Returning to the debate in the other place, I note that Mr Nick Herbert went on to say that,

“support is undermined when speculative developers try to get in applications ahead of the completion of neighbourhood plans or even after they have been completed. They bang in their applications, and either they are upheld by the local authority, which is fearful of losing an appeal, or the developer makes an appeal that is upheld by the planning inspector. The development is then allowed to go ahead, which leads people, including groups of volunteers, to ask, ‘Why have we spent literally years working on this neighbourhood plan for where developments should go—a power that was given to us, the community—only for it to be overturned by a developer?’”.—[

Official Report

, Commons, 5/1/16; col. 222.]

Nick Herbert’s views were echoed by Sir Oliver Heald MP, who thought it was wrong that a neighbourhood plan,

“can then be trashed by an application by a speculative developer.—[

Official Report

, Commons, 5/1/16; col. 222.]

Andrew Bingham MP said this was happening in Chapel-en-le-Frith, a village in his constituency. These sentiments from Conservative MPs were echoed by those of Dr Roberta Blackman-Woods MP for the Opposition.

I have followed the progress of the production of an excellent neighbourhood plan for the Cerne Valley in Dorset, covering the village whose name, Godmanstone, is in my title—I declare an interest in this as an owner of land within the area covered by the plan. In the case of the Cerne Valley, local volunteers formed a neighbourhood forum in the summer of 2011. Consultative meetings were held with fierce debates, and after huge efforts the group—a vanguard for

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neighbourhood forums, brilliantly led by a local farmer, Fred Horsington, who is now a neighbourhood planning champion—obtained the approval of the relevant parish councils for their plan. In December 2013, it was submitted to the council. It was then subject to independent examination and the examiner’s report came out in August 2014. Then, in December 2014, a referendum was held. To the considerable credit of all the volunteer workers, the plan was approved by a huge majority. Finally, on 8 January 2015, three and a half years from the beginning, the plan was approved by the local authority.

During this lengthy period, all the hard work of those engaged in this exercise was at risk from a developer putting in an application which did not accord with the emerging plan. Had this happened, the parish council and the neighbourhood forum would have had no way of appealing, and the council would have had to be hesitant about using the submitted plan in determining the planning application. Until the referendum was done and dusted, it was a nerve-wracking time. This amendment would overcome the problem and ensure that, even where a neighbourhood plan has not reached its final stage, it would make its mark as it should. I support the amendment.

Lord Greaves: My Lords, I tabled an amendment in this group which covers similar ground but is not about neighbourhood planning. I tabled it at the behest of a different set of interest groups from those that my noble friend Lady Parminter has worked with, but it seems sensible for it be in this group because the principle is the same.

This is an interesting issue, which has been around for quite a while. One of the interesting political aspects is that political parties tend to be in favour of some form of community right of appeal against the granting of planning permission when they are in opposition, but when they are in government find all sorts of reasons why it is not practical. I think this has happened with all three parties, although I think my noble friend is complaining that we continued to be favour of it during the coalition but were stopped by our big-brother partner—at least I think that is what she is saying; she may have been closer to it than I was.

I have no doubt whatsoever that, for major applications which are against policy, there is a very good argument in favour of the right of appeal. It is also true that nobody has come up with workable legislation. I am not claiming that my amendment, which covers the principle generally rather than just neighbourhood planning, is the answer. But we have to accept that the right of appeal has to be restricted to a considerable degree: it cannot be for any old planning application that comes along, even if it is against policy. If, for example, an extension to next-door’s kitchen is against council policy but the council has passed it, then—rightly or wrongly—it is not a matter for appeal. That right has to be reserved for a major planning application defined in some way or another. I have suggested,

“a major planning application or an application for permission in principle”—

no doubt we will be calling it a “PIP” before we have finished with this part of the Bill.

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The legislation will have to clearly define who can object and carry out an appeal—whether this be a body, person or group of people—and will have to strictly limit the right to appeals which are clearly against policy. I believe that workable legislation can be drawn up to cater for those cases, but it has to be tightly drawn and not something that is going to generate loads of appeals, because that would totally undermine the planning system and would certainly undermine the Government’s wish to build many more houses.

I am in favour of this with the restrictions I have outlined. I would ask the Government to look at it seriously and ask an expert to come up with a scheme which we can then decide whether to go ahead with or not; otherwise, we will simply continue as we are. If the Conservatives lose the next election and someone else takes over, at the election after that the Conservatives will be doing what they did on platforms with me in 2010—saying what a good idea this is and promising to bring it in if they get into government. I am not blaming them, because everyone does that and everyone changes their mind.

Lord True: My Lords, the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, is very wide, albeit that it is limited to major applications, however they are defined. Of course it goes to the heart of an important point of principle in planning legislation, which is where the right of appeal does and does not lie. We all know that that is a giant question and I do not think that it can particularly be addressed in this group of amendments. However, there is no doubt that we all have electors, groups and campaigners who ask the question: how is it that we are rendered powerless after a decision? But it would mean making such a radical change in planning law that I do not think that we can address it properly at this point. However, I take it fully that the noble Lord has raised a vital issue.

On the more limited Amendment 88A, I understand the kind of case being put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Best, and indeed the good intentions behind the amendment. The trouble is that we are writing law here, and you could look at it the other way round if it was put into statute. Let us say that this became law and someone wished to frustrate a development by a city council like Norwich, with which the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, is associated. If Norwich wanted to do something and had granted a planning application, we would have this provision on the statute book which potentially provides an opportunity for it to be subjected to an appeal to the Secretary of State—I guess that that means the inspector. It could be a mechanism not for promoting a community interest but for campaigning against a difficult decision which a planning authority had taken. That would be my concern with the proposed new clause as drafted because local authorities have to take difficult decisions.

There is theoretically a defence in proposed new subsection (1)(c), which states that the neighbourhood plan should contain,

“proposals for the provision of housing development”—

that is, the objectors could not be complete nimbys, but they might have a proposal for two or perhaps 10 houses whereas the local authority plan had just

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given consent for the construction of 150 affordable houses. In the hands of the wrong sort of people—I am sure not those of the party opposite—it could be a mechanism through which campaigners could operate to challenge embedded and accepted local authority proposals. I see also that proposed new subsection (2) states that the objectors could cover only,

“part of the area of land to which the application relates”.

So there could be a situation where a site brief had been drawn up for an inner-city plot, perhaps with community participation, running across two wards. Let us say that it had been agreed to construct housing, a school and so on, but then up pops a group in part of the site area—these things take a long time to process—which then says, “Oh no, we object to that and we will go to the Secretary of State”. You will end up with the whole of the worked-out site brief being potentially frustrated. I am sure that that is not what is intended by noble Lords opposite.

There is a further defence, in that the emerging plan —however it emerges—has to have reached a certain point, such as public consultation, though that can be pushed along relatively quickly. In the wrong hands, this power, which is intended to be benign, could be used to frustrate, challenge and delay difficult decisions taken in the broader interest by the principal authority. Indeed, it is an interesting reversal—

5.15 pm

Baroness Parminter: Does the noble Lord not accept that, were one of these neighbourhood groups to bring forward an appeal, they could face costs against them if it was thought to be vexatious or went against them? That would be a powerful disincentive for some of the groups which, as the noble Lord says, might use this process for reasons that none of us would support.

Lord True: As the noble Baroness knows, the question of costs is very much in the hands of the inspector at the end of the day. Sometimes they are awarded and sometimes not. In my experience, a very lenient view is often—quite rightly—taken where community bodies are involved. I am, therefore, nervous about this amendment, as drafted, because although well intentioned it could very easily be exploited to create agitation where none existed before, to frustrate needed community development.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark: My Lords, as I have told the House many times before, I am a local councillor in Lewisham. I represent the ward of Crofton Park.

As I have mentioned before, we are in the process of developing our own neighbourhood plan by setting up a neighbourhood forum and taking a much more proactive role in how our local community develops. We are doing this using the powers in the Localism Act 2011. I agree with the comments made previously and in this debate about how that has been a very useful exercise and has certainly engaged with the local community. I am very supportive of that. We are seeking to produce a local script. We will get our documents together for our local community and we hope to have a referendum to get them approved within the next 18 months.

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The amendment proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, allows for an appeal by a parish council or a neighbourhood forum to the Secretary of State if the local authority’s decision goes against the policies in the approved local plan. Amendment 101BGA seeks to do something similar but wider. I am interested in the Government’s response, because there is a conflict between what the Government are doing in this Bill and what the Localism Act says. Can the Minister deal with that? We need a proper balance; in that regard, I agree with the points made by the noble Lords, Lord Greaves and Lord True. We have to move on, not continue to go backwards and forwards. Something needs to happen here. I will leave my remarks there, but when the Minister responds I may ask one or two questions.

Baroness Evans of Bowes Park: My Lords, Amendments 88A and 101BGA propose a community right to appeal in various circumstances. The existing right of appeal recognises that, in practice, the planning system acts as a control on how an individual may use their land. As a result, the Government believe it is right that an applicant has the option of an impartial appeal against the refusal of planning permission. This existing right of appeal compensates for the removal of the individual’s right to develop.

The planning system, however, already provides ample opportunity where the community wishes to express a view on a planning matter, and the Government place great importance on community involvement in the planning system at every stage of the process. Communities have statutory rights to become involved in the preparation of the local plan for their area, through which they can influence development. As we have heard, the local community can also come together to produce a neighbourhood plan, which sets out how the community wants to see its neighbourhood develop. On the question of the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, about progress, out of the 1,800 communities that have started, 400 draft plans have been published for consultation and of these 300 have been submitted for examination and more than 120 have been “made”—that is, brought into force.

These plans form the basis for decisions on planning applications. We are also proposing more powers for neighbourhood forums in the Bill: first, by allowing them to request that they are notified of applications in their area and, secondly, through existing powers to make neighbourhood forums statutory consultees on the local plan for the area. In addition, communities are able to make representations on individual planning applications, including major planning applications. Our proposals for “permission in principle”, which are contained in the Bill, include community consultation before a decision is made, upholding our principle of community involvement. We believe that the views of the community are considered at every stage in the decision-making process.

The Government do not believe that a community right of appeal is necessary as there are already plenty of opportunities to have a say on local planning issues, as the amendments acknowledge. It would be wrong for development to be delayed and uncertainty created at the last minute with a community right of appeal.

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These amendments would serve only to repeat issues that were raised and addressed during the planning application process. The law is very clear that decisions on planning applications must be made in accordance with the development plan, unless material considerations indicate otherwise. A made neighbourhood plan is therefore a powerful tool that must be the starting point for authorities’ decisions on applications.

To ensure that the significance of neighbourhood plans is absolutely clear, we issued further guidance on decision-making last month. This highlights national policy that states,

“where a planning application conflicts with a neighbourhood plan that has been brought into force, planning permission should not normally be granted”.

We also have clear national policy on the weight that can be given to emerging neighbourhood plans. This weight can be significant. The National Planning Policy Framework explains that the weight will vary depending on the stage of preparation that the plan has reached, any unresolved objections to it, and consistency within the framework.

The noble Lord, Lord Best, raised the issue of developers being able to intervene in the neighbourhood planning process by putting in applications throughout. We do not believe that it would be right to stop development programmes coming forward at any time, as this would impact on local businesses, which need to invest, and local people, who need homes. However, throughout the rest of the Bill we are seeking to speed up and simplify the neighbourhood planning process so that the plans will have full weight as quickly as possible.

It is somewhat inevitable in a planning system that aims to balance competing demands for growth and environmental protection that development proposals may lead to limited conflict with one objective in a plan in order to deliver another. In these cases, we must allow decision-takers to balance these competing considerations, without the risk that every decision to approve an application could be taken to appeal. If, in rare cases, a community believes that the local planning authority is minded to approve an application that clearly conflicts with a local plan or an emerging or made neighbourhood plan, it can ask the Secretary of State to intervene and call in the application for his or her own determination.

We also announced in January that, for a further six months, the Secretary of State’s criteria on recovering and deciding planning appeals would continue to include housing proposals in those areas where there is a made or submitted neighbourhood plan. This reflects the Government’s clear policy intention for neighbourhood planning.

Baroness Parminter: I thank the Minister for that point but, with regard to recovering planning appeals, can she confirm that that would not apply where permission has been granted by the local authority contrary to a neighbourhood plan? It could be recovered if the local authority has refused the planning permission and subsequently been taken to appeal, but it could not be taken forward if the local authority has granted permission to something contrary to the neighbourhood plan.

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Baroness Evans of Bowes Park: I believe that that is correct, yes.

We already have a system which ensures that the views of communities are heard, understood and taken into account in reaching a decision. The best way for communities to engage in the planning system is for them to become involved in the development of local and neighbourhood plans, and make representations on applications as they arise. I hope that the noble Baroness will consider withdrawing her amendment.

Baroness Parminter: I thank the Minister for her reply and I thank all the people who have spoken in this debate. I am disappointed, since I hoped that the Government would think that my amendment was trying to deliver on their objectives of not only delivering more homes but encouraging more people to get involved in neighbourhood planning, which we all agree is an important and welcome new part of the planning process. Of course, planning is about balancing competing demands. I still feel that the balance is not correct but in the light of where we are today and the speed at which we need to go forward, I will withdraw the amendment at this point.

Amendment 88A withdrawn.

Amendment 88B not moved.

Amendment 89

Moved by Lord Kennedy of Southwark

89: Before Clause 129, insert the following new Clause—

“Power to direct

The Secretary of State shall by regulations define powers for local planning authorities to direct the use of underused, un-used or otherwise available publicly owned land in a local area to support redevelopment or regeneration as outlined in a local development plan.”

Lord Kennedy of Southwark: My Lords, I will be relatively brief. Amendment 89 seeks to empower the Secretary of State by regulation to enable a local planning authority to direct the use of underused public land to support development and regeneration. The amendment seeks to make speedier use of public land that is not in use or underused. We have all talked about the housing crisis in many debates in this House, particularly during the course of the Bill. We all know we need to build more houses. Although we may disagree on what sorts of houses we need to build and how to build them, we all accept we need to build more.

The amendment requires local planning authorities to designate land for housing co-ops—something I am very supportive of, and I know that Members on the Government Benches have also expressed support for housing co-operatives in the past. I declare that I am a member of the Co-operative Party, which puts forward policies for a variety of solutions to the problems we face. I beg to move.

Lord Campbell-Savours: My Lords, I need to make it clear that Amendment 89 is not Labour Party policy; it is my view and I believe it is supported by millions of people in the country. Despite my repeated interventions, this is the only amendment I have moved in my name

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and I therefore need to take a little more time in dealing with it. I think you will find that my previous interventions have been very brief.

Amendment 89 offers us the opportunity to debate the cost of land—the real cost before the profiteers move in. It concerns the impact of land cost on the property market, speculation in land by the land banks and property speculators and hoarders, house price inflation and capital gains tax on developing land. It is about the compulsory purchase of agricultural land for housing development.

I recognise that exception is already made in law for exceptional rural housing development. However, while on occasion that land is offered free or at marginal cost by landowners, it is often offered in return for planning permission on land which is sold at market prices. I argue for the need to go much further, and have done so in interventions on a number of occasions during the course of the Bill.

When we want to build an airport, roadway, motorway, bypass, bridge, railway line, reservoir or development in the public interest, under present arrangements we use powers under various pieces of legislation, in particular the land compensation Acts. Compulsory purchase orders are issued, signed off by the Secretary of State, and the land is acquired at its then market rate, plus an uplift. The uplift can include an occupant’s loss payment, a basic loss, an allowance for the replacement of land to include fees and taxes paid, disturbance costs and an allowance to cover the cost of land unreasonably affected by adjacent development. These additional costs are usually but not always marginal compared to the costs of the original CPO land in question.

The process applies where agricultural, pastoral or arable land is the subject of compulsory purchase. By my reading, the justification for the CPO is set out in Section 226 of the Land Compensation Act 1965, as amended by Section 99 of the 2004 Act where it states that a local authority must not seek a CPO unless it feels that the development of the land will,

“promote improvement of the economic well-being of the area … and promote the improvement of the social well-being of the area”.

Denning, in his judgment in Prest v Secretary of State for Wales, opined on the justification for compulsory purchase, saying that,

“Parliament only grants it, or should only grant it, when it is necessary in the public interest”.

He then went on to set out the safeguards.

5.30 pm

The issue for me is quite simple: what is the public interest as described by Denning? What defines the social and economic well-being of an area, as described in law? I would argue, as I believe would the great majority of the British people, that it must include housing the people. There is a housing crisis, with unrelenting house price inflation at a time of escalating student debt: hundreds of thousands of young people will never be able to afford a home because of student debt overhanging their early years. We have huge levels of migration into the United Kingdom. People even live in sheds in parts of this country: in Slough and parts of London, people put sheds in their gardens,

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illegally, and put people into them. That is the scale of the problem. The English housing survey shows the lowest level of home ownership in 30 years. There is a high incidence of overcrowding, with the particular problem of the younger generation living at home. We have unparalleled levels of homelessness, with ever-lengthening waiting lists.

One of the most important reasons for this is to be found in the 2015 report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Population, Development and Reproductive Health. It says:

“Urban areas are often densely populated and vulnerable to violence and unrest”.

The report highlights the crime and violence associated with rapid urbanisation. In other words, high levels of population in high-density areas can bring about crime. It therefore follows in my mind that acquiring land at agricultural, local market prices under the process that I have described, for the purpose of housing the people, is perfectly justifiable. Under the law, there can be no reason why housing the people, in the public interest, should be impeded by speculation in land.

I am not arguing that land subject to existing planning consent should be CPOd at knock-down prices—that would be wrong—but I am arguing that land not so designated, but needed for housing, should be CPOd. If we are going to meet this huge pent-up demand for housing, we are going to have to expand into the green belt and planners are going to have to compromise. We are going to have to build genuinely affordable housing on the edge or margins of many of our towns and cities. I personally can see no other way. There are those who argue that, following planning designation, the market should determine the price of land. But why should the benefit of a stroke of the planner’s pen fall to the fortunate few, to the detriment of the unfortunate many? Our fathers did not go to war to preserve the privileges of the few; they fought to preserve the rights of the many.

When I talk about privilege, I am talking about unjustifiable, speculative profit. The profit on land is staggering. I have consulted the Valuation Office Agency. The estimated value of a hectare of typical agricultural land in the United Kingdom is £21,000—£8,000 in Scotland and £25,000 in arable England. According to figures from the VOA published on the DCLG site in February 2015, that same land, when granted permission for housing development, would fetch the following figures as opposed to £21,000: £846,000 in Allerdale, in my former constituency; £990,000 in Liverpool; £1.5 million in Doncaster; £1.4 million on the outskirts of Birmingham; £2.3 million in Harrogate; £2.5 million in York; £3.4 million in Watford and Dartford; £5.3 million in east Hampshire; and £5.7 million in Barnet. This is land that is available for agriculture at £21,000 an acre. To put it bluntly, what is going on is a disgrace. The VOA based its calculation on 35 two, three or four-bedroom houses per hectare, so it is a pretty accurate calculation. These stroke-of-a-pen planned price increases are denying millions of people their homes. Not that the fortunate few are the only beneficiaries: the taxman seizes his share in capital gains. We cannot go on like this.

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In Nijmegen, Holland, the Waalsprong urban extension is being built on 1,350 hectares of agricultural land: that is not much short of 3,000 acres. There will be about 11,000 homes with public services and facilities to accommodate a future growth of up to 30,000 residents. This is being delivered by a public/private partnership, with the local authority owning the land, having acquired it at a low cost to facilitate the development, it being agricultural land.

In Sweden, there is the 11,000-home development in Hammarby, just outside Stockholm. This high quality, environmentally sustainable development is being built 10 times faster than the same kind of development in England because land costs are lower, so there are fewer incentives to drip out supply while waiting for prices to rise. I am indebted to Shelter and Mr Steve Akehurst for assembling that data on European land for affordable housing.

I turn now to the matter of housing title. Why cannot we have a new system of title in the United Kingdom, whereby we acquire the land under the process that I have described—following development—and sell it to the house buyer under a new form of title, which I have described as crownhold, qualified leasehold or covenanted freehold? This is how I envisage the arrangement: the local authority identifies the land for housing, purchases the land under the formula described, designates the land for housing development and enters into a joint venture with a developer. The developer develops the site, and the joint venture sells the housing development under the new title. The housing is subject to a ground rent set down in statute—let us say £300 per annum, 10-year renewable, payable to the original land vendor—and the homeowner is free to buy the freehold under a simplified leasehold enfranchisement arrangement. Equally, the homeowner is free to sell their title, whether it be the acquired title or an enfranchised title. You could also introduce on sale a tapered levy to contribute towards the cost of enfranchisement on each subsequent sale, after the original purchase has taken place.

What are the implications of all this? First, the original landowner gains not only agricultural price plus uplift, but later, a ground rent and the benefit of enfranchisement. Secondly, landlords would have to judge whether it was better to cede the land for development or wait for full commercial benefit from planning permission on green belt land—which otherwise they could rarely get, indeed probably never—in the vain hope of waiting to develop the land in question. Thirdly, substantial releases of land on this basis would help stabilise the property market and might even lead to a switch from housing investment into more commercial forms of investment in the national interest, as is the case in Germany. I have always believed that the reason the Germans do so well is that they concentrate not on property investment but on real investment.

I was advised by the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, this morning in an email that the profit the developers generally expect is in the region of 22%, allowing for a land price of probably £5,000 or £6,000 a plot; it would be a lot less than that in reality, but it has to be serviced. If you could build, as I said the other day,

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a three-bedroom house for £80,000, you could sell it for £110,000 or £120,000 and housing costs would be greatly reduced. It would carry a mortgage of some £500 to £550—and that is a high rate at the moment—which would allow hundreds of thousands of people to buy their homes, save us a fortune on social housing and render the Bill for the fairies.

Finally, there could be a danger that landowners might use the identification of land for crownhold development in support of their applications or appeals for full commercial planning consent, and for inclusion of that land in the local authority’s local development plans—a sort of piggyback principle—and use the demand or the proposed designation for crownhold as the basis on which they can then apply for a more profitable planning permission. It would have to be made clear that opposition to the identification of land for crownhold development would be a major factor in refusing consent in full commercial benefit planning applications.

It is just a thought. A lot of people in this country believe that land is overpriced and that that is the problem —it is certainly my belief. One day we will change the system. I do not expect it to happen tonight, but I hope it is not too far away.

Lord True: My Lords, I, too, have an amendment in this group, which I suggested should be moved up in the interests of making progress, because it touches on similar territory to the amendment put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy. I will not follow the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, in his very interesting remarks. Of course land is a huge conundrum. Heaven knows, as leader of an authority with some of the highest embedded land values in the country, one knows that that is an immensely complicating factor. But, again, a bit like the challenge laid down by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, about rights of appeal across the planning system, it is perhaps a little big for this Committee at this stage and at this time—although it would certainly merit a debate in your Lordships’ House.

On the question of co-ops: 148709 was my old mum’s co-op number. She was also a member of the party—I found her card after she died. She hid it very well in her later years as a Conservative voter but she always loved the idea of the co-op. Housing co-operatives are very welcome. I was brought up to believe to some degree in the co-operative principle.

I want to go back to the origin of where I am coming from, and the other amendment is coming from, which is the poor old local authority. We take so much incoming fire—I hear it time and again, and I have sat through and followed a bit of the Bill. We see these other people, these public undertakings, sitting on land and—I will not use the demotic but noble Lords know what I am thinking. Yet the local authorities get the blame for not developing it. Time and again I hear it: they are the cause and the obstacle and they are the people who do not do it. Some of us are getting beyond the extremes of tolerance for this strand of argument.

I put down an amendment to Clause 137, which is this longfalutin thing about local authorities having to compile registers of land, which would take a few

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officers a lot of time to do. If that is what the Government want us to do, I suppose that we will have to do it and I suppose we probably will not get any money for it—but can we not do something with these registers? So I suggested that maybe if local authorities have these registers, we could use them and start to challenge some of the registered people in our area who are not doing anything to do something about the land.

Frustrated local authorities in my borough are watching Network Rail, which has a planning application granted in 2011 that is still not fully executed and in fact scarcely begun. It is a disgrace. Well over 100 houses there should be developed. Meanwhile, the private sector is getting on with it across the road. I could name many others.

I do not want to anticipate remarks on what will come up later in the Bill. I see that in Clause 183 there is all this worthy stuff about how public authorities are going to be encouraged to engage with local authorities on proposals to dispose of land. That would be a nice thing, would it not? Why do they not just do it now? They do not need an Act of Parliament to get on with it.

5.45 pm

What are they actually going to do when they do engage? We might get something better—better engagement than learning of a Ministry of Defence proposal in my borough from a press release run up by the local newspaper. Perhaps they can engage a little bit better than that. Why do they not do it? It is a disgrace.

Do I think that these public authorities are going to carry the public interest when they develop in the same way as local authorities will with their responsibilities to provide schools and infrastructure and all the things that are needed in local communities? No, I do not. We as local authorities will obviously try to hold them to their responsibilities but our powers are being eroded.

I am a slightly provocative character sometimes and I have a couple of provocative amendments to this Bill, of which this is one. I have a couple of serious ones, too. I warn noble Lords that I certainly intend to press those. This one is provocative—maybe this system would not work. But if we have got these registers, why can we not say to these wretched, lazy, poorly run public undertakings, “Get on with it. Produce a plan. Let us have one in a set time—and if you do not have it, show me good reason why this land should not be developed, and why here should not be a primary school or housing”. Let us see the reason. Let us hear it—and if the local authority does not think that that public authority has got a reason not to develop the land, give us the power to get on with it and do it.

I say “compulsory purchase”. I know of course how difficult that is. I know that that is not practical. There will be 100 arguments from the Box about how compulsory purchase is not the way to go about it. But surely if the public authority will not act, someone should be given that authority—and, frankly, I do not think that it will be a Minister sitting in the Cabinet Office who will do all these things.

So I believe that at some point in some way—it may not be what is down on this amendment—the local planning authority should be given the authority set

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out in Amendment 98C. Where there is an unwilling public authority, the local authority should be given the opportunity to get on with it. Then we can have a system to divvy up a little bit of the profit with the public and with the owner afterwards. Perhaps we shall be a bit chary with the amount of profit that we give to people who have not done anything for a long time. Let us retain that profit for the community, for the schools, for the roads and so on.

There is a lot of talk about getting brownfield building done. I support what my Government are saying about that. Full power to all that they are saying about that. But why, why, why leave out the local authorities who know who they are and who know where the land is? They are going to have to compile these registers and then they do not seem able to do anything about it. Give us the tools and we shall do the job.

The Earl of Lytton: My Lords, it is appropriate to speak after the noble Lord, Lord True, because earlier on in our previous Committee discussions I referred to the point to which the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, referred earlier, namely the deliberations of the Select Committee on National Policy for the Built Environment. I say again what I said previously: one of the great things that really stuck out for me is the deficit in housebuilding and the concurrent fall-off in local government building on its own account.

There are all sorts of reasons for that, but I would definitely side with the noble Lord, Lord True, on the point that he made about there being a clear case for local authorities to take a hand in the development process. I really do not think that the Government’s objectives will be met unless that can be harnessed in some shape or form.

I give the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, great credit for his consistency and persistence. Earlier in Committee he made clear his view on the problem of excessive house prices linked to excessive land price. He is probably aware that I have a somewhat different take on this, and I hope that he will forgive me for that, but I realise that there is an issue here.

In introducing his amendment, the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, made reference to agricultural land, but the amendment itself does not seem to necessarily make it clear that it is referring to acquisitions of agricultural land as opposed to acquisitions of land generally at an agricultural value. My next point follows from that because the land may well have been used previously for some other purpose that may have no relationship to its agricultural heritage of 100 or so years previously in either physical or valuation terms. I just flag that up. So it depends on the origins of the land, and it also depends on whether it is serviced or unserviced, because of course there can be an awful lot of infrastructure, particularly if it is land that was previously developed, which adds a lot to its value.

The noble Lord’s proposal is, on the face of it, expropriatory, although he outlined a provision for a way in which there could be a clawback from that. But as it stands, it would require the effective rewriting of current compulsory purchase and land compensation legislation. I fear that it will be seen as departing from a principle of fair compensation, particularly where land is acquired for a purpose for which there is an obvious

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general market value—unlike, say, a piece of infrastructure such as a road or a school or something which is only ever going to be produced for a public purpose, and, in the case of a road, probably only by a public authority or in pursuit of a public authority’s powers.

But I remind your Lordships that this has been tried before. During my university years, we still had the Land Commission Act, which had something called the betterment levy attached to it. It was scrapped either the year before or during the year in which I took my finals. It was replaced in due course by something called development land tax. This was levied at about 80% of the uplift and it simply caused the land supply to dry up. So little land came forward that one of the first things that the Thatcher Government did when they came in was to scrap it to try to free the thing up. So if you are not careful, you can completely reverse the process where land is voluntarily brought forward and you will have to predict and provide as a public authority and acquire the land, presumably by compulsory means at a low value.

At the moment, the development gains generate some pretty large funds for landowners. However, earlier I sent the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, an email based on the experience of one of my colleagues, who found that the profit made by a developer was substantially—by a matter of 50%—over and above what the landowner got for the land. We should bear in mind that what he got for the land presumably included its current-use value—for example, as agricultural land—plus any increment that he was paid for the development. But the process funds an awful lot of things under Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act, the community infrastructure levy and other community and societal benefits. We already have a tax regime that taxes its share of those things, through capital gains tax, corporation tax or whatever.

Unless the noble Lord’s proposal resulted in a wholesale fall in property values—which, as I said earlier, would be a brave new world of an entirely different scale and nature and might have some very undesirable consequences—it would not reduce values. New homes are typically less in any given year—probably substantially less—than 1% of the existing total housing stock. It is a bit of a scratch on the surface, I fear.

That said, I have a lot of sympathy with the noble Lord. There is no question that housing is very expensive. But it would pay to look at a number of other things. The noble Lord, Lord True, mentioned one of them: vacant land that is suitable and is not being used. I remember—and I think the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, will know what I am talking about—a site in the middle of Horsham which the landowner refused to sell or allow to be brought forward for development. It became a sort of island of industrial activity in the middle of the town. I can well relate to local authority concern about that sort of situation.

I also point to some of the restrictive practices operated by a number of the major housebuilders and the way they achieve their profit margins. I certainly think that would warrant looking at. Then there are the costs, risks, drawn-out timeframes—if you like, the costs of democratic input into the planning situation, but I do not complain about that—and the uncertainty

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of bringing land forward for development and getting consent, as well as the necessary sustainability studies that have to go in beforehand. They have to go in before the local authority will even consider that the thing is relevant. That might be for known, important ecological reasons but might also be without there being any shred of evidence that there is any ecological value of any sort. That hugely adds to the up-front costs.

I now point to the manner in which some utility companies exercise their powers to try and get an additional share of the action—if I can term it thus—notwithstanding their obligation to connect and supply. I am afraid that it arises because, to a large extent, they are monopoly suppliers. They really do not have to do anything other than say, “Well, if you want a connection it is going to involve such and such and by the way we need a 50% increase in the size of the sewage treatment works” or whatever. I have come across situations where the local sewerage utility company said it would not put anything in its advance plan until it was included in the local plan produced by the local planning authority and the local planning authority saying that it would not put it in unless it knew it was in the forward plan for the utility company—so complete gridlock. This game is being played up and down the country. For all the development sites that actually come to fruition, there are others where there have been significant expenses but it has all been left on the cutting-room floor and does not happen.

Then I point to the inability of small and medium-sized enterprises, particularly builders and developers, to get finance, other than on the security of the land itself —and even that can be extremely difficult. I know of situations like that professionally and through other sources.

The tax advantages of home ownership make it a most desirable form of financial security. There are good reasons for this, but it does not help exit prices if it has that sort of advantage. This Bill is all about fundamentally making more land available for development in total, which means everybody realising that their year-on-year incremental increase in home value comes at a cost to society—at the same time, of course, as benefiting the economy. We need to be quite ruthless in our analysis of that.

6 pm

Finally, I had the pleasure of going and seeing an experimental project in recent times, which was off-site construction. I believe that off-site construction has a lot to offer in terms of reducing the construction period; greatly improving the quality, because a lot of the components can be pre-finished in, effectively, a factory installation; and with huge benefits in terms of the overall timing and everything else. Indeed, I was told that the initial estimates would produce at least a 15% reduction in construction costs, which would probably be more like 20% or more as time went on and it got under way.

So there are a number of things that we can look at that will start incrementally chipping away at what I think the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, is concerned about: this inexorable year-on-year rise in house values, which leave a certain sector of the

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community unprovided for. We all know what it is, and we all know that it is part and parcel of why the Government are setting out, through the Bill and through other measures, to try to close that gap. But it is not a single issue. I suggest that an expropriatory approach—if I can perhaps crudely call it that—is probably not the right answer, but in many ways we are trying to look through the same bit of the telescope and get to the same objective.

Viscount Younger of Leckie: My Lords, this group of amendments deals with matters relating to land. I have been left in no doubt of the strength of feeling on this subject, as expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, and others. I will take a little time later on addressing the points that he has raised in speaking to Amendment 89L.

Amendments 89 and 89M, proposed by the noble Lords, Lord Kennedy and Lord Beecham, would, first, by regulations give local planning authorities the power to direct the use of underused, unused or otherwise available publicly owned land in their area, where they support redevelopment or regeneration opportunities outlined in a local development plan. Secondly, they would require local planning authorities to designate land for use by housing co-operatives.

Amendment 98C, in the name of my noble friend Lord True allows local planning authorities to challenge the owner of the land to present planning proposals to the local planning authority within six months in conformity with the local plan, where, first, it has compiled a register, which he mentioned, under Clause 137; secondly, the owner of the land is a government department, Mayor of London or other public authority, transport undertaker or other statutory undertaker; thirdly, the land is unused or underused previously developed land; and, finally, the body concerned has not prepared or declines to prepare a plan for its development. Again I listened carefully to the points raised by my noble friend.

Where the owner declines to present such a plan it must publish within the six-month period a response showing good reason why the land should not be developed. If the local planning authority considers that the response fails to show good reason, it may present its own proposals for development, compulsorily purchase the land and exercise any planning consent that is then granted.

Amendments 89 and 98C share some common features, in that they seek to give local authorities new powers to control the development of land held by other public bodies. A power for the Secretary of State to direct public bodies to take steps to dispose of their interests in land was created by the Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980. The 1980 Act provides an important constraint in the use of the power: where the Secretary of State proposes to exercise the power, if the body makes representations to the Secretary of State regarding the proposed direction then the Secretary of State must be satisfied that the land can be disposed of without serious detriment to the performance of the body’s functions before ordering disposal.

Because of the geographical limitations of their interests, local planning authorities will not usually be in a position to make judgments about the potential

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impact of a direction to dispose on other public bodies with wider, and in many cases national, interests. Government departments, for example, often have functions critical to the national interest, such as the provision of transport infrastructure, healthcare and defence. It would not be right for local planning authorities to make judgments about how the local interests of other public bodies interacted with their wider functions.

The Government have already committed to dispose of any land that is surplus to requirements, and have announced an ambitious target to release sufficient land for 160,000 homes over the course of this Parliament. Moreover, to ensure that people are able to challenge the Government in the use of their land, the Government have introduced the right to contest. This gives anyone the ability to challenge the Government to sell land or property where they believe it is not needed and could be put to better economic use.

However, I support the principle that local planning authorities should have a greater role when government departments are planning to release land. That is why Clause 183 creates a new duty on Ministers of the Crown to engage with local authorities when planning to dispose of land. This will enable local authorities to raise their views with the landowning body as it is developing its disposal strategy.

I turn to Amendment 89M. The Government want to see new homes and places that communities can be proud of and that stand the test of time, and we recognise the important contribution that community-led housing schemes, including those by housing co-operatives and community land trusts, make to this important agenda. While I recognise the good intention behind the amendment, it is not necessary to place a new requirement on local planning authorities to allocate land specifically for housing co-operatives. National planning policy requires local planning authorities to plan proactively to meet all housing needs in the area, based on the needs of different groups in the community.

The noble Lord will also wish to be aware that neighbourhood planning already gives communities several routes to allocate land in their area to meet local housing needs. Communities can use a neighbourhood plan to allocate land for housing development, including land put forward by a housing co-operative. Our early evidence indicates that neighbourhood plans are allocating 10% more homes than the local plan. Furthermore, community right-to-build orders allow communities to give planning permission for a particular development without the need for a traditional planning application. Neighbourhood plans and community right-to-build orders are subject to a local referendum, so proposals benefit from having genuine local support.

Last year we launched a £22.5 million support programme for neighbourhood planning and a £3.5 million programme for community buildings. These fund communities with up to £15,000 to prepare a neighbourhood plan or neighbourhood development order, and up to £50,000 to prepare a community right-to-build order or a community-led planning application for housing. Over 1,800 communities have started neighbourhood planning, and there have been over 1,000 applications to the programmes this year.

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Lord Kennedy of Southwark: I see the point that the Minister makes about public bodies and land, but I can also think of lots of scruffy plots of land all over the place that are clearly not of any strategic importance to the public body they belong to—for example, Network Rail—but are just sitting there looking pretty tatty. I can think of loads of them very close to here, and we could easily build a few houses on them. They are the type of land that we are talking about, and they should be dealt with.

Viscount Younger of Leckie: The noble Lord makes a good point but I draw his attention again to the national planning policy, in which there is a requirement for local planning authorities to look at these areas and plan proactively. There is of course now the brownfield register as well. With that, I hope there is some reassurance that progress can be made.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark: Not really, no. If the land is owned by Network Rail and Network Rail has no intention of doing anything with it, that is part of the problem.

Viscount Younger of Leckie: It is fair to say that we continue to work hard to press Network Rail to pick up that specific point. I believe that we have made more progress than ever before in addressing those issues. It is important that we look at all areas of land that are not being used, and that is exactly what this planning process aims to do.

I shall now, if I may, make some progress and turn to Amendment 89L and compulsory acquisition. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, has argued—and I accept his passion on this subject—that the imperative for house building is so great that land acquired for that purpose should be acquired as cheaply as possible. There is no doubt that more houses should be built, and that cheap land would help towards that end: he makes a very fair point.

The need for housing is not, however, the only imperative in play when land is acquired by compulsion. The acquiring authority is acting in the public interest, but in return the claimants, whose land and property is being taken from them, must be treated fairly. It may help the Committee if I briefly outline the principles of compensation for land taken by compulsion.

The compensation code is underpinned by the principle of equivalence. This means that the owner should be paid neither less nor more than his loss. The code provides that land shall be purchased at its open market value, disregarding the effect of the scheme underlying the compulsory purchase. The land is valued in a construct called the “no-scheme world”, whereby any increase or decrease in value which is due to the scheme is disregarded. Land will always have its existing use value, but market value also takes into account the effect of any planning permissions that have already been granted, and also the prospect of future planning permissions. This is generally known, as I am sure the noble Lord will know, as “hope value”. In the context of compensation for compulsory purchase, all this is assessed according to the planning assumptions in the Land Compensation Act 1961, which require the valuer

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to assume the scheme underlying the acquisition is cancelled. Your Lordships’ House may recall that these were reformed in the Localism Act 2011.

In some situations there will be no hope value, because the individual claimant could not have obtained planning permission for some more valuable use. For example, the land might be in an isolated rural location where permission for development would have been unlikely to be granted in the absence of a comprehensive scheme requiring compulsory purchase powers. In other situations, perhaps where land is acquired near an existing settlement, there will be pre-existing prospects for development on the land—in other words, development potential which existed prior to the scheme—and the strength of those prospects will be reflected in the market value of the land.

Lord Campbell-Savours: Why should hope value be transformed into reality on the basis of a planner’s pen? The planner decides, “I recommend to my local authority that that land should be used for housing”, and in an instant transforms the value of that land from £20,000 a hectare to maybe £5 million a hectare. Why? How can we possibly justify that?

Viscount Younger of Leckie: I think that I explained that earlier, by saying that we needed to look at both sides, and to use the principle of fairness. The fact of the matter is that unless we intervene and there is a status approach, the value of land is what it is. I believe that the existing regulations are fair. Land will always have its existing value, but the hope value needs to be taken account of as well.

As I said, in some situations there will be no hope value, because the individual claimant could not have obtained planning permission for some more valuable use. For instance, the land might be in an isolated rural location where permission for development would have been unlikely to be granted. Therefore, compensation under the code is paid at the open market value of the land in the “no-scheme world”. This provides a fair level of compensation. I hope that these explanations have reassured noble Lords. I have spent a bit of time expanding on the arguments raised, particularly by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, and I hope that noble Lords will feel able not to press their amendments.

Lord True: My Lords, I will withdraw the amendment. Indeed, I said before that I would. Do I withdraw the line of argument? I shall think about it between now and Report.

6.15 pm

I am very grateful for the courteous response given as ever by my noble friend but the problem is that public authorities do not do that. In the example that I gave—Network Rail—the planning application granted in 2011 has not moved. It is moving now, to be fair—if you rush off and ring up, it says, “Yes, we’re getting on with it”, because it has been chivvied a bit. But it is not good enough.

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It was a good, classic reply. I am very grateful to the officials from the department and for the opportunity to meet them on other things, thanks to my noble friend on the Front Bench. They are outstanding. Of course, it is a good answer to say they could not allow a local authority to come in and say, “Let’s develop that emergency hospital or Ministry of Defence airbase”. We would not do that. It is a reductio ad absurdum that simply does not work when we are dealing with the business of trying to get houses built by lazy public authorities. Why should they not be challenged? I repeat that point.

It is a pity. I suspect that it is above my noble friend’s pay grade that there is embedded somewhere in the system—a bit like the French at Verdun—the statement, “They shall not pass”; we will not let local authorities have a role. We would rather let public land fester than let local authorities do something about it. It is not good enough. We all know that that is what people think. We are lectured day by day. We collectively and in local government have to provide more housing. We accept the lectures; we accept the beating; we do not do enough. We should do more.

I cannot accept all of this, and I beg my noble friends on the Front Bench to think about a little more grit in the machine. We will have to compile these registers so why cannot we actually do something with them? I do not know how it will happen, or whether it will happen. Please, one day, I beg that it should happen. There will be a song of relief from not only local authorities but local communities across the country. They walk past this unused land every day and say, “Why?”. I say, “Why not?”.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark: My Lords, I thank everyone who has spoken in the debate today. I know that my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours said that this was the first amendment he had tabled, but he has played a really crucial role in our discussion of the Bill, and we welcome that very much. All his points should be carefully considered. As the noble Lord, Lord True, said, there should be a wider debate rather than just here tonight.

I can say to the noble Lord, Lord True, that I still have my RACS card somewhere—my first one, which I have kept for many years. Like him, I think that housing co-ops are wonderful things. In the ward I represent in Crofton Park, which I have mentioned before, we have the Ewart Road Housing Co-op, which is a fantastic place. It is clean, well run, well managed and there is a long waiting list of people trying to get in there. It is real credit to the people who live there, and what a great place Crofton Park in Lewisham is.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord True, about the plots of public land. We are going after strategic sites, but there are loads of scruffy plots of land that blight our communities and which need to be dealt with. I say to the Government that we could even build a few starter homes on them if we got our hands on them. They need to be dealt with, and it is not good enough if they do not do that.

Public bodies, clearly, like private sector companies, can sit there and speculate on the land, see its value going up and do nothing with it. That may not be what is going on but the issue needs to be dealt with.

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It is not good enough for that land just to sit there. The Government should be doing more. I heard the comments of the noble Lord, Lord True, and hope that the Government were listening. At this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 89 withdrawn.

Clause 129 agreed.

Clause 130: Power to give direction to examiner of development plan document

Amendment 89ZA

Moved by Lord Shipley

89ZA: Clause 130, page 62, line 43, at end insert—

“(6B) The powers outlined in subsection (6A) will not apply where a local planning authority has already complied with subsection (2).”

Lord Shipley: My Lords, in moving Amendment 89ZA I will also speak to Amendments 89AZA, 89AZB and 89AZE. I will do so briefly.

Amendment 89ZA would ensure that where a local authority has complied with the relevant requirements in Section 20(2) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004—that is, they have complied with the relevant requirements to submit their planning document for independent examination, and believe it is ready for it—the examination of their development plan can continue. This is important because the powers given to the Secretary of State under Clause 130 are excessive, given that the local authorities may well have done what they were required to do. This amendment would simply mean that the powers of the Secretary of State in Clause 130(6A) would not apply where the local planning authority had already complied with Section 20(2) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004.

Amendments 89AZA and 89AZB would do two things. The former would make it clear that where the Secretary of State chooses to intervene in local development documents or schemes under Section 15 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, any expenditure incurred would be met by the Secretary of State and not by the local authorities as currently indicated in the Bill.

Amendment 89AZB would ensure that development documents prepared by local planning authorities have effect in decision-making until an intervention under Section 21 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 is actually made. In other words, it attempts to restrict some of the additional powers being granted to the Secretary of State to intervene when it is not necessary to do so.

There is a small drafting error in Amendment 89AZE. Three lines were missed out, so that the amendment simply states, “leave out lines 43 and 44”. In a sense, the meaning is the same. The amendment says that when the Secretary of State chooses to use default powers under Section 27 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, any expenditure incurred should be met by the Secretary of State and not by local authorities.

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I am interested to hear what the Minister has to say about all four of these amendments, which address the concerning issue of centralising power over the planning process as opposed to devolving it. I beg to move.

Viscount Younger of Leckie: I thank the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, for his amendments. Before addressing them, I would like to make some introductory remarks about the importance of the policy and our proposed approach to ensuring that all communities benefit from the certainty that a local plan can provide. I hope that this will provide some helpful context for our discussions.

Communities deserve to know where new homes will be built. That is why we are committed to a plan-led system with local plans at its heart. Throughout the progress of this Bill, we have heard again and again from various organisations about the importance of local plans that set the vision for an area and provide the framework for how housing and other essential development needs will be met.

Since the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, local planning authorities have had more than a decade to produce a plan. The majority—70%—have done so. However, not every local authority has made the same progress towards getting their local plan in place. We have made clear our expectation that all local planning authorities should have a plan in place. We have also been clear that plans should be kept up to date to ensure the policies in them remain relevant. If this is not happening, it is right that we take action.

Before I go on to explain our specific proposals, I also want to assure the Committee that, contrary to what some may have come to understand, our proposals do not seek to centralise plan-making. Perhaps I may remind noble Lords of the current position and then set out the reforms that we are proposing.

Parliament has already given the Secretary of State the power to intervene in local plan-making. The existing legislation enables the Secretary of State to direct that a plan or any part of it be submitted to him for approval. He can also already intervene if he thinks that a local planning authority is failing or omitting to do anything that is necessary for it to progress a local plan. He can also recover his costs in this situation, and the action we are proposing is not new. But currently where he intervenes, the Secretary of State commonly finds that his only option is to take over responsibility for the entire progress, and we want to change that. In cases where authorities are not making progress on their local plan, I can assure noble Lords that wherever possible we want to work with those authorities to bring plans forward. The provisions we are discussing today support this approach. We would retain our ability to intervene where it is necessary to do so, but the Secretary of State could also target his intervention and return responsibility for plan-making to an authority for decisions to be made locally wherever possible.

I shall now turn briefly to the specific amendments that have been laid. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, for his comments on Amendment 89ZA. I was not in my place for part of them, but I did hear some of his speech. I shall respond on the understanding

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that the proposition is that, where a local planning authority considers that it has complied with Section 22 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004—that it has complied with the requirements in the relevant regulations and it considers that its plan is ready for independent examination—the powers in Clause 130 allowing the Secretary of State to give directions to an examiner would not apply. This would be at odds with the very purpose of the clause, which is intended to ensure that authorities are given every opportunity to address any shortcomings identified at examination as an alternative to withdrawing a plan. The Noble Lord’s amendment would disapply the proposed powers in many cases.

The clause enables the Secretary of State to take a view and, where he considers it appropriate, to direct to an inspector. He could, for example, direct that an examination be suspended, thus giving an authority the opportunity to undertake further work to address the shortcomings identified at examination. I should make it clear that the measures limit the directions that the Secretary of State could make only to matters of procedure.

I hope that my response has explained briefly to the noble Lord and the Committee why the Government cannot accept the thrust of his arguments on this matter, and I ask him to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Shipley: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply, which I will read carefully in Hansard. I hope that he will have resolved these matters, but if not we may ask to have a further discussion on the issues involved. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 89ZA withdrawn.

Clause 130 agreed.

Amendment 89A

Moved by Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville

89A: After Clause 130, insert the following new Clause—

“Use class for affordable housing

(1) Part C of the Schedule to the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 is amended as follows.

(2) In Class C3 (dwellinghouses), at end insert “,

but not for a use within Class C3A.”

(3) After Class C3 insert—

“Class C3A. Affordable housing

Use for the provision of affordable housing.””

Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville (LD): My Lords, I rise to move this amendment tabled in the names of my noble friends Lord Shipley and Lord Tope. Much discussion has taken place on the need for affordable housing, but it is unclear what will actually happen. This amendment would create a new clause for housing which is affordable by granting to local authorities the power to protect defined sites for affordable housing.

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For the past decade, local authorities have had to carry out strategic housing market assessments without which their housing and planning decisions would not be informed by evidence. Thus they know, or should know, the level and nature of demand in their areas for housing which is genuinely affordable. In addition, they are able to obtain evidence on desired tenures, size of homes and their location. They are, however, restrained in delivering the housing they know is needed from the evidence base they have obtained because the market lags behind changes in needs and demand. So a local authority can identify a need for a particular site to have homes which are affordable built on it, but currently it cannot specify that. This is not about creating mono-tenure estates since the parcels of land could be quite small.

A crucial consideration in this proposal is that it would help with the viability gap for affordable housing: if affordable housing was detached from the C3 use class, land prices would fall when a site was defined as being for affordable housing. I beg to move.

6.30 pm

Viscount Younger of Leckie: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, for his Amendment 89A, which was spoken to by the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell. It seeks to introduce a new use class for affordable housing, and I acknowledge that it is important that affordable housing is maintained for present and future generations. I believe that our reforms will achieve this.

Use classes are an important deregulatory tool that group together uses with very similar land-use impacts. They remove the need for planning permission for change within the use class. While I understand the intent of the noble Lord and the noble Baroness in proposing this amendment, introducing a new use class for affordable housing would add unnecessary bureaucracy and cost to the planning process and added burdens on local planning authorities.

For example, when a property changes from affordable to private, a planning application would be required. Tenants who exercised their right to buy their property would be required to submit a planning application before being able to do so, slowing down the application process, adding burdens on local authorities and unfair restrictions on tenants. Where someone is staircasing to full ownership of a shared-ownership property, the same would apply.

We believe, therefore, that our approach to affordable housing will help those who aspire to home ownership to realise their ambitions, and strikes the right balance—it is a balance—between maintaining the affordable housing stock and providing opportunities for those who want to access or move up the property ladder. Our reforms will help to ensure that affordable housing continues to be provided in the future. Substantial further funding will go into the system from right-to-buy receipts and the sale of vacant high-value assets and will generate additional homes for every one sold, thereby increasing the overall supply of housing.

With this brief assurance, I hope that the noble Lord and noble Baroness will withdraw the amendment.

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Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville: I thank the Minister for his response and I agree that there is a balance to be struck between maintaining housing in the affordable sector and the right to buy. I will read Hansard and we may return to this matter at a later stage. I withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 89A withdrawn.

Clause 131: Intervention by Secretary of State

Amendments 89AZA and 89AZB not moved.

Clause 131 agreed.

Clause 132: Secretary of State’s default powers

Amendment 89AZC

Moved by Lord Greaves

89AZC: Clause 132, page 64, leave out lines 25 and 26

Lord Greaves: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment 89AZC and speak to the rest of the group.

This is about the Secretary of State’s default powers as part of the plan-making process. The Bill introduces a new Section 27 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004. New subsection (1) explains that this section applies if the Secretary of State,

“thinks that a local authority are failing or omitting to do anything it is necessary for them to do in connection with the preparation, revision or adoption of a development plan document”.

The rest of it sets out what the Secretary of State can do, basically by taking over the process and doing it himself or herself. This amendment is about new subsection (5), which says that when this development plan document has been produced and published, either by the Secretary of State or the local planning authority, the Secretary of State has the choice of doing three things: first, to approve the document, or approve it with modifications; secondly, to,

“direct the authority to consider adopting the document by resolution of the authority as a local development document”,

which is the normal process that would take place if the authority was producing the document; or, thirdly, to reject it.

The purpose of the amendment is to put the decision as to what to do with the document—adopt it, adopt it with modifications as allowed or reject it—firmly in the hands of elected local councillors. The purpose of this clause is to say what happens when the authority, as a corporate body, is not doing what it should through its staff and so on. Surely the decision on whether to adopt ought to revert in the end to elected local councillors, even if the Secretary of State has taken the process of producing the document out of the authority’s hands because it has not been doing it right. It is as simple as that: a matter of local democracy.

Lord Deben (Con): My Lords, the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, superficially sounds extremely attractive but I have done this job and I say to him that

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it really does not work like that. The truth is that the Secretary of State will use these powers only when they are utterly necessary. The last thing that he or she will want to do is to get into the mixture of arguments and local issues which this amendment is bound to cause. But there has been such a history of difference in the willingness, or indeed the ability, of local authorities to get on with the business that it is necessary to have this intervention power. After doing all the work and getting it sorted out the idea that you could then hand it back to the local authority, which you have intervened on only because of its incompetence, uselessness or sheer downright intention not to act, seems a bit loopy, to be honest. It would mean going back to the very same people and telling them that they had the opportunity to decide whether the Secretary of State had done the right thing. The answer is that you would use this power only in very extreme cases, and in those cases the last lot of people who you would want to come back to are in that sort of local authority.

Lord Greaves: Perhaps I can answer that before the Minister replies; I know that he may agree with the noble Lord, Lord Deben. The noble Lord, Lord Deben, seems not to understand that there is often a considerable difference between, on the one hand, the bureaucratic competence—I use that word in all its uses as there may be a lack of resources, a lack of professional ability or whatever—and, on the other, the ability of elected councillors to make a decision on the basis of a report and the evidence put in front of them. They are two quite separate things.

Viscount Younger of Leckie: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, for his comments. While I do not wish to repeat my earlier comments or those made by my noble friend Lady Evans on this important issue of planning, whether neighbourhood or local, to reassure the noble Lord I reiterate that we are committed to a plan-led system with local plans at its heart.

Throughout the progression of the Bill we have heard again and again, from various organisations, of the importance of local plans that set the vision for an area and provide the framework for how housing and other essential development needs will be met. However, not every local authority has made the same progress towards getting its local plan in place. We have made clear our expectation that all local planning authorities should have a local plan in place and that the policies in those plans should be kept up to date.

I shall focus on Amendments 89AZC and 89AZD, as tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, which collectively seek to limit the Secretary of State’s power to take decisions on whether a local plan should be adopted where the Secretary of State intervenes under Section 27 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004. I hope that my response can, in a moment, provide reassurance to the noble Lord that the Government are committed to working with local planning authorities to get the plans in place. At the same time, I will explain why we cannot support amendments that would in effect remove from the Secretary of State powers that he currently holds, or powers that we consider necessary should the Secretary of State not be satisfied with a plan produced by a

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local planning authority following his direction. The Secretary of State can currently intervene under Section 27 if he thinks that a local planning authority is failing or omitting to do anything necessary to progress a development plan document—that is, the documents which comprise the local plan.

Clause 132 substitutes a new Section 27 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004. This is to enable more targeted intervention in plan-making by the Secretary of State. These measures lie at the heart of our ambition to work pragmatically with local authorities to get plans in place that help to deliver the homes and jobs we need.

The amendments we propose are intended to enable the Secretary of State to return appropriate decision-making on a development plan document to a local planning authority. The noble Lord’s amendments go further in such a way that they would remove the ability of the Secretary of State to approve a local plan or reject the document. In other words, his only action would be to direct an authority to consider adopting the document. Although I am aware of the experience that the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, has in local matters and local planning, I also very much take account of the comments made by my noble friend Lord Deben and the experience he has had in senior office on these matters.

I reiterate that it remains a balance and we believe that the balance is right. We want to work with authorities to get plans in place. Our proposals give the Secretary of State new options for doing this, without being too prescriptive. However, I remind the noble Lord that the Government may arrange for another body to prepare a local plan only where the local planning authority has failed to do so, despite being given every opportunity. It is a last resort.

The measures we propose provide the necessary assurance to communities and others that where an authority has not put a plan in place or ensured that a plan remains effective, we are able to take the necessary action. Not to do so would risk delaying or even preventing the growth and jobs which are so urgently needed. This action must include taking decisions on whether that plan should or should not form part of the development plan and the starting point for determining planning applications. I therefore ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark: May I ask the Minister a question before he sits down? I agree with the points made by the noble Lords, Lord Greaves and Lord Deben. We want local authorities to read these things, but equally we have to have a mechanism to move things forward if they are not being moved forward. Will the Minister say a little more about what will happen? How far will an authority go? What will the Secretary of State be looking for? At what point will he intervene? It would be useful to have more information.

Viscount Younger of Leckie: I think that it would be wise to furnish the noble Lord with some more detail. For example, I have some charts in my left hand. Perhaps I can reassure him by saying that there is a

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flowchart and a process in place. I reiterate that this is meant to be light touch. This is what is behind it—light touch, but with a programme and a plan.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark: I thank the noble Viscount. For a moment, I thought that he was going to mention regulation again.

Lord Greaves: My Lords, I am grateful to everybody who has taken part in this short debate. One of the differences in the system in new Section 27 of the 2004 Act compared with the earlier legislation is that it will allow the Secretary of State to intervene on particular documents or in specific ways, rather than on the plan as a whole. As the Minister said, it might be more targeted.

I have not been able to get my mind around whether that will make the position more or less alarming—better or worse. However, the experience of some of us of the planning system is that actions taken by the Secretary of State or on behalf of the Secretary of State are not necessarily quicker or more efficient than actions taken by local planning authorities. We only have to look at the whole system of appeals, which, in the case of major appeals on the evidence that I have, is threatening to be snarled up. That is an indication that the Secretary of State may not have a huge resource available to him to step in and do things. I will just leave that.

I am aware that the whole plan-making system, of which this is just a part, needs review and I have tabled an amendment relating to that, which we will come to later in Committee. I was sent a document this morning that was issued yesterday by the Local Plans Expert Group, Report to the Communities Secretary and to the Minister of Housing and Planning. I look forward to having time to have a good look at it, because I believe that what we are talking about now is a detail and the sooner the Government can look at the local planning system as a whole and at ways of making it more streamlined, more effective and more efficient, the better. Having said that, I beg leave to withdraw this amendment.

Amendment 89AZC withdrawn.

Amendments 89AZD to 89AZE not moved.

Clause 132 agreed.

6.45 pm

Clause 133: Default powers exercisable by Mayor of London or combined authority

Amendment 89AA

Moved by Lord Greaves

89AA: Clause 133, page 65, line 6, leave out “or combined authority”

Lord Greaves: My Lords, Clause 133 allows the Mayor of London to step in and carry out default actions on plan-making when local authorities in

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London—London boroughs, presumably—are failing in some aspect of it. It also includes combined authorities, which is a new proposal that requires a little thought. I can understand that in combined authorities that have mayors the mayor may be thinking of becoming a sort of regional version of the Mayor of London, but in practice the position will be quite different, even when the mayors are elected. In combined authorities where there is not going to be a mayor, the position will be even more different.

The Greater London Authority is set up clearly by Act of Parliament as a freestanding authority and that is how it operates. Combined authorities were initially formed from the bottom up through a number of local authorities coming together and asking permission of the Secretary of State to set up the combined authority and to take on particular powers that they had negotiated between them. The situation is a little different now following the most recent legislation, the Cities and Local Government Devolution Act, which gives the Secretary of State more powers over the formation of combined authorities and their functions. It extends their possible functions beyond those that they originally could have had under the 2008 Act. However, despite that, the whole ethos and idea of combined authorities is expressed by the words “combined authorities”—they come together voluntarily to do things that they can do better together than separately. This proposal seems to suggest that, because they exist, the Secretary of State in future can use them as a convenient place to put in extra powers at will.

My question is as follows. There may well be an authority that is part of a combined authority and which is not carrying out its plan-making functions very well, and the Secretary of State wants to intervene. The implications of using that combined authority to carry out those plan-making functions—in relation to a development plan document or whatever—against the wish of the authority concerned need careful thought.

Combined authorities in most parts of England are not going to work unless they work on a voluntary basis in relation to the members of those combined authorities. I speak as a member of an authority that, in about an hour’s time, will be voting to join a combined authority or to join an application for a combined authority, so we have been looking at this carefully. The whole principle has to be of authorities coming together voluntarily, pooling powers in particular areas and doing so in a way that has consensus and agreement around the combined authority. If it allows some bureaucracy or some other council in the combined authority or a majority vote on the combined authority—whatever it is—to overrule a particular authority on something like this, I am not saying that it is going to destroy the combined authority, but it is going to make life much more difficult and change the whole culture and idea of coming together voluntarily as a combined authority.

That is the point that I am making. I do not know whether the Minister is going to be able to give me a coherent answer to that this evening because it is a slightly obscure and complicated issue, but I ask the Ministers to go away and ask their civil servants to

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think about it and come back with an answer to these genuine problems. I am not trying to be awkward at all on this; I understand the need to find ways of doing things in default in a sensible way if it is necessary. I beg to move.

Lord Stunell (LD): My Lords, I rise briefly to support the words of my noble friend Lord Greaves on these amendments. I reside in one of the combined authorities. In fact, it is perhaps the flagship combined authority: Greater Manchester. It consists of 10 planning authorities: 10 local authorities, all of which are planning authorities. I had regarded the introduction of this power of the Secretary of State to intervene as very much an attempt to make sure that the missing 30% of planning authorities caught up. I thought that it was more of a time-limited provision; that once all 100% of local planning authorities had got their plans properly approved, this particular provision would lapse, because they would, after all, from then onwards, be able to keep up.

Therefore, it is worth looking at the starting point. I do not know, without research that I have not done, whether any of the 10 local authorities in Greater Manchester have failed to register their plans. It is a small number of local authorities that are working in very close concert, notwithstanding the considerable political divisions between the leadership of the different councils. I do not simply mean party divisions: long-standing rivalries, even in local authorities run by the same party, have been overcome to a remarkable extent in setting up the combined authority. As I said at the start, it is very much a flagship combination that has come together.

I very much support what my noble friend Lord Greaves said about the disruptive effect of basically giving them statutory powers to discipline each other for being naughty boys and girls. I ask the Minister to take that point away and consider whether this is the right vehicle. It might be perfectly in order for the Mayor of London to discipline one or other of the 33 boroughs in London—I am not aware of what their situation is—but I am sure that the Minister can imagine the noise that would be created if the current mayor were to step in on a borough of a different political persuasion. And after the mayoral election, the inverse situation might easily arise. So this is not without trouble ahead, when what the Minister actually wants to achieve is valid local plans as quickly as possible. That is an aim which I support, but he might have a mechanism that is more self-destructive than he realises.

Viscount Younger of Leckie: My Lords, I thank the noble Lords, Lord Greaves and Lord Stunell, for their comments on this group of amendments. I note that the content of this group is not too dissimilar to the previous group. However, I do not believe that Amendments 89AA to 89KJ are necessary. Given the similarity of the amendments, I hope noble Lords will not mind if I respond to them collectively.

I hope noble Lords will bear with me just for a moment if I begin by explaining the purpose of Clauses 132 and 133 and Schedule 11, which provide the context for these amendments. Where the Secretary of State thinks that a local planning authority is

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failing or omitting to do anything necessary for them to do in connection with preparing, revising or adopting a development plan document—that is, the documents which comprise the local plan—the Secretary of State has existing powers under Section 27 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 to intervene to prepare the document. However, where he does this, he is unable to hand back decision-making powers to the local authority if he wishes.

Clauses 132, 133 and Schedule 11 are intended to address this by allowing for intervention by the Secretary of State in this scenario to be more targeted and proportionate. These measures give him options that enable more decisions to be made locally whenever possible—which I hope will be of some reassurance to the noble Lord, Lord Greaves. Clause 133 and Schedule 11 would enable the Secretary of State to invite the Mayor of London or a combined authority, where applicable, to prepare, revise or approve a local plan as an alternative to the Secretary of State doing so. The mayor or combined authority could not do this unilaterally but only when invited to by the Secretary of State, and only where he considers that the local planning authority has not taken action despite having every opportunity to do so. The mayor and combined authorities provide strong and directly accountable city-region governance. This makes them an appropriate body to ensure that plans are in place across their areas.

The noble Lord’s amendments remove provisions set out in Clause 133 and Schedule 11 for a combined authority to prepare, revise and approve a development plan document where they are invited to do so by the Secretary of State. We have made it clear that we want authorities to take action themselves to get their plans in place. Authorities have had over a decade since the introduction in 2004 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act to produce a local plan, and the majority have done so.

However, I reiterate the points I made earlier—we need to take action where there is clear evidence that an authority is not producing a plan in a timely manner or keeping that plan up to date. We cannot stand by and allow failure to happen, especially given the importance of planning for supporting growth. We have made it clear that a combined authority will only prepare or revise a plan where an authority has failed or omitted to progress a plan and where the Secretary of State invites them to do so. Therefore, in those instances where a local plan needs to be put in place and the authority is failing to do so, it is right that a combined authority can be invited both to prepare a plan and to bring that plan into force.

I therefore hope that my responses provide reassurance to the noble Lords that the Government want to see authorities take action themselves to get local plans in place in the first instance. However, where authorities are failing to do this, it is right that we take action to get plans in place. I am aware that that summary and conclusion is very similar to that for the previous group of amendments.

Lord Greaves: Yes, my Lords—I am very clear about that as well. Having heard the Minister reply to the previous group of amendments and to the Clause 132

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stuff on the changes to Section 27 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, I am prepared to come to the view that the new Section 27 will be better than the old one, for the reasons the Minister set out previously. I understand those arguments; I am really saying that I would rather that it was not there at all. However, given that it is replacing the previous one, I can understand that having a more targeted approach may be better. I am concerned that it may result in more interventions, because being more specific they will be easier to make, but we will find that out in due course.

As far as this group of amendments is concerned, I do not think that the Minister addressed my concerns. If the Secretary of State is going to intervene and take over the production of whatever it is—the local plan as a whole or particular parts of it—then he has to find a way of doing so. One can imagine a number of different ways that he might find. He will have to find some people to do it. I do not believe that the Secretary of State has the personal resources or the ministerial resources to do it himself. He could use the Planning Inspectorate to do it. I do not believe that it has any spare capacity. Using another local authority might be an answer.

7 pm

I can understand the idea that since combined authorities exist, they could be used. The combined authority is not, in general, going to be a planning authority—it may or may not—so I do not know from where it would get the resources, but that is a different matter. Assuming that it does have the resources and can take over, the objection is that a combined authority is based on the idea of a co-operative group. It is not a Mayor of London set up by statute to tell the boroughs what to do wherever he can do that. It is a co-operative group set up voluntarily between a series of different authorities—it is 11 in Greater Manchester and however many in Lancashire, 15 I think including the county—working together on projects jointly for the benefit of their area. Given the whole idea, it will work only if the members of the combined authority respect each other, work on the basis of equality and do so because they believe that it is the best way forward.

If the Secretary of State comes along and invites the combined authority to take over the function of just one of those councils, we all know how these things work: “inviting” probably means instructing. I do not think that a combined authority would find it easy to refuse it, but perhaps it would. Having the Secretary of State imposing or directing from the top that the combined authority consisting of all the councils has to take over the functions of one of those councils against its wishes is not a sensible way to make that combined authority succeed.

My concerns about this amendment are not about the process of planning. They are not about the need to get the plans done, which we all accept we have to do. We all accept that it has been difficult in many areas but it has to happen. My concerns are about the way in which it is done and the damage that it might do to relationships between local authorities in a particular area. That is the issue that I ask the Minister to go away, think about and see whether what I am

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saying is complete nonsense or, as I think, has much validity. Having said that and living in hope that it will cause a bit of thought, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 89AA withdrawn.

Amendments 89AB and 89AC not moved.

Clause 133 agreed.

Schedule 11: Default powers exercisable by Mayor of London or combined authority: Schedule to be inserted in the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004

Amendment 89B

Moved by Lord True

89B: Schedule 11, page 152, line 24, leave out “, revision”

Lord True: My Lords, at this hour I shall not venture on the patience of the Committee. I am grateful for the opportunity to speak very briefly. On the subject of the mayor intervening, I accept the answer given by my noble friend on Clause 133. If I have understood correctly, the mayor will not be encouraged to intervene except where there is manifest failure on the part of a local authority—and all he has to do is assent.

I suggested amendments simply to probe on the question of revision. Many London boroughs are well ahead with, or already revising, their plans. I do not think that we would particularly welcome much intervention from the mayor. Personally, I do not have great confidence in the GLA planning department. The Government seem rather more starry-eyed about its abilities than I am.

I hope that some caution will be exercised here. The mayor already has extremely extensive powers to intervene, although the current mayor has not used them. A number of very fruitful discussions are currently going on between London councils on housing—for example, Mayor Bullock is actively engaged with the GLA and with the Government. It would perhaps be preferable to let some of those discussions reach a conclusion before enacting even more powers for the mayor.

Clause 135 directly concerns the planning powers of the Mayor of London. My borough has one of the views in London that is protected by an Act of Parliament. I am very comfortable with the present arrangements whereby the sight lines in London are protected in the way they are. Given that there seems to be a bit of a mania in the GLA planning department at the moment for erecting tall buildings wherever possible—I do not know whether that will continue with the next mayor—I would like to see some caution exercised in this change, perhaps until we see where the land lies.

So although these are probing amendments, while these discussions are going forward, while the mayor has extensive powers and while there is the issue of sight lines, I ask the Government to reflect on whether it is necessary to proceed with these extra powers.

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Viscount Younger of Leckie: My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord True for his interest in improving the Bill, and I recognise his years of experience in local government. His amendments relate to clauses regarding the Mayor of London. I have spoken today about the importance of supporting growth through the planning system, and the Mayor of London plays a key role in harnessing this growth. I have also spoken about the importance of decisions being made at the local level wherever possible, and I believe my noble friend and I agree on that. I thank him for his comments on these clauses, but I do not believe that Amendments 89B to 89K are necessary, and I hope that I can provide some reassurance to noble Lords about the purpose of Clause 135.

Amendments 89B to 89E would remove the ability of the Mayor of London to revise a development plan document when invited to do so by the Secretary of State. First, I should like to clarify that Clauses 132 and 133 are concerned only with documents that comprise the local plan for an area; they are not concerned with the spatial development strategy for London—the so-called London plan. I will also seek to clarify what is meant by “revise”, as I believe that these amendments may be based on a misinterpretation of its definition. At this late hour, perhaps I may write to my noble friend with the details of that definition.

I turn to Amendment 89F, for which I will again start with some context. For a development plan document to be adopted or approved, regardless of whether it has been prepared by a local authority or the Secretary of State, it must be submitted for examination. Following the examination, the local planning authority must publish the recommendations of the person appointed to examine the plan and their reasoning. The amendment would remove the ability of the Mayor of London to require a local planning authority to help ensure that local people are made aware of the recommendations of the person appointed to examine the plan.

Amendments 89G and 89H would disable the mayor’s ability to approve a development plan document. Approval is a necessary step if a plan is to come into force. Not doing so would fail to provide the community and others with the benefits and certainty that come from having a plan. Only once it is approved does a plan become part of the development plan for an area and the starting point for determining planning applications. I hope I have been clear that the Mayor of London may prepare or revise a plan only for a London borough that has failed to progress its own plan and only where the Secretary of State invites him to do so.

That brings me to my noble friend’s Amendment 89J. I suspect that this amendment does not fulfil the purpose that my noble friend intended. As currently drafted, where the Mayor of London has been invited to prepare a plan and the plan has been examined, he may direct an authority to consider adopting a document as an alternative to the mayor approving it himself. The change proposed by Amendment 89J does not alter the practical effect of the provision and the outcome would still put the authority under no obligation to adopt the plan where the mayor decides not to approve it himself.

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I hope that I have given some brief reassurance to my noble friend and that he will agree to withdraw his amendment.

Lord True: My Lords, I accept that and look forward with interest to the letter. I leave on the record the comments I made about the ongoing discussions with the GLA and the future way we should operate. I did not get a specific reply on Clause 135 but, again, we can pursue that. I am happy to have discussions with my noble friend between now and Report and, on that basis, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 89B withdrawn.

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Amendments 89C to 89KJ not moved.

Schedule 11 agreed.

Clause 134: Costs of independent examinations held by Secretary of State

Clause 134 agreed.

Amendment 89L not moved.

House resumed.

House adjourned at 7.11 pm.