever the correspondence which has or has not taken place, surely it would be better to have the Bill amended rather than to rely on a letter which could all too easily be ignored by future Ministers. At present, regional planning bodies are to take advice from local authorities and national park authorities in preparing regional strategies. This is set out in Section 4(4) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004. The Bill would repeal that requirement. Instead the regional planning body would be required to consult national park authorities and local authorities on an already prepared strategy. Why does this matter? National park authorities and local authorities have taken their responsibilities seriously. They are a source of expertise, in the case of NPAs, on issues relating to sustainable development and in particular their application to rural environments. It can help the regional planning body better to understand the implications of different policies and options and to avoid conflicting policies.

The existence of the Section 4(4) duty has led to service-level agreements being adopted between national parks and local authorities. It has helped strengthen working relationships at a regional and sub-regional level. My noble friend will be aware that a duty to take

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advice is very different from a duty to consult. The latter is much weaker. The Government have published the policy document on regional strategies. This document advocates an inclusive approach. The repeal of Section 4(4) would represent a weakening of the current statutory framework. I have been privy to correspondence which my noble friend sent to the director of the English National Parks Authorities Association, Paul Hamlyn, last October. In that letter she says:

“Finally, with regard to the preparation of the regional spatial strategies, I can confirm that National Park Authorities retain their role under Section 4(4) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004”.

The proposal to repeal the entire section seems contrary to that statement.

Finally, I suggest that the Government may be worried that what I am arguing is adding to the statute book: it is not. The amendment will simply ensure that existing duties, which Parliament has already approved, are maintained. If my noble friend is still concerned on this point, there is always Amendment 168, which is a simple formulation to achieve the same outcome.

On Amendment 165, the Bill includes provisions for a plan for implementing the regional strategy— Clause 77(1). The proposal to strengthen the link between the spatial strategy and decisions over resource allocation is helpful. This lack of linkage has been a problem in the past for regional spatial strategies. The implementation plan will be a key document within the region in setting detailed priorities, public investment decisions and for creating strategic partnerships. The Bill contains no provisions for consultation on the implementation plan. The Government are on record as saying in paragraph 2.37 of Prosperous Places: Taking Forward the Review of Subnational Economic Development Regeneration, published in November 2008:

“The Government is committed to stakeholder engagement as a fundamental feature of the processes for developing and”—

I underline this—

The Government’s principle is to apply to both developing the strategy and also to its delivery. Delivery is the role of the implementation plan. This amendment is about agreeing the principle on the face of the Bill, not the detail of how it might be done. That principle is too important to be left to guidance which can be changed at the stroke of a Minister’s pen.

Amendment 168 has not been tabled previously in any form. It follows from Amendment 164. It reinforces the point that, instead of new legislation, the aim is simply to ensure that existing duties under the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 remain. The amendment therefore seeks to leave out the provisions in this Bill which would repeal Section 4(4) of the 2004 Act and in so doing reduce the ability of national park authorities and local authorities to engage meaningfully in regional planning at an early stage.

Lord Chorley: My Lords, since this is the first time I have spoken on this Bill, I should declare an interest as a vice-president of the Council for National Parks and vice-president of Friends of the Lake District.

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I gladly put my name to the four amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Judd, and I am glad that two of them are subscribed to by the Liberal Democrats. There is not much more that I need to say. It is difficult to find a hole or gap in the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Judd. He put a comprehensive argument for the amendments. I reiterate the point that national parks are not the same as local authorities—they are national. They are a provision of the 1949 Act. Their interests are national—they represent the nation and not local authorities. It is extremely important that that is recognised at all stages in a Bill whose provisions I find difficult to understand.

I will close on the point about national parks. I hope that the Minister will look with favour on what the noble Lord has been saying.

Lord Tope: As the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, has just said, there is little to add to what the noble Lord, Lord Judd, has just said in speaking to Amendments 164 and 165. My noble friend Lady Hamwee has added her name to Amendment 164. If there had been room, I would have added mine as well but we both managed to get our names down in time on Amendment 165. We therefore readily support the amendments. The noble Lord has moved them so well and so fully that there is little that can be usefully added other than again to express our support.

Before I move to our amendments, perhaps I may also say that we fully support Amendment 157B, which stands at the head of this group. As the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, said in moving it, it commands wide support, including that of the Local Government Association, and we add to that.

Amendment 160A stands in my name and that of my noble friend. We had assumed that Clause 68 would expect all authorities within an area to participate in a leaders’ board, but the debate in Grand Committee and subsection (3) suggests that it may not be the case. Amendment 160A has therefore been tabled partly to clarify that, but also, if it is not the case, to add the words, “and which determine to participate”.

Amendment 160B returns to a point that was raised in Grand Committee, which is to ensure that leaders’ boards enjoy full party and non-party representation. If they are drawn solely from the leader of a party in control or their representative, that will often not be the case—indeed, I think that reference was made in Grand Committee to the fact that, as things stand at the moment in the south-west of England, the party of national government would have no representation on a leaders’ board, which is absurd. If the leaders’ board is to command widespread support, to have credibility and genuinely to be able to speak for the communities, a way must be found to ensure that all the political parties represented in that area are represented on the board and that, if and where there are independent members, they, too, have an appropriate voice.

Amendment 164A would add the simple word “effective”. I am sure that the Government would say that they want involvement to be effective, but, as things stand, nothing requires it to be effective; it may simply be a consultative process that is gone through for the sake of it. We wanted to add a word to the Bill

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that made it very clear that community involvement needs to be meaningful, and to be meaningful it has to be effective. Therefore, that one word has an important meaning in the Bill. Those are our three amendments, all of which would add clarity and emphasis to the Bill.

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Lord Smith of Leigh: My Lords, perhaps I may speak to the amendments from a north-west perspective. Before I do, I declare the interests which I declared in Committee. I was for some time the chairman of the North West Regional Assembly’s executive board, which became 4NW. I resigned from that position when I became a member of the Northwest Regional Development Agency in December.

As I think the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, would recognise, as well as two big cities, the north-west contains quite a considerable rural area. I do not think that you can get more rural than Cumbria. In creating 4NW, which is essentially the leaders’ forum before the Bill cuts through, we had to make sure that all the different parts of the north-west were effectively represented. We started off by saying that each of the sub-regions should have three representatives, and that within those sub-regions, which had different kinds of authority, all the different kinds of authority should be represented. For example, if it was a unitary authority, there should also be a county and a district member.

At the end of last year we also started working with the NWDA on a regional strategy which, I again assure noble Lords, does not work in quite the way suggested. We started off by issuing a consultation draft on issues of principles which has gone out to all the partner agencies and local authorities. We will develop the strategy over the summer and more than 50 participating partners will be involved in the consultation. After the draft is produced towards the end of this year there will be a longer period of consultation before the strategy is agreed. At each stage all the local authorities and partner agencies will be able to contribute. My noble friend Lord Judd was concerned about the Lake District National Park. I assure him that it is a full member of 4NW and that it participates in it, as do the other agencies that are not included formally. Health needed to be included, so we got the strategic health authority involved. The new HCA is also involved. Those are some of the participating bodies. If you went to the meetings, you would not know where you were.

I am concerned by the amendments on party politics tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Tope. I am not sure that we want the leaders’ boards to become party political. One of the problems that we had in the North West Regional Assembly was that it became very political and we were not talking to each other; in fact, we were arguing. When I became chairman of the executive board, I set out deliberately to be consensual. I would not let the Labour group or any of the other groups meet on their own, because they wanted to represent each other’s sub-regions. I said to my Liberal Democrat colleagues in Stockport, “I’ve got more in common with you than I have with the Labour representatives up in Cumbria”. We needed to make

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sure that we represented not just our own interests as a particular local authority but the collective interest. We had to listen to each other, participate in debate and make sure that we did not divide along party lines, because collaboration means working together. Therefore, automatic inclusion of political parties is a difficult matter. One has only to look at some of the local authorities these days—Stoke-on-Trent would come to mind—to see the number of splits, splinters and parties. If you had to have one representative from every one, you would probably need to hire a room much bigger than this one to get all those different parties in it. The leader needs to represent not an authority or a political party but his area, whether it is urban or rural, and try to make decisions which improve the lot of the people in it. I was very proud when I stepped down from my previous role to hear people comment that we had not had a vote—that is not true; we had one vote on the name 4NW, which I lost. Working in that way meant that people had to think and listen to each other and not argue along party political lines.

Lord Tope: My Lords, the noble Lord’s approach is exactly right and admirable. But does he agree that in order to be listened to, one has to be present?

Lord Smith of Leigh: My Lords, that is true. However, although there are two Labour members and one Liberal Democrat member in Greater Manchester we ensure that we also represent the two Conservative councils in the area, because we have a collective view on the issues that we raise. If we want the bodies to be effective, as the noble Lord’s amendment seeks, we also need to think about their size.

Baroness Andrews: My Lords, what an interesting and lively debate. Many of the amendments relate to the composition of the boards and the danger of prescription. We have tried in the arrangements that we propose to give regions greater flexibility to devise detailed administrative arrangements which suit their regional circumstances. That came though in our sub-national report and is also the view of the LGA, which agrees that it should be for local authorities in a region to determine these things. I am very grateful to my noble friend Lord Smith for having just spoken about how it is working in practice.

We debated this matter in Committee, where I said that the principle that we were trying to hold on to is non-prescription and explained why the Government have deliberately shied away from covering within the Bill matters that we thought inappropriate for national government to prescribe, such as the detailed composition of the leaders’ board and consultative arrangements. However, in recognition of concern about these points and in response to requests for greater certainty, we also indicated that further details would be covered by guidance and/or regulations, such as a list of statutory consultees to be set out in regulations. However, we are trying to strike the right balance between flexibility and assurance, and meeting different expectations.

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