I apologise for coming late to the particular amendment I am moving, but I thought we needed an introduction to PIP generally to get this debate going. Amendment 92D, which is in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Featherstone, sets out a long list of the types of land for which permission in principle will not be able to be given. This is simply because, in these areas, proposals for new housing or for any other development need clear, careful and full consideration. Permission in principle seems to be a way of streamlining the process and cutting corners. I am suggesting that a proper full

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planning application would be required in the case of green belts, conservation areas, national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty, metropolitan open land in London, local green spaces in a local development plan, commons and village greens, access land under the CROW Act, local and national nature reserves, sites of special scientific interest and parks and parkland of various kinds. Reading some of the amendments from the noble Lord, Lord True, perhaps I should have put “royal parks”. It would also apply to any land used for recreational purposes, public open space, a garden or land forming the curtilage of a dwelling, a scheduled monument and the national forestry estate. It states that local planning authorities,

“may set out in a local development document descriptions of land for which permission in principle may not be granted”.

This is probing as to whether PIP will be possible in all these areas, but it is a vital part of the Bill for your Lordships to discuss.

I have been trying to remember if this is the fourth or fifth planning Bill I have been involved in since I have been in your Lordships’ House. Every single Bill that I can remember left your Lordships’ House much better than it arrived. That applied even to the then Localism Bill—over which my noble friend Lord Stunell had some ownership, or said he had. When we sent it to the Commons, it was a better Bill than when it came here.

I hope that the Government will be sufficiently flexible to allow us to understand exactly how the system is going to work and, when we think it is not going to work very well, to accept sensible amendments. I beg to move.

Lord Beecham (Lab): My Lords, as the noble Lord has just reminded us, we have at last come to the part of the Bill which deals with permission in principle or, as he has put it “PIP”. This is another form of PIP—following the personal independence payment—which is to be the subject of controversy. I am also reminded, of course, of the character of Mr Pip in Great Expectations which we do not really harbour in relation to this Bill.

What the Government are engaged in is legislation in principle. Members all around the House have complained frequently during Committee about the large number of issues on which the impact assessment was hopelessly inadequate. With even greater vehemence and relevance, they complained about the Bill’s reliance on secondary legislation, drafts of which remain unavailable. An embarrassed, overworked and—it is fair to say—much-admired Minister shares our concerns. However, given the Government’s determination to drive the Bill through as quickly as possible, there is little chance that we will have an opportunity to see—let alone have time properly to consider—how the legislation will work in practice.

On 17 February, two months after the Bill left the Commons, the department issued a 64-page document—the one referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves—containing a “Technical consultation on implementation of planning changes”. Had Michael Gove been Secretary of State, we would at least have seen the definite article before “implementation”. The consultation on this major change to planning policy and practice will end

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on 15 April. I assume that, on the Government’s rushed timetable, Report will conclude in the following week or, at the latest, the week after. There is therefore no chance that this House will have an opportunity to consider the responses to that consultation, let alone the Government’s reaction to it, before the Bill is enacted. Of course, all this is four or five months after the Bill left the Commons.

One of the Bill’s characteristics, particularly relevant to the clauses we are now discussing, is the increasing number of functions assigned to the Secretary of State. Thus, where an application is made to the local authority, under new Section 59A, the Secretary of State will have the power to set out in a development order the process that local authorities must follow. In relation to technical detailed consent, a development order may—and I emphasise that word—set out the process that must be followed.

The Explanatory Notes helpfully assert that the Government intend to consult on the process in due course. Perhaps the Minister could indicate when this might occur. They also identify a range of issues where the Secretary of State may—or I suppose may not—do a variety of things. New Section 59A provides that development orders will set out how long PIP is valid for and that it may contain transitional arrangements when PIP expires. It empowers the Secretary of State to issue statutory guidance.

Clause 137 sets out a string of powerful new actions which the Secretary of State may take. These include the possibility of requiring the register of brownfield land to be held in two parts—one for brownfield land suitable for housing; the other for a grant of PIP where the local planning authority considers it suitable. To be clear, this is a new form of planning permission, imposed centrally, which deliberately reduces the scope of democratically accountable local decision-making. The next step would presumably be for the function to be entirely in the hands of the Secretary of State or his appointees.

Regulations may provide that the local planning authority is permitted to include land which does not meet all the specified conditions and that the Secretary of State might exercise this power so that the local planning authority could register land suitable for four dwellings or fewer. New subsection (4) sets out what regulations may specify in relation to the register. It gives an example where the Secretary of State may specify that certain descriptions of land are not to be entered into the register. New subsection (4)(c) provides that the Secretary of State may allow for some discretion by the local planning authority—how generous—to exclude land from the register and that he might allow the local planning authority to exercise its discretion in exceptional circumstances. He may also specify by regulation what information should be included in the register or specify descriptions of lands by reference to national policies, advice and guidance. For example, regulations could refer to the definition of previous development land within the National Planning Policy Framework.

Given the plethora of possibilities, could the Minister advise us how many civil servants will be required—and for how long—to produce the detail envisaged by this

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Government of self-proclaimed localists, ensuring that Whitehall, and not town halls, becomes in effect the local planning authority? How many regulations are likely to emerge from this bureaucratic jungle? Yesterday we received a letter from her—for which we are grateful—enclosing the timetable for consultation, impact statements and the laying of regulations in respect of eight areas of the Bill. None will reach us before Report and there is as yet no timetable for PIP.

Last week, in reference to the Government’s approach, I referred to George Orwell. Today it is Lewis Carroll’s turn because, as ever with this Government, when it comes to legislation it is “Sentence first—verdict afterwards” and, I might add, evidence invisible. This is no way to deal with important legislation about the future of our communities, cities and counties. Members on all sides of the House have expressed concern about the way in which the Government have proceeded. One Conservative Peer, whose identity I will not reveal, approached me last week and said: “You have done well to preserve your sanity over this terrible, terrible housing Bill”. I will not seek to test the opinion of the House on the question of my sanity but the opinion of the Member in question—a thoroughly loyal Conservative Back-Bencher—tells its own story. The hubris exhibited by this Government is beginning to make Margaret Thatcher look like a legislative shrinking violet.

This is exemplified in the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee report of 12 February, to which the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, referred. It is highly critical of Parts 6 to 9 of the Bill and declares that the memorandum,

“seeks to justify a delegation of wide powers … without properly explaining why this is considered appropriate”.

The committee found that,

“references to powers being ‘technical’ or even ‘quasi-technical’”,

were not accurate. It drew attention to the wonderful phrase that one delegated power was the result of,

“a ‘likely shifting matrix of considerations’!”.

Perhaps the Minister could clarify the meaning of these words, but the House will forgive her if she is unable to do so.

In relation to PIP, the committee drew attention to new Section 59A of the 1990 Act, to which I have referred, which would of course be created by this Bill. It points out that the Secretary of State’s power, either for himself or for a local authority, to grant PIP—either by a “qualifying document” or via a “prescribed description”, respectively—would be by negative procedure. This is coupled with an assurance by the Government that a document will be prescribed only if it is made by a public body after going through a robust process—whatever that might mean.

The committee points out that the Secretary of State’s legislation would not bind future Governments, and that new Section 59A should be amended to specify the consultation and other processes involved, and not be left therefore to secondary legislation. The committee notes the Government’s intention to apply PIP to housing-led development, albeit with the possibility of being extended to other developments. On this, the committee points out that the procedure is new and untested, and that no reason has been proffered for a possible extension to non-housing development. Hence its

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conclusion that the delegation of power under new Section 59A is inappropriate to the extent that it would allow PIP for developments which are not housing-led. All this reinforces the concerns and misgivings widely shared across your Lordships’ House and elsewhere about the excessive reliance on secondary legislation, in respect of which the contents are shrouded in mystery from which the cloak may not be lifted before we reach Report, let alone Third Reading.

Before I turn to the amendments in this, the first of eight or nine groups, it would be sensible if I outlined the Opposition’s view on the overall policy. We clearly support efforts to promote the building of more new homes, for which there is an evident massive need. We are also at one with the Government in wishing to see brownfield sites reclaimed for housing, but also for ancillary and perhaps alternative uses. However, we have major concerns about what will be built in terms of design, space, energy efficiency and affordability. We want to see a range of tenures and, where sites are substantial, we want to see them as not just sites for property development but for the building of communities.

We are conscious of the huge numbers of extant planning permissions to which the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, referred, some of which have been on the shelf for years, while—as my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours has pointed out more than once—land and property prices have soared, producing potential capital gains which, of course, thanks to the Budget, will now extract minimal taxation.

A good deal of concern has been expressed by a wide range of commentators, some of them expressing fears that we may be adopting by default the kind of zoning policy which has led to significant problems in urban America. The Royal Town Planning Institute stresses the need for local communities to have a say through their planning committees in what happens to their area, and that there should be flexibility to exempt certain types of development from PIP while the whole process, including the second stage of technical details consent, should be developed in consultation with planning authorities.

The National Housing Federation welcomes PIP, but cautions that councils should define density, housing and tenure mix in this new “zonal planning system” which could affect,

“people’s democratic rights; and the way we secure high-quality outcomes for people”.

The process will require planning authorities to prepare a register of brownfield sites which, when included in a development order, will grant PIP for the type, amount and location of development. Other sites may be identified in local and neighbourhood plans and “other documents”. Can the Minister tell us what sort of “other documents”, and whether or not, in this category, development will be limited to housing?

Thirdly, and more worryingly, applicants may seek PIP in a process which will restrict the local planning authority’s function to approve or refuse and provide no opportunity for conditions to be imposed. Critically, applications could not be turned down on technical details even if there has been a change in circumstances such as those reflected in Amendment 95, to which we will come in a later group, where, for example,

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archaeological finds may be discovered. In my own ward, a small housing development is going ahead under the existing procedure after archaeological investigations of the site, which formed part of a civilian vicus near a major fort on the Roman wall. Under the new provisions, had there been any such discovery after PIP had been granted, nothing could be done. Similar concerns could arise about environmental or ecological issues, which the divorce between allocation and detailed permission may exacerbate.

The Town and Country Planning Association points out that the department says that local planning authorities will have a choice of what kind of land will be subject to PIP. However, it is not clear from the addition to the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 of new Section 59A(2)(c)—inserted in Clause 136—whether that new section’s reference to an indication that the land is “allocated for development” means that the LPA could, apparently, pick and choose which sites to include. The TCPA points out that this, like so much else, is subject to statutory guidance, and calls for a clear statement from the Secretary of State. Perhaps the Minister could procure this before Report.

London Councils stresses that local authorities should have sufficient flexibility to exempt certain types of development, or certain types of land or areas, from PIP, and that the second stage of technical details consent should be properly thorough and not, in its words, just a,

“truncated prior notification type procedure”.

Can the Minister offer any assurances in that respect? Can she say whether, in relation to housing sites, there will be a limit to the number of houses to be built under PPI? Sorry, I meant to say PIP. I am getting my consonants mixed up. The Government are getting their policies mixed up. A report in Planning Resource in October suggested that PIP would apply to housing schemes of around 500. Is there any indication of the kind of numbers that the Government are expecting to be included in such schemes? Above all, will she dispel the concerns expressed by Hugh Ellis—the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, referred to him—the policy director of the TCPA, that PIP as prescribed in the Bill,

“could apply to all forms of development”,

even for fracking as part of a minerals plan, and whether it is the Government’s intention to adopt US-style zonal plans? Interestingly, in last week’s Budget the Chancellor referred specifically to zonal planning. But perhaps this, like certain other proposals in the Budget, will now be subject to review and, we hope, with a similar outcome. We broadly support the amendments of the noble Lord, Lords Greaves, which list some 19 types of land to be excluded from the process.

Amendment 90 in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Kennedy—whose return I very much look forward to—approaches the issue from a different standpoint, restricting PIP to brownfield sites, where it seemed the concept was originally to apply. We support many of the amendments to be moved by other Members in relation to PIP in the groups of amendments which follow, which seek to allow the tailoring of what resembles a one-size-suits-all pre-emptive policy to

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local needs and aspirations, not only for increasing housing supply but for building well-designed, mixed communities.

Having spoken at some length, I promise your Lordships’ House that I will be brief hereafter as we go into the Bill, and not merely in stature.

5.45 pm

Baroness Pinnock (LD): My Lords, I am confused—or perhaps puzzled—because earlier this afternoon the noble Viscount, Lord Younger, said that the Government’s legislation on localism puts local planning at the heart of the system. Yet what we have heard so far this afternoon about permission in principle seems to be very much at odds with that principle of putting local people and local planning at the heart of what happens in communities. Both the previous speakers, with their knowledge and expertise gained over many years, have understood the Bill’s proposals. I decided to seek to understand what might happen in my own locality as a consequence of this proposal.

It seems there are two possibilities. One is that land that has not previously been allocated in a local plan could be appropriated and allocated as a site with permission to build. Therefore, if a developer needed greenfield land on which to build as opposed to a more difficult brownfield site, the relevant land could be appropriated and given permission in principle regardless of the wishes of the local community. It is of huge concern that the democratic process has been totally disregarded. Anyone who has ever served as a local councillor—as I do—will tell you that the issues which engage local people more than any other are developments taking place on their doorstep as they have such a significant impact on their lives in terms of increased traffic on the roads or the number of children trying to access schools which may already be full. All this sort of thing needs to be considered. Having permission in principle is totally contrary to what we regard as a local planning authority, making local decisions based on a democratic principle.

Having thought of that site, which was appropriating new land, I then wondered if they were thinking about brownfield sites—white land, as we sometimes call it—which want to change their use. I know about one in my ward: a former hotel which has closed. A developer has bought it and wants to develop it. There are huge issues about access, because I live in a hilly part of the country; about the height of the houses and their impact on other local residents; about drainage. You name them, those problems are there. Yet, under this proposal, that site could be allocated for housing development without any consideration of the impact it would have on the neighbouring properties. For those reasons, I am very concerned.

My second concern, which I hope the Minister will be able to give some assurances on, is that, since the 1947 planning Act, we have developed a process of engaging with local people about changes and developments in their area. They have their say; their voice is heard even if, at the end of the day, they do not achieve their outcome. If people feel that they have had a chance to put in their objections and contrary suggestions, they are more likely to be satisfied with the outcome than if they are disregarded and a proposal

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goes on despite them. I am very concerned that that element of local planning will just disappear under this proposal. If this does come to pass, I will be pointing out to people exactly why it has happened.

The last issue I want to raise is why this proposal has suddenly appeared in the Bill. If it is because developers are putting pressure on the Government about an inadequate supply of land for housing then we ought to look at the evidence, which simply does not support that idea. In my own ward, I have planning consents for over 500 units, 300 of which have had consent for over three years. Nothing is happening because the developers are waiting for property prices to rise. All we will get with permission in principle is more land-banking by developers. Who benefits from that? It is the developers. It is not local people, who will lose opportunities to try and shape their community and have a say in what goes on. I hope the Minister will be able to reassure me on some of these points and will listen to the expert comments and concerns raised earlier.

Lord Lansley (Con): My Lords, the amendment to Clause 136 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, enables us to consider some of the principles of permission in principle. I draw attention to my entry in the Register of Lords’ Interests as the chair of the Cambridgeshire Development Forum. When we discussed the principles of the Bill at Second Reading, and in other debates in Committee, I said that we have to keep our eye on the purpose: our capacity to build more homes. If we are successful, through the mechanism of the Bill, in enabling and encouraging more homes to be built, many of the issues we have discussed in Committee will be expedited as a consequence.

Permission in principle is a measure which stands a good chance of enabling us to deliver more homes more quickly. I refer to the example which I gave at Second Reading from my own constituency, which continues to be current and interesting. When it was first proposed, Northstowe, to the north-west of Cambridge, would have been the largest new town built in this country for some 30 years. In 2003, as the local Member of Parliament, I participated in the public examination before the inspector as part of a detailed structure plan inquiry. The purpose of the inquiry was to identify the best location for the establishment of a large new town with some 10,000 homes. The structure plan identified Northstowe as the best location for such a development. It was intended, and subsequently incorporated into local planning, that there would be 6,000 new homes built there by 2016. It is now 2016 and no homes have yet been built. Governments of all political colours always included Northstowe as an example of development potential: the coalition, this Government, the previous Labour Government—Gordon Brown mentioned it when he announced eco-towns. Indeed, Simon Stevens from NHS England included Northstowe as one of the new healthy towns when he talked about them three weeks ago. It is no kind of a town unless we build it: we have to make it happen.

I draw attention to this because the structure plan inquiry went into detail—often exhaustive detail—about the suitability of the location for a development of that size. It looked with great care at the questions

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which permission in principle is intended to treat as the particulars. What was the location? It was a housing-led development, but what other associated uses were in the master plan? What was the amount of development? What were the density issues? The particulars were all there but, under our existing planning system, the fact that so much had been, as we understood it, agreed in the structure plan did not make any difference to the amount of cost, complexity and time that needed to be absorbed by the lead developers to bring this through to even an outline planning application. As noble Lords will understand, that is before the point at which they go on to the full planning application which follows.

What is intended here is very straightforward. Under such a set of circumstances, where major sites for housing development are contemplated and there is a local or neighbourhood planning process or an appropriate register as a qualifying document, we should go from three processes to two. The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, is right that the balance and the boundary between those two things is important. However, the implication of what he was saying was that, because the Government identify three particulars as the basis on which the development order will be granted, those particulars therefore exclude, by definition, some of the issues which enable the particulars to be determined.

Lord Greaves: My understanding, having read the technical consultation, is that that is exactly the position. One thing we have to tease out is the exact stage at which the detailed investigations into and the related decisions about particular sites take place under the new system. We all agree that while they should not take place three times, they should take still place. However, there does not seem to be anything in the new system that says they will unless they are carried out and paid for by the local planning authority. That is unacceptable.

6 pm

Lord Lansley: I understand the noble Lord’s point, and he is quite right that we have to tease this out. My noble friend will tell me if I am wrong, but, as I understand it, a qualifying document must be based on a suitable process for establishing how the particulars have been arrived at. For example, where a site is allocated under a local plan for housing development, as part of the process, the local planning authority will go through what I hope will be a rigorous process—I think we all know it will be—with time to examine, for example, whether it is in a flood plain and, if so, what the mitigation would be. It might also examine whether the development is environmentally sustainable and whether, from the point of view of the local highways authority, issues arise from development on a large scale.

We have to be clear whether the local plan process enables a suitable site for housing development to be included in a local plan and thereby gives rise to the potential for permission in principle being granted. This does not mean that a subsequent environmental impact assessment will have to be done on the site at that point. It means that when either that assessment or the highway authority’s response to a plan’s technical details takes place, the question will not be whether

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the site is right in principle but whether the assessments necessitate mitigation measures. I hope that the Government make it so that there are three processes instead of two and that the qualifying documents in the first process giving rise to permission in principle are sufficiently robust.

I have an additional question about the relationship between permission in principle and current local plan processes. A significant number of local and neighbourhood plans were made and adopted following the publication of the National Planning Policy Framework and many local authorities will adopt those plans in the months following Royal Assent. Will they automatically be eligible for permission in principle through a development order? If so, how can we be confident that the necessary and rigorous processes that should be the basis for the granting of such permission have been gone through, such that local authorities are not required to go through the outline planning application processes? That relationship is very important. I hope that we can make local plans rigorous so that permission in principle can, through development orders, be applied to suitable sites.

Why do I say that? In my experience as a Member of Parliament for an area with a great deal of planning activity, I found that local communities often did not give the attention they should to, or were not engaged to the extent that they ought to be in, understanding the importance of the local plan or local development framework. We need that to happen. Permission in principle has the ancillary benefit that it will cause it to happen much more.

How often have those of us involved in these matters found that when a planning proposal with the potential for an outline planning application was brought forward, people affected began to organise on the basis that that was their moment to be heard? But in a plan-led process, that is not the moment. Instead, it is when the local plan is being put together—but that is a big process and people find it difficult to intervene. We need to ensure that people are clear about the overriding importance of local plans. If they know that a site for housing development may be granted permission in principle as a consequence of its incorporation into a neighbourhood or local plan, they are far more likely to get involved in making that happen.

Lord Stunell: I absolutely accept the points that the noble Lord is making about the difficulty of engaging local communities and the fact that they arrive at this process far too late. Could he say a little more about how PIP will accelerate that? The concern on these Benches is that it will leapfrog the normal process, however inadequate it is.

Lord Lansley: It is probably more for my noble friend the Minister to explain how the processes work. My point is simple: it is said that permission in principle is inimical to a local planning authority’s processes or democratic input, but that is not the case. It should prompt a much greater involvement on the part of local people. It should also focus the local planning authority on engaging with the people they represent, not only to ensure that there is a plan-led system, but so that it is understood that the local plan will in many

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instances give rise to permission in principle. That will cause people to engage with a local plan more than they have previously. For that and other reasons, I support Clause 136 and permission in principle.

Baroness Pinnock: Following on from what the noble Lord said—although perhaps the Minister will put us right—my understanding is that permission in principle has two routes. One is through the local and neighbourhood plan. Giving permission in principle is really what such plans do. It is the second route that I am concerned about. Through this route, an application can be made directly to the local planning authority for a site that may not have already been allocated for development—if it had been, it would be in the local plan. That is my concern with this proposal. If it just said that sites allocated in a local plan have, by the very nature of their being in a local plan, permission in principle, I could probably live with it. I am concerned about the second area, and I hope that I will get answers and reassurances.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con): My Lords, I wish the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, a speedy recovery and I am glad to hear that he is back on his feet. Although he is not the greatest fan of the Bill, it has been a great pleasure discussing it with him.

I want to make a point about the letter that noble Lords received on the secondary legislation. I sense from the Benches opposite that some have it and others do not. I will think about what the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, said about placing copies in the Printed Paper Office. I am sure that we can do that in future. I also have a couple of copies with me, if noble Lords would like to see it. I was absolutely determined that the letter would be with noble Lords, and it is a shame that difficulties with offices being spread thinly have prevented it. In future I will put copies in the Printed Paper Office.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: I thank the Minister for that. It is a strain trying to do a Bill four days running. We cannot keep up with it. By putting it in the PPO, which is very effective and efficient, we all have access to shared information. So I thank her.

Baroness Williams of Trafford: The noble Baroness is very welcome. We learn these things as we go along. I also confirm to noble Lords that I will be responding to the DPRRC report tomorrow, as well as giving my intentions for Report. That said, I will go through the whole principle of permission in principle, as the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, did. It is a measure that responds to issues raised by representatives from the housebuilding and professional planning sectors about the lack of predictability and efficiency in our current planning system, which noble Lords have alluded to, in two specific key areas.

First, the current system requires applicants to invest heavily upfront in the finer details of the scheme without sufficient certainty that the site is “in principle” suitable for that type of development. This can waste time and effort for local authorities which have to

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determine detailed applications that may not be suitable in principle, and for communities and other consultees that are asked to comment. In August 2015, the Planning Officers Society released a discussion paper on this very issue, which states that,

“the costs associated with submitting applications for outline planning permission, with all its information requirements, can be significant for small and medium builders. This, coupled with no guarantee of success, can deter small and medium businesses from putting forward sites into the planning system. This needs to be resolved”.

Secondly, the current system allows “in principle” decisions to be revisited at multiple points in the process. I am sure we have all seen this. Even where land is allocated in a local plan, decision-makers will reassess the basic principles of site suitability when a planning application is submitted. This means that the hard work and local effort that go in at the plan-making stage are often revisited and repeated at the development management stage. On this point, when giving evidence about the Bill in the other place, the Home Builders Federation said of planning applications:

“Unfortunately, I can point you to many, many examples of where the principle of development gets discussed at length even for an allocated site”.

I also take this opportunity to highlight that the Lyons review, published in spring last year, also identified that the principle of development should be established earlier.

Clause 136, which my noble friend Lord Lansley referred to, responds to these issues by introducing permission in principle: a new type of planning consent that will provide upfront certainty that the fundamental principles of development—the use, location and amount of development—are agreed and established once in the planning process. This will give increased certainty that a type and amount of development is acceptable in principle before significant investment is made in costly technical matters. However, permission in principle must be followed by an application for “technical details consent” before full planning permission is granted and work can start on-site. This will provide the opportunity to assess the detailed design and to ensure appropriate mitigation of impacts and that the contribution to infrastructure is secured.

Clause 136 will enable permission in principle to be granted in two ways. The first is on sites that local planning authorities, parishes and neighbourhood forums choose and allocate within their local plan-making process. It will strengthen plan-led development in this country and increase the efficiency of the system by ensuring that the hard work that goes into local plan production and site allocation is put to best use.

I stress that the choice about where to grant permission in principle will be a local one, reached through the rigorous involvement of communities and members of the current plan-making process and not through the Secretary of State. Far from removing a community’s voice from planning decisions, permission in principle will strengthen the role of the local plan and help ensure that housing development takes place on sites that people actually want to see built. Where permission in principle is granted through neighbourhood plans, this will truly ensure that communities are in the driving seat of local planning.

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To meet the specific challenges faced by smaller developers, Clause 136 will provide a second route for permission in principle to be granted by enabling applicants to make an application to the local planning authority for a minor development. The noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, referred to this. This will ensure that smaller builders can test the acceptability of a scheme before having to invest heavily in the technical detail that may go to waste if the development is not acceptable in principle.

6.15 pm

Baroness Andrews: I thought it was worth interrupting the Minister at this point because of the definition of “technical details”. If we can get that straight, it might save a lot of discussion later on. Does “technical details” mean the NPPF or is it less than the NPPF? In Fixing the Foundations the Chancellor talked about,

“a limited number of technical details”.

Does she have a list of those technical details? I think we would all benefit from genuine clarity about that at this point.

Baroness Williams of Trafford: My Lords, when setting out the local plan, local authorities will have to be clear on things such as environmental mitigation and flood risk—all the various things that would usually be considered. If noble Lords have suggestions for what should be included in the technical details stage of the process, I would be very grateful. I thought the noble Baroness was going to mention something entirely different because we talked the other day about sites of archaeological interest. Of course, such things have to be considered in terms of the NPPF anyway. But if she thinks there are additional things that should be included at the technical details stage, I am very happy to listen and take them on board.

Lord Greaves: That is very helpful but I think what is concerning people is not what additional material considerations there may be for planning applications or the new system, it is which of the existing ones the new system will miss out. Will anything that is a material consideration for a planning permission at the moment, whether it is a full permission or reserved matters or whatever, still be a material consideration under the PIP technical details system?

Baroness Williams of Trafford: I assure the noble Lord that absolutely it will. The rigour that exists in the current planning system will be the rigour that exists through permission in principle. All the permission in principle system does is create a lesser financial burden upfront for builders, particularly small builders, which might want to build developments. It saves the upfront money knowing that they have the “in principle” go-ahead to pursue it further. I assure the noble Lord that none of the rigour that exists now will be diminished or diluted in the permission in principle system. I hope that that reassures him.

Lord Stunell: Can the Minister indicate to the House whether the Government have a particular ceiling in mind for what a minor project consists of, which might otherwise be somewhat in the eye of the beholder in this debate and might lead us into confusion?

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Baroness Williams of Trafford: I am making an assumption here, but I would say that a minor scheme would be one with no more than a few dwellings on it. It would certainly not be a large scheme, which is currently designated as more than 10 dwellings, so perhaps one or two houses; no more than that. In fact, it might be just one dwelling.

I can also assure noble Lords that the technical details must be negotiated and agreed before developments can start, so in terms of the rigour of the planning process, they cannot be agreed afterwards. They have to be agreed before the development can go ahead.

Lord Greaves: I am a bit confused by the Minister’s language. When she said that they should be negotiated before the development starts, does that mean that permission is given by the local planning authority as if it was a reserved matter?

Baroness Williams of Trafford: Yes, it would be. The development cannot go ahead unless the technical details have been agreed. It is an essential part of the process, just as it is under the current system.

Perhaps I may finish my opening remarks by reminding noble Lords of what the sector has made of our proposals since the Bill was published back in October. The Federation of Master Builders strongly supports them, and it believes in particular that the application route for minor developments will help to reduce the barriers to bringing forward small-scale housing development. In its evidence to the committee scrutinising the Bill, the Home Builders Federation said that Clause 136 would definitely increase supply because it is,

“a positive step towards finding the sites that local authorities actually want to see developed”.

I hope that I have been able to demonstrate briefly that permission in principle is a much-needed measure that is supported by the sector. It aims to introduce more predictability and efficiency into our system for locally supported development.

The noble Lords, Lord Beecham and Lord Greaves, talked about fracking. I should just like to make the point at this juncture that fracking sites are precisely the type of development that would not be suitable for permission in principle; they are simply at the other end of the scale. We are talking here about housing-led sites, so I shall say on the Floor of the House that fracking is not the sort of thing that we are thinking about. However, I know that noble Lords like to have it confirmed again and again, and I do not blame them.

The noble Lord, Lord Beecham, asked about the number of dwellings. The number will be determined through the local plan derived via consultation with the local community. He also asked about archaeological sites. If, say, a new dead king was found under a site, making it a site of great archaeological interest, it is fair to say that the technical details consent would be refused at that point.

Baroness Andrews: The noble Baroness may be inciting me to withdraw my amendment, because some archaeological sites can be mitigated rather than

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withdrawn, but that mitigation requires the permission in principle to be changed because the mitigation can happen only, for example, by reducing the minimum number of houses. What happens then?

Baroness Williams of Trafford: The noble Baroness is absolutely right that the archaeological aspect of a site could be mitigated. Perhaps we will move on to that issue later, but I thought I would mention it, given that she is sitting in front of me. It might be a good example.

A few noble Lords talked about local development orders. We will get on to those in a later group, but I want to make the point at this juncture that local development orders are quite different from permission in principle, because they are tools that local authorities use to grant detailed planning permission for a specific development within a defined area, such as unlocking problematic sites and playing a vital role in regeneration. I thought I would make the point, because it has been mentioned.

Amendments 89N and 92D, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, and the noble Baroness, Lady Featherstone, seek to place in the Bill an exclusion on certain sites from benefiting from a grant of permission in principle. Let me simply reaffirm the following truth: the Bill enables permission in principle to be granted for development on sites chosen by local authorities and neighbourhood forums. If a local authority considers that a site is suitable for housing-led development in line with local and national policy, it will be able to use permission in principle to help to ensure that such sites are delivered.

Lord McKenzie of Luton (Lab): Perhaps I may ask the Minister about a point that has been puzzling me. Does the duty to co-operate between local authorities remain as is under their current system?

Baroness Williams of Trafford: Yes, my Lords. Indeed, I would reinforce the point that the duty to co-operate, particularly on larger sites, is even more important, given the buy-in by local communities of two different local authorities. Does that answer the noble Lord’s question?

Lord McKenzie of Luton: Yes. I thank the noble Baroness.

Baroness Williams of Trafford: Perhaps I may reaffirm that if a local authority considers that a site is suitable for housing-led development in line with local and national policy, it will be able to use the permission in principle to help to ensure that the site gets delivered. The NPPF already provides strong protections for the type of sites listed in these amendments, including the green belt, the historic and the natural environment. At its heart, the framework is clear that local authorities should plan positively to meet each of the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development. For example, paragraph 157 sets out that plans should identify land where development would be inappropriate and contain a clear strategy for enhancing the natural built and historic environment.

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Permission in principle does not change any of these existing protections. Local and national policy has always driven how local decisions are made, and the addition of a new route to obtaining planning permission does not change that. I suggest that setting out centrally what type of land may or may not be granted permission in principle would set an unwelcome precedent.

Noble Lords have tabled a number of amendments to Clause 136 that seek to restrict permission in principle to be granted for housing development only. Amendment 90, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, is part of the group. Although I understand the desire to add more detail to the legislation at this stage, there are important reasons why it would be unwise to restrict the granting of permission in principle to housing development in the Bill. First, and most importantly, if we restrict permission in principle to housing only, we lose the crucial ability to facilitate mixed-use development. We are currently consulting on an approach that would enable permission in principle to be granted for housing-led development to allow for the possibility of mixed uses that are compatible with a residential environment. This means that as long as a site allocation is housing-led, local authorities will be able to grant permission in principle in line with local and national policy for other uses.

Lord Beecham: I will not ask the Minister to do so now, but will there be a definition in guidance about what housing-led actually means in terms of proportions of sites and so on?

Baroness Williams of Trafford: Yes, my Lords. I can give an example of what that might include. It may be a retail community and office space. This approach is absolutely crucial to continuing to promote sustainable development and the delivery of balanced, mixed communities, spaces and places in line with the principles set out in the NPPF. We are currently consulting on this approach and we would welcome views about what would constitute a suitable proportion of housing and the compatible uses, in line with the noble Lord’s pre-emptive question. This will allow us to set out a sensible definition of housing-led development in secondary legislation.

Amendment 90 would also restrict the granting of permission in principle to brownfield sites only. I want to remind the Committee that the Bill will enable permission in principle to be granted to sites identified on the new brownfield register specifically to help to ensure that development takes place on these priority sites. We also intend to enable permission in principle to be granted on sites chosen and allocated by local authorities, parishes and neighbourhood forums within their local and neighbourhood plans. Restricting the granting of permission in principle to only brownfield sites in this context would greatly reduce the effectiveness of this measure and the freedom for local agreement on where development should take place as part of the plan-led approach.

Finally, my noble friend Lord Lansley asked whether new plans could automatically be considered for PIP. Once the secondary legislation is in place, our newly adopted plan could grant permission in principle.

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The choice about whether it should be granted will be a local one. I hope that, with those words, the noble Lord will feel happy to withdraw his amendment.

6.30 pm

Lord Greaves: My Lords, I am grateful for the care with which the Minister has answered and taken part in the discussion on these amendments. Inevitably a great deal of what she said was explaining the proposals rather than engaging with some of the arguments put forward, although she engaged with quite a few.

The noble Lord, Lord Lansley, made an interesting point about emerging plans. We will discuss this later, but it is clear that the Government do not intend that permission in principle should be retrospective. However, there are plans at the moment that may not—and if they are very close to adoption, will not—have been put together with an understanding that permission in principle might come from them. There is an interesting debate to be had in a later group about that.

The noble Lord, Lord Lansley, also mentioned flood plains. In a sense, this underlines the difficulty behind the permission in principle and technical details concept. Is the liability of land to flood on a flood plain or indeed in any other circumstances a matter to be sorted out before permission in principle is given or not? Should it be sorted out at local plan level? If there an application for permission in principle outside the local plan, direct to the authority, who sorts it out and at what stage? One of the concerns of local planning authorities is that the work on assessing the problem, assessing what needs doing, designing mitigation methods and so on may be transferred from the applicant—the developer—to the local authority. Most of the work involved in putting a local plan together, such as the strategic housing land availability assessment and other such documents, is done by and paid for by the local authority.

In terms of planning applications, one of the complaints seems to be that developers—applicants—have to spend a lot of money at an early stage when they are not sure if their application is going to get passed. I am not quite sure how you get away from that, but if a local authority says that it cannot give permission in principle on land because it is a flood plain, it will have to have evidence to show that—not least if it goes to appeal. To get that evidence, it will have to do the work and show that mitigation is not possible. There is real problem. Is this a device for transferring the cost of doing work before an application can be agreed from the developer to the local authority? If it is, there are obvious problems, which I think we can discuss in later groups.

Otherwise, I am pretty grateful to the Minister for what she has said and I will have a happy time over the Recess reading it all. I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 89N withdrawn.

Amendment 90 not moved.

Amendment 90ZA

Moved by Lord Greaves

90ZA: Clause 136, page 66, line 31, leave out “technical” and insert “development”

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Lord Greaves: My Lords, this is a miscellaneous group relating to planning in principle. In moving Amendment 90ZA, I will speak to the rest of the amendments in my name in the group. Amendment 90ZA and two other amendments in this group relate specifically to the term “technical details”. Noble Lords will know that I take an interest in what things are called. I think that it is important for the way in which they are regarded. “Technical details” seems to me to be the wrong name. They suggest a formality, either right or wrong, or yes or no, like building regulations—non-controversial, technical and able to be the subject of tick lists.

It is becoming clear from the discussions that “technical details” in the case of planning in principle will include a great deal more than that. They will include things that are debateable and arguable and they will require a lot of evidence from both sides. Also, when a local authority makes a decision, it will be subject to appeal. “Technical details” seems to me to be a source of confusion and misunderstanding and have a lack of clarity for the public. When people are told that their objection about access to the site through their estate or the impact that it is going to have on the local landscape is just a technical detail, I think they will get quite angry. Therefore, because it seems a more sensible name and because I always want to help the Government in these matters, I suggest that they should be called “development details”, which is a clear, simple and obvious name for them.

The Bill says that when there is an application for permission in principle—in other words, getting a PIP directly through the local authority and not through a document—the local planning authority may grant the planning in principle or may refuse it. It suggests that there are no circumstances in which local authorities could grant it with conditions. This is causing a lot of bemusement in the planning world. Amendments 94ZB and 94ZC are to probe this and say,

“they may grant permission … with conditions”,


“any conditions imposed … may only relate to matters that are material to the granting of permission of principle”.

It seems rather drastic to say that, in relation to the area, the amount of housing or indeed other uses of the site, the local authority is not able, perhaps after discussion and negotiation with the applicants, to put conditions on in the normal way.

The present planning system is not anti-development; it is actually very pro-development. One thing that applicants often complain about that is not to their benefit is that there can be a great deal of negotiation after the initial pre-application discussions with the local planning authority. There will be perhaps negotiation as it is going through the system and the final result may be different from what was proposed at the beginning, but the result will be that planning permission is given.

The whole impetus now within the local planning system is that, when a planning application comes in, it gets permission. Therefore, what the local planning authority is doing and what the planners are doing very often during that process, in negotiations with the applicants, are the things necessary to make it possible to give that planning permission—and it goes to committee

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to make a recommendation for that. To say that you can simply pass it or kick it out seems to me a recipe for having more refusals than we do now. If there are things that people think need negotiating and changing, it will not be possible to do it—and having conditions is a way to do that.

Finally, conditions on an outline planning approval will mean that the permission given will say something like, “This permission is given subject to reserved matters, which are as follows”, or it may say that all the matters are reserved, but it will give outline planning permission subject to subsequent agreement about the reserved matters. What is now being said is that the planning in principle will be given but there will be a list of parameters set for a subsequent application for technical details. I do not understand what the difference is between an outline planning permission and a permission in principle in those circumstances and I do not understand what the difference is between reserved matters and parameters. Perhaps the Minister can elucidate what parameters mean and what they are all about. Will the parameters set out be mandatory on technical details? Will there be things that have to be sorted out at that stage? What happens if perfectly good objections arise to a proposal at technical detail stage that have not been thought about at planning and principle stage? Will it be impossible to consider these other things, which members or local groups or even councillors may bring up and which may be valid and obvious things that need to be sorted out before the application can be dealt with? Will they be banned from being dealt with if they are not in the list of parameters—if they are not in the parameter of parameters that have been agreed at the first stage?

With Amendment 94B, I am just trying to be helpful, as the Bill as it is written at the moment does not make sense. It would make an amendment to Section 70 of the Town and Country Planning Act. Perhaps somebody could look at it.

Amendment 94ZA is all about guidance. For heaven’s sake, we are going to have lots of regulation-making powers by the Secretary of State, then we are going to have all the powers of the Secretary of State to make development orders under the Town and Country Planning Act, which will set out most of the rules and regulations for local authorities. In addition to that, we have this ridiculous paragraph saying:

“Local planning authorities must have regard to any guidance issued by the Secretary of State in the exercise of functions exercisable by virtue of this section”.

If the Secretary of State issues guidance, people will pay attention to it—obviously they will. But putting it in legislation like that is an insult to local planning authorities, to councils, to planners and to councillors. It is treating them like children; it is just pathetic. However, that is just an outburst on my part. The other amendments in this group are more substantial. I beg to move.

6.45 pm

Baroness Andrews: My Lords, I intervene briefly to support quite a lot of what the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, has just said. This business of language is absolutely critical. Part of the problem is the splitting of what is now a holistic process through the discretionary

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system that we have into two arbitrary divisions. That is what the Bill proposes, and that is why the distinction between the two parts of the process and the language is absolutely critical, as is understanding where the boundaries lie and whether they are in any way permeable or whether they are fixed. The technical detail to describe the infrastructure, contamination, substance or transport is not correct or appropriate. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, has got it right when he talks about development, because they are all aspects of development, but I ask the Minister and officials to think really hard about the proper language here.

The other issues that have been raised are about the flexibility, and we will come on to that in later amendments. What we have is a cliff edge at the end of the first stage on the three criteria, which are very blunt—location, land use and amount. The rest is about how it works. Unless we are clear that there is no way that anything that is discovered that cannot be known, because no site investigation will have been required—in many instances none will have been done—and unless we know whether there is any way in which to alter the PIP, or unless conditions are attached to the PIP, the only choice is to reject the planning application as a whole. The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, is quite right—that means that we may end up getting fewer sites agreed than under the present system. This is an extremely important set of amendments and some very important issues have been raised.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, I support the point just made that language is very important in this matter, but I am slightly disturbed by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, saying that the language is too simple and talks down to people. What does it matter if the planning officers find it all so simple? I am a great believer that ordinary people should be able to understand the law. Therefore, it should be in as simple a form as possible and we should not worry about who feels that they are being talked down to. We have just had two conflicting statements on that, but I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, that language is important.

Baroness Williams of Trafford: I, too, agree that language is important and what might be talking down to one person might feel incredibly complex to another, particularly when it comes to planning, which lies outside the interest of most people and is of interest only when it affects them.

The effect of Amendments 90ZA, 95ZA, and 95BA, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, is to replace “technical details consent” with “development details consent” to reflect his wish that applications following the grant of permission in principle should be determined in accordance with the existing rules relating to planning applications under Part 3 of the Town and Country Planning Act. I share his desire to ensure that an application that follows a grant of permission in principle includes a robust process that allows for consideration of development against local and national policy. We have set out our wish for an application for technical details consent to strike the right balance between securing such a process, while minimising unnecessary duplication at the permission in principle and technical

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details consent stages. We are currently consulting on how to get this balance right, and asking key questions about important matters such as information provision and involvement of communities and others.

Amendment 92HA allows me to explain the difference between permission in principle and local development orders. I apologise to noble Lords that I am slightly repeating myself, because I have just made this point in the previous group, but it is important to say again that local development orders are tools that local authorities use to grant detailed planning permission to specific development within a defined area. They are a particularly useful tool in unlocking problematic sites and play a vital role in regeneration. Local development orders and neighbourhood development orders will still have a role in allowing a local planning authority or neighbourhood groups to grant a more detailed planning permission for specific sites.

On Amendment 94ZA, we have taken a power to issue statutory guidance on the new system of permission in principle. We think that this is an important power as it will allow us to make clear to local authorities, developers, statutory bodies and the general public how the new system should work. The guidance will also help to make permission in principle fully accessible to all users, thereby placing strong expectations on how, where and in what circumstances permission in principle can be granted.

I turn to Amendment 94ZB. New Section 70(1A) as introduced by the Government will enable local authorities to refuse or approve an application for permission in principle. The amendment suggested by the noble Lord effectively removes the ability to make an application for permission in principle to the local planning authority. As I set out in my opening remarks, Clause 136 enables applicants to apply directly to their local authority for permission in principle and it is important to have this route, alongside being able to obtain it through a local plan, a neighbourhood plan or the brownfield register. Our intention is to make this option available for applications for minor development, specifically to help address the particular challenges faced by smaller developers, who often find that the cost of providing swathes of technical detail up front prevents them from entering the development market.

One of the ways that we can help to address this chronic housing shortage is by diversifying the housebuilding sector and encouraging small and medium builders and custom builders into the market. The permission in principle application route aims to help achieve exactly that, offering a route for smaller builders and even custom builders who can seldom afford to waste money on detailed planning information for sites that are unacceptable in principle to gain more upfront certainty and reduce the risk for them to enter the market. The permission in principle application route will be optional for applicants and will sit alongside other routes for securing planning permission. Permission in principle will be determined by local authorities in accordance with the development plan for the area unless material considerations indicate otherwise. We will be setting out minimum statutory requirements for consultation when an application for permission in principle is made to ensure that the local community

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and the statutory agencies are consulted before it is granted, closely following the existing requirements during the planning application process. In no way will the permission in principle application provide a route for applicants to push through unacceptable proposals. Instead it will be hugely beneficial to the SME market and could play an important role in helping to diversify the housing market.

Turning now to Amendment 94ZC, I am thankful to the noble Lord for his comments on how decisions to grant permission in principle are made. However, I do not think it is appropriate that permission in principle should be granted subject to conditions, because permission in principle is to provide simple certainty on the basic acceptability of the site early on in the process. As the permission in principle does not on its own authorise development, conditions at this point would unnecessarily complicate the process, although we expect local authorities to make clear when they give permission in principle the matters that they would expect to see covered in an application for the technical details consent, and we are currently consulting on how best to achieve this. The technical details consent application will provide the opportunity for the local authority to determine all further matters of the development in line with the local plan and other material considerations, subject to conditions. This is the appropriate time to impose conditions on how a scheme is to be delivered.

On Amendment 94B, I agree with the proposals put forward in the noble Lord’s amendment. That is why, in response, I draw attention to page 157 and more specifically to paragraph 11(2) of Schedule 12, which already makes the changes the noble Lord seeks to make with this amendment. I thank him once again for this debate and, in light of my comments, ask that he withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Andrews: On the last point the Minister raised, when the permission in principle is allocated the local authority must advise the applicant what will be covered by the notion of technical details. It seems to me that much of what is driving this Bill is a concern for SMEs, possibly more than large developers. But SMEs will not have gone through the plan. They are bringing their applications forward, so they may have an eye on a site but they may not have any idea what that site is like. They certainly will not have done a site assessment. How, therefore, can the local authority be certain of the advice that it is going to give to that small builder about the technical details to be covered? As we keep saying, we do not want to waste money. That is part of the present system, so we are told. But surely there is a possibility that a small builder will engage with a site only to find that he cannot deliver because he cannot deal with the technical details which will be given to him at a later stage.

Baroness Williams of Trafford: The noble Baroness raises a vital point. The lack of some upfront costs will help the smaller builder because knowing what will be expected of him or her later down the process could enable that smaller builder to make a decision on whether or not to proceed with that application. I hope that that is helpful to the noble Baroness.

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Baroness Andrews: It does depend on the local authority and the small builder knowing what they are looking for. It may be, if it is a site that nobody knows about, that they will not know what they are looking for. This is one instance where, if we had the consultation and the response of people who are going to manage this, we would be in a much better position to know whether this is safe or not.

Baroness Williams of Trafford: I hope the noble Baroness will engage with the consultation. In fact, her words tonight will form part of the consultation. All noble Lords’ suggestions are being taken forward to help shape policy.

Lord Greaves: My Lords, the problem is that getting permission in principle will not provide certainty. All it will provide is certainty that you can go on to the next stage where the hard work will have to be done and paid for and the application might be turned down. The Minister keeps talking about the fact that conditions can be put on and applications can be amended at the technical details stage. That is absolutely right but they can also be thrown out, and the problem that some of us, including the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, are trying to grasp is that some of the things which will be discussed at technical details stage are regarded as something that should be discussed at outline planning stage. They are matters of principle such as the question of whether you can get proper safe access to the site and the matter of ecology on the site. The proposal that has been put forward is that you can get planning permission in principle for such a site but then these are technical details that have to be dealt with, so it does not stop the cost. It might even cost small builders more because they are being led down the garden path with permission in principle and then they are being stopped when they get to the privy at the bottom, whereas at the moment they would be stopped halfway down the garden path. So this needs to be thought out.

As a ward councillor I am currently engaged peripherally in discussions for a small planning application for about 24 houses. The development has had full planning permission but the developers decided it was not viable as set out so they have come back with a changed application. Discussions are now taking place which are delaying the whole thing, but the purpose is to get it passed in the end. Some of the discussions are taking place because residents in nearby flats, assisted by me and other councillors, are complaining about some of the properties just behind them being too high and too big. Meanwhile the developer is saying that it is still not viable and they want another one. So discussions are taking place at the moment on the minor detail of changing the design of one of the houses, perhaps putting another house in a corner where there is not one.

7 pm

All that discussion is taking place at the moment. There is nothing unusual about it. Planning applications do not just come in and then be dealt with and sent out again; they require a lot of pre-application discussion with planning officers, and sometimes with councillors

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as well. If they are sensitive in any way, a lot of discussion takes place during the eight weeks of the application process, and then the decision is made at the end. If, half way through, a decision is made to change it, there will be another application. As far as I can see, none of that will change unless the new process is so rigid that it forces councils to make a decision before they want to, in which case they will decide to reject the application. So, more things will get rejected if this kind of constructive negotiation, which is partly political, partly residential and partly planning, does not take place. These proposals do not seem to fit in very nicely the real world, but, having said that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 90ZA withdrawn.

Amendment 90A

Moved by Lord Greaves

90A: Clause 136, page 66, line 32, leave out “a prescribed period” and insert “three years”

Lord Greaves: My Lords, I submitted some of the amendments in this group before I got further information by reading the technical consultation and implementation, which I will come to. I shall speak also to the other amendments in my name in this group. These amendments are mainly about timescales and time limitations, which is why they have been grouped. There is a very helpful Labour amendment in the middle of the group.

Amendments 90A, 95C and two others refer to the prescribed period. Amendment 90A is a probing amendment to find the Government’s idea of what the prescribed period should be for after permission in principle is given on a piece of land but before technical details have to be given, otherwise the permission in principle may lapse. I have suggested three years, which is the present position for outline planning permission and reserved matters. Since I tabled the amendment, I have been able to see the technical consultation which talks about a different timescale, and I hope noble Lords will let me raise this as it is important.

The maximum determination period for permission in principle on application and technical details consent is how long the local authority has to process and determine applications. At the moment, it is essentially eight weeks for ordinary applications and 13 weeks for major applications. The proposed determination periods that are being consulted on are five weeks for permission in principle for minor applications, five weeks for technical details consent for minor sites and 10 weeks for technical details consent for major sites. There is considerable concern about these proposals and these timescales. I apologise to the Minister, who will not have answers on these specific things, but I want to put them on the record.

I have a comment from my planning manager in Pendle. He says:

“If there is to be meaningful consultation the timescales involved are unworkable and will lead to many applications being rejected. A significant number of applications need amending or further clarifying information needs to be prepared. This requirement often comes from the comments of consultees who normally take the full 21 days to respond”.

Consultees are Highways England, the Environment Agency, the Coal Authority and the rest of them.

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“The processing of an application and registration takes two days and letters sent out to consultees. They will get the letters in the first week. There are then three weeks for consultation. That leaves 1 week to deal with all the issues that are brought up. If there are outstanding matters”—

and my experience is that there usually are—

“which there will inevitably be, LPAs will refuse consent rather than allow something that is potentially unacceptable.

Timescales need to be more realistic or the process will fall down with impossible to achieve timescales”.

The Minister said that our comments will be fed into the consultation, so I hope those comments will be fed in.

Amendment 93A states that PIP cannot be retrospective, and I think the Government agree that that is the case, so perhaps I will not pursue it. Amendment 92N probes the circumstances in which the Secretary of State can grant PIP instead of the LPA. Amendment 93A also states:

“The procedure to be followed for the readoption or revision of a qualifying document in a way that affects the granting of permission in principle to any land is the same as that which applies to the original adoption of the document”.

The purpose of that provision is to probe whether, after the document has been adopted with all the public consultation and processes which it appears are being promised, it could then be changed in some way on the sly without all that process taking place again.

Amendment 93B is about whether permission in principle will cease to have effect on land. If planning permission is given for a different use, does the housing PIP then lapse or does it stand alongside a new permission for, say, a supermarket? If land is allocated for a different use or has the allocation for housing removed in the local development plan, does the planning in principle lapse if the local development plan is changed? If land is removed from the list of land suitable for housing development or the register of brownfield land, does that mean that the planning in principle is also removed at the same time?

Amendment 93C is about how applications for planning permission will work on land which already has planning in principle for housing. If it has permission in principle for housing, and somebody puts in a planning application for a supermarket, a garage site or whatever, will that simply operate on the same lines as it would if that permission in principle did not exist? If the permission in principle for the supermarket, the garage site or whatever is then granted, does the planning in principle for housing lapse or does it continue to exist alongside? I beg to move.

Lord Beecham: My Lords, I rise with, I promise, uncharacteristic brevity to speak to Amendments 93 and 96, which are tabled in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Kennedy. These amendments relate to time. Amendment 93 relates to new Section 59A(4), which states:

“Permission in principle … takes effect when the qualifying document is adopted”,

and critically goes on to say in new paragraph (b) that it,

“is not brought to an end by the qualifying document ceasing to have effect or being revised, unless the order provides otherwise”,

which strikes me as somewhat peculiar provision. My amendment would ensure that the provision in principle

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expired when the plan was no longer relevant or had been replaced. It limits the time to circumstances when it remains relevant or has not been replaced.

Amendment 96 again relates to the time factor, because the somewhat convoluted proposed new subsection (2ZZC) says:

“Subsection (2ZZA) does not apply where … the permission in principle has been in force for longer than a prescribed period”.

That is what the Bill currently says. The amendment seeks to put a limit on that period of five years, so there would have to be development within a five-year period. That seems perfectly reasonable given what we already know about the vast number of outstanding permissions which are not acted on, and which therefore of course do not contribute to meeting housing or indeed any other needs.

Baroness Williams of Trafford: My Lords, the effect of all four Amendments 90A, 95C, 96ZB and 96 would be to put a timeframe in the Bill to allow local authorities to reopen the principle of development when determining an application for technical details consent after a permission in principle has been in place for three years.

Proposed new Section 70(2ZZC), as introduced by the Government, will give local authorities the ability to re-examine the principle of development when a permission in principle has been in place for longer than a set period and where there has been a material change in circumstance. I assure noble Lords that we intend to set out a suitable period for when the principle of development could be reconsidered in secondary legislation. We are currently consulting on the duration of a permission in principle granted either on allocation in a plan or on application to a local authority. To set the duration of permission in principle in secondary legislation rather than in the Bill is a prudent approach, because it gives us a better opportunity to ensure that this model works as intended and for the Secretary of State to keep it under review and respond as appropriate.

Amendment 92J would have the effect of removing the ability to prescribe the type of development that can be granted permission in principle in secondary legislation and—taken with some of the other amendments tabled by the noble Lord to this clause—would limit permission in principle to housing development only. Once again, I understand the desire to place detail in the Bill. However, as I have already set out, there are important reasons why permission in principle should not be restricted in this way. The power that Amendment 92N seeks to remove is there simply to ensure that permission in principle is consistent with the existing system. This is important as it minimises complexity, and for this reason, I ask the noble Lord to consider not moving this amendment.

On Amendment 93, I will briefly explain to noble Lords our intentions behind proposed new subsection (4)(b) in Clause 136 on the duration of permission in principle. We have no intention of allowing permission in principle to exist in perpetuity. We are intent on setting out a sensible duration and are currently consulting on the option of setting that limit at five years. Proposed new subsection (4)(b) would give us important flexibility to ensure that, in appropriate circumstances, where a

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plan or a register is more regularly revised or updated, it does not automatically mean that permission in principle comes to an end.

Lord Beecham: Did I hear the Minister correctly? She indicates that she is thinking of a five-year period, but how would that be provided for? It does not seem to be in the Bill—will it be a matter for regulation, and whence would that authority derive?

Baroness Williams of Trafford: The noble Lord is right; as I just said, we are currently consulting on setting the limit at five years. Does that answer the noble Lord’s question or am I answering a totally different one?

Lord Beecham: Does the Minister mean that she is thinking about a government amendment to this clause on Report, or will that be determined by regulation?

Baroness Williams of Trafford: My Lords, I am saying that we have no intention of setting it out in perpetuity; we are consulting on what the length of time would be and on the option of setting the limit at five years, which would indeed be set out in secondary legislation.

Lord Greaves: On the question of five years, if I remember correctly, the limit for outline planning applications and full applications used to be five years, and the limit for outlines was reduced to three years precisely to encourage people to get on with development and apply for reserved matters. Is it not the case that going back to five years for planning in principle before technical details are required could result in the process slowing down, which is the opposite to what the Government want?

7.15 pm

Baroness Williams of Trafford: I take the noble Lord’s point; I hope that all that would come out in the consultation and that we would arrive at a sensible period of time.

On Amendments 93A and 92K, in answer to the points raised about permission in principle applying to existing local and neighbourhood plans, I hope that I can make some helpful assurances. I make it clear that permission in principle, granted on allocation in locally prepared plans and registers, will apply only to those adopted once the permission in principle measure is fully in force. The Government have no intention to apply the measure retrospectively to site allocations in existing local development plans. It will be possible to grant permission in principle only going forward, so existing plans and site allocations will not be affected. My noble friend Lord Lansley asked what would happen to plans that are in evolution. Local authorities can go back and review their plans to put permission in principle to effect. I am making the point that it cannot be done retrospectively, which has been a concern.

Lord Greaves: While we are on this, in principle—I hate to use that word here—there might be no reason why, if the local plan has been put together in a very thorough way with lots of public consultation, it should not apply, once it is adopted, perhaps next year

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or later this year, to permission in principle. The problem is, as the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, and the Minister said, that because of the way in which local plans are put together at present, very often there is not much public involvement about particular site allocations because people always think, “That’s been allocated for housing for ages so it’ll be allocated again, and we can always get involved and object if and when there’s a planning application”—and people hope that there never will be. If a local plan involving site allocations, whether it is the whole local plan or just the site allocations document, is almost or half-way ready to go to inspection, and the sites have more or less been agreed, and then there is the question of whether that plan, once it is adopted, should qualify for PIP, if the Minister is saying, “The local authority might have to go back and review it”, and if that then involves having a greater degree of public involvement and neighbour consultation than has taken place so far, that will delay the plan. Can the Government give a guarantee that under those circumstances they would not then penalise the authority for not meeting deadlines in production of the plan?

Baroness Williams of Trafford: My Lords, there is no intention to penalise local authorities; the Government made it quite clear that this would not be retrospective but could be reviewed as time went on. The noble Lord makes his own case when he talked about local people not being involved in the planning process. In fact, there is every evidence that the local planning process has vastly increased engagement from local communities, so I think it is a very good system, and I hope that local people get involved.

I turn to Amendment 93B. I assure the noble Lord that, as I said, we intend to set out a sensible period of when permission in principle ceases to have effect in secondary legislation. Setting the arrangements out in secondary legislation is more prudent, allowing us to consult and explore this further so that we can get the approach right.

Lord Greaves: I do not disagree with that at all.

Baroness Williams of Trafford: If I could just complete this point, the noble Lord can come in afterwards. On Amendment 93C, I reassure the noble Lord that we are consulting on the application process for the technical details consent. We envisage that the process will draw on the existing planning application process set out in Part 3 of the Town and Country Planning Act of 1990. However, because the permission in principle, followed by technical details consent, is a different route to obtaining planning permission, it would be inappropriate to place a requirement in the Bill that fully duplicates the current full planning permission procedure at the technical details consent stage.

We will be setting out the application process for technical details consent in secondary legislation once our current consultation closes, and, as I have said today, I will be very interested to hear views from noble Lords. I invite the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Greaves: It would be very helpful to have a bit more information about some of the Government’s thinking on the secondary legislation to which the noble Baroness referred several times. That is what I

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was trying to intervene on. It is very difficult to know how the process is going to work and to understand it without knowing at least some of that. I accept that some of it is in the technical consultation, but not all.

Can the Minister tell us the relationship between pieces of land which have permission in principle and other planning applications that might be made on those pieces of land? Is the existence of the permission in principle a material consideration in the consideration of another planning application for a different use? If that planning application is granted, does the permission in principle on that land lapse, or would there be two permissions of a different sort side by side?

Baroness Williams of Trafford: My Lords, I do not think that a local authority would want to put a permission in principle on a site that already had an application for another use, but that would be up to the judgment of the local authority, particularly in planning for housing.

Lord Greaves: I am sorry to pursue the detail, but it is important. There might be a permission in principle on a piece of land that has been there for three or four years, and nothing has happened, and someone comes along and wants to develop it for something different. That is the sort of situation I am thinking of, in which the permission in principle is historic on the land, as it were, and it is a new application. Perhaps the Minister will write to me on that. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment

Amendment 90A withdrawn.

Amendment 91

Moved by Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town

91: Clause 136, page 66, line 36, at end insert—

“(4) Criteria for permission in principle and technical details consent shall be subject to consultation with local authorities.”

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town (Lab): My Lords, Amendment 91 stands in the name of my noble friends Lord Beecham and Lord Kennedy and is still on the issue of permission in principle. In particular, we seek to mitigate the parts of the Bill that introduce a new system that in effect takes out both local democratic control and the rights of local people to have a say in proposals on their area—or on their doorsteps, as I think the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, said earlier.

Amendment 91 would require consultation with local authorities on criteria for PIP and on the technical details. Amendment 94 sets out information about the permission in principle granted by a development order, which must have prior consultation with local planning authorities. Amendment 95 would allow local planning authorities to overturn permission in principle decisions where important material considerations which the planning stage did not reveal have come to light. My noble friend Lord Beecham gave the example of archaeological finds in the debate on an earlier group.

These amendments and the others in the group are essential if the Government’s new system is to retain any workable input of local democratic accountability

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and to allow for further consideration as circumstances or what is known about a particular plan and its effect come to light. I beg to move.

Lord Greaves: My Lords, I have four amendments in this group that pursue the question of what should be in permission in principle and what in technical details. These are absolutely crucial issues, which need a great deal more thought between now and Report.

People will not understand that permission in principle can be given, as I suggested in Amendment 96ZC, for a piece of land where there are clearly drainage problems and there needs to be drainage assessment, unless that drainage assessment has taken place. If it is a brownfield site, is the local authority supposed to carry out that assessment to see whether a sustainable drainage scheme is needed for the site, to set out any details of measures that can mitigate the problem, or perhaps improve the problem by taking water off land that is liable to flood but that, if dealt with properly, would not? I suggest that that kind of thing ought to be part of the assessment of permission in principle, and it ought to be the responsibility of the developer to assess it and to produce a scheme that is acceptable. Otherwise, it will be put in the local plan as suitable for development, it will be allocated for housing and it will automatically get permission in principle because of that, yet the problems will not have been looked at and sorted out, and the certainty that the Government want for the developer will not exist. It will simply be transferred to the technical details stage.

Amendment 96ZD picks up another similar issue, which is highways and access appraisal. On any substantial development it is almost impossible to get outline planning permission nowadays unless you have the access sorted out. That is absolutely crucial. The access may be the direct access into the site, off the road or down the road, or works may be necessary on the local highways network to make the development of that site acceptable. Again, if that is not done by the permission in principle stage, if people think they have permission in principle and everything is okay, all the problems, all the expense of doing this will inevitably go to the technical details stage.

On the proposed timescale for dealing with consultations of three weeks, which I read out during the debate on the last amendment, if the local planning authority is consulting the local highways authority and it has to do a technical appraisal, go on site, measure junctions and all the rest of it, the whole thing is impossible. Unless it is sorted out at the permission in principle stage, there will be no certainty, permission in principle will be nothing, and technical details will turn into a full planning application type of process.

7.30 pm

The third survey I have mentioned is for contamination and remediation. That clearly requires work done in advance. If it is a complicated site—if there have been mills, foundries, railway yards or whatever on it—it will require specialist technical people to do it. The applicants will have to get that work done, spend money on it and find out whether development is

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possible. The idea that they will then not have to pay for this and simply get permission in principle and the whole world will suddenly be wonderful is frankly a dream. Nothing is going to change. All this work will still have to be done. There are lots of other surveys that I could have put down as well—ecological surveys, landscape surveys, heritage surveys and all the rest of it; my noble friend Lady Parminter will speak to an amendment on those issues in due course.

The final amendment refers to the CIL. I have tabled it simply to have confirmation from the Government that developments under permission in principle will be liable for CIL charges. I also ask that it be possible to put Section 106 charges on the application at the technical detail stage. Again, I say that it is far better for such discussions and negotiations to take place at the earlier stage, so that you can filter out applications that are not going to go anywhere and actually cost developers less. If you just give permission in principle and then say that developers have to do it all for the technical detail stage, they will lose more money than under the present system when the application is turned down. This is a fundamental issue of the relationship between planning in principle and the technical details and how the interaction between developers, planners and everybody else is going to work. I honestly do not think that the Government have thought it out properly yet.

Baroness Andrews: My Lords, I have two amendments in this group that I hope take forward some of the matters which the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, has already addressed. I shall go as quickly as I can, but I have been trying to thread my way through the technical consultation document and it has thrown up quite a few questions, and if the Minister will bear with me, I will ask those questions now.

Both the amendments seek clarity on the fundamental question of what happens when a PIP is set in stone and cannot be reopened. We have already addressed the question of what happens if information or material considerations that were unknown when the PIP was awarded turn up during the technical detail stage and may not even be covered. In this case, there would need to be some flexibility around modifying the PIP if it is not to be entirely lost, because that would seem a waste of time, energy and money all round.

Amendment 95 puts this question in more general terms by stating:

“Unless material considerations indicate otherwise”.

Amendment 96ZA focuses on instances,

“where the authority becomes aware of information since the permission in principle came into force which renders it no longer appropriate to determine the application in accordance with the relevant permission in principle”.

As the Minister anticipated, I will raise the issue of archaeology here, because it is a good example and not because I am obsessed with archaeology—

A noble Lord: There is nothing wrong with that.

Baroness Andrews: Honestly, I am not obsessed with archaeology, but it seems a good example of what might happen, because archaeological findings have the habit of derailing development. The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, has raised a whole range of issues and

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material circumstances that can lead to extremely difficult outcomes. Our old industrial sites are often by rivers, so not only do we have layers of contamination going back 300 years, heavy metals and goodness knows what, but we have flooding issues. All such issues relate to the viability of the site, which is a key factor in whether permission should have been allocated in principle—we will come back to viability later on—but none of them would necessarily be explored at that plan-making stage when sites were given approval in principle. They also raise questions of when the NPPF kicks in, how we will see and know that, and the scope of what we mean by technical details.

The reason for pressing for clarity on this point at this stage of the Bill is obvious; it is because the PIP is a radical departure from the discretionary planning process that we have now. It shifts the locus of consent, the plan; it removes the key flexibility to refuse permission that exists—in relation, for example, to an outline planning application; and it implies that the principal development made in a plan cannot be reopened even when new evidence comes to light.

I am aware of the provisions in the Bill—we have discussed them briefly—that allow for decisions to be reopened after a period has elapsed, but they do not address this issue of when technical details that are not understood or anticipated at the plan-making stage challenge the core principles of whether development should go ahead. That illustrates the basic difficulty of having separated this process into two distinct halves.

Paragraph 2.13 of the consultation document states that this,

“does not prevent consideration of the technical details of the scheme against local and national policy and other relevant material considerations … Any conditions needed can be imposed when technical details consent is obtained”—

which I think means that the technical stage of the process, as well as the front end, will have to be in compliance with the NPPF, but I would like to have that confirmation. I would also like to know why the term “does not prevent” is used rather than “has to comply”. Can the Minister confirm that if the technical details are found wanting and there are some aspects that do not comply with the NPPF, the plan will not be approved? If he can give a clear answer, it would be very reassuring.

I have to raise a wider point here, which is the paradox whereby, as the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, has alluded to, if you have not done the site assessment and there has been no requirement on you to visit and test out the site, how do you know whether the NPPF will apply? A review of the NPPF is going on, so how does the Minister think that might reflect what we are discussing in this Bill?

When we come to what is covered by the technical details, I have already raised what the Chancellor meant when he talked about a “limited” range of technical details. The Minister has said that we will have to wait for the consultation, but if she could have a stab at that this evening, that would be useful.

The technical consultation states that the parameters of the technical details that need to be agreed will have been “described” in the PIP, not that they will have been determined or agreed or assessed, for the difficulties

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that they might cause. What does “described” mean? Does it mean that they would be listed, that a paragraph of intent would have been written, or that evidence would have to be produced, either from a desk analysis or a site visit, on, for example, the history and extent of contamination?

The Minister will probably say that the developers or the LPA will already have identified key issues, because that will have been done in the local plan, which will passport the brownfield site forward. Great weight is put on the local plan; the argument is that it will save time. But local plans are sometimes barely more than a red-line indicator of an allocation; they go no further and rarely involve site visits or detailed investigations. They are subject to a strategic environmental assessment that is based on desktop analysis; it does not involve the requirement for wildlife or archaeological field surveys. Material considerations can cover all that.

Let us think about flooding. There are parts of the country that now flood once in every 10 years when previously they flooded once in every 100 years. These are new circumstances to take into account. I would be very happy incidentally for the Minister to write to me about this if that was simpler.

Here is the rub. Paragraph 2.25 of the technical assessment states:

“The local planning authority may not use the technical details consent process to reopen the ‘in principle’ issues”,

if they,

“are not acceptable for justifiable reasons”—

in which case—

“the local planning authority could justify a refusal at the technical details stage, and the applicant would have the right of appeal”.

So this is an opportunity for the Minister to say what a justifiable reason would be. Let us bear in mind that we are trying to bring greater certainty to this whole process, but not only does it appear that it can be overturned completely if the technical detail is confounded but there is no room for manoeuvre and no way in which the applicant can go back and say, “We’ve discovered a real problem. We can mitigate it, but it means we’ll have to really challenge and change the number of houses that we can build”.

Many of these facts and material considerations will not reveal themselves without serious site-based knowledge. How many developers are going to do that? Once they have permission in principle, they know that they are home and dry, at least in principle. So we could have the worst of all worlds: a fixed and immutable decision in principle which might be overturned when the full facts of the site and its constraints are known. This is a probing amendment, of course. It is an attempt to keep the door open to a change of mind over PIP when an important material consideration which could not have been foreseen actually comes to light.

Amendment 96ZA deals with where the material considerations take on an acute presentation. The very common unknown quantity of undesignated archaeology can stop development in its tracks. We know that archaeology is important because it is the only means we have to understand our remote past. Technology now gives us the power of understanding

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and overturning what we thought we knew. For example, recent investigations in Stonehenge revealed that masonry workers came as immigrants from Europe 2,500 years ago. We actually did not know that; it is another gift that immigration gives us.

Archaeology is fragile, irreplaceable and unpredictable. Some of it is known and designated; most of it is unknown, awaiting discovery and undesignated. That is precisely why, after such careful negotiation, the NPPF has put a clear weight on the need to protect heritage assets as part of sustainable development; that is in paragraph 128 of the NPPF. In fact, a fully predetermined assessment and evaluation is usually carried out only where there is an application for permission, and for conditions or obligations to be imposed, or to mitigate or compensate for unavoidable but justifiable harm to the historic environment.

The problem is that brownfield sites are the most intensively worked sites in our history. They have been occupied longer and more has been done to them, and there tends to be very intense archaeology now. In most of the city-centre archaeological sites, such as Leicester, brownfield sites are turning up extraordinary archaeological finds now—not just Richard III but whole medieval and Roman foundations, which we simply did not know about. So we have a problem with brownfield registers.

We also have a problem with SHLAA methodology which will be used, because that does not involve assessment either. Many of the sites that will be identified or allocated have not had the benefit of predetermination in terms of archaeology; therefore, there is a real possibility of damage.

Let me just short-circuit some of this. Any short-circuiting of the development management process which impedes or precludes the opportunity to oppose development on the basis of archaeological objections or to impose conditions makes the historic environment vulnerable. The PIP runs this risk because, as we know, it is not possible to impose conditions at the in-principle stage, and it is not clear that the technical details will encompass archaeological and other considerations related to the historic environment. As I said, it is very difficult to assess whether there is an in-principle objection to development on archaeological grounds without detailed consideration. If no in-principle objection is made, as I said before, sometimes you can mitigate rather than throw out the scheme.

The difficulties are compounded by the loss of expertise in local authorities. It is estimated that they have lost a third of their conservation officers in recent years. Relaxing planning regulation and reducing information requirements generally allow the planning regime to operate with less input from local authorities, and the reduction of input from local authority heritage and archaeological services is doubly damaging. It leaves the sites even more vulnerable to harm.

To conclude, both these amendments raise similar issues in slightly different form. I hope that at least—if in writing, that is perfectly acceptable—the Minister can actually address some of the specific issues that have been raised by the reading of the technical consultation document. But I ask her to think about something else. It would be really helpful if she could

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put the following assurances on the record—assurances that would apply equally to both my general and my specific amendment: that permission in principle will be decided only by local authorities, whatever its roots; that it will always be decided against the NPPF; that if there is insufficient understanding of the impact the development might have, permission in principle will not be used; and where the impact is difficult to assess without details, the authority will be encouraged to set a conservative limit on development or to carry out investigations as required by the NPPF in order to increase confidence as to the acceptability of the site.

7.45 pm

Baroness Young of Old Scone (Lab): My Lords, I support Amendment 91 and the amendments down in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, and I simply express the concern about the lack of clarity around the permission in principle process and the technical details stage. I had a very useful session with the policy and Bill team, and a brief one with the Minister about this, and I think that a considerable amount of greater clarity could be given for the benefit of the Committee about what issues will be taken into account at permission in principle stage and what issues will remain for the technical details stage, and what consultation will take place at both these stages.

I will briefly deal with the content of each stage and the consultation separately. I keep banging on about the need for a flow chart that demonstrates the steps in this process, and I hope that the Minister is going to provide us with that. Very strong assurances were given that the permission in principle could not go ahead if the site was not compliant with the NPPF. But I think that it would be of benefit to noble Lords if it could be spelled out in exquisite detail exactly what that would imply in terms of the sorts of issues that would be resolved at permission in principle stage, and assurance given that they would be also subject to full statutory consultation, including the statutory consultees, because that is the point at which both government agencies and others, and indeed the public, can be alerted to the possibility that a local authority will be granting permission in principle for a site.

At technical details stage, it is absolutely important—and I endorse what has been said by other noble Lords—that if we are going to be able to give developers the security that permission in principle needs to provide if it is not going to be a hollow process, we need to have resource to some of these hugely important details, which are contained in the NPPF. We need to be sure that local authorities are giving themselves sufficient assurance that things like flood risk, roads, contamination, nature conservation and other infrastructure issues are being dealt with adequately to give the local authority the security to assure developers that permission in principle can be granted. So the technical details stage genuinely becomes simply for the fine-tuning of the site, rather than trying to deal with some of these basic issues, at a point when permission in principle has already been granted on an adequate basis. That would also help with the current proposal that technical details would be subject only to discretionary consultation—that local authorities could decide how much and how far they wanted to consult on the technical details. If they

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genuinely are fine-tuning, I could just about live with discretionary consultation at that stage. But if they are at all going to deal with fundamental issues, which ought to have been dealt with at permission in principle stage, it would be important that full-scale consultation was required of local authorities at the technical-detail stage, and not left for local discretion.

So I ask the Minister: before we reach Report stage, can we please have my flow chart? I think that that will reassure the Committee that permission in principle is not a hollow process, and that if permission in principle is granted by a local authority because a site is in the local plan, in the neighbourhood plan or in a brownfield register, it has also taken sufficient steps at the point of deciding that it is going to grant permission in principle to have taken account of all these hugely important issues at that stage and fully consulted on them.

Baroness Williams of Trafford: May I start on a cheery note and reassure the noble Baroness that I did send the flow chart out with the details of the regulations? I do know that some noble Lords on the Benches opposite did not seem to get it. It will go into the Printed Paper Office. I have some copies here and the noble Baroness can avail herself of one. I hope that she is content with that.

I must say to the noble Baroness that we have spent many hours discussing the process of PIP and, if I do not answer all of her questions, perhaps she could look through Hansard and get back to me. Some of what I am about to say may also give her reassurance.

When permission in principle is granted through locally prepared plans and registers, local authorities will choose which sites they grant it to as part of their existing plan-making and site-allocation work. This choice will therefore be a local one, reached through rigorous involvement of communities and members within the current plan-making process. For the application route for minor development, following the existing planning application process, local authorities will be required to determine applications for permission in principle in accordance with the development plan for the local area, unless material considerations indicate otherwise, after a period of consultation with the community and statutory bodies.

The noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, asked me what “describe” meant. It means the setting out of expectations about what will be covered in a later application underpinned by evidence. That is my understanding of what “describe” means.

Amendment 94 would include in the Bill that information included on the planning register would be subject to consultation with local authorities. Under the current system, local planning authorities are already required to hold and maintain a planning register of all planning applications. The power in subsection (7) of new Section 59A, inserted into the Town and Country Planning Act by Clause 136, will merely require local authorities to add to the planning register information about permission in principle granted through locally made plans, registers and applications. The information to be placed on the register will be the same as they are currently required to publish or make available for standard planning applications.

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On Amendments 95 and 95B, permission in principle will agree and establish the fundamental principle of development for location, uses and amount of housing development. Section 70(2ZZA), as introduced by the Government into the Town and Country Planning Act through this Bill, means that when the local authority determines an application for technical details consent, it cannot revisit the fundamental principles agreed by the permission in principle. The noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, pressed me again on what technical details might look like. They might look like matters relating to the design, affordable housing, inappropriate mitigation or, conversely, appropriate mitigation.

Lord Greaves: Does that include access to the local highways?

Baroness Williams of Trafford: I do not think that the site would get permission in principle if there were no access to the site. That would be one of the fundamental principles for a site to be suitable for permission in principle. But I will get on to that.

If accepted, the amendments would have the consequence of allowing the local authority to reconsider the fundamental principles when considering an application for technical details consent. That defeats the purpose of the measure and undermines the certainty that it aims to give, because it allows other material considerations to become relevant during the decision-making process, as is currently the case. There would therefore effectively be no change.

However, I want to make it very clear that in determining an application for technical details consent, although the local planning authority will not be able to revisit the fundamental principles of development, it will be required to consider all the details of the application fully against the National Planning Policy Framework. The noble Baroness asked at what point; the NPPF is relevant the whole way through and local policy is also relevant. I re-emphasise that technical details consent can therefore be refused if the detail is not acceptable. Permission in principle is a tool that will allow the basic suitability of a site to be established early. What it will not do is override the need to ensure that proposals are sustainable, create mixed and balanced communities and include any necessary mitigation measures.

The noble Baroness pressed me on what would happen if technical details consent cannot be granted for a scheme. I hope that I have set out the rigorous process of consideration and engagement that will be followed to grant PIP and in that context, the scenario when no scheme can be given technical details consent, is an extremely rare one. But if it does occur, in those rare circumstances we have made provision for PIP granted on application to be revoked or modified.

Baroness Andrews: That is the first time we have heard that. Does that mean that there can be changes to PIP if the technical details require it? Would that mean that there could be an even lower number of houses or a slightly smaller site?

Baroness Williams of Trafford: I understand that it could be modified in an extreme circumstance such as that. This is a rare circumstance, but I understand that that is the case.

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On the revoking of a PIP granted by a local plan or brownfield allocation, the noble Baroness makes a good point. The Bill does not currently make provision for this, as she has told me again and again. Can I take that away and thank her for her points? She also asked me to confirm absolutely that only local authorities can be responsible for the granting of permission in principle. Yes, that is the case.

Lord Beecham: The Minister has just made a concession and agreed to my noble friend’s point, but she talks in terms of revocation. Is it not necessary also to provide for variation?

Baroness Williams of Trafford: The noble Baroness has raised something that I have said I will take away. I will also take away the noble Lord’s point because it is not particularly provided for in the Bill. Will the noble Lord and the noble Baroness let me take that away and reflect on it?

On Amendment 96ZA, an important starting point is that permission in principle will be granted where a proposal accords with the development plan for the area, having regard to the National Planning Policy Framework, as I have said, alongside other material considerations. When choosing appropriate sites that may be deemed suitable for a grant of permission in principle through a local plan, local authorities will be able to draw on a wealth of information to determine whether that site is suitable. That includes information gathered to support their local plan, a strategic housing land availability assessment, local knowledge of areas of constraint, engagement with communities and statutory bodies, and other information. That will all be underpinned by consideration against local and national policy.

It is possible that on the basis of that assessment a local authority could conclude that granting permission in principle would not be appropriate, either because the site is unsuitable—which goes to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves—or, in exceptional cases, that the fine detail of the scheme needs to be worked up before a decision can even be reached on the principle of development. I hope that what I have set out is a sensible basis for deciding whether to grant permission in principle. I remind noble Lords that it must be followed by a grant of technical details consent before development may commence.

I turn to Amendments 96ZC, 96ZD, 96ZE, and 96ZF, which provide by condition for the assessment of flood risk, highways and access, contaminated land, and securing of appropriate infrastructure through either Section 106 contributions or the community infrastructure levy. I hope that I have put the noble Lord’s mind at ease over the course of my remarks as I have described in more detail how permission in principle will operate—specifically that it will still include consideration of these important matters through an assessment against local and national planning policy.

Specifically on conditions, I hope that my comments on Amendment 94ZC set out the Government’s thinking on the timing for the use of conditions. Permission in principle is to provide simple certainty on the basic acceptability of a site early on in the process. As it

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does not on its own authorise development, conditions at this point would unnecessarily complicate matters, although we would expect local authorities to make clear, when they give permission in principle, the matters that they would expect to see covered in an application for technical details. On the community infrastructure levy, I confirm that, where it is in place, it would become payable once technical details consent has been granted, as is the case when full planning permission is given.

Finally, Schedule 12 is a list of consequential amendments that we have made to the Town and Country Planning Act and other planning legislation. This accompanies Clause 136 and is important for ensuring that permission in principle, as a new route to obtaining planning permission, operates effectively alongside the existing system. I will therefore press that Schedule 12 stands part of the Bill.

8 pm

Baroness Andrews: I am very grateful for the noble Baroness’s response. I will read Hansard properly because I want to make sure that I heard her correctly. I will ask her one question, because she is being so generous. One of the technical details that really bothers me is the notion that affordable housing should come at the technical details stage. Is there any possibility that she could consider, when we talk about the 30% to 40% of affordable housing that we want to see in developments, making that a subsection of that stage? It is not of the same order as drainage and environmental considerations.

Baroness Williams of Trafford: I hope that I can reassure the noble Baroness that that is certainly one of the things that could be part of that stage. I could perhaps come back to this on Report, but it is certainly one of the examples of what could come forward.

Lord Greaves: That was very interesting and we are making a bit of progress. I will put a particular instance to the Minister. It is based on real life, but I shall not say where it is. There was a big application for 500 houses—that is huge by east Lancashire standards. It has outline planning permission. As part of that, it required details of access. The highways authority—it is a two-tier area, so a county council—was required to approve access off not only an existing main road, but I think the roundabout on to that road. It also required a contribution towards improvements to a roundabout further down the road to increase its capacity on to the motorway. That all happened at the outline planning stage. Where would that happen under PIP and technical details? When will it happen? What is the process by which it would happen? Would that be part of declaring that that piece of land was okay for permission in principle, or would it have to wait for technical details?

Baroness Williams of Trafford: My Lords, the noble Lord will know that outline planning permission is entirely different from permission in principle, but if a site required significant infrastructure investment to access it, it is unlikely that that would be a simple permission in principle site.

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Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town: My Lords, on behalf of everyone who has spoken, I thank the Minister for dealing with that. We will all need to look quite closely at some of the things she said. At one point I thought she said that PIP was about the basic acceptability, but she also said that it would be very rare for the technical details to be declined. I see quite a contradiction in that if it is just very basic, but if it would then be very rare for the technical details to be the hold-up. However, that is something we will need to read carefully in what she said and ensure that these two fit in properly.

Other issues remain, particularly about the consultation. As my noble friend Lady Young said, is “technical details” just the fine tuning, or is there something quite substantial there? If PIP is only basic acceptability, it sounds like there is more there. However, like my other noble friends, I thank the Minister for agreeing to look at whether PIP could be modified for changes. We will want to come back and look at that when we have read this carefully, but for the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 91 withdrawn.

Amendment 92

Moved by Baroness Parminter

92: Clause 136, page 66, line 36, at end insert—

“(4) Permission in principle may not be granted in respect of land of high environmental value, which is defined as such by dint of—

(a) containing priority habitat(s) listed under section 41 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 (biodiversity lists and action (England));

(b) holding a nature conservation designation such as ‘site of special scientific interest’; or

(c) having been selected as a local wildlife site.

(5) Land of high environmental value is also exempt from the development order requirements provided for by section 59A (development orders: permission in principle).”

Baroness Parminter (LD): My Lords, I am a strong supporter of brownfield first when it comes to housing, but I have a particular concern that the PIP proposals do not exclude brownfield sites that have very clear benefits for biodiversity and, by extension, to society—namely, land of high environmental value. That could be SSSIs, heathland, local wildlife reserves or habitats for some of our most precious species, such as red squirrels, water voles, or bluebell forests, you name it—some really special areas of our country.

The coalition Government put together some very strong safeguards for such land. I quote the NPPF, paragraph 111:

“Planning policies and decisions should encourage the effective use of land by re-using land that has been previously developed (brownfield land), provided that it is not of high environmental value”.

The planning practice guidance goes on to say that brownfield land can have high ecological value and that,

“planning needs to take account of issues such as the biodiversity value which may be present on a brownfield site before decisions are taken”.

My concern with the PIP proposals is: how can those very strong safeguards in the NPPF and the planning

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guidance, which make it clear that those decisions have to be looked at right at the early stage, be taken into account? The Minister said earlier that if something was not compliant with the NPPF, it would not happen. It seems quite clear to me that the NPPF is saying that land of high environmental value is not compliant and it should therefore be excluded.

These sites are important, but they are not a huge number. My understanding is that English Nature has assessed the figures and we are looking at a total of between 6% and 8% of all brownfield land. They are important sites, but they are only a small number. Therefore, it would be difficult to argue that, by removing them the PIP provisions, they would somehow prevent use of brownfield sites for housing overall. Clearly the number is quite contained.

They are a small number but they are vital. Most of our species—some 65%—particularly those of most concern, are declining. We need to take account of that, not only for the effects on nature and biodiversity, but for the impact on quality of life as well. Therefore, there is a strong case for land of high environmental value to be excluded. I beg to move.

Baroness Young of Old Scone: My Lords, I support these two amendments to which I have also put my name. It is distressing that we are again beginning to see important and lesser wildlife sites being increasingly damaged by development, and particularly by housing development. When I first came into the environmental movement almost 30 years ago, on average 15% of sites were damaged each year. We managed to get that down to less than 0.1% about 10 years ago, but it is increasingly creeping up again. So there is a real issue to make sure that the provisions for permission in principle and for the brownfield site register do not inadvertently make it more possible for development to damage sites of wildlife interest.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, said, the NPPF and, indeed, the national planning practice guidance steer both local authorities and developers away from land of high environmental value. We run the risk of encouraging developers—at the breakneck speed with which we are moving towards the provision of housing in particular—to be less aware of the requirement to be careful, especially on brownfield sites and on sites such as local wildlife sites that do not have statutory protection. As the noble Baroness said, brownfield sites with high environmental value are comparatively small in number, but a proper assessment is required at the appropriate time for that to be established.

We also need to take into account the fact that some of the traditional safeguards against development of these sites have diminished. Local authorities are under pressure and have less specialist ecological advice available to them. The statutory nature conservation bodies similarly have less capacity and less ability to comment in detail on small-scale sites. So it would be absolutely right to have on the face of this Bill a reminder to both local authorities and developers of the importance of these sites and to abstract them from the permission in principle and the brownfield site register processes.

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Lord Deben (Con): My Lords, this is an important amendment and I hope that my noble friend will listen carefully to the arguments that have been put forward. I suspect that she will have been provided with an answer that goes somewhat like this: “We already cover this under this part and that part and the other part”. I have sat where she sits and I know that this is what civil servants are liable to suggest.

The reason for this amendment is precisely because it makes the position very clear. It states absolutely without peradventure that this is the position—not that if you look up in planning guidance you see that this is the recommended position. I beg my noble friend to recognise that we are dealing with people who will often do anything to avoid being concerned with the precise details that the amendment brings to our attention. I commend especially the comments of the noble Baroness opposite, who talked about the fact that, across the parties, we have fought together over many years to reduce the amount of damage done to wildlife sites. Frankly, we have been very successful. It has been a common activity and we have done well. However, there is some indication that there has been a return, in a way that is not reasonable and not what I think the majority of people in Britain want.

I am particularly keen on this amendment because of its reference to brownfield sites. I believe that we should be much tougher about building on brownfield sites and much more determined against building on greenfield sites. I believe from experience that, if you allow people to build on greenfield sites, that is where they will build; they will not build on brownfield sites. If that is the position you hold, it is important that you make a distinction between the vast majority—some 92%—of brownfield sites where building is obviously suitable and the 8% or so where there are specific environmental reasons for not building.

The amendment enables the Government to say on the face of the Bill what my noble friend will no doubt tell us that the Government believe. No doubt she will say, “We do not think we need it because we accept it and it is within the law”. I delicately suggest that there are many out there who do not do a lot of looking up and who do not search too carefully for the various documents. I would like it to be clear that there is no way in which these sites can be designated in principle for development because, small though they are, they are too important and too valuable for us in our generation to return to doing the damage that was done in previous generations.

8.15 pm

Lord Berkeley of Knighton (CB): My Lords, I cannot too strongly support the views expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, and the noble Lord, Lord Deben. As somebody who has fought to preserve environmental and natural habitats, I know that we are talking about something that can easily become the thin end of the wedge. We should be trying to make it the thick end of the wedge. This country is not that big. As the noble Baroness said, we do not have so many areas that are dedicated to the preservation of wildlife. Very often, if the law is not strong enough—I have seen this happen—developers will march ahead

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and think, “We can sort this out later”. I could enumerate three or four examples of that. That is why it is so important that the Government take on board these amendments and protect our environment at all costs. Reading through the amendment, I am inclined to say to the noble Baroness, “What’s not to like?”.

Lord Teverson (LD): My Lords, these areas are described in common parlance as brown land or brownfield sites. Although the legislation does not describe it in that way, that is how we normally describe these sites. When we refer to brownfield sites, we think of industrial areas, pollution and sites that are derelict rather than of the very wide variety of sites that would be covered by permission in principle. The essence of this issue is that many of those sites, particularly those on urban fringes and, indeed, in urban areas, probably have a more diverse and interesting ecology than do many greenfield sites, which often comprise monocultures and are not as important in ecological terms or in their value to local communities. This amendment is important as it would protect these designated sites and ensure that they are exempted from the Bill’s provisions.

Baroness Evans of Bowes Park (Con): I thank the noble Baronesses, Lady Parminter, Lady Young and Lady Bakewell, and the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, for tabling these amendments to both the permission in principle clause and the brownfield register. I also thank all noble Lords who have contributed to this short debate. I recognise how important this issue is and agree that the planning system should play an important role in the protection and promotion of the natural environment. I will briefly explain how the permission in principle measure will continue to ensure that the natural environment is both safeguarded and promoted without the need for such exclusions as set out in these amendments—I fear that my noble friend could have written this speech.

I begin by addressing Amendment 92. Clause 136 will enable permission in principle to be granted on sites that local planning authorities, parishes and neighbourhood forums choose and allocate within their plans or identify on new brownfield registers. The aim is to build on the detailed work that goes into plan production to identify suitable sites for particular housing-led development and to grant those that are considered locally to be suitable a level planning consent. This will give increased certainty for local authorities, developers and others that an amount of housing-led development is secured in principle, leaving them to work up and agree the details on the site. This means that the choice about where to grant permission in principle is a local one—as we have heard—reached through involvement of communities, members and statutory bodies. Permission in principle will therefore be granted only where development is considered to be locally acceptable, in line with local and national policy.

If a local authority considers that such sites of environmental sensitivity are not suitable for development, in line with the strong protections for the national environment set out in the national planning policy framework—both noble Baronesses mentioned this—then it need not allocate the site for such use in its local

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plan, or choose to grant it permission in principle. I should add that where an application for permission in principle for minor development is made to a local authority, it will be able to determine this in accordance with the local plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise. This would be in the same manner as planning applications are currently determined.

Lord Deben: My noble friend says that if the site was of the relevant kind and the local authority thought that it should therefore be designated in that way, it could do so. But does that mean that if this were a site of importance, the local authority could decide that it would develop it, because that seems to me to be rather difficult given the guidance in the other document? If the local authority cannot designate the site, will my noble friend explain why we cannot include the measure as an amendment to the Bill?

Baroness Evans of Bowes Park: As I said, if there are sites of environmental sensitivity that are not suitable for development in line with the strong protections of the NPPF, a local authority does not need to allocate the site for such use in its plans. This measure will continue to be in line with the strong protections in the NPPF.

Amendment 97 would place similar exclusions on land to be included on the brownfield register. I recognise noble Lords’ desire to protect land of high environmental value and understand concerns that such land should not be considered suitable for housing. I hope that I can reassure them why it would not be desirable or necessary to include such an exception in the Bill.

Local authorities will be required to have regard to national policies and advice when preparing their registers. This requirement is in the Bill. This means that when making decisions about which sites should be included on registers, local authorities will be required to take into account the NPPF. The framework states:

“Planning policies and decisions should encourage the effective use of land by re-using land that has been previously developed … provided that it is not of high environmental value”.

This is one of the core planning principles of the framework. Local authorities have discretion to determine whether a particular site is of high environmental value. I believe that this is the right approach.

Baroness Young of Old Scone: One of the points of this amendment is to pin down the concept of high environmental value rather more closely and clearly than is the case in the NPPF or, indeed, in the national planning practice guidance, by listing the parameters of high environmental quality. At the moment, there is very inconsistent practice by local authorities in determining that. That is unsatisfactory. It would be preferable to include in the Bill a standard definition.

Baroness Evans of Bowes Park: A definition in the Bill would remove discretion and override a local understanding of the environmental value of the land. As the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, said, an area considered to be of high environmental value in an inner-city might be quite different from that in other areas. A fixed definition could unintentionally lead to

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a situation where a local authority would have excluded land but were prevented from doing so by the definition. Local authorities are best placed to exercise their discretion and to make the decision, rather than fixing a definition for them by putting it in the Bill. I hope that, on the basis of these explanations, noble Lords will agree not to press their amendments.

Baroness Parminter: I thank the noble Baroness for her comments and her acceptance that this is an important issue. It clearly is, given the strength of feeling in the Committee, and I am grateful to colleagues for rowing in on it. The Minister seems to be saying that it is up to local authorities. If one is being charitable, it is a belief in the spirit of localism: it is okay for local authorities to do this because they can look back to the planning guidance that we have already provided. However, the words “need not”, which the noble Lord, Lord Deben, picked up, are critical. If they need not allocate this land, it means that they can allocate it. However, that is clearly contrary to the provisions set down by the coalition in the NPPF, which says that this should be excluded. Colleagues in Committee have shown that this designation is, in principle, too important not to be included in the Bill. I will withdraw the amendment now, but I am sure that we will return to it on Report.

Amendment 92 withdrawn.

Amendment 92A had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.

Amendment 92B

Moved by Lord Tope

92B: Clause 136, page 66, line 36, at end insert—

“(4) A development order under subsection (1) shall be made in respect of land in Greater London by the Mayor of London and in respect of land in England outside of Greater London by the Secretary of State.

(5) Section 59B (development orders made by the Mayor of London) shall apply to the making of a development order under subsection (1) by the Mayor of London.”

Lord Tope: My Lords, I will move Amendment 92B and also speak to Amendment 96A. I begin by raising a couple of issues, in the hope that by the time I finish—which will not be long—clarification may have arrived. The Housing and Planning Minister in the other place stated that the mayor will be consulted on, and have the power to call in, applications of technical details consent where they are for schemes of strategic importance, and gave the assurance that the mayor will have an opportunity to influence the process of boroughs identifying sites of strategic importance. I hope that, when she replies, the Minister here can clarify exactly what that means in practice and how the mayor’s strategic planning powers which exist now will be taken properly into account in the new system. For instance,

“an opportunity to influence the process by providing his views”,—[

Official Report

, Commons, Housing and Planning Bill Committee, 3/12/15; col. 548.]

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is significantly weaker than the current power to take over an application. Although the mayor may still be able to take over an application at technical consent stage, the principle of the type of development will already have been set. That highlights why we are moving these amendments today.

Amendment 92B gives the mayor power within Greater London to grant development orders. Amendment 96A sets out the detail that he or she would have to follow in doing so, including a fairly full consultation process with a duty to respond to that consultation. That would directly correlate with the power of the Secretary of State elsewhere in the country. It is appropriate to an authority which has had a directly elected mayor, with a strategic planning role, for 16 years.

Many times during the progress of the Bill we have said that London is different. It is different in that respect and in terms of having a particularly high level of housing need. It has a strong economy and competing pressures for available land and high-density development. Almost all the land with housing potential within Greater London is brownfield and most has existing use in place. I speak as a London resident: if we are going to go down this route then the mayor and the Greater London Authority are better placed to understand London’s particular needs. That is why they are there. Their relationship with the London boroughs, while occasionally and understandably difficult, is on the whole very good and there is a continuous dialogue there. It is much more appropriate for the Mayor of London and Greater London Authority to have these powers in relation to Greater London than for them to be vested in the Secretary of State, who has to deal with the rest of country as a whole. We believe in devolution and this is very much a part of it. In this case it is to the GLA—what may follow elsewhere is not part of this amendment.

In essence, the purpose of these amendments is to give the Mayor of London—whoever that may be—the powers that the Secretary of State will have in the rest of the country. I beg to move.

8.30 pm

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town: My Lords, I support the amendments proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Tope. I was surprised when he said we have had a Mayor of London for 16 years—the establishment of that position was another great step forward by a Labour Government.

It is absolutely appropriate that the mayor—the only politician with a London-wide executive mandate—has these powers. The amendment sets out a framework in which he can make an order, including who he must consult and how the proposal should be dealt with. It is effective and time-constrained and should not cause any undue delay. It reflects the mayor’s mandate and we think it strikes the right balance, enabling him to help drive forward the development of our great capital city.

Baroness Evans of Bowes Park: I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Tope, for his comments on these amendments, and to the noble Baroness. I hope I will

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be able to assure your Lordships that the Mayor of London will continue to play an important role without the need for these amendments.

New Section 59A of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, inserted by Clause 136, makes it possible for permission in principle to be granted on sites allocated within local development plans, neighbourhood plans and the new brownfield register, and the choice of when to do this will be a local one. Let me be absolutely clear that the Secretary of State will have no direct role in choosing specific sites to grant permission in principle to. In the same way that the Secretary of State maintains oversight of the existing development order-making powers under Section 59 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 to ensure consistency of how the planning system functions across England, he must maintain oversight of how the permission-in-principle system will work.

Amendment 92B would effectively set up different planning systems between London and the rest of the country by giving the Mayor of London the ability to change the process for permission in principle. We believe that introducing inconsistency into the system would be undesirable.

I reassure noble Lords that there are a number of ways in which the Mayor of London will be able to play an active role in influencing the granting of permission in principle in London. The London Plan will be able to set policies that will influence which sites are suitable for a grant of permission in principle. The mayor will also be a key statutory consultee during the plan preparation of any borough in London. Furthermore, where a mayoral development corporation is in place, the plan for that corporation can allocate specific sites that could be granted permission in principle. Mayoral development orders can also now be used to grant planning permission for site-specific development in London.

The noble Lord also asked whether the mayor would be able to call in applications for technical details consent. The answer is yes: the mayor can call in applications, including the new technical details consent, when the planning application is of potential strategic importance. He can also do this for an application for permission in principle. I will see if there is any further information that I can provide the noble Lord with in writing, but I hope that on the basis of what I have said he will withdraw his amendment.

Lord Beecham: For the avoidance of doubt, will the Minister confirm that the Government do not intend to extend any of these mayoral powers to the mayors of combined authorities under the devolution deal?

Baroness Evans of Bowes Park: Yes, I can confirm that.

Lord Tope: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. I think she said that this would give London a different system from the rest of the country. London has a different system from the rest of the country. It has had it for 16 years. The Government believe in devolution. This seems a logical part of the difference of London, which was set up originally under a Labour Government and has been supported by a coalition Government and a Conservative Government. I do not really follow that justification.

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I am grateful to the Minister for what she said. I did not actually ask if the mayor would have those call-in powers. I said that, since he does have those call-in powers, can she say a bit more about how that relates to the current situation? If she can write to me further, as she said she would, I would be very grateful. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 92B withdrawn.

Amendment 92C

Moved by Lord Rotherwick

92C: Clause 136, page 66, line 36, at end insert —

“(4) Permission in principle may not be granted for a development of land which is an important part of the national infrastructure, or is the subject of national policy or interest, as defined by the Secretary of State in regulations made by statutory instrument.”

Lord Rotherwick (Con): My Lords, I thank my noble friend and her officials for the time they gave to address my concerns in a number of meetings. I will speak to Amendments 92C and 97B. First, I declare an interest as a private pilot. I am vice-president of the General Aviation Alliance and president of the General Aviation Awareness Council. I love flying and I seek to protect the ability of British people to take to the skies for both business and recreation in all sorts of light aircraft.