Your Lordships will be aware that this great building here, on Thorney Island, is built on not very much—logs of wood. Downing Street is, I believe, built on faggots, and the average depth of a building in the Greater London area is approximately 12 inches. So there is a problem with foundations. The purpose of my Bill was to introduce some regulations that could be followed voluntarily. We had great confidence in the Civil Service. We said, “Let’s not move on to having a Committee stage; let’s do this all by regulation”, because there was no need for any new legislation. However, what happened within the Civil Service when we sat down to meet was that people could not attend a particular meeting or another—we had a whole range of meetings—and no one got anywhere. All it needed was regulation.

That is where we are now. I should explain that I spent many years in the construction industry. My latest experience of a subterranean development is of minding my own business in our house in London—near to which eight subterranean developments are now taking place and I am not one of them—when the wall where all my confidential parliamentary papers were stored half-collapsed and a bald head appeared through the midst of Hansard documents. It was a Romanian builder, who with a hammer drill had by mistake hammered too hard and knocked down the party wall.

The point made by the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, about the lack of comfort that comes with development is pretty serious. You have a scene with television lines being ripped up, telephones going wrong and the vibration, and no bother and no regulations. So what is needed is regulations, and what I am going to ask the Government for is very simple: I will give them again a copy of this particular Bill and of the documents from the party wall team, which is one of the best you will find in the world, and ask whether we could have another meeting. Within a week or four weeks, we could produce the regulations which would solve all those problems.

I wanted today also to speak on the asbestos Bill, because I started my time in the construction world working for a company called Universal Asbestos—because asbestos was one of the best insulation materials of all—but having listened to what was said today, I think that I have survived so far so well and feel much better.

This could be done by regulation. We are talking of the underground situation in London—I will make available, if your Lordships wish, the routes of all the rivers and where they go from. Water became a problem because the foundations were linked to beer. When the breweries were in London, they consumed an enormous amount of water, and they pumped and sucked out and kept the subterranean surfaces from being damp. One of the reasons why foundations were not deep was because of the presence of water in all those areas.

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I do not need to waste your Lordships’ time. I am totally supportive of the Bill and expect the Government, within a matter of weeks, to arrange to hold the meeting we originally planned two years ago. The details are all on file—if they do not wish to look for them I can provide them—and we could meet and do something before Christmas.

1.25 pm

Baroness Gardner of Parkes (Con): My Lords, my interest in this subject is long standing. It dates back to the time when I asked the then Secretary of State what his views were on subterranean development. His response was to ask what I was talking about. This was not surprising as he lived well outside London and, at that time, only London was impacted by the issue. Everyone now seems to have a view on basements. I certainly do and I am sorry to say that this Bill will not be helpful.

I strongly oppose Clause 1—“Presumption against subterranean development”—as it is not in the best interests of the public in general and homeowners and is the wrong way of dealing with planning applications. In addition, the part of the clause about the application being,

“reasonably necessary for the proper enjoyment of the property to which the application applies”,

is far too subjective. Why should councils not be able to deal with applications and applicants on an objective basis and under present planning procedures? Why should the applicants be subjected to intrusive inquiries about their lifestyles, and what is meant by “proper enjoyment”? At the very least, this clause should become objective.

A detailed construction management plan is essential for the granting of any basement application, and this must be submitted in full at the time of the application and before any attempt is made to commence. Like the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, I, too, know of people who have been awoken by the sound of neighbours drilling through their wall. There was no party wall agreement and they had no idea any development was proposed. The necessary agreement should be reached about waste removal by trucks, and minimal disruption to local roads and homes should be planned for. All work must be under the supervision of a suitably qualified engineer and the quietest available equipment should be used during the works. The noise nuisance element can badly affect neighbours whereas, as the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, said, the owner of the property is not usually in residence when the major excavations and noise take place because the house is uninhabitable then.

The two central London boroughs—Kensington and Chelsea, and the City of Westminster—probably receive more of these applications than other boroughs. They have implemented excellent guidelines and conditions for those wishing to build underground. I have studied the 54-page Westminster document on basement policy, which came into force on 1 November. It is comprehensive and I shall add a few more comments in a minute.

Kensington and Chelsea’s policy dates back to its acceptance in January 2015. It has been in operation for nearly a year, and there has been a considerable drop in the number of applications in that time—possibly

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due to a surge of applications determined to beat the deadline. This morning I spoke to an officer of its planning department, who was clear that any presumption clause limits the right of a local authority to deal with applications in the way most relevant for its community. That is an important point. Why should local authorities not have control of these applications through the normal planning process, as now? Two boroughs have already set the scene by drawing up clear and definite conditions, which is valuable. I pay credit to Dr Thompson, a resident in Kensington and Chelsea, who did a great deal to draw attention to this and to gain the support of the local amenity societies.

Kensington has issued general criteria stating that it will look favourably on a development of a single storey along with 50% of the garden only if all the other conditions are met. Given that Westminster is now following suit, Kensington is probably the leading borough on basement applications policy. But, times have changed dramatically. When the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, mentioned large Victorian houses, I should say that I lived in one and, sure enough, I could have had a huge basement. But the first thing I did when I moved into the house in the 1960s was to move out of the basement because I could manage without it. Various nice people rented it from me and were happy to have it as their full dwelling. Those houses had plenty of space. It is the terraced houses that are more in need of extension into the basements because, on the whole, a family will occupy such houses fairly fully. As children grow older, they need a bit of space away from their parents, or indeed the general household may reorganise itself. Terraced properties are important, and the presumption against subterranean development is just too sweeping.

I should like to respond to the comment by the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, about angry neighbours. That is true, and it is typical that everyone is more concerned about what is happening on their own doorstep than they are about general principles. Permitted development is covered on page 11 of the Westminster document, where there is a chart with 29 boxes, set out in five different colours, which allow you to trace which requirements are relevant to whatever application you are making. The exact list is also set out on another page. It is essential that all these details be submitted with the application. It is not a case of putting in the papers and hoping to have done what is needed—or else get away with it.

I do not often agree with my noble friend Lord Ahmad, and I crossed swords with him when he was in the department dealing with this issue, but I did agree with his statement to the noble Lord, Lord Dubs. The present planning powers are sufficient if used correctly. I have mentioned terraced housing. Local people have a say now. Dr Thompson has done a huge amount to stir up local people to take an interest, but different things can happen. For example, the area I have just moved away from is unusual, in that it is not part of a conservation area but the houses on one side of the road back on to a square of listed buildings. On the business side of the single street, as I will call it, every building was rebuilt during the 10 years I was there, and now every one of them has an extra four storeys

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on top—and probably beneath as well, but I do not know about that. But on the residential side, where I was, there is a little terrace of five houses. The terrace has been bought by someone who is going to redo all five houses because apparently, the council wants everything to match, so no one will suffer any inconvenience. But no upward development is allowed on that side of the road because that would impinge upon the listed buildings in the square. Those residents object to upward development, so it is a very unfair situation. If the developer is not allowed to develop downwards, there is no way of extending the properties at all, and yet the people in the listed buildings have all been allowed to add an extra floor to their properties. The situation is very strange.

Around the corner from where I used to live is a hotel, built for the Olympics, that goes six storeys underground. It caused no bother to anyone while it was being built and when you enter that part of the hotel, you have no idea that you are underground; it looks the same as any other part. These things are complicated, but it is important that before people start their developments, the planning application is considered and party wall agreements are in place. For that, I think that the powers are sufficient.

I shall make one more comment, because I am lucky enough to be able to speak for longer than the three or four minutes we had for some recent debates. I believe there is a misprint in the Bill. Clause 4(3) states:

“The Secretary of State may be regulations,

which I think should read, “may by regulations”. I look to the Minister to tell me whether that is really meant to be there, but I think it is just a typo.

As I say, I worry about presumption and I am opposed to it. The answer is to deal with these issues under the present system.

1.34 pm

The Earl of Lytton (CB): My Lords, I welcome the opportunity to discuss this Bill. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, on his success in the ballot and thank him for bringing the Bill forward. I declare my interest. As noble Lords know, I am a practising chartered surveyor and I am actively involved in party wall cases, including basements. I had the privilege of taking the 1996 party wall legislation through your Lordships’ House in my previous incarnation. I also chair my professional body’s specialist panel—the RICS Boundaries and Party Walls Panel—which covers this particular area. I participated in a consultative group set up by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea to look at its policy on basements. However, my views are entirely my own and not those of any other person or body.

A high proportion of my party wall casework involves basements. In London, that almost always involves terraced or semi-detached properties. The drivers behind all of this will be well known to many of your Lordships. Certainly, in central London what can be correctly described as an epidemic is deriving from very high residential floor-space values; for example, in central London, even at basement level, these are likely to be 10 times the value of above-ground floor space in my

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part of West Sussex. There is a lack of remaining opportunities to build out at the back or above pre-existing roof heights because of planning constraints. I was interested to hear the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, who has so much experience in this area, talk about the rather differential way in which some of these things are applied. Considerations such as daylighting and protection of what we might call the street scene above ground very often lead to pressures to go down as a last resort.

Of course, there is also the attraction of high and growing property values in the UK, particularly in London, to high-net-worth individuals or companies perhaps seeking a safe haven for money that might otherwise be lodged in less stable jurisdictions. But I particularly think of long-term existing residents, for whom the transactions and other costs, not least of stamp duty, of moving house in central London and a need to accommodate growing families are particularly acute.

The Bill perfectly legitimately addresses some of the most difficult areas commonly encountered to avoid them slipping through as permitted development. That is the nub of the issue. It does not say no to development but simply brings it within the conscious consideration of the local planning authority. That is an important distinction because, if the view gets out that this is anti-development per se, in terms of the Environment Agency’s flood map alone there is a large amount of blue ink all around central London, particularly south of the river.

On the geotechnical side, where there are risks of flooding, ground-water, mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, is an associated matter. It is connected with infiltration, natural subterranean watercourses and ground-water migration routes, to which the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, has drawn attention in the past. Deep basements in particular can intrude into ground-water dynamics. These schemes are often high-risk, involving demanding piling and other techniques on friable, unstable or waterlogged soils. Often, in urban environments, they are in incredibly tight spaces within the envelope of buildings.

On building stability—and I am particularly thinking of the terraces where so often I have been involved with such matters—the basement may be constructed effectively under a property which forms part of a larger hole, with shared structural elements such as party walls. An exacerbating factor is that the ground floors of terraced houses have often long since been opened up to make through-living accommodation, so that the living room runs from front to rear, including the kitchen and breakfast area, in one large open family area. Of course, that means that the original design criteria of the building are compromised because of the lack of internal rigidity—the internal webs of walls that would otherwise have held the walls apart. Although there are beams and other things that take account of that, it means that you are dealing with weaker structures.

Imagine, then, a situation where basement construction is taking place next door, with the potential implications. I have spoken to many consulting engineers who have been really quite worried about the implications of this. However, the same family of consultants can

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readily justify the safe execution of basements, notwithstanding the demanding and constrained sites and difficult soils. I have seen this. However, it relies ever more on the diligence and knowledge of a building contractor. Once the building contractor is on-site, the project is then in a different regulatory regime. If the supervision that has been put in place under the contract is not robust, the only way it can be policed is if there is a breach of health and safety, or the local authority, through its building control functions, has it brought to its attention that something irregular is taking place.

I turn to the question of local opposition. The continued enlargement of residential buildings by excavating downwards eventually means that many modestly sized properties no longer fall into the category of “modest”. They may in relative terms, particularly in the London context, no longer be affordable. The term used is “iceberg homes”, where a sizeable proportion of the accommodation sits underground. Nobody should be arguing, and I do not argue, that basement construction per se is bad. After all, as we heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, many commercial buildings do this ab initio and have multiple basements constructed as part of the original planning. It is the problems and implications of widespread serial retrofit on existing, older technology construction that are the issue here.

I turn to amenity. Because of the popularity of basement construction and the difficulty and duration of its execution, residents in quiet streets can be subjected to construction works that go well beyond the norms of renovation, decoration and modernisation, to the point where it becomes a major construction project. I admit to being professionally involved with these as well. Excavating on tight sites through narrow frontages—sometimes necessitating loading of the excavated material and delivery of incoming materials in narrow, possibly one-way streets, with bins for loading and unloading stuff in the street itself and obstruction to access to adjoining properties and along the pavement—can be coupled with the inevitable noise, vibration, dust and dirt. A series of these projects in a street can, as I have seen, turn a quiet, leafy residential area into something akin to an industrial zone for perhaps a decade or more. That requires addressing.

Even were the Bill or provisions in it to become law or become subject to regulation, the current range of safeguards is not failsafe or comprehensive. Even policies such as those of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea can be circumvented in certain circumstances. Of course, appeals can overturn even careful wording. Many other planning authorities have less robust policies. I do not include Westminster City Council in that, nor the London Borough of Camden. The developer of a basement scheme does not now even have to go through local authority building control. It can go to some other, possibly favoured person as an approved inspector.

I have listened to a lot of tales recently of poor construction standards. Indeed, the firm I now work for has a lot of involvement with such things and so I know that construction standards are an issue. The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 has been referred to. This is often seen as the fallback when other regulation does not work. However, it has a very narrow focus and

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governs the manner and the timing of the execution of specific adjacent works within tight statutory parameters, but not the wider project as a whole. Furthermore, environmental health and other functions of planning authorities are often at full stretch and they have limited ability and resources, particularly those which may be needed when prosecuting a wealthy owner of a property.

Certainly, the Bill warrants further discussion in Committee. I have some reservations; for example, I would like the local opposition provision to be subject to something a bit more specific and more robust than the rise of some ad hoc ginger group pitched against a mega-rich oligarch. I would not want to encourage that. That said, I support much of the sentiment of the Bill, if not all the detail, and certainly look forward to discussing it in Committee.

1.46 pm

Lord Marlesford (Con): My Lords, I support the Bill, particularly Clauses 3, 4 and 5. I now have no interest to declare but do have an experience to relate. I have for 47 years lived in a small house in Battersea. The noble Lord, Lord Dubs, was for many of those years the most efficient and excellent local Member of Parliament responsible for my welfare.

Our house is a Victorian terraced house in what is now a conservation area. On 12 December 2013, out of the blue I received a letter dated 5 December from a junior planning officer in the planning department of Wandsworth Borough Council, advising me that my neighbour, who had recently bought the adjoining house, had applied for the construction of a basement and an extension over the very small gardens that these houses have at the back. The letter told me that I had to make any comments by 26 December. That gave me 14 days, including the Christmas holidays.

A couple of days later, I had a letter from a surveyor, telling me that he represented the new owner and that he intended to start work within a month—that was, early in January 2014. That suggested to me that the council had already indicated that planning permission would be granted, long before it got in touch with me. I had never met the new owner, or heard from him. I echo the great Dr Johnson, who said that he,

“did not care to speak ill of any man behind his back”,

but I had heard that he was a banker.

The council is supposed to post notices of planning applications in the street. It had omitted to do so: an omission consistent with the timescale it was trying to impose. My wife and I were really upset, especially when my neighbour’s surveyor then wrote to me saying that unless I appointed an independent surveyor to represent me, he would appoint himself in this role. Fortunately, our friend and neighbour on the other side of the developer is a charming and brilliant barrister. He leapt into action. First, we jointly appointed a wonderful planning surveyor, who held our hands from then on.

I may say that despite representations to Wandsworth council, it did absolutely nothing to help at any time. I never did discover what lay behind that extraordinary attempt to rush through the planning application.

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And our own councillor—a Tory, I am ashamed to say—despite repeated applications, never found time to come and see us.

Fortunately, we were able to prevent the extension being built, which would have taken the light from the gardens, and although the inside wall of our ground floor room was cracked by the basement work next door and had to be reinforced with steel bars and redecorated, all is now well. However, we had a most unpleasant 18 months which I would have gladly paid several thousand pounds to have avoided.

I should add that during this worrying time I had a lot of advice and support from my noble friend Lord Selsdon, who I recognise as one of the leading experts in this area, particularly in this House. So your Lordships can see why I want to support the Bill proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Dubs.

1.50 pm

Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab): My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Dubs on securing this Second Reading for his Private Member’s Bill to day. I should declare that I am an elected member of Lewisham Borough Council and serving on the planning committee. Although subterranean development has not come before the committee as of yet, as my noble friend said, it may well be on its way very soon.

This development appears to have broadened out from being a matter largely confined to parts of Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea. As we have heard today, it is now being considered in the boroughs of Camden and Hammersmith and Fulham, and has crossed the Thames to Wandsworth and Lambeth. I can offer my noble friend Lord Dubs my support for his Bill, as it seeks to offer some protection to people from what is a relatively new concept of subterranean development. I first recall this development being discussed in your Lordships’ House during the passing of the Localism Act in the last Parliament.

My noble friend’s Bill is short and to the point. It places a duty in a presumption of not granting permission for subterranean development unless it is reasonably necessary for the proper enjoyment of the property to which the application applies, where at least one of four specific conditions apply. Those four conditions are: where the property falls within the floodplain; where it is a terraced house; where there is significant local opposition; and where there is unreasonable disruption to neighbours. I will deal with each of these in turn.

Floodplains can contain unconsolidated sediment and there are many rivers running underground in London. Earlier this year, I visited the building site at Victoria Tube station. I saw first-hand and heard from the engineers there about the problems of building underground and dealing with unconsolidated sediments, as they are so close to the River Thames. These sediments are just an accumulation of sand, gravel, silt and clay. The noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, made the point in his contribution about the foundations of buildings in the London area and very close to this noble House. With his professional hat on the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, also made reference to the foundations of buildings and underground rivers, and the effects those can have on any construction.

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Terraced housing is a particular problem and a worry for owners of adjoining properties, who fear that their property’s foundations could be damaged and undermined. I agree very much with the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, on the problems he has had in his property in the Battersea area, where residents were not consulted properly, nor their views taken account of. I recall in our discussion of what became the Localism Act cases of this work being started and then, for whatever reason, the work stopped. The funds run out and people can be left with a dangerous situation, with a property excavated next to them and no proper form of redress.

Significant local opposition might be demonstrated by the submitting of a petition from local residents. The Bill would give the Secretary of State powers to make regulations to set out the circumstances in which a planning authority shall be deemed to have reasonable grounds to believe that there is significant local opposition to subterranean development. Finally, the planning authority may have reasonable grounds to believe that this development is likely to cause unreasonable interference to the use of land and its enjoyment by others. My noble friend Lord Dubs outlined the noise and disruption that people have suffered during basement excavations and how intolerable that can be. He is right that disturbance should be considered when looking at planning applications.

The noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, made a number of important points that can be explored fully during Committee. We ought to get the balance right on procedures and regulations to make sure that residents are protected.

My noble friend’s Bill does not say that permission cannot be given. Measures can of course be brought into play to mitigate each of the points outlined. However, by changing the presumption it means that specific and detailed work will have to be done before getting over the hurdles to have permission granted.

I have on numerous occasions stood at the Dispatch Box when discussing Private Members’ Bills and suggested that it is not very helpful to the House or to the Member presenting them that all such Bills are referred to a Committee of the whole House, and that the Government should consider referring some Private Members’ Bills to a Grand Committee. We could get a lot of detailed work done in Grand Committee and bring it back for Report. This Bill would in my view do very well with a day or two in Grand Committee. I hope that the Government will finally look at that.

When the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, responds, it would also be useful if she would comment on the point made by my noble friend Lord Dubs about the relaxing of permitted development: has that actually made the situation worse, as my noble friend outlined? I also think that the Bill could be improved by including specific protection for residents if a subterranean development is approved. It may also be worth strengthening Clause 3 on terraced housing to include specific protection for the owners of adjoining property—perhaps specific insurance that protects individuals if the development goes wrong or work stops. That is really important. I would also like

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the regulations to be very specific about the petition that needs to be completed to demonstrate support in the area.

The noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, says that what is needed is regulation. I very much hope that he is right. If he is and we can get it all sorted out by Christmas, everyone in this House will be absolutely delighted. I am sure that in her response, the noble Baroness will update the House on whether she thinks that that is achievable.

1.56 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con): My Lords, I start by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, for introducing the Bill to the House and for setting out its purposes. In response to a question from my noble friend Lady Gardner of Parkes, he confirmed that there is a slight error in the Bill, which I hope will be corrected.

I take most seriously the concerns that noble Lords have raised today. I declare an early interest in Primrose Hill, being one of its residents, but I assure the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, that I am not au fait with what has been dubbed the Death Star basement development—because I am probably not rich enough to live anywhere near it. I do not underestimate the disturbance and distress that subterranean development can cause. I know that it is a particular problem in some areas, including some London boroughs. As some noble Lords said, it is a problem that appears to be spreading out to areas such as Camden.

The issues around subterranean development can be very complex and cover many aspects of the planning and construction process. They include concern over noise and general disturbance, as well as the consistency and effectiveness of enforcement of existing regulations. The Bill before us is intended to prevent the granting of planning permission for subterranean development where certain specific conditions apply, as the noble Lord set out. However, as noble Lords, particularly my noble friend Lady Gardner, have said, we must recognise that subterranean developments can, where appropriate, provide much-needed additional family accommodation without leading to lasting visual effects from the development.

It is often when the works are in progress that the issue of concern to neighbours arises. The noble Lord, Lord Dubs, my noble friend Lady Gardner of Parkes and the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, pointed that out. Clearly, the public expect effective and responsible management of developments and swift action when things go wrong. My noble friend Lord Marlesford mentioned people drilling through his wall, so I apologise for not mentioning him before.

Existing legislation already provides for that, and local authorities have a wide range of powers under the statutory nuisance regime set out in the Environmental Protection Act 1990. I hope any other noble Lords who have problems in this area will contact the local authorities and, should they need to refer to me, I would be very pleased to hear—or, rather, not very pleased to hear—of any particular problems arising. Used correctly, I think they can address some of the problems that we are considering today.

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Local authorities can adopt local planning policies by which planning applications for basement developments will be determined, reflecting the specific priorities of the area. This would allow for consideration of the impact of the proposed development. On comments made by my noble friend Lady Gardner of Parkes, they can condition individual planning consents to restrict hours of working and limit noise and disruption. They can also publish—and they should publish—codes of conduct for responsible contractors. Local planning authorities are required to undertake a formal period of public consultation prior to deciding a planning application, which anyone can respond to, in particular those who may be directly affected by the proposal. My noble friend Lord Marlesford referred to the Christmas period—and other noble Lords raised it as an issue—by which developers sneak in planning applications, hoping that they will not be noticed.

As for the time for consultation under party wall issues, under the Party Wall etc. Act, building owners must serve notice on adjoining owners of at least one month before the work begins. Again, the owners have 14 days to reply; if a reply is not received, a dispute is deemed to have arisen, and surveyors will need to be appointed to draw up an award. The period for making comments on a planning application is not and should not be less than 21 days.

On flood risks, the National Planning Policy Framework sets out strict tests to protect people and property from flooding which all local planning authorities are expected to follow. This states that inappropriate development in areas at risk of flooding should be avoided. Planning practice guidance supporting the framework is clear that basement dwellings should be classified as highly vulnerable development in terms of flood risk; as such, they are inappropriate and should not be permitted in areas with a high probability of flooding, and allowed only exceptionally in areas with a medium probability of flooding. When nationally set permitted development rights apply, we have ensured there are powers for local authorities to be able to remove them, through the making of an Article 4 direction, with reasonable limits on compensation liability. This brings development under the local authority’s control. When planning permission is granted, local authorities can condition consents to restrict hours of working and limit noise and disruption to neighbours. In addition, they can address noise and other potential nuisance from construction sites. A number of noble Lords brought that up.

The Control of Pollution Act 1974 ensures that local authorities can enforce on matters such as equipment type—that has been brought up today—hours of working, and acceptable noise levels, in accordance with a code of conduct approved by the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Similarly, local authority environmental health departments are able to act, under the statutory nuisance regime set out in the Environmental Protection Act 1990, when there is excessive noise and other nuisance.

The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 applies to most basement developments. In such cases where a dispute arises, it is important that a detailed and thorough party wall agreement between a building owner and a neighbour

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is prepared, to ensure that all parties are clear on the detail of the work being carried out, the time and manner of executing any work and the arrangements for resolving any disputes, including compensation in some cases. The noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, asked about updated guidance. We updated our guidance on the Party Wall etc. Act in January 2015 to make it easier to use and to provide additional information on the role of surveyors and on matters to take into account in making a party wall agreement. That was the second update of the guidance. The Basement Information Centre has also published guidance on basement developments.

Once development is under way, all works need to comply with the Building Regulations 2010 and relevant health and safety at work legislation. Work on basements also needs to be carried out in accordance with the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015. Buildings that become structurally unsafe while building work is being carried out can be dealt with under the provisions in the Building Act 1984, which allows local authorities to act where there are dangerous buildings.

The Health and Safety Executive’s guide for small builders on safety issues during basement work, which was published in 2012, will also help ensure excavation works are carried out safely. In addition, by carrying out safety checks at sites where works are under way, the HSE continues to ensure that any breaches of the legislation are identified and quickly acted on. Many local authorities, such as Kensington and Chelsea, which has been mentioned, produce guides or supplementary planning documents on basement development to ensure that householders and their neighbours understand the processes and consents required for basement development. This will be complemented by our work with the Basement Information Centre to augment the guidance it provides about the construction of basements to cover the concerns that have been raised about them.

Some very specific questions were asked. I will attempt to answer them. The noble Lord, Lord Dubs, asked whether basement extensions can be carried out under permitted development rights. They can; a recent court hearing found that. The general permitted development order includes permitted development rights for house extensions within specific parameters. It does not explicitly include basement development, but it is not excluded. The court cases have included basement development within the GPDO’s permitted development rights for house extensions. Where such rights apply, a local authority can consult on removing the permitted development rights through issuing an Article 4 direction.

The noble Lord commented that the Party Wall etc. Act is not sufficient to cover damage caused by basement development, for example, cracked walls. Under the Party Wall etc. Act, a building owner must pay compensation to adjoining owners for any loss or damage caused by the works, but that would be between the two parties concerned.

The noble Earl, Lord Lytton, talked about structural weaknesses. Basement developments are required to meet the relevant requirements of the Building Regulations 2010. This means that the person in control of works will have to submit plans or give a notice to building

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control about the development to enable the works to be inspected by the local authority building control or a private sector approved inspector. The building inspector will have to be satisfied that the basement structure complies with the relevant requirements of the regulations.

The noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, brought up a number of issues that noble Lords raised but asked for a specific comment on whether permitted development made basement development worse. Permitted development covers lower-impact development, not the megabasements that we are talking about, such as the Death Star one in Camden. Where local authorities are concerned, they can consider removing permitted development rights through an Article 4 direction.

The noble Lord also talked about developments where the money runs out before the work is finished. Under the Party Wall etc. Act, adjoining owners can request building owners to carry out work under the Act to make available such security as agreed, for example, insurance that would ensure that all the work would be done.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: On that point, it is important to have on record that it is essential that the builder and the other party must both be recorded as being part of that policy. Where the claims have arisen, the builder has just said, “No, sorry, I’ll just go into liquidation”, and you have no right to claim on the policy. People should be aware of that.

Baroness Williams of Trafford: My noble friend makes a valid point. With that, I hope that what I have said offers reassurance to noble Lords that where there are particular issues regarding basement developments, there are already existing provisions through which they can be addressed. I conclude by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, and all other noble Lords who have taken part in this Second Reading debate.

2.10 pm

Lord Dubs: My Lords, I am grateful to all Members of the House who contributed to this debate. I must say that I thought I had done my homework quite well but I learned a lot about some of the issues from the comments that were made—which shows how useful it is to have a Second Reading.

Perhaps I could refer to one issue that I do not know how to handle. My noble friend Lord Kennedy on the Front Bench said that he thought a Committee of the whole House was a blunt instrument—although those were not his words—and that a Grand Committee would be better for dealing with this sort of Bill. I am not sure that I have the powers to change anything; I am merely dealing with the bit of paper I was given. I think that he is right, but I will have to deal with that outside the Chamber.

I am moderately unhappy after this discussion. First, the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, who has done a lot of work on this, still believes, if I am quoting him correctly, that a lot of this could be achieved by regulations. I am not totally clear from what the Minister said that regulations are quite the way forward, although if it were possible then of course it might deal with some of the difficulties.

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I have known the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, for a long time. We sat on opposite sides of the chamber when we were councillors in Westminster, so I am used to having little disagreements with her. I thank the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, who sent me the Kensington and Chelsea guidelines this morning, I have had a brief chance to look at them. I agree that the guidelines are very interesting. I am grateful to the noble Baroness for having mentioned them because they are certainly helpful, and I hope that other local authorities will take note.

I understand her argument that the smaller your house, the more you need to build a basement—I think that is what she said in relation to terraced housing. That is okay as far as it goes. The trouble is that the smaller your house, the more likely you are to disturb your neighbours and have a damaging effect on them, so it works both ways. I am also grateful to the noble Baroness for spotting a printing error, a typo. I feel embarrassed about that and can only apologise unreservedly.

I listened with great interest to the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Lytton. He certainly is an expert and I wish that I had had a couple of hours’ discussion with him before this debate. What he said bears a lot of thinking about. He referred to ground-water and to trying to improve provisions for local opposition, and I agree that they need to be spelled out in more detail. He was also very supportive in what he said about the structural difficulties of terraced housing. Not very far from where I live in Hammersmith there is a basement excavation going on, and I got some of my information from neighbours who told me how much they had suffered.

I was delighted with the contribution made by the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford. I thank him for the compliment that he paid me, but that is by the way. The experience that he described is exactly—to the letter—why I put this Bill forward. I could almost call it “the Marlesford Bill” because what he said and the accurate way he described it reflects what I have been told by people in a similar position. Unfortunately, local authorities have not always proved as helpful. The Kensington and Chelsea guidelines for local authorities set down ground rules that applicants should talk to neighbours and have a discussion with them to try and get agreement. That is pretty good stuff but local authorities do not do that, so in this respect Kensington and Chelsea is certainly ahead of the game.

Turning to the Minister, I had no idea that she lived in Primrose Hill, otherwise I would have been more circumspect. I did not for a moment assume that the house was hers. However, I hope that she is not too close to it, because if this proposal goes ahead, she will suffer.

The issue that I have not resolved in my mind is this. Unless Article 4 directions are easy and not too costly, it seems that we are still in the difficulty that where some basement excavations require planning permission, with all the safeguards that local authorities have the right to apply, covering hours of work, noise levels, and so on—although I am bound to say that if one shortens the hours of work, one extends the period of

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weeks or months when it goes on, so it is not a total benefit. But a lot of the concerns that I have expressed are about permitted developments, where local authorities have said, as they did in Wandsworth and to my friends in Hammersmith, that there is nothing they can do. Article 4 did not come into it; if Article 4 is simple and straightforward, that may be the answer, but if it is more difficult than that, I am afraid that it will not help much.

Lastly, as regards party wall agreements, the problem is that some of cracks develop after everything has been signed off. It can happen much later, possibly through ground-water and so on. So although party wall agreements may be fine within the period they cover, people who suffer damage to their properties may go on suffering it for a great deal longer.

May I bowl a fast one at the Minister? Could she arrange for some of us, before we get to Committee, to have a meeting with some of her officials to talk about this? Would she be agreeable to that?

Baroness Williams of Trafford: Yes, I would be very happy to meet the noble Lord and others who may be interested in this area.

Lord Dubs: I am sorry—I should have warned the Minister that I was going to ask her that question. However, that would be helpful, because some issues may be better resolved if some of us could have such a meeting than if we simply put down a series of amendments in Committee, which may not be a subtle enough way of doing it. Having said that, I hope that the House will give the Bill a Second Reading.

Bill read a second time and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

Junior Doctors Contract

Statement

2.17 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Prior of Brampton) (Con): My Lords, I shall now repeat as a Statement the Answer to an Urgent Question given in another place by my right honourable friend the Minister of State for Community and Social Care on negotiations for a new junior doctors contract. The Statement is as follows.

“Three years ago negotiations began between the BMA, NHS Employers and the Department of Health. This was based on a common view that the current contract, agreed in 2000 when junior doctors were working very long hours, was outdated and needed reform. Between December 2012 and October 2014 an extensive and patient negotiation took place with an agreed target date for implementation of August 2015. These were abruptly terminated by the BMA’s unilateral withdrawal from those negotiations without warning in October 2014. This led to the independent and expert doctors’ and dentists’ review body being asked to take evidence from all parties, including the BMA, on reform of the contract and to make recommendations. This happened because of the unwillingness of the BMA to agree sensible changes

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to the contract and allowed an independent expert body to recommend a way forward.

The DDRB report, with 23 recommendations on the junior doctors contract, was published in July this year. The Secretary of State then invited the BMA to participate in negotiations based on those independent recommendations. Unfortunately, the Junior Doctors Committee of the BMA maintained its refusal to negotiate even though it was now on the basis of an independent report to which it had had an input. Both the Secretary of State and NHS Employers have invited the BMA repeatedly to participate in negotiations. It was made clear that there was a great deal to agree based on the DDRB recommendations.

We deeply regret that the BMA chose the path of confrontation rather than negotiation. While we continued to try to persuade it to develop a new contract with us, it instead chose to campaign against the independent DDRB’s recommendations including issuing a calculator, which it subsequently withdrew, which suggested wholly falsely that junior doctors would lose 30% of their pay. Instead the BMA issued demands, including a right of veto on any contract change, and was in effect asking us to ignore the DDRB’s recommendations, the heads of terms that were agreed back in 2013, and start again. Given the BMA’s refusal to engage and its wholly misleading statements about the impact of a new contract, NHS Employers issued a contract offer to juniors earlier this month. This offer has safety at its heart, strong contractual safeguards to ensure that no doctor is required to work more than 48 hours a week on average, and gives juniors the right to a work review when they believe hours are being exceeded. It reduces the maximum hours that a doctor can work in any week from 91 to 72. It pays doctors an 11% higher basic pay rate according to the hours that they work, including additional payments for unsocial hours. It reduces the number of consecutive nights that can be worked to four and long days to five, ending the week of nights.

The honourable lady has called for the parties to go to ACAS. The Secretary of State is not ruling out conciliation. We have always been willing to talk. The Government have repeatedly appealed to the BMA to return to the negotiating table and that offer is still open. We believe that talks not strikes are best for patients and for junior doctors. The Secretary of State has said that talks can take place without preconditions other than that an agreement should be within the pay envelope, but the Government reserve the right to make changes to contracts if no progress is made on the issues preventing a truly seven-day NHS, as promised in the manifesto and endorsed by the British people at the last election. It is regrettable that junior doctors have voted for industrial action which will put patients at risk and see between 50,000 and 60,000 operations cancelled or delayed each day. I would, therefore, call upon the honourable lady to join the Government in calling on the BMA, as it prepares for unprecedented strike action, to come back to the table for talks about the new contract for junior doctors. The Government remain firmly of the view that a strike by junior doctors is entirely avoidable and calls upon the BMA to also do all it can to avert any action that risks harm to the patients we all serve”.

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2.22 pm

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Lab): My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord. The fact that we are here today, with 98% of junior doctors having voted to take significant industrial action for the first time in 40 years, is a matter of very serious concern to the NHS and its patients. Does the Minister agree that, over the course of the next week, everything that can be done should be done to stop the three days of planned industrial action? The Guardian this morning says that the noble Lord, Lord Prior, has urged on the Secretary of State the need for a settlement. Will the noble Lord confirm that? Will he also say why the Secretary of State appeared to dismiss the idea of independent mediation yesterday, has said today that they have not ruled out conciliation, but has again set preconditions, including the imposition of a contract? I have been bemused by the Secretary of State’s approach. Does he understand that the junior doctors are particularly angry about the way the Health Secretary has repeatedly conflated the reform of the junior doctors contract with seven-day services, including the highly selective and misleading use of statistics which has been disowned by the very authors of the research he quotes from?

Junior doctors already work weekends; they already work nights. Why on earth are the Government picking a fight with the very people who are so crucial to keeping the NHS running? There are nine days left before the first day of planned industrial action. I have one message for the Minister: it is time to talk.

Lord Prior of Brampton: My Lords, the noble Lord said that this was a serious concern. It is a tragedy that we are in this situation. Of course I want a settlement, as does the Secretary of State. The last thing we want is a strike. We want the junior doctors to come back to the negotiating table and not to go on strike. The only people who will suffer from a strike are patients. I cannot believe that there are many junior doctors who want to go on strike, so it is in all our interests to find a settlement, and the Secretary of State, myself and others are very keen that we do so. The Secretary of State has made it absolutely clear that there are no preconditions, save that we settle this issue within the existing pay envelope. The door is open to the BMA to come back for talks at any time.

Lord Fowler (Con): My Lords, is my noble friend aware that in 1982, when I was Health Secretary, there was lengthy industrial action not involving doctors. When I went to St Thomas’ Hospital over the river, I was met by a deputation of doctors protesting at the damage that was being done to the health service. It is the successors of those very doctors who are now threatening industrial action. Should we not all, quite irrespective of party, condemn industrial action, which will damage patient care? Should we not also recognise that this action is not just against the Government? It also involves the rejection of the independent doctors’ and dentists’ remuneration review body, which is valued and respected throughout the health service and which doctors over the years have pressed to have. Surely we are faced with a failure of BMA leadership in this case, and the obvious course is to go back to the negotiating table very quickly.

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Lord Prior of Brampton: I agree entirely that industrial action is the last thing that any of us want. I have worked with trade unions of one kind or another off and on since 1980—for 35 years. I think that the Junior Doctors Committee of the BMA is behaving in an extraordinary fashion.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff (CB): My Lords, can the Minister say how sincerely the Government are considering going to ACAS, which, as far as I understand it, is acceptable to the BMA Junior Doctors Committee, and can he explain why there is resistance to doing that? Given the threat of terrorism that we now face, have the Government assessed the impact and the security that would be needed on the strike days both in the event of a terrorist attack on the population at large, when those who are well versed in managing it will not be working, and in the event of a terrorist attack specifically targeted at demonstrations by junior doctors, when they will be injured and the hospitals will be empty?

Lord Prior of Brampton: The Secretary of State has said that he is open to conciliation. Frankly, it would be so much better if we could sort this out ourselves rather than go to conciliation, but he has said that he is open to it. If there is a terrorist attack, speed will be of the essence if people are severely injured. Junior doctors care hugely about their patients, so I think we have to rely on junior doctors to be available in hospitals in the event of some awful terrorist outrage, even if they are on strike. I will certainly draw to the attention of COBRA and the relevant authorities the question of the impact of terrorism on a demonstration by junior doctors.

Baroness Barker (LD): My Lords, if, as appears to be the case, the Government’s proposals discriminate against junior female doctors who take time off to have children or against doctors who devote some of their time to research, will the Government be prepared to reconsider their proposals?

Lord Prior of Brampton: I probably did not make the situation clear enough. The Secretary of State said that there are no preconditions. If there are concerns about time off to have children or to carry out research, those are absolutely the kinds of issues that should be discussed around the table.

Baroness Wall of New Barnet (Lab): I declare an interest as chairperson of Milton Keynes Hospital. Where in all this are we talking about patients? I am not going to enter into any discussion about who should be doing what. I spent this morning at Milton Keynes Hospital with my chief executive, medical director and all the consultants discussing this. I obviously associate myself with everybody’s plea that this does not go ahead, but if it does, how are we going to ensure that our patients get the best possible experience? I am equally surprised that the Minister has not referred to the letter from Sir Bruce Keogh, which went out to the chairman of the BMA and provided us with many opportunities. I am anxious that the Minister understands that the prime thing in this is patients. Whatever we have to do, patients need to be looked after.

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Lord Prior of Brampton: I completely agree with the noble Baroness. I am not going to stand here and be sycophantic about the Secretary of State for Health, but the one thing he has prioritised above all else since he has been there is patient safety and patient quality.

Lord Ribeiro (Con): My Lords, Sir Terrence English in his excellent article in the Telegraph made the point that medicine is a vocation and doctors who enter the profession should recognise that patients always come first. The Armed Forces do not go on strike and neither, I believe, should doctors. On the issue of preconditions, in response to a question from Sarah Wollaston in the other place, the Secretary of State made it clear that there are no preconditions. I have looked at Hansard, and that is what he said. There are no preconditions and the BMA should recognise that and go back to the table.

Lord Prior of Brampton: My Lords, the threshold for strike should be very high because of the vocational and professional dedication of doctors. Certainly, the threshold should be higher than it usually is for pay and conditions issues such as the one before us today.

Lord Winston (Lab): My Lords, I deeply regret the tone of the statement. I understand that that is not the responsibility of the noble Lord, Lord Prior. I also respect very much his attitude, which is, I think, respected by the whole House. We have to say very clearly that this is an unprecedented situation. I do not think the nature of how junior doctors feel is understood. Already, there are more doctors in medical schools looking at going overseas—they are actually asking me whether they should be working in this country. The key issue is one we discussed in today’s earlier debate: the backbone of a good NHS is the good research we do. Research is massively threatened by what the Secretary of State is proposing. That has been emphasised by Jeremy Farrar, who, after all, is a very independent person as head of the Wellcome Trust. Would the Minister be kind enough to address that issue?

Lord Prior of Brampton: I agree. It is tragic that we are in this situation. My son is a medical student and I meet many of his friends; they do not want to be in this position. Concerns have been raised about whether junior doctors will have time to do research or will lose out on their progression if they do. That should be discussed and argued out with the BMA sitting around the table.


Direct Planning (Pilot) Bill [HL]

Direct Planning (Pilot) Bill [HL]

Second Reading

2.33 pm

Moved by Lord Lexden

That the Bill be now read a second time.

Lord Lexden (Con): My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. I am deeply grateful to those noble Lords who will be speaking in today’s debate and to my noble friend the Minister,

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who will reply to it. I am also grateful to many other noble Lords from the Government, the Opposition and the Cross Benches who have expressed support for or interest in the Direct Planning (Pilot) Bill but cannot be here today.

I stress the range of interest that this Bill has attracted in order to emphasise its strictly non-partisan character. It builds strongly on the well-established principles of neighbourhood planning, and on the Localism Act 2011 passed by the coalition Government. That Act’s neighbourhood planning components were largely supported, I think it would be fair to say, by the Labour Party. Indeed, last year, the Labour Party called for an extension of neighbourhood planning. This Bill represents such an extension and would pilot a practical way in which communities could channel support more effectively to the types of new housing that they want.

The Bill has also attracted interest and support from a wide range of civic society organisations which have day-to-day experience of community planning. These include Civic Voice, the Historic Towns Forum, the Prince’s Foundation for Building Community and Create Streets, to which I am particularly indebted since it helped craft the Bill.

I think that it is neither controversial nor surprising to say that the need to build more housing in a socially acceptable fashion is one of the gravest political challenges facing parts of modern Britain today. When the neighbourhood planning process was started some years ago, many optimists supported it, but many pessimists decried it as nothing more than a new way for communities to prevent new housing. I am happy to say that the optimists have been proved right. A whole new national movement has been called into existence, with more than 1,600 English communities taking the initiative and starting to produce neighbourhood plans.

Communities are, on the whole, for more housing, not less. As the Minister for Housing and Planning reported only the other day, the 100 areas which have now voted on their neighbourhood plans have on average voted for 10% more housing. This Bill seeks to harness the energy of this emerging movement to help build more new housing of the types that local communities prefer and will support. Most people do not like, in urban areas, the type—typically, flats—with its lay-out, its arrangement with few “normal” streets, or its style of too many new homes. In a survey conducted for the Royal Institute of British Architects in 2009, two-thirds of British adults said that they would not even consider buying a newly-built home. Other surveys have indicated that more than twice as many people prefer older homes to new ones. Research by Create Streets shows that most British citizens crave a “sense of place” that so much contemporary housing just fails to provide.

The highly supply-constrained nature of British housing means that most value attached to land comes from getting it zoned for housing or by securing planning permission. The approval of planners and the compliance with a not small bible of codes and regulations tend to trump what people want in the built environment. So what actually gets built, what

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most easily wins planning permission, often does not match what people like. In a recent poll by Create Streets on what types of housing people would wish to be built near them, 87 % said that they preferred homes that were clearly conventional in design. Of the 13% who preferred less historically-referenced buildings, 43% worked as planners, architects or in the creative arts.

The process of consultation as currently required and practised too often descends into a PR sham exercise which creates public mistrust and opposition to new housing. For example, Derrick Chung, chair of the West Hendon Residents’ Association, last year told a session of the London Assembly housing committee:

“The decision-making process for the regeneration of West Hendon was a consultation that was an ultimatum: you either take it or there is a bus going that way. We were not allowed to take part in the decision-making process”.

A 2014 research exercise by the Prince’s Foundation for Building Community consultation reached the same conclusion. It found:

“In several recent examples in London we have encountered a justifiable scepticism about the validity and intent of “consultation” exercises. Too often the real choices being given to communities are superficial (‘where would you like the trees?’) and the subsequent presentation of evidence is carefully chosen to underplay the overwhelming level of discontent or opposition”.

Interviewees were asked how much they valued consultation and how it could best be done. A very strong preference emerged for consultation from the start, as opposed to the end, of the development process; this scored 87 out of a possible 100.

The good news is that people are far more prepared to support new housing when they are genuinely, not belatedly or superficially, consulted. There are different ways of achieving this, leading to better, more popular, more highly valued development, with no loss of speed in carrying it out. They involve sitting down properly with local residents at the start of the process, not just asking carefully selected questions at the end of it. This is the so-called charrette process incorporated in the Bill to secure wide local participation. Charrette, an attractive French word meaning a cart or chariot, has now been harnessed to describe a most important process of local consultation.

There are numerous examples of this approach leading both to better and more widely supported development. Dave Smith, the former director of the East London Community Land Trust, which helps secure popular support for more housing in east London, has said:

“I have been genuinely and seriously impressed with the charrette process, which helped create London’s first community land trust at St Clement’s Hospital in Bow. The charrette enabled us to cast aside the pessimism and low expectations that accompany most tawdry consultations, and the masterplan now truly reflects our community’s stated aims and has helped us pioneer and co-create a new vision for this part of the East End.”

They are more effective if they use design codes—a set of agreed rules for what things will look like—in order to create more certainty than the current system permits. Design codes define the range of possible scales, shapes, materials, lay-outs, urban forms and styles of development in a certain area. This means that a community view can continue to exert influence beyond an initial development, permitting a strong, clear definition of how a city will function and appear.

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A 2006 assessment by the Government compared 15 different design codes with four non-coded approaches. Conducted by Professor Matthew Cremona of University College London, it found:

“Significantly, where codes are being implemented on site, schemes have been delivering enhanced sales values and increased land values. When set off against the up-front investment, this to a large degree, determines the value added by coding, at least in crude economic terms”.

As the pioneering work of the community group Look! St Albans shows, it is entirely possible for neighbourhood forums and groups to work up design codes. Activity of this kind will be further supported and extended by a most valuable tool kit which the Prince’s Foundation is currently testing.

So that is the context in which this modest, but I hope significant, Bill is being brought before the House today. Its aims are to improve the character of local consultation in order to empower what citizens want; to extend and enhance the progress that has been made by neighbourhood planning; to encourage more building and more popular support for building; to reduce the cost of planning by engendering more popular consent; to increase the speed of building; and to make it easier for people and communities to influence what gets built.

The first main element of the Bill, which is set out in Clause 1, involves strategic planning. The Secretary of State would be placed under an obligation to authorise pilot schemes to enable local residents acting through neighbourhood forums or community organisations within designated areas to participate more directly in developing planning policies. Residents would be able to develop form-based design codes which would provide a set of rules to define how buildings and streets will appear and function in their neighbourhoods. They would also encourage revitalisation of popular and walkable neighbourhoods.

Clause 1(4) would establish a pilot fund of £2 million from existing DCLG funds to support neighbourhood forums in developing form-based design codes for future developments in their neighbourhoods. Under Clause 1(5) residents would be able to bid for grants from the fund under a rolling application system up to a total of £100,000.

The second main element of the Bill, embodied in Clause 2, involves development control to bring about the participation of a much wider cross-section of society for strategic development projects via the charrette process. A charrette is defined in Clause 2(5) as,

“a collaborative series of meetings conducted over a period of less than four weeks between those who have an interest in development in a designated area including but not limited to developers, architects, residents, local businesses and community groups and unincorporated associations, for the purpose of developing and agreeing to a master plan for a particular development”.

The third main element of the Bill, which also finds expression in Clause 2, concerns estate regeneration. Provision is made for fully supported charrette approaches to estate regeneration in contrast to the current standard protracted and inadequate consultation exercises. There is an enormous opportunity to regenerate unpopular, unviable post-war estates by creating traditional streets of houses and medium-rise flats at higher densities. Clause 2(1)(b) and (4) require councils or registered

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social landlords embarking on an estate regeneration to fund and support the creation of neighbourhood forums of residents and neighbours working together via a charrette through inquiries by design. Form-based design codes, as defined in Clause 3, that resulted from the process would have the same status, although set out in more detail, as neighbourhood plans. They would require support in a local referendum in the same way as neighbourhood plans.

The fourth main component of the Bill, provided for in Clause 4, involves budgeting to permit and encourage local planning departments to aid neighbourhood forums. At present, the £8,000 available to neighbourhood forums is rarely sufficient to manage and run the consultation process unless material pro bono professional time is given. This has resulted in most neighbourhood plans coming from middle-class communities. There is a widespread perception that some local planning teams are antagonistic to community planning. New funding arrangements could turn that relationship around so that local planners start to be dependent on communities, not threatened by them.

Clause 4(4) earmarks 5% of every council’s planning budget to support local neighbourhood forums. In order to unlock this fund, local council planning departments would have to provide support to neighbourhood forums or community development teams and submit evidence to show that they were doing so. Local authorities would be allowed to spend all the money allocated to them for local planning purposes only when they have received evidence of practical and effective support for neighbourhood forums and community groups. The Secretary of State would be required by regulations to make rules to determine what types of evidence are acceptable. In the absence of such evidence, 5% of the money allocated for local planning purposes would be distributed as a rolling grant to support the work of neighbourhood forums or community groups.

It is right that a Bill like this should be modest in scope. It has been conceived as a cost-neutral pilot and has a sunset clause, Clause 6, which would take effect after five years. Those who are experts in this area of policy will recognise that elements of the approach set out in this Bill might sit well alongside the “permission in principle” clauses of the Government’s new Housing and Planning Bill.

In conclusion, if the research evidence on which this Bill is based and if the ideas that inspire it were by one means or another incorporated in planning policy, I venture to suggest that we would not just build more homes in this country, we would do so with more popular support. Is that not an aim for which we should strive? I beg to move.

2.49 pm

The Earl of Lytton (CB): My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Lexden, and to be able to take part in this debate. I profess no real expertise in this and I am extremely grateful for the briefing from Create Streets, in what was an inspirational document. My declarable interests are in the past—my involvement with the National Association of Local Councils and its Sussex County Association, as a

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former trustee of Action in rural Sussex, and with the Sussex Rural Community Council—but also currently as a vice-president of the LGA and through my professional work, particularly in so far as I advise owners and others of potential development sites at community scale. I am also a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Excellence in the Built Environment, chaired by Oliver Colvile MP. I had the privilege to serve under the noble Baroness, Lady O’Cathain, on the ad hoc Select Committee on National Policy for the Built Environment. I gained some particular insights from those, but I do not speak as a representative for either.

The construct of placemaking has been a long-growing feature. The term may be modern, but it was clear to me from my years working in the West End in the early 1980s that a sense of identity and belonging were themes in estate agency jargon, as they were in the reality of association with place and community. That it encompassed the social, physical, economic and administrative facets was evident even then.

I am a strong advocate of community and neighbourhood engagement and empowerment. I have a preference if not a prejudice in favour of the parish council model as a lead organisation, as it is based on a statutory foundation for its existence, with a clear structure, independence, and democratic and financial accountability as the first tier of local government. But in metropolitan areas, parish councils are almost entirely non-existent, as the noble Lord, Lord Lexden, well knows. I am also an advocate of further planning devolution to community level—something often resisted by principal authorities.

The question about what is special about a locality is often subsumed, as the noble Lord said, in a stock-take of assets—strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats—frequently of a spatial rather than a societal nature. Placemaking operates on a number of different levels. It particularly requires a small number of visionary, committed and knowledgeable individuals who will galvanise and lead that process of placemaking in the context of neighbourhood plans and the other tools available. I agree with the noble Lord that neighbourhood plans are in a sense mired in the circumstances in which they come to be created. Revitalising and galvanising that process and driving it forward as the business-planning process on behalf of the community is what the Bill is all about. I welcome design statements, which are often rather flat and sometimes negative in their sentiments, being lifted out to a better state and the whole thing being better funded

The physical dimensions—spatial layout, design, attraction and so on—are no less important to placemaking, but they sit alongside the property economics, durability, security, local history and collective memories of events, and that sense of pride and a feeling of ownership of processes that bring it about and foster and maintain it. Viability is always a key point in this and I know that there are differences of opinion on what viability might mean when it gets to the bottom line—a matter that has been much under scrutiny. In parallel with that, what actually counts as quality in terms of the built environment? So often, we have seen so-called landmark developments that have not stood the test of time. If we are to deliver not just

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any old housing, business space or civic space but rather places to live, work, enjoy and be proud of in 40, 60 or 100 years’ time, we need a different model from what is it effectively a very short-term, expedient system. I cannot think of many communities that would not love to have an across-the-board upgrade to the attractiveness of their area and their property values, and the sense of belonging and societal cohesion that goes with that.

The proposals in the Bill go well beyond current practice and would vest in communities a far wider group of toolsets than has customarily been used or been available to them. I am particularly interested in business as a significant stakeholder in this. I believe that the Bill, or something like it, will incentivise action and bring critical assessment and analysis of a process to a wider range of people than would customarily be privy to the rather opaque—I was going to say murky—planning system that we currently have, with all its policy and other constraints. The fact that the principles, such as charrette, have been tried and tested in other environments and found to work means that, as a pilot—bearing in mind that that is what it sets out to put in place—this is a Bill whose moment has come. It is time to put it into wider action.

The Bill will require wider commitment in situations where the incidence of taxation or the way in which things are handled by other administrative organs of the state can cut across what would otherwise be a necessary and desirable fast-tracking of the operation. It has to be designed in such a way that there is buy-in to the principle by all sectors of government, not least ones such as HMRC. I am particularly pleased to see that the Department for Communities and Local Government appears to be on board with that. The Bill is well worth supporting. I look forward to further discussion in Committee.

2.57 pm

Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab): My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Lexden, on securing a Second Reading for his Private Member’s Bill. I should also say at the start of my remarks that I am an elected councillor in the London Borough of Lewisham and I serve on the planning committee of that authority. The Bill has the support of these Benches. We wish it well and a speedy passage through your Lordships’ House.

The Bill essentially seeks greater support for the involvement of local people in the planning process through use of charrettes, form-based area codes and neighbourhood planning. It seeks to get people involved in the planning process in a positive way to find the best solutions for their local community. A charrette is a technique used in planning for consultation with stakeholders. It can be intensive and mean multiday meetings involving planners, developers, businesses and local residents. It is about seeking agreement on the way forward in a more collaborative way.

The Bill states that charrettes must be included in estate regeneration programmes. I very much welcome that. I grew up on the Aylesbury Estate in south London and I can confidently say that if we had had a consultation and community involvement programme like a charrette, as outlined in the Bill, then all the

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streets of houses would not have been knocked down to build the estate in the 1960s. The noble Earl, Lord Lytton, talked about landmark developments that do not stand the test of time. The Aylesbury Estate won awards. People came to visit it from around the world in the 1960s. Of course, we know what happened there in the end.

As a family we were very happy on the estate and the design of the property inside was actually very good. The problem was the environment outside the estate. You had no interaction with your neighbours as you would have if you lived in a street. I remember as a child they talked about having walkways in the sky, where you could walk from Peckham because all the council estates would be linked up. You would not have had to cross a road until you got to Elephant and Castle. Thankfully that never came to fruition and these estates are either being knocked down or have undergone transformational work to make them more acceptable to live in. That means that we basically bring streets back into these areas.

In the 1980s, I recall talking to two former councillors in Southwark who said how proud they had been to announce the building of all these new homes, but then how quickly it had all gone wrong. Of course, that story was repeated all over the United Kingdom in the 1960s and 1970s. What is being built in place of these estates is newer homes with a much more traditional street design or small blocks of flats with proper security measures and a door entry on to the main road. I am confident that that will produce better and happier communities and will be much better than what was there before.

Form-based area codes are a means of regulating land developments, producing predictable results and a high-quality public realm by using physical form as the organising principle with a lesser focus on land use, and can produce more consistent and predictable patterns of development in the public realm. There are good examples of that as well.

As I said earlier, I am a local councillor in Lewisham and represent the ward of Crofton Park. We have begun the process of setting up a neighbourhood forum in that ward. That takes a lot of work and can be challenging, but I am very much of the opinion that it will produce better outcomes for local people as they are more fully involved in the planning process rather than being spectators. For many years we have had an awful development site covered with pink hoarding which we have never been able to sort out. Indeed, we have spent years trying to sort it out. It has been the centre of battles between local residents and various developers. If we had had a charrette, we could have dealt with that problem much more quickly than we finally managed to do earlier this year.

I am pleased that the Government Chief Whip is present. I am sure that this Bill will receive a Second Reading but there will then be 11 Private Members’ Bills waiting for Committee stage. They will all be Committees of the whole House. But then those Bills will struggle to get any further. Will the Government Chief Whip consider putting some of these Bills into Grand Committee? It can be done. I have asked the Clerk of the Parliaments whether that

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can be done and it would move the Bills on much further. I hope that the Government Chief Whip will consider that.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach (Con): It is the custom that, after Second Reading, Bills have a Committee stage of the whole House. But, of course, if no amendments are made, it is perfectly possible for those Bills to proceed.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark: That is absolutely right; that is the custom. However, we certainly could move these Bills into Grand Committee. I have had a long conversation with the Clerk of the Parliaments but I will leave it there. However, I keep making the point that there are some very good Private Members’ Bills that could be moved along much quicker if we wanted to do so.

In conclusion, I again congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Lexden, on his excellent Bill and hope that he will get a positive response from the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford.

3.02 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con): My Lords, I begin by thanking my noble friend Lord Lexden for setting out the purpose of the Bill, and for his interest in promoting community engagement in the planning process and in supporting high-quality design in the built environment. I also thank my noble friend for providing the Government with an opportunity to set out their position on a very important issue.

First, I express the Government’s recognition of the good intentions behind the Bill and note the work that Create Streets undertakes to promote high-quality design in new development. We strongly support empowering communities in shaping new developments in their area in a way that reflects local need, and in improving the design of new homes. Of course, this Bill comes at a time when local support for housebuilding has doubled in the last few years from 28% in 2010 to 56% now, while opposition has commensurately halved.

There are millions of hard-working people for whom the aspiration to own their own home is becoming further out of reach. This is a result of the decades-long failure to build enough houses. I am sure that noble Lords will agree that a fully functioning and efficient housing market is vital for meeting the aspirations of working people and raising the productivity of our country. That is why we are committed to encouraging home ownership, building homes that people can afford to buy and supporting all areas of the housing market. And how we do this is equally important. We need to deliver more new homes of good quality with well thought out design, and which are built quickly and efficiently.

I have absolutely no doubt that good design has a fundamental role in the success of boosting housing supply, which is critical to improving affordability. Community-led processes can change perceptions and involvement in planning and development more widely. I therefore wholeheartedly support the Bill’s aim of

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improving the quality of new development and encouraging closer engagement with the local community on the design of housing schemes. Like my noble friend, we want to see new homes and places that communities can be proud of and, as other noble Lords have said, that stand the test of time.

The Government have put in place a robust framework that supports high quality design. The National Planning Policy Framework is very clear. Good design is a key aspect of sustainable development, is indivisible from good planning and should contribute positively to making places better for people. Our planning guidance has a strong focus on design, and supports the use of a range of planning processes and design tools to help achieve good design. We also ask local planning authorities to have local design review arrangements in place in order to provide assessment and support to ensure high standards of design.

We are encouraging high-quality design through our ambitious housing programmes, whether it be the starter homes initiative, new housing zones or our work on larger sites such as Ebbsfleet. The Minister of State for Housing and Planning has also created a design advisory panel, involving leading figures from the design and architecture sector, to set the bar on housing design across the country. I am very pleased to say that Create Streets has a place on the panel and is able to play an active part in driving up design quality. However, as my noble friend points out, local communities can be very reluctant to accept new development in their area. One of the reasons for this is poor design—soulless development that will destroy the character of their area. This is something that must be changed. It is therefore important that local authorities and developers work with communities to ensure that they get the quality of new housing development that they want.

The Government have continued to devolve power to local people. Through the Localism Act 2011, we introduced neighbourhood planning. This put control over development back into the hands of local people, enabling them to play a much stronger role in shaping the areas in which they live and work. As my noble friend also noted in his speech, more than 1,600 communities across England are now engaged in the planning of their areas through neighbourhood planning. That represents more than 8 million people in 68% of local authorities. We also marked the 100th neighbourhood planning referendum in October.

As part of a neighbourhood plan or order, there is also extensive and ongoing community engagement led by the communities themselves. Indeed, many communities are already being highly imaginative in how they engage in shaping the development of their areas. For example, in the inner-city area of Heathfield Park in Wolverhampton, those preparing the neighbourhood plan needed a way to engage those living on the local estates. Working with local specialist manufacturers, they produced a 3D model of the area and its buildings, alongside models of proposed new developments. The models of existing buildings allowed people to understand the impact of development and the power that they had to shape it, and inspired high levels of engagement with the neighbourhood plan.

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Through our £22.5 million support programme for neighbourhood planning over the next three years, funding is available to neighbourhood groups that wish to participate in shaping the development of their areas. More than £2.8 million in grants has been awarded to such groups since March. Neighbourhood forums, many of which are in deprived urban areas, want their neighbourhood plans to include policies on designs or to produce masterplans. They can also apply for funding to receive technical support. This also applies to parish and town councils that are classed as priority groups. These forums, any other neighbourhood group or even a local planning authority are able to prepare a design code if they so wish. Indeed, as my noble friend is undoubtedly aware, national planning policy and our planning guidance encourage design codes where they can help to deliver high-quality outcomes. Furthermore, local communities have a say in how community infrastructure levy funds raised in their area are spent. For example, communities that draw up a neighbourhood plan will benefit from 25% of the levy that arises from the development that takes places in their area.

The Bill would require a specific form of engagement through conducting a charrette, or inquiry by design process, wherever a significant number of new homes is proposed. Charrettes are certainly a useful tool for engaging communities in development proposals that affect them and they are widely used in Scotland. But they are only one tool in the toolbox that is available, and it should be for local areas to decide which tool is most appropriate for them. Up and down the country we are seeing a range of innovative approaches, including charrettes, being used to engage communities on different proposals. For example, in Uppingham in Rutland, communities have been trialling Community VoiceBox, which is a new approach for guiding the design of housing development in local areas. In Bordesley Green in Birmingham, Accord group has been using the Planning for Real tool with the local community to identify the community’s priorities for the local area, building on local knowledge, skills and networks.

We also recognise that the best estate regeneration projects actively involve local residents, so that the new homes and the area are redeveloped to meet local needs, provide well-designed and high-quality new homes and reflect a sense of community identity. In the New Union Wharf development in Tower Hamlets, the developer, East Thames Group, ran a mini-competition for ideas for the future of the estate, facilitated resident training, visited other projects and opened up meetings where residents identified what they wished to change and the priorities for the new development. A residents’ future group was set up, subsequently holding monthly open meetings, which engaged with the developers. In

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the Grahame Park estate development in Barnet, there has been extensive community engagement and consultation over several key stages. This has taken the form of community events and workshops, newsletters, an interactive design website, drop-in sessions, a full master plan and a full ballot about the final proposals. The aim has always been to ensure full community participation and buy-in.

Those examples alone demonstrate that a range of tools is already available, and we firmly believe that the specific process of engagement should not be prescribed centrally. We do not believe that the Government should legislate to require local authorities and developers to undertake specific processes.

We recognise the good intentions behind the Bill, but feel the community groups already have the powers to achieve its aims. Design codes are already a legitimate tool that local planning authorities and neighbourhoods can use to shape design in their area. Communities can already and should continue to be able to engage with development proposals in the manner that they see is most appropriate. It is not for government to prescribe the method by which communities should engage with proposals in their area. Given that, I must express my reservations with regard to the Bill. However, I conclude by adding that if my noble friend would find it helpful, my departmental colleagues and I would be very happy to meet him to discuss the potential for further practical non-legislative measures to improve community engagement in the design of new development schemes.

3.12 pm

Lord Lexden: My Lords, I have been greatly heartened and encouraged by the support—indeed, enthusiasm—with which the Bill has been greeted. I am profoundly grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, and the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy of Southwark, who expressed with enthusiasm the Labour Party’s support for the Bill. I am of course grateful to my noble friend for setting out the Government’s thinking so fully and clearly. I would very much like to take up her generous offer and look forward to doing so.

This short but important Bill bears upon one of the great issues of our time. In 1950, Churchill said:

“Upon good housing depends the health and happiness of every family”,

in the land. I ask the House to give the Bill a Second Reading.

Bill read a second time and committed to a Committee of the whole House.

House adjourned at 3.14 pm.