General aviation—GA—aerodromes are very vulnerable to development. Many are officially deemed brownfield sites, even though they may actually comprise broad acres of flat grassland in desirable locations. They are much coveted by developers for housing. We have already lost many vulnerable aerodromes that form part of a national communications network. The pressures on land in our crowded island mean that they are threatened by the Bill’s intent to ease the planning process for housing. If aerodromes are added to the register of sites that have planning permission in principle, they will be doomed.

The Government’s own General Aviation Strategy, published last year, indicated that GA was worth £3 billion annually to the UK economy and emphasised the importance of our national network of aerodromes. The strategy specifically notes that many aerodromes do not believe that they have,

“the full support of local authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships ... While most of these bodies would acknowledge the clear value of GA infrastructure this appeared to be often overshadowed by the need for other land use priorities, in particular housing”.

GA supports 38,000 skilled jobs, often in rural areas. GA gives us transport choices—an alternative to our increasingly congested roads, railways and major airports. This is particularly important to businesspeople —wealth creators—to whom time is always valuable.

Other uses and users of the UK aerodrome network include pilot training, air ambulances, the police and recreational flying. GA aerodromes have other benefits in addition to their economic, recreational and transport value. They are unofficial wildlife sanctuaries, protecting the habitats of flora and fauna and providing large open spaces close to and sometimes within our expanding towns and cities. We cannot afford to lose any more of these aerodromes.

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When the National Planning Policy Framework—NPPF—was introduced, I spoke in this House about the need to give aerodromes specific protection, with some result. This Bill again raises the threat that localism may trump the national interest because no adequate powers are given to the Secretary of State to exclude land from the register. I speak now not only about aerodromes but other national communications, security and economic assets, and my amendment is broadly framed as a consequence.

Under Clause 137 and proposed new Section 14A(1) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 the Secretary of State could prescribe land which can be included, but no power is proposed in primary legislation for the Secretary of State to exclude specific categories of land from the register. This could permit unrestricted housing development that would have a detrimental effect on national infrastructure, security and economic activity. My concern is that the Bill as currently drafted omits to provide the Secretary of State with clear and specific powers to protect the national interest in important matters. Regulations that “may” be issued and guidance that “may” be followed are not adequate to protect essential national infrastructure that is often already under serious development pressure.

In addition, the local registers of land available for development were first prepared under the previous planning regime and may still include land that should have been given special consideration under the NPPF. My proposals would amend Clause 137 and new Section 14A(1) so as to give the Secretary of State powers to exclude from the register land which is considered to be of significant value for national infrastructure, economic purposes or otherwise the subject of national policy and interest. It must be recognised that these areas of land have current or potential economic value for the national communications infrastructure which may outweigh the benefits of housing development.

Amendment 97B defines for planning purposes aerodromes operating as aerodromes for more than 28 days in a calendar year as those which are specifically excluded; in other words, those that do not operate for more 28 days in a calendar year would be deemed obsolete. Exclusion from the register does not of course mean that the site cannot be registered. It requires only that any proposed development should go through the normal planning allocation process with full consultation. I beg to move.

Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington (CB): My Lords, I support the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick. I also have to declare my interests as president for many years of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and as a keen private pilot myself. I will be brief. The noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, set out eloquently the difficulties that general aviation is facing. There are one or two issues that I think need to be stressed.

General aviation gives to this country an essential network and it is in essence vital to the public interest. It provides an infrastructure for travelling that is second to none if one is privileged to use it. It also does immense work in terms of training professional pilots. This country, along with America, is one of the world’s

22 Mar 2016 : Column 2315

centres for training professional pilots who go on into the commercial world and other areas such as the air ambulance service, the police and so on. Commercial concerns have been illustrated. General aviation in this country brings in £3 billion a year, which is a considerable sum of money and reinforces the importance of general aviation. Also, there are many amateur pilots who love flying for the sake of flying. They love the leisure pursuit of getting away from the troubles that inflict the world we know when we are walking on the ground; it is a delight to get into the air.

It is essential that the consultation process covers issues that involve the public interest. Over the past 10 years, many airfields have closed, sometimes for good reason. Surely, as my noble friend Lord Rotherwick has underlined, there has to be a consultation process that involves the people who give their time and professional input and will have their careers put on the line if some of these airports are closed.

8.45 pm

Lord Best (CB): My Lords, I will speak to Amendments 94A, 95A and 101BA, in my name and those of the noble Baronesses, Lady Whitaker and Lady Hodgson of Abinger, and the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones. I declare my interest as an honorary fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects and as a vice-president of the Town and Country Planning Association. Such are the mysteries of amendment groupings that I can see only the most tenuous connection between these amendments and the very interesting amendments on aerodromes from the noble Lords, Lord Rotherwick and Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington.

Amendments 94A and 95A are intended to ensure that the admirable ambition to build a million homes over the life of this Parliament—the quest for quantity—does not come at the expense of quality, of building decent homes that contribute positively to their environment rather than spoiling it. In considering these issues, it has been hugely helpful to have before us the report from the Lords Select Committee on National Policy for the Built Environment, Building Better Places. I congratulate the chair of the committee, the noble Baroness, Lady O’Cathain, her committee members, clerk and advisers.

The Government’s permission in principle concept aims to speed up planning and help housebuilders know quickly where they stand, but it brings with it the risk that it is interpreted as, “We want you to get going and we are not much concerned about what your development looks like, how it fits into its local setting, or whether it contributes anything to the community where it happens”. Disregarding design has two huge dangers. First, that what is built becomes deeply disliked by those who move in—suffering the fate of those dreadful 1960s and 1970s estates that have subsequently been demolished. Secondly, that the drive for more housebuilding, which is indeed desperately needed, is stymied by widespread public opinion that quite justifiably concludes that new homes are a blight not an asset. If design of housing developments is awful—as has not infrequently been the case, I am afraid to say—then public opinion will ensure that the hopes for more housebuilding never materialise.

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These amendments should protect the Government’s ambitions for more new homes by making sure that the new permission in principle is not a handicap. It must not be a licence to ignore the Government’s own, helpful, National Planning Policy Framework which sets the parameters—in paragraph 59—for decent design. The NPPF contains a very good set of guidelines covering considerations such as incorporating green and public space in new developments, responding to local character and history, respecting local surroundings and materials, and so on.

I know from experience that objectors to new schemes, suspecting they will be as ghastly as the worst examples of abysmal new private sector estates, can become supporters and advocates when they see good design shine through. To take a couple of examples: at the opening of the Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust’s village scheme in Hovingham, North Yorkshire, a local councillor said to me, “I was one of the strongest opponents of this development: I thought it would spoil the village. How wrong I was. It will not only provide excellent homes for local families but it also adds to the attractiveness of the village”.

My second example is the major new Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust scheme of 540 homes on the east side of York. This was subject to seemingly endless opposition, but has won over many of its critics with its high-quality design and emphasis on sustainability. A master plan by PRP Architects provides for extensive green space and play areas, homes designed by Richard Partington to an award-winning design of arts and crafts for the 21st century, and extensive environmental enhancements. We can expect public support for the big housebuilding programme the nation needs only if the new homes follow best practice in place-making. To make this happen, local planning authorities must remain able to ensure good-quality design. We know how stretched authorities have become following big reductions in their budgets; it is not good to see this key link in the development chain weakened at just the moment when housebuilding is set to grow rapidly. If planners are to maintain their role as the line of defence against a decline in quality, they need some legislative support to fortify their position.

Amendments 94A, 95A and 101BA propose that the new permission in principle, which means in effect that planning consent becomes as of right for sites in the local plan, in neighbourhood plans and on registered brownfield land, should be conditional on following some straightforward, site-specific design guidance. This says to the developer: “Go ahead in the expectation of getting planning consent, but bear in mind our core design requirements for this particular site”. This approach would draw on the good guidance in the NPPF and give clarity to the housebuilder without adding a lot of bureaucracy. When the local planning authority considers detailed planning permission at the new second stage, which involves the consideration of technical details, compliance with the earlier site-specific design guidance would be checked. Thereby, the arrangements in these amendments square an important circle, speeding up the planning process but emphasising the design requirements that each site should take on board. I commend them to your Lordships.

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Baroness Whitaker: My Lords, I declare an interest as an honorary fellow of the RIBA. I shall speak to Amendments 94A and 95A, so persuasively introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Best, and Amendment 101BA, in my name. The noble Baroness, Lady Hodgson of Abinger, who regrets she cannot be here, also supports these important amendments, as does the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones. So there is all-party support for amendments which are intended to ensure that, in the radical changes to planning processes envisaged by permission in principle, the all-important role of good design is guaranteed. Why is it all-important? Because good design has a fundamental effect on well-being, environmental quality, and the long-term economic value of buildings and competitiveness of places, and because it is at risk in the new procedure proposed.

We heard in the Select Committee on National Policy for the Built Environment, which reported on 19 February, powerful evidence that health, employment prospects, access to services and amenities, were all improved by design which respected good place-making. The Minister responsible, Brandon Lewis, said to us that,

“an increased focus on good quality design could help us to deliver more homes, at a quicker pace, which communities can feel proud of”.

Planning authorities are the custodians of their local community’s requirements for the right design for their place. To substitute for their discretion an as-of-right regime is to risk issuing a blank cheque for the design of the development. It means that the all-important factors of height, density, landscape, layout, connections for transport and access, to name but a few, need not be considered from the outset. But it is at the outset that they should be thought about. These are not matters of detail, as the Bill would have us believe, but fundamental development parameters that determine the suitability of the development, both to its place and to the needs and aspirations of communities. This is how the National Planning Policy Framework—a very good achievement by the Government—envisages the role of design, and it is the right one. Without consideration of these matters of place-making, how will communities know how developments impact on surrounding areas, on the environment and on the sense of place? Yet they are being asked to give their approval without due regard to these matters. This is surely a recipe for nimbyism.

These amendments all reinforce the essential consideration to be made right at the beginning of a development process, in accordance with the NPPF, of what sort of place will result. The site-specific guidance need only set out the fundamental design requirements and should be relatively easy and quick to prepare, either by the local authority or by the developer. It can be done for an area as much as for individual sites, but it would be a tremendous advantage. It would be an invaluable way to strengthen the hand of planning authorities now that they have been so hollowed out by local authority cuts in staff and expertise. Our recommendation in the Select Committee report is prefaced by the sentence:

“We are anxious to ensure that moves towards a permission in principle do not undermine the capacity of local authorities to develop, design and integrate key sites in a way that ensures that they function effectively and respond to local needs and aspirations”.

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Finally, the implementation of these amendments would make it easier for local communities to accept the development that is necessary to provide the housing we need, as the noble Lord, Lord Best, said. They can involve public engagement early on in the process as well as provide an opportunity to establish what is important to local people. All the evidence suggests that a little more effort spent establishing the key principles at the start can greatly smooth and shorten the process of planning and development overall. I urge the Minister to respect her Government’s NPPF and accept them.

Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, I rise very briefly as a member of the Select Committee to support Amendments 94A and 95A, so ably spoken to by both the noble Lord, Lord Best, and the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, and simply to draw the Minister’s attention to a couple of paragraphs in the Select Committee report which directly bear on the planning-in-principle point. Paragraph 143 says:

“These proposals have caused some concern. It was suggested that ‘principle’ and ‘detail’ in the planning system were closely related”.

One particular witness is quoted as saying:

“This negates the whole basis of the fact that detail and principle in planning are intimately related. How is it possible to give permission for something in principle, without understanding its detailed design or flood risk mitigation or sustainable urban drainage or proportion of social housing? I could go on. It misunderstands the intellectual process of making planning decisions”.

So the Select Committee came to the conclusion in paragraph 148:

“We are anxious to ensure that moves towards a permission in principle do not undermine the capacity of local authorities to develop, design and integrate key sites in a way that ensures that they function effectively and respond to local needs and aspirations. The relationship between principle and detail is important in the planning system. We recommend that the Government should carefully consider the impact its reforms could have upon this relationship. As a minimum, it is important that the process of granting permission in principle and Technical Details Consent should give due regard to design quality, sustainability, archaeology, heritage and all the other key components of place-making that would normally be required for the granting of planning permission”.

This amendment precisely reflects those concerns and I very much hope the Minister will have due regard to them.

The Duke of Somerset (CB): My Lords, I would also like to speak to Amendments 94A and 95A. I mentioned the importance of design in my Second Reading speech and I return to the subject in this grouping.

9 pm

Amendment 94A seeks that, for permission in principle to be granted, paragraph 59 of the National Planning Policy Framework should be in place and adhered to. I am sure that we have all seen examples of identikit, mass-market estate housing so often crammed in cheek by jowl with its neighbour. Small windows, poor roof design and a lack of adequate insulation are the main hallmarks of this all-too-prevalent building type, and often the houses are far too tightly packed together.

Equally, I have seen more aesthetically pleasing new build, some even having chimneys. Houses without chimneys need a great deal of extra care in their design

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if they are not going to appear completely jarring. Many people living in the countryside still like to have the ability to have an open fire to burn wood or coal and, with appropriate interior draft doors built into the construction, it should not compromise insulation efficiency.

Fenestration makes or breaks many house designs. It can be upright or rectangular. Although I have long railed against plastic windows, new techniques and colour incorporation allow much nicer results, as well as contributing to longevity and far less maintenance.

Landscape and layout—in other words, the maximum number of units that can be put on the site—together with the design of the individual homes must be large drivers of residents’ well-being and even their health. A parallel can be drawn with the slums of the post-war building era when civic pride was disregarded. Good design will also reflect in capital values years later.

It is fashionable in some quarters to demand sustainability. This is all well and good, but it can be taken too far, for example, where little or no parking provision is made and residents are expected always to use the bus or their bicycle. This is unrealistic.

Our planning regime is by now surely sophisticated enough to incorporate good design from the start. All factors from the holistic design of the site down to the design codes of individual homes should be pre-approved with due regard for the vernacular of the area. This important point is made in paragraph 60 of the code. Such progress would find favour with existing neighbours and lead them to be far less hostile to any new development, knowing that it would not impinge on their amenity and aspirations too adversely.

It is vital that permission in principle incorporates good design from the outset. Good design does not have to cost more. It just takes more effort and care at the beginning of the process. I support these amendments.

Baroness Andrews: My Lords, my noble friends Lord Beecham and Lord Collins and I have an amendment in this group. It reflects much of what has already been said. I commend the other amendments in this group. Our amendment puts concern about sustainable development and design further forward in the process of what goes on the brownfield register and what we expect from brownfield sites. It is important to consider putting it at this point in the Bill because the provisions setting up the brownfield register have no explicit place-making or sustainable development obligations in relation to land included in the register. It seems unfortunate to miss this opportunity, so this amendment attempts to address this by placing a high-level obligation in the Bill to ensure that brownfield land on the brownfield register contributes to sustainable places.

The purpose of the brownfield register is essentially to speed up the provision of housing. The Chancellor has described it as introducing a zonal system, like that seen in the United States. The argument is that this will reduce unnecessary delay and uncertainty for the developer. We have debated aspects of this today, and I am not quite sure why this should follow, especially since we now have 200,000 sites where development has been granted but no building has begun. I am

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surprised that some more simple way was not found to accelerate development on those sites rather than go through the business of introducing a completely new idea into the planning system.

My concern with the housing zones idea is that there is a chance that they will be just that—acres of housing, as the noble Duke, the Duke of Somerset, has just indicated, which are put up as quickly as possible and, by implication, as cheaply as possible, and which as he said will replicate the worst sort of housing we saw in the 1950s and 1960s in the housing estates which are now being knocked down. They remind me of nothing so much as the housing estates which were put up in south Wales on the tops and the sides of mountains in the 1950s and 1960s, where so little thought was given to the needs of those communities, which needed a bus to get down to the town in the valley, that there was barely a shop, a tree or a bus stop on them. Those estates have been problematic for many years, despite good communities living there. That sort of barren housing estate in this country, as well as ugly town centres and infrastructure, has given us so many problems.

The Minister may say that this will be covered because, in new Section 14A(7)(b), the regulations will require LPAs in setting up a register to have regard to “national policies and advice”. That may be so, but that could still be reinforced by sticking my amendment on the end of it to lift the idea that sustainable development and design is at the heart of our expectations for these new developments.

What worries me is that when we come to the technical consultation it does not say that any development must be sustainable. It says that the sites must be deliverable and available, that there will be a realistic prospect of houses within five years and that they will be “viably developed”. In the absence of any strong reference to the paramount need to ensure the sustainability of the site, the issues around viability become very vexed. We know from our discussions in the Select Committee just how vexed they are. In evidence we were told that viability is now the key element in discussions between local authorities and developers over specific planning proposals. It was suggested, for example, that the absence of an agreed methodology means a range of different approaches in different areas as to what makes a development viable, and raises the possibility of uncertainty and delay as well as exploitation by developers seeking to avoid planning obligations. Anything we can do in the Bill to improve on that situation to deter that sort of behaviour we should try to do.

Such was the concern at the evidence we received that the Committee recommended that the NPPF and the planning guidance make even clearer than they do at the moment that the process of viability assessment should not be used to enable the unreasonable use of viability assessments to avoid the funding of affordable housing and core infrastructure. I therefore urge the Minister to look at the recommendations in the report, test them out against sustainability before she proceeds further with this part of the Bill and to put in the Bill a clear statement that the brownfield register must have regard to sustainable development and design before the Government approach the notion of viability.

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Lord Campbell-Savours: My Lords, I will speak just a few words on Amendment 98A. It is quite odd that in this debate no one has referred to the biggest driver of ugly housing and design in the United Kingdom. It is not bad architects, problems in planning law or disinterested local authorities but the price of land. In many areas that is what determines what houses look like and how they are placed on these sites. The noble Duke referred to mass-market box housing that is crammed in. That is what you get when you have high-priced land. All these debates that are taking place take me back to my amendment—it seems as if I moved it six months ago—on the price of land and the need to build on the green belt as the population expands.

In America. people can buy a house for a fraction of what they pay in the United Kingdom. The reason is very simple: land is cheaper. They do not need fancy architects or planners to tell them to do it. People want better-designed houses because they can afford them. The driver here is the price of land, which is driving millions of people out of the housing market. The best way to deal with this problem is to find a way of securing land at sensible prices, and these problems will evaporate.

Lord Beecham: My Lords, I hesitate to disagree with my noble friend because I entirely agree with him that the price of land is a significant issue, and it has risen to an unconscionable extent in recent years. However, I do not think that is a good enough reason to acquit the industry of poor design and poor building. Good design and well-built properties are not incompatible with a reasonable price, even allowing for the undoubted problems of land prices. I am afraid that volume builders over the years, when prices were not as high, have not produced good-quality properties, paid little attention to issues such as energy conservation—never mind the aesthetics. My noble friend is being overindulgent towards the industry while making a very valid point about land prices.

I hope the Minister will think about the land price issue. My noble friend Lord McKenzie muttered the words “Develop land tax” to me as I rose, and that is not a bad idea, to be reverted to. That apart, I hope she will stress the need for good design as part of the Government’s approach to housing and part of its interest when looking at the technical side of permitted development. I would not like to see carte blanche given to the kind of builders who put up pretty depressing properties, as the noble Duke, the Duke of Somerset, referred to before. We should not give them any excuse. They should be made, in the context of the new system, to provide aesthetic quality and energy-efficient quality, among other things, as part of the deal.

Lord True: My Lords, we are reserving remarks about the register until later, so I am puzzled about the register and the point of it and what we will actually do with it when we as a local authority have it, as I said earlier. I agree with what has been said about design, but I also hear what has been said about sustainability. The only thing I would say is that some of the ugliest properties that I have ever seen passed the highest sustainability tests—the wonderful eco-house that is completely jarring in its setting. There are tensions

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between design and sustainability. That of course leads me back to local rather than national determination. We have to tease out some of these things before putting them in the Bill.

Baroness Williams of Trafford: My Lords, turning first to Amendments 92C and 97B, I fully understand the desire of my noble friend Lord Rotherwick to protect land which is an important part of national infrastructure, including the network of aerodromes, in which I am aware the noble Lord has a particular interest. I will briefly set out why adequate protection for these sites will remain without the need for the amendments proposed.

To be clear, Clause 136 will enable permission in principle to be granted on sites that local planning authorities, parishes and neighbourhood forums consider to be acceptable in line with local or national policy. The National Planning Policy Framework is very clear that, when planning for airports and airfields, they should take account of their growth and role in serving business, leisure, training and emergency needs. Therefore, if a local authority considers that a site is not suitable for housing-led development in line with national and local policy, it need not allocate it for such use in its local plan or go further to grant it permission in principle.

9.15 pm

I understand the concerns which underlie Amendment 97B. However, new Section 14A already includes a power which would enable the Secretary of State to exclude sites from a register. Decisions on sites to be included would need to have regard to national policy and guidance, including that relating to aerodromes. Sites in existing use, such as an aerodrome, are unlikely to be considered as available for housing under the assessment criteria we propose. If the noble Lord is agreeable, I would like to resolve with the sector any concerns as part of our ongoing consultation process on our proposals for secondary legislation.

Amendments 94A and 95A have raised important points about ensuring that the planning system continues to secure good-quality design. I understand the desire to add these amendments but will briefly explain how permission in principle will deliver well-designed places without them.

Perhaps I may set out an example of how I see permission in principle working alongside a robust policy on design in a local plan. A local authority may decide to grant permission in principle for a mixed-use scheme for between 30 and 50 residential units together with retail space. Alongside the permission in principle, it could set out policy-based expectations relating to the lay-out, density and other aspects of the detailed design it wants to see come forward as technical details consent—I think that this goes to the point raised by the noble Baroness, and I again urge noble Lords who are keen to shape this policy to respond to the consultation. The authority could even refer to a pre-prepared design code for a site. If an applicant submitted a scheme for 50 residential units including retail space but proposed a wholly inappropriate design, the authority could refuse a technical details consent.

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Limiting permission in principle to uses, location and amount of development will allow the basic acceptability of a site for development to be established early in the process. This will give greater certainty to applicants upfront and reduce repeated work later in the process. Expressing detailed design through policy as part of a permission in principle in the way that I have described sets out clear expectations while allowing some flexibility for a scheme to evolve between the permission in principle and technical details consent stages. The amendments would set an unnecessarily inflexible approach to permission in principle.

Amendment 98, proposed by the noble Lords, Lord Beecham and Lord Kennedy, and the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, would require local authority decisions on registers to consider sustainable development and good design. I understand their concerns and hope that I can reassure them that the amendment is unnecessary. The NPPF makes it clear that sustainable development should be at the heart of both plan making and decision-taking. The framework also emphasises the importance of good design and states that it is,

“a key aspect of sustainable development … and should contribute positively to making places better for people”.

It follows, therefore, that in making decisions about sites to be entered on registers, including sites that are granted permission in principle, local planning authorities will already take account of planning policies on sustainable development and good design.

Amendment 101BA would place in the Bill a duty which local authorities already carry out. While I acknowledge the commitment to the built environment and place-making, I believe that the conditions to facilitate well-designed development are in place and that place-making is taken into consideration in planning decisions.

I would also like to outline the various ways in which the Government are promoting good design, but, given the lateness of the hour and if noble Lords will indulge me, I will write a separate note on that.

I take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, about the price of land. With a land-mass such as America, there is a lot more land for many fewer people; development is simply less dense. He knows my views on some of the proposals that he has made, but, with those comments, I ask noble Lords not to press their amendments.

Lord Rotherwick: My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for her comprehensive reply and her offer to talk further with the general aviation sector. I, of course, was hoping for something more—something that could be written into the Bill; perhaps I was rashly optimistic. I will take away her reply and contemplate it during the Easter Recess. I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 92C withdrawn.

Amendments 92D to 92HA not moved.

Amendment 92HB

Moved by Lord Shipley

92HB: Clause 136, page 67, leave out lines 7 to 18 and insert—

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“(2) “Qualifying document” means the development plan or a register as defined in section 14A of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 (register of land).”

Lord Shipley: My Lords, Amendment 92HB would rewrite new Section 59A(2) that is inserted into the Town and Country Planning Act by this Bill. I thank the Royal Town Planning Institute for its advice on this amendment. As we know, the Government have indicated that they intend to use local plans and the proposed brownfield register as the vehicles for the new system of permission in principle. This should be made clearer in the Bill, and that is the subject of this amendment.

There are good reasons to limit permission in principle to sites in local plans. Since these have been subject to public consultation and public examination, there would seem to be a strong case for reducing any further handling of the principle of development in the interests of accelerating housing development and, just as importantly, demonstrating the importance of the plan.

However, I think that the Bill should limit permission in principle to sites in the proposed brownfield register. If there is to be such a register—and that is the Government’s intention—we need to know what kind of register it is to be, and whether any other document can be drawn up to grant permission in principle that would run counter to local democratic accountability. This amendment would provide for the qualifying document only to be a local plan or a register of the kind being introduced by new Section 14A.

This amendment would not in itself limit the permission in principle to the brownfield register, but it does limit it to local plans and the new Section 14A registers, which is a great improvement on the Bill. Secondary legislation should then be used to limit new Section 14A registers to the brownfield register. This is because using the Bill to define brownfield may in practice prove an unwieldy mechanism and would actually be better in secondary legislation.

I hope that this amendment is clear. I beg to move.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Morris of Bolton) (Con): My Lords, if Amendment 92HB is agreed to, I cannot call Amendments 92J to 92M inclusive for reasons of pre-emption.

Baroness Williams of Trafford: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, for his comments on Amendment 92HB. The Government have been clear from the beginning that they consider the qualifying documents capable of granting permission in principle to be limited to development plan documents, neighbourhood plans and brownfield registers. But I agree that it might provide more certainty and assurances to the industry and the key stakeholders to go further and specify these documents in the Bill in the way the noble Lord has proposed. I am happy to take the issue away and look at how we can draft an appropriate government amendment on Report that carefully sets out the documents that are capable of granting permission in principle. With these firm assurances, I ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

On Amendment 92M, it is extremely important that the wording in the definition of “qualifying document” in new Section 59A(2)(d) remains. This enables permission

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in principle to be granted for the particulars of the development set out in a site allocation. We currently intend that these prescribed particulars will be limited to use, location and amount of development, and a qualifying document must include that detail if the site is to benefit from the grant of a permission in principle. We are currently consulting on the matters that can be granted permission in principle and will be setting these out in secondary legislation. With those comments, I ask the noble Lord not to press this amendment.

Lord Shipley: My Lords, I am grateful for the Minister’s reassurance on the matter and look forward to learning more when we get to Report. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 92HB withdrawn.

Amendments 92J to 95A not moved.

Amendment 95B had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.

Amendments 95BA to 96ZB not moved.

Amendment 96ZBA

Moved by Baroness Andrews

96ZBA: Clause 136, page 68, line 26, at end insert —

“(2ZZD) An application for technical details consent in relation to permission in principle will be subject to section 61W (consultation before applying for planning permission) and section 65 (notice etc of applications for planning permission) of this Act.”

Baroness Andrews: My Lords, I am moving this amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Beecham. I admit that I am feeling my way on this, because essentially it is a probing amendment to discover what, if any, legislative provisions on public consultation will apply to permission in principle. This is an opportunity for the Minister to spell out exactly how this will work. We had a bit discussion on this, which was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, who seemed to think that because the consultation process as part of the planning application in the plan will apply, that might stimulate people to take a greater interest in the local plan. I am sceptical about that, because so often it is hard to engage with the timetable, detail and process of plan making, whether a local or a neighbourhood plan. It would be useful to have some detail and clarity around that part of the process.

However, I am really interested in what happens when we get to the technical detail stage, which is where my amendment kicks in. I am raising this because I am genuinely concerned. The technical consultation document states in paragraph 2.35:

“Before an application for technical details consent is determined, we do not propose to require by secondary legislation that local planning authorities consult with the community and others before making a decision”.

They welcome our views on this. I can give the Minister my view now: it would be a mistake not to have a public consultation in the course of the technical details stage.

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9.30 pm

I give her a very specific local example. We have had a major development planned for Lewes on an old industrial site—a classic brownfield site. We have spent the past two years considering various options. People became engaged essentially at the point where we could see what the options looked like in terms of density and design, and felt like in terms of walkability, the layout of the new river frontage and the public space that would be provided. There was huge public interest. The developers organised a very good consultation process and, Lewes being the sort of town that it is, everybody went and had a great deal to say about it all. A great deal was changed in the process. When you have a medieval market town like Lewes, which is typical of many, and you suddenly get a massive extension alongside a brownfield site, there are big issues about whether it is compatible with the character and sustainability of the town. It impacts at every level.

That is exactly what I am asking for: will the Minister tell us at what stages there will be public consultation, what provision there will be and whether local authorities will indeed have discretion, or is this something that we might want to return to on Report? I beg to move.

Lord Greaves: My Lords, the effects, implications and consequences of the planning in principle and technical details regime for consultation with ordinary members of the public, whether they are residents, members of interested groups or whatever, is one of the more alarming parts of the proposed PIP system. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, and the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, on tabling Amendment 96ZBA.

My Amendment 100ZAZC is about notifications and publicity. This is something that we need to get to the bottom of before this matter leaves your Lordships’ House—although I do not imagine before it leaves Committee—and not wait for the consultation. What is set out in the technical consultation document is not very satisfactory. I will explain why in a minute.

My amendment would insert a new subsection into Section 65 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. It says:

“A development order which makes provision under subsection (1)”,

in setting up the new permission in principle system,

“must also provide that … any requirements relating to applications for outline planning permission also apply to applications for planning in principle”.

The technical document suggests that that is the Government’s view, too, although I can see huge problems with consulting residents over permission in principle, because they will come up with all kinds of comments, objections and concerns that will be ruled out of order as nothing to do with the very limited parameters of permission in principle. There will be problems, but I think that what the Government propose to do is okay as it stands.

Any requirements relating to applications for approval of reserved matters also apply to applications for technical details consent. This is a matter for alarm and I will come to it in a minute. My amendment states:

“when compiling a register under section 14A of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004”,

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—that is, a brownfield register—

“the local planning authority must have regard to the requirements for notices, publicity and the issue of certificates that apply to applications for planning permission and carry out procedures to the same effect”.

If a local authority is setting up a brownfield register, and if at least part of that register is going automatically to grant permission in principle, the requirements for putting a notice on a piece of brownfield land and writing to immediate neighbours—or whatever it is that the local planning authority would do if this were an ordinary planning application—must apply. If they do not know it is happening, by the time it has happened it will be too late. It will not be the same as a local plan, where there are at least general attempts to publicise it and to get people to say what they think about it. In the case of just putting a piece of land on a brownfield register, the systems for telling people what is happening and giving them the chance to have their say must be the same as if this were a planning permission.

My amendment continues:

“a local planning authority that is proposing to make site allocations for use of land in a local development plan that would, if made, result in the granting of permission in principle, must carry out notifications and publicity equivalent to that which is required when an application is made for outline planning permission.””.

Earlier, the Minister said there was evidence that lots of people were getting involved in local plans nowadays and that that was very successful. It is true at neighbourhood plan level, but I do not believe it is true at local development plan level—a process which tends to take place remote from most people. Unless people are told directly that a particular piece of land is going to be allocated for housing in the local plan, they will not get involved and then, by the time they want to be involved, it will be too late.

So what is wrong with the technical consultation? The government document reads:

“Before an application for technical details consent is determined, we do not propose to require by secondary legislation that local planning authorities consult with the community and others before making a decision”.

It goes on to say that local authorities can do so if they wish:

“While we think that it is important for appropriate further engagement to take place at the technical details consent stage, we consider that centrally mandating what should be done risks unnecessarily repeating engagement and takes away an important local flexibility”.

This is very dangerous. It means that a local planning authority simply will not have to do all the usual neighbour notification and public consultation that it has to for a planning application, even if it is a reserved matter. If this happens, it will mean that a lot of people will not know what is being proposed and will not have the opportunity to have their say. It will reduce very substantially the effective involvement in local planning applications that takes place at the moment. I hope that the Government will seriously reconsider this.

Baroness Williams of Trafford: My Lords, I turn first to Amendment 96ZBA. The NPPF and our planning practice guidance stress the importance of early pre-app engagement. Under the current planning application

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process, applicants often voluntarily engage with local communities when developing their proposals. This can help ensure that development is locally supported and makes for a more positive application process. In the same way, applicants will be able to engage the community, as they often do, in their detailed design at technical details consent stage.

We introduced compulsory pre-app consultation for onshore wind development above an appropriate threshold through provisions in the Localism Act 2011. This was to ensure that early community engagement took place to improve the quality of proposed onshore wind development, helping to ameliorate local community concerns and perceptions towards these types of projects. We have not extended the compulsory pre-app development to any other type of planning permission, and therefore I do not see the case for extending it to technical details consent.

I assure the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, that we envisage that the technical details consent stage will draw on the existing planning application process, including arrangements for publicity. We are currently consulting on the application process for technical details consent. We welcome the views and expertise of noble Lords to help us to develop arrangements set out in secondary legislation. As regards the consultation on technical details consent, we do not explicitly propose to require that local authorities consult on an application for technical details consent, but we are seeking views on encouraging consultation to take place through statutory guidance to the extent that local authorities consider appropriate views.

Amendment 100ZAZC would add publicity and consultation requirements before a grant of permission in principle. I hope that the noble Lord will be reassured to hear that we intend to set out publicity and consultation requirements before a grant of permission in principle. The Bill already provides for us to set this out in secondary legislation. This will be the case whether permission in principle is granted through a locally prepared plan or on application.

We are also currently consulting on the application process for technical details consent. As I set out in relation to Amendment 96ZB, we envisage that technical details consent will draw from the existing planning application process. However, because the permission in principle followed by the technical details consent is a new route in obtaining planning permission, it would be inappropriate to place a requirement in the Bill that fully duplicated the current outline and reserved matters stage. As I mentioned, we will set out the application process for technical details consent in secondary legislation once our current consultation closes. I would be extremely interested to hear noble Lords’ views on how to strike the balance between the permission in principle and the technical details consent stage.

Amendment 96F is intended to ensure that local communities and others are consulted by local authorities before land is included in their registers. I understand the noble Lord’s concern and agree that an appropriate level of consultation will be important when authorities are preparing and updating their registers. However, local authorities will be expected to assess the suitability

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of all relevant sites for inclusion in their registers. As part of that process, we will also expect them to identify which of those sites they consider suitable for permission in principle for housing. Where an authority proposes to grant permission in principle for housing on sites in registers, consultation will be mandatory. As I said earlier, regulations will set out the procedures to be followed. Where authorities do not intend to grant permission in principle for a site included in a register, we propose to give them discretion to consult their local communities and interested parties about those sites. This approach recognises that local planning authorities are best placed to determine whether consultation would be helpful, and it provides authorities with flexibility to adapt their approach in particular circumstances. I hope that with those comments, noble Lords will feel free not to press their amendments.

Baroness Andrews: My Lords, I must confess that I am a bit confused. I will have to read Hansard carefully. At the moment, we have a pre-application process which is robust and successful, and local authorities engage with that successfully, because, essentially, a good development has the support of the local community. These will be massive housing developments in some cases and they will require the local communities to be happy with what will be on offer. Of course the local authority should make the decision but I hope that we would have some discipline around this so that, as the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, says, we will not go down a path where less and less influence is exercised by people who have to live alongside or even within these developments.

Having said that, of course I will withdraw the amendment, but this is a very important part of the Bill. I am not certain that I like the idea of your Lordships being entirely responsible for the secondary legislation, as we seem to be increasingly asked to be. We need to know how people who will have to administer this measure feel about it. That is why we need to know local authority views on these things. Clearly, we will think again about the measure before Report. I may seek a meeting with the noble Baroness to see whether we can tease out this issue with some degree of certainty, because it is very important. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 96ZBA withdrawn.

Amendments 96ZC to 96ZF not moved.

Debate on whether Clause 136 should stand part of the Bill.

9.45 pm

Lord Greaves: My Lords, I tabled this as a sweep-up, in case we had missed something. I am not sure there is anything, but there may be one or two things. I was going to put it in a group, but the Labour Party said they wanted to keep it separate. Perhaps they have got something to say.

A couple of questions have occurred to me during the debate. One of the curiosities of getting planning permission is that anybody can apply for it for any piece of land. Is that also going to apply to permission in principle? That is something for the Minister to think about.

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The second question is slightly more substantive. We are told that permission in principle is just for housing, in the Bill or anywhere else. There may be other things associated with housing development, such as shops or local offices, but so long as it is housing led that is okay. In local development plans, allocations of land are usually for housing. In most cases, they do not say “housing with shops”. When it comes to applying for planning permission, if people want a little area in the middle of the housing with two or three shops, everyone says that is wonderful and gives permission for it. How will permission in principle work in terms of categories? Will it have to be in the local plan, or the brownfield site register, that it is housing with associated ancillary things? If so, categories in local plans are going to have to be substantially revised. I just thought of that question and it seems to be a practical thing that needs to be looked at.

Baroness Williams of Trafford: I confirm to the noble Lord that it would have to be categorised as housing-led development. For permission in principle to be granted, it would have to be categorised by size, location and type of development. I hope that reassures the noble Lord.

I hope that, through the course of this evening, I have been able to demonstrate that, rather than removing the role of local authorities and communities, the true aim of the measure is to help them in developing their plans. I have given assurances that the choice of where and to what permission in principle is granted is a local one, taken by local authorities or neighbourhood forums through their existing plan-making process. I hope the noble Lord now feels able to withdraw his opposition to Clause 136.

Clause 136 agreed.

Amendment 96A not moved.

Schedule 12 agreed.

Clause 137: Local planning authority to keep register of particular kinds of land

Amendment 96B

Moved by Lord Greaves

96B: Clause 137, page 68, leave out lines 37 and 38 and insert “is brownfield land”

Lord Greaves: My Lords, this clause is effectively about brownfield registers and we have already covered some of the points I will make in moving Amendment 96B and speaking to the other amendments in my name.

Amendment 96B probes whether other registers are being considered and, if so, what they are and whether they will grant permission in principle like brownfield registers.

Amendment 96E probes how a register being in “two or more parts” will work. We have been informed that one part of the register will be of brownfield sites in general and the other of brownfield sites which are suitable for housing and will therefore get permission in principle. However, I am not sure how that will work and whether there are other distinctions or divisions.

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Amendment 96G puts on record that nonsense sometimes creeps into legislation, though I do not blame the Minister or her colleagues on the Front Bench for this. Clause 137 says that regulations will,

“confer a discretion on a local planning authority, in prescribed circumstances, not to enter in the register land of a prescribed description that the authority would otherwise be required to enter in it”.

I have not got a clue what that means—perhaps the Minister can tell us in plain English. Indeed, perhaps the Minister can prescribe what it means.

Amendment 97C refers to an even more nonsensical provision in the Bill. Again, I do not blame anybody on the Government Front Bench or in the Chamber, but new Section 14A(6) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 reads:

“The regulations may confer power on the Secretary of State to require a local planning authority … (a) to prepare or publish the register, or to bring the register up to date, by a specified date; … (b) to provide the Secretary of State with specified information, in a specified form and by a specified date, in relation to the register. … In this subsection ‘specified’ means specified by the Secretary of State”.

I really think we ought to do better than that, and this amendment is a protest.

Amendment 98A probes the definition of “brownfield land”. I am not suggesting that my definition is better than the NPPF’s “previously developed land”, but defining it is important. As the Minister said the other day, this is a hobby of mine. Clearly, brownfield land is land that has previously been developed. I am suggesting that it is also land which,

“is not in use or is being used in such a way that the local planning authority considers that a change of use would be appropriate”.

There is an interesting question there as to how far previously used land that is now being used for a less intensive purpose—for example, an old mill that is now being used as a scrapyard—is classified as brownfield land and how far it is just land that is being used for something different.

Amendment 98A also refers to land,

“not of high environmental or amenity value”,

which just parrots what my noble friend Lady Parminter said more eloquently earlier. Importantly, it goes on to say that this,

“does not mean land which has reverted to a condition in which its use and appearance is that of a greenfield site”.

It used to be almost impossible to reclassify brownfield land as greenfield land. The NPPF came along and its wording is actually quite useful in this respect, but when local authorities are going to be put under a duty to provide a register of brownfield land, including brownfield land that might be suitable for housing, is land still brownfield if it is has grown over and been turned into a wood by natural means or if somebody has taken it over and is grazing sheep on it?

The important thing is that, when compiling a brownfield register, local authorities should be able to make their own judgment about this and not be forced to put on a list of potential housing sites land that has reverted to a wild state, a semi-wild state or some greenfield-type of use and which provides a local amenity. For example, in the ward I represent, there is

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the site of an old chapel where I can remember the chapel still standing, which is now being registered as a little village green, but that is the result of a series of actions on that land in the past 30 to 40 years and it is now being used as an amenity for residents. There needs to be a system where local authorities are not forced to say, “Yes, this used to be brownfield land and therefore it has to have housing on it now”, even if that is not the local view. I beg to move.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees: My Lords, if Amendment 97D in this group is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment 98 for reasons of pre-emption.

Lord True: My Lords, I will be brief and I will not repeat the rather impassioned speech I made another day on why these wretched registers cannot be more dynamic and give local authorities a bit more power and action to get on with the job.

The thing I am rather curious about is: what happens as time progresses? If we are to list on a register land that is said to be suitable for housing and over time there is a great demand for free schools and population growth in urban areas—it is very tight—the local authority might look at that and say, “Well, actually, that could be a school. That might be better than what we were thinking of before as housing”, and might want to delist and deregister. Once it is on the register, in a sense it acquires a “resi-value” because it is listed there as being for housing. But planning is dynamic and evolving.

I do not necessarily expect my noble friend to answer now, but I would like to know how these clunking registers are manoeuvrable when local needs and priorities change—or is it that once it is there for housing, it has to be housing for ever and we just have to get the numbers? Where is the flexibility in changing?

Baroness Young of Old Scone: My Lords, perhaps I may comment on Amendment 97C, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, in which he quoted the comments on “specified” and said that it was a nonsense. A lot of this, alas, arises from the fact that so much of the Bill is going to have to be made flesh in subsequent secondary legislation. We now have available in the Printed Paper Office the outline of the subsequent secondary legislation that is being planned by the Government, including the timetable for consultation on it and when it will be brought before this House as regulations. Some 34 separate pieces of secondary legislation are envisaged, which will come before your Lordships’ House but not, may I say, until the autumn. So we are, regrettably, in a position where we have to buy a pig in a poke on many occasions. I sympathise with the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, that new Section 14A(6) appears to be the sort of nonsense that pigs in pokes produce.

While I am on my feet, I should say to the Minister that I am still looking for my flow chart. It is not in the Printed Paper Office.

10 pm

Lord Stunell: My Lords, I rise to support the direction of travel of my noble friend and to pick up on one of the points made by the noble Lord, Lord True, about the evolution of planning needs in an area that may

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have received a PIP some years before. It is important to know the answer to that question. It is also linked to what the Minister will tell us is meant by the phrase “housing-led” in the first place. Reference has been made to shops and maybe offices, but no one has mentioned clinics or schools when talking about housing-led. It would be really helpful to understand whether what might broadly be described as civic or public service buildings are included in that omnibus idea of housing-led neighbourhoods or housing-led sites. That is an important clarification that might help some of us to understand more completely what is envisaged here. Certainly if schools and public services buildings have to be identified separately, that raises a whole host of other questions which I do not think we have discussed so far.

I want to say to my noble friend who is concerned about brownfield sites that they are not necessarily only mills. I remember being fiercely lobbied as a junior Minister by two Deputy Speakers of the House of Commons about a country park in Lancashire, which I think was called Cuerdan Valley Park, a reclaimed mining area that is now, as the name suggests, a country park. Both MPs—one Conservative and one Labour, I have to say—were deeply concerned that part of this country park that was being designated as a brownfield site might be sold off for housing. They were very anxious about what would be likely to happen in those circumstances. It is an existing problem rather than just one that might be created by the new circumstances, but bearing in mind the increased importance of brownfield as a definition with a consequence, it would be sensible for the Minister to give some further attention to it.

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, I do not usually make my first visit to the Dispatch Box at 10 o’clock at night, but perhaps in doing so I ought to draw attention to my interest as a vice-president of the LGA.

I shall address the issues that have been raised in this series of amendments that are basically all probing. The subject of those probes seems to us to be entirely appropriate. They seek further clarification about what other register is envisaged, whether there is to be more than one register, and if there is one for housing, what the other one will focus on. There is also a need to clarify the words “in prescribed circumstances”.

There is concern about the term “specific”. My noble friend Lady Young pointed out that it is not so much the tortuous nature of the language, but that it is indicative of the fact that so much of this Bill is to be dealt with in secondary legislation. We have often debated that issue during the passage of the Bill and no doubt we will continue to do so.

The other issue raised by the noble Lords, Lord Greaves and Lord Stunell, was the definition of “brownfield”. It is important that we get clarity on that, given the heightened significance of it to the system that is now being proposed. I will be interested in the Minister’s answer to the question from the noble Lord, Lord True, about how the register can be manoeuvred where things change over time. There might be a different view on what the land should be used for four, five or six years down the track.

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Baroness Evans of Bowes Park: Before I begin my comments, can I just say to the noble Baroness, Lady Young, that apparently the flow chart is in the Printed Paper Office. Someone has been to check and there is a copy waiting for you there.

Before I comment on the specific amendments proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, I want to make some introductory comments—I shall try to keep them brief—that I hope will reassure the House about our proposed approach. I think we agree that previously developed land has an important role to play in delivering much-needed new homes, which is why the Government are putting a range of measures in place to help unlock housing on suitable brownfield sites.

Clause 137 inserts new Section 14A into the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004. The power will enable the Secretary of State to make regulations requiring local planning authorities in England to compile and maintain registers of a particular kind of land. We intend to use this power to require local planning officers to compile registers of brownfield land that is suitable for housing development. Brownfield registers will be a valuable tool, providing publicly available information for local communities, developers and others. Making the registers a statutory requirement will ensure that consistent data on brownfield land that is suitable for housing is transparent and kept up to date. This will provide certainty and help to encourage housing investment in local areas. The registers will also help to measure progress against the Government’s commitment to get planning permissions in place on 90% of brownfield land that is suitable for housing by 2020.

As noble Lords have said, we are currently consulting on the policy detail before such matters are set out in regulations. It is our intention that regulations will include, for example, the criteria to determine the suitability of sites to be entered on registers, procedures for consultation prior to entering sites on registers, and information to be included on registers for each site. This power could also be used to require local authorities to prepare other registers of land, for example a register of small sites that would help promote self-build and custom housebuilding—another priority for the Government.

The noble Baroness, Lady Young, now has her flow chart. Excellent.

I understand concerns that the power is too wide in its scope, but I emphasise that the power provides flexibility to use registers as a tool to promote more efficient practice where necessary and appropriate in future. I also point out that if the power was used to bring forward registers of others types of land, that would require secondary legislation, which, of course, would be laid before this House.

I would like to use these introductory comments to offer reassurance on two further points. First, I emphasise that when local authorities make decisions about land to include in brownfield registers they must have regard to the NPPF, any relevant development plan or national policy and advice, as well as any guidance issued by the Secretary of State. We are not proposing any change to the decision-making framework. Secondly, noble Lords are aware that it is our intention that the registers will be used as a mechanism for granting

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permission in principle for housing on suitable brownfield sites. However, entering a site on a register does not automatically grant permission in principle. That decision will be for local authorities. This means that permission in principle will be granted based on decisions made by local authorities, in line with local and national policy, after consultation.

The regulations will set out the procedures to be followed in relation to consultation with statutory consultees and others so that their views can be considered before any sites are included in registers and granted permission in principle. There are no proposed changes to the way in which relevant material considerations are to be considered for those sites.

I now turn to the amendments. Amendment 96B seeks to amend Clause 137. As I said in my introductory comments, this clause provides flexibility to use registers to promote more efficient practice where necessary and appropriate in future. I gave as an example our proposals, on which we are currently consulting, for a small sites register, which would help promote self-build and custom housing. The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, asked whether the small sites register could grant PIP, and the answer is no, it could not.

Amendment 96E would narrow the scope of the power by placing some of the criteria determining the suitability of sites in primary legislation. I hope that my earlier comments have reassured the noble Lord about the Government’s intended use of the power. A minimum site threshold for brownfield registers will not necessarily be applicable for registers of other types of land. That is why it would not be appropriate to set out the threshold in primary legislation. The noble Lord may find it helpful to know that it is our intention to set a minimum site-size threshold of a quarter of a hectare, or sites capable of supporting five dwellings or more. We are currently consulting on our proposals. Following the consultation, and taking into account the responses received, we will set out our proposals in regulations.

Amendment 96G seeks to expand local planning authority discretion to exclude land from their registers. Subsection (4)(c) makes provision to allow authorities some discretion to exclude land from their register. For example, the Secretary of State might make provision for authorities to exercise their discretion in exceptional circumstances, such as when development of the land would be particularly controversial and the authority considers that development decisions should be made through the usual planning application route.

Amendment 97C seeks to remove subsection (6) which provides the Secretary of State with a power to require an authority to prepare or publish a register or bring a register up to date by a specified date. It would also provide a power to require specific information. Brownfield land plays an important role in helping to provide much needed housing. I have already emphasised how important it is to have consistent data on suitable brownfield land that are made publicly available and kept up to date. That will assist developers and communities, help to encourage investment in housing and help to measure progress against the Government’s manifesto commitment. The requirements in subsection (6) will

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act as an effective incentive to ensure that local authorities make this information available in a transparent and timely manner.

Amendment 97D would remove the requirement to have regard to national policy, the development plan and guidance. Registers will a tool to provide consistent, up-to-date information on brownfield sites that are suitable for housing. It is our intention that registers will complement local plans; both are designed to promote suitable sites for development. The clause requires decisions about which sites to include on registers to have regard to the NPPF and the relevant local plan. We also propose that strategic housing land availability assessments, which identify future housing land supply and inform the local planning process, will be the starting point for identifying suitable sites on brownfield registers. This ensures that sites placed on the register have regard to the authority’s existing plans for their area. I emphasise that local authorities will be required to consult the public and other interested parties about sites on their registers for which they intend to grant permission in principle for housing. When authorities intend to enter a site on their register but are not proposing permission in principle, they will have discretion to consult the public and others before making a final decision.

Amendment 98A seeks to define brownfield land in primary legislation. As the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, said, brownfield land is already defined in the NPPF, which encourages the reuse of brownfield land provided that it is not of high environmental value and it has strong policies to protect the natural, built and historic environment. It also requires authorities to ensure that a residential use is appropriate for the location and that a site can be made suitable for its use. I should also emphasise that we are consulting on criteria to determine the suitability of sites. These criteria include consideration of environmental and other constraints that cannot be mitigated. Again, we propose to prescribe these criteria in regulations. To apply a definition in primary legislation would narrow the proposed powers and, we believe, frustrate our intention to use them to compile registers of other types of land.

I am conscious that I have not answered all the questions, particularly the one asked by my noble friend Lord True, so if noble Lords agree I hope we can go back and check other questions, and where I have not been able to touch on them here I shall certainly do so in writing. I hope that, with that commitment, the noble Lord will withdraw his amendment.

10.15 pm

Lord True: I am grateful to my noble friend for agreeing to write but I am worried about the regulatory burden on local authorities and I wish this to be considered. In the Explanatory Notes there is potentially a register of small sites for self-build and custom housebuilding. There is a register of brownfield land suitable for housing which meets the prescribed criteria. There is another register of land which the local authority thinks might be suitable for permission in principle. There is a further possible register of land that the local authority considers suitable for housing development but only capable of four dwellings or fewer. I have not gone through it in further detail.

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We have heard the Minister’s presentation of the various things that will be required. The Government want to monitor whether their manifesto commitments are being fulfilled. Is there going to be reporting back, forms, et cetera? We are going to have regulations about consultation. But who is going to do all this? We will come on later to discuss planning fees. We cannot afford to keep fully stocked planning departments and offices doing all this. I do not expect an answer now but I beg my noble friend with her officials before Report to give us a clear view of the burdens that are going to be imposed on local authorities, because the more I listen, the more there seem to be.

Lord Stunell: I fully understand that the Minister is going to write to us but if she could give us a hint about whether or not public service buildings, schools and clinics are included in the housing-led concept at this stage, that would be really helpful.

Baroness Evans of Bowes Park: Yes, they are included—I hope.

Lord Greaves: My Lords, the Government Chief Whip has walked in so he will want me to beg leave to withdraw my amendment. I just want to say two things. First, I thank the Minister for a very comprehensive response to this series of brownfield questions we have all been asking. The only point I will pick up again is this: if the Secretary of State is to give guidance or send out regulations to authorities, will the Government please pay particular attention to the question of brownfield turning to greenfield over a period of time? Local authorities need the discretion to decide when that transition has occurred. Otherwise what is clearly, to everybody’s eyes, now a greenfield site will have to be built on because it used to have development on it 40 or 50 years ago or whenever it was. That is an important issue but I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 96B withdrawn.

Amendment 96C

Moved by Lord Greaves

96C: Clause 137, page 68, line 38, at end insert—

“( ) A register of land under this section is a local development document.”

Lord Greaves: My Lords, these are just two straight questions about the status of the register. Will it be a local development document or will it be development plan document? I beg to move.

Baroness Evans of Bowes Park: Amendments 96C and 96D seek to define registers as local development documents and development plan documents. I understand that the noble Lord wishes to ensure that the process of preparing and maintaining registers has similar protections to development plan documents and local development documents but I hope I can reassure him that our proposals already include strong protections.

Brownfield registers are not intended to set out policy. By contrast, local development documents and development plan documents set out an authority’s policies relating to the development and use of land in

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its area. Registers would be a tool to provide consistent, up-to-date information on brownfield sites suitable for housing. It is our intention that registers will complement local plans. Both are designed to promote suitable sites for development. As I noted in my introductory comments, decisions about which sites to include on registers will have to have regard to the NPPF and the relevant local plan. We also propose that strategic housing land availability assessments will be the starting point for identifying suitable sites on brownfield registers.

I emphasise that local authorities will be required to consult the public and other interested parties about sites on their registers for which they intend to grant permission in principle for housing. Where authorities intend to enter a site on their register but are not proposing permission in principle, they will have discretion to consult the public and others before making a final decision. I hope that with those assurances the noble Lord will withdraw the amendment.

Lord Greaves: I am grateful for that reply. I think the answer is no. I have the information I wanted, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 96C withdrawn.

Amendments 96D to 97 not moved.

Amendment 97A had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.

Amendments 97B to 98A not moved.

Amendment 98B

Moved by Lord Greaves

98B: Clause 137, page 69, line 38, at end insert –

“14B Viability of brownfield sites: gap funding

(1) A local planning authority may decide not to include a brownfield site on a register established under section 14A if, after they have assessed the viability of development of the site for housing, they think that it is not viable.

(2) Where subsection (1) applies, a local planning authority may make a request to the Secretary of State for sufficient financial support to make viable a housing development on the site.

(3) The Secretary of State must consider such a request and either provide the requested support or give reasons for refusal in writing.

(4) If the site becomes viable for housing development, by means of a contribution from the Secretary of State or otherwise, the local planning authority may add it to the register.”

Lord Greaves: My Lords, Amendment 98B is about the viability of brownfield sites and what happens to brownfield sites which local people and the local authority wish to see developed for housing but which are not viable. The amendment then goes on in a rather cheeky way to suggest that the Secretary of State should cough up some money to make them viable.

There are a lot of genuine brownfield sites in areas such as Lancashire and Yorkshire. They may still have structures on them, or they may have been removed. In some cases, they may have been remediated, or they may be perfectly good flattened sites ready for development.

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The problem is that nobody will develop them because there is no profit to be made from building houses on them. There is an old works in the ward I represent on the council in Colne. The outside walls of the mill are still there. We have been trying to get it developed for housing for 10 or 15 years now. We nearly got there before the credit crunch in 2008 and the collapse of house prices. We got the owner to apply for full planning permission, and he got permission for about 20 houses in three blocks. The area is surrounded by terraced houses. It was a nice little development. He was proposing to sell the site on to a local builder who was going to develop it. The local builder is not there any more. The council’s joint venture development company has done a viability assessment of the site and, even with a subsidy from the council, it is not viable. The total cost of developing it is around £130,000 per house, but the sale price for new terraced three-bedroom houses in that area is £100,000. It is simply not viable.

Another site in the same town was cleared under housing market renewal about 10 years ago, but the problem is that it is on quite a steep slope. It is remediated and perfectly ready to develop for perhaps a dozen houses. It is possibly just viable with some help from the council on the basis that the council owns the land and will put the land into the scheme for free. This is the kind of thing we are talking about. There must be dozens of brownfield sites in east Lancashire of this nature which simply cannot or will not be developed—although everybody wants to see them developed for housing. That is the obvious use for those sites and it would benefit the area, help to regenerate it and provide much-needed local housing for people. Nevertheless, because of the local housing market, they are not viable.

I have two questions apart from the question of what the Government or the Secretary of State will do about this to help us fill the gap. It is no good doing what they have been doing so far, saying that they will provide loans. You provide loans to get a scheme going, but if over a period of 30 years of selling the properties or renting them out in the short run the scheme does not add up, the loan is no use because you cannot repay it. It needs gap funding. The council itself has money to help with gap funding of sites like this, and we hope to move ahead with one very soon, but this is typical of a lot of places in the north of England—perhaps in smaller towns, away from the big cities—where brownfield sites like this are simply not viable.

First, therefore, the question is: do such sites go on the brownfield register—the big register, with all the sites on? Do they go on that register to get planning in principle, and what is the point of getting that when any scheme on them will get planning tomorrow? Therefore, what use is the brownfield register to these types of sites? Secondly, we keep reading that the Government have lots of money for brownfield sites: the Chancellor in his Budget announced £1.2 billion or £1.3 billion—I think it was the same £1.2 billion that had been announced some months previously, but that does not matter. This money keeps being announced, but whenever we look at it we find that it is for remediation schemes, and we do not need remediation money; we need pure, simple gap funding.

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That is a plea from the heart, from the heart of the Pennines, because we want to develop these sites and we cannot, because they are not viable. Gap funding is needed, and we need some help from central government as well as from local funds. However, my questions were also about the brownfield register and how non-viable sites like that would fit in with the register and its purpose. I beg to move.

Lord Beecham: My Lords, I am slightly puzzled by the tenor of the noble Lord’s argument. I quite understand his point that no profit can be made by building for sale on these sites. However, that raises the question of why he is looking only at building for sale. Why cannot a site like that be used for social housing? That seems to be the obvious answer in many ways. Of course it is slightly subverted by two things, which affect the potential for local authority or housing association housebuilding. One is the right to buy, which will ultimately accrue, and the second is of course the reduction in rents that will be charged by housing authorities, which will reduce their capacity to invest in either their current stock or in new building. To look at such sites as sites for social housing provision is a better way of dealing with them than to seek some sort of subsidy for private sale, which will ultimately result in people making a gain out of what would probably be better as social housing. Therefore the noble Lord might want to reconsider the whole nature of his approach.

10.30 pm

Lord Greaves: My Lords, it is very simple. Housing associations are organisations which have to run commercially. They therefore judge the viability of their new-build schemes on the basis of contributions that they get from the Housing and Communities Agency, contributions they put into it themselves, the cost of managing and repairing the properties over 30 years and the rents they will get in during that period.

We are an area which has not only low house prices but low rents, so there is a limit to what we can charge. These sites have been looked at in great detail. Some of them have been developed by the council in co-operation with the main housing association, which is the Stock Transfer Housing Association. The sites I am talking about, however, are simply not viable for social housing, just as they are not viable for anything else. The numbers do not add up, whether you are building for rent, for sale or for partial schemes. In some sites they do. For example, the council has developed some sites in Briarfield, where a majority of the houses have been sold, and in order to make the scheme viable and for other good reasons, some of them have been sold to the housing association. We are working together wherever possible, but the fact is that building new houses on a lot of the brownfield sites in a lot of these places, and certainly in Lancashire and neighbouring parts of Yorkshire, simply is not viable. Therefore, there has to be gap funding and some sort of subsidy—not a huge one, but it has to be there to make it possible.

Lord Beecham: I can see the argument for housing association provision, but I would not have thought it would run to the same extent, or at all, for the local authority itself doing the building because it would

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have a housing stock and a housing revenue account. It certainly has to balance that housing revenue account, but those costs can be spread, I would have thought, in a way that a housing association might find difficult. I still think there is a difficulty.

Lord Greaves: Some local authorities were sensible enough, or foolish enough, according to your view—I was against what we did in our local authority, but we did it—to get rid of all their council housing. In our case, it was as a result of a quite disgraceful bribe from the previous Labour Government which people felt they simply could not turn down. It really was shocking, the amount of money that was thrown into it—not shocking for the tenants and the houses, because a lot of money went into those houses as a result of the stock transfer, and the local authority had all its debt written off as a result. The whole thing was a public scandal, but very good for the housing estates in Pendle. However, we do not have a housing revenue account, so we cannot do it. What we do is build properties through our development company, a half-owned council development company, highly successful, but, again, it has to be done. We do it on the basis of a 5% or 8% mark-up, profit, compared to the commercial people, who want 15% or even 20% on such sites.

Lord Beecham: I stand corrected on the experience of Pendle, but that is not necessarily typical, one hopes. I look to the Minister to take the point that I made in respect of other authorities, which are perhaps not in quite the vulnerable position that Pendle appears to be. That means, again, looking at local authorities building houses, whether on brownfield sites or elsewhere. There is no incentive in the Bill for that to happen, so I ask the Minister to consider, again, the role of local authorities in providing housing, not just on brownfield sites but more generally.

Baroness Evans of Bowes Park: I thank noble Lord, Lord Greaves, for his amendment. I reassure him that the Government are fully committed to unlocking new homes on brownfield land, which is why we are creating the £2 billion Home Building Fund to provide the investment in infrastructure and land remediation needed to support major housing developments. The fund will provide long-term loan funding to help unlock or accelerate a pipeline of 160,000 to 200,000 homes. It will support our key manifesto commitment to create a brownfield regeneration fund and to fund housing zones to transform brownfield sites into new housing. The new fund will be available to builders and housing developers across England.

I emphasise that the criteria on which we are consulting to assess the suitability of sites for brownfield registers will include a consideration of site viability. We would expect a site that was not viable to be unlikely to go on the register. I reassure the noble Lord that viability is central to our proposals and ask him to withdraw this amendment.

Lord Greaves: I am grateful for that reply. My only comment is that I want the Minister to say that non-viable sites will go on the register and that, together, we will work to find ways of making them viable and develop them. If the fund is now £2 billion instead of £1.2 billion or £1.3 billion, will somebody please tell

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me how we can get our hands on some of it, because we will use it well and build lots of new houses on brownfield sites? I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 98B withdrawn.

Clause 137 agreed.

Amendment 98C not moved.

Clause 138 agreed.

Amendment 99

Moved by Lord Clement-Jones

99: After Clause 138, insert the following new Clause—

“Permitted development: change of use to residential use

Where the Secretary of State, in exercising the powers conferred by sections 59 (development orders), 60 (permission granted by development order), 61 (development orders: supplementary provisions), 74 (directions etc as to method of dealing with applications) or 333(7) (regulations and orders) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, makes a general permitted development in respect of change of use to residential use as dwelling houses, the change must first be subject to prior approval in respect of the impact of neighbouring buildings which have been in continuous and unchanged use for at least one year on the amenity and enjoyment of the prospective residents of the dwelling houses.”

Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendment 100 in my name and those of the noble Lords, Lord Stevenson and Lord Kennedy. I am very much third sub off the bench this evening. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, is very disappointed not to be present after waiting for eight sittings of this Committee to move this amendment, but we share a strong interest in the viability of live music venues, so I hope that your Lordships will accept this inadequate substitute.

Some of the concern about the fate of live music venues derives from a report, Londons Grassroots Music Venues Rescue Plan, produced last year by the Mayor of London’s Music Venues Taskforce, which suggested that while London’s music industry is generating billions of pounds for the economy, a vital part of this important cultural as well as economic sector is under threat. The taskforce, set up by the mayor last year and chaired by the Music Venue Trust, undertook an audit of grass-roots music venues and found that from 2007 to 2015 London had seen the number of spaces programming new artists drop from 136 to just 88.

The situation was mirrored more recently in UK Music’s Bristol live music census, published only this month by Bucks New University. It found that 50% of the city’s music venues were affected by development, noise or planning issues. Those issues pose a direct threat to the future of Bristol’s vibrant ecosystem, which generated some £123 million towards the local economy in 2015 and supported 927 full-time equivalent jobs. So it is an important issue in both those localities and not confined to the metropolis.

One problem faced by live music venues arises when residents move in to an area where noise is emanating from long-standing music venues. The residents make complaints about the noise, and, despite the fact that in most cases the volume levels have remained the

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same for many years, a complaint has to be dealt with by the local authority and often results in additional licensing restrictions. Such restrictions can limit the venue’s ability to generate income and can be extremely costly to put in place, so this is a major issue when new residents move in and are affected by existing venues.

The London rescue plan advocates, among other policies, support for what is called the agent-of-change principle, and this is reflected by these two amendments. The agent-of-change principle puts the responsibility for noise management measures on the agent of change—that is, the incoming individual or business. This could be a resident moving into a flat near an existing music venue, or a developer that is building a new music venue near an existing residential building. The principle has already been adopted elsewhere—for example, in parts of Australia and the United States—and is proving successful. At present, developers have no legal obligation to sound-proof new residences, forcing developers to spend significant amounts fending off noise complaints, abatement notices and planning applications. The Music Venue Trust has warned that the Government’s 2013 amendments to permit offices, car parks and disused buildings across the country to be converted to residences without planning permission have made the potential situation for venues even worse.

The genesis of these amendments to the Bill is that they were tabled in Committee in the Commons. It appears that Ministers were sympathetic to the case being made but did not, at the end, accept the amendments. Amendment 99 would ensure that residents of buildings converted to residential use are protected from factors, particularly noise, affecting their amenity and enjoyment when buildings are converted to residential use by virtue of a general permitted development order. Such measures would become the responsibility of the agent of change of the permission. Amendment 100 would ensure that residents of buildings converted to residential use are protected from factors, particularly noise, affecting their amenity and enjoyment. Such measures would, again, be the responsibility of the agent of the change of the permission.

Things have moved on since the debate in the Commons. A letter dated 10 March was sent by Brandon Lewis, the Minister for Housing and Planning, and his colleague the Minister for Local Growth and the Northern Powerhouse. It indicates that the Government are amending the permitted development right to include a provision to allow the local planning authority to consider noise impacts on new residents from existing businesses in the area. This is a significant change in the current position. I very much welcome the contents of that letter and I believe that the necessary regulation has now been laid. It is worth quoting part of the letter:

“From the 6 April, a developer will be required to seek prior approval from the local planning authority in relation to the noise impacts on new residents before a change of use from office to residential can be carried out under permitted development. It will in effect allow local authorities to take account of national planning policy and guidance on noise, in a similar way to a planning application, as well as any material concerns raised by owners of music venues in relation to noise. This will help to ensure that before residents move into new housing in close proximity to well-established businesses, including music venues, local authorities are able to require the applicant to put in place noise mitigation measures where appropriate”.

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That is all very welcome, but there are quite a number of questions about how this is to be interpreted when the new regulations come into effect on 6 April. For example, is there any intention to apply these regulations to situations where new build as opposed to conversion takes place? If not, why not?

10.45 pm

This change is also being effected by secondary legislation not primary legislation and is in fact only guidance. That means that, essentially, this is exhortatory to local authorities as I understand it. It allows them to—but does not necessarily mean that they have to—take into consideration the principle of the agent of change. I would very much like clarification from the Minister about the interpretation of that particular change envisaged on 6 April. If it is only exhortatory, it very much means that local authorities will not arrive at a common position on these cases and in many areas there will still be a threat to music venues.

This territorial application is to England only and not to any other part of the country. Are the Government having any conversations that might take this more widely in other devolved Administrations? Is there any retrospective or transitional element to the guidance? Where relevant permitted developments have been granted in the three-year trial period for when protections for noise were not provided, would venues be entitled to pursue compensation if forced with closure if residents complained once they move in? There are some welcome elements, but there is still some uncertainty surrounding what is proposed and I look forward to what the Minister has to say. I beg to move.

Lord True: My Lords, I also have amendments in this group, although they are unrelated, but I will speak to them now so as not to delay the matter. I hope that I will not test the patience of my noble friend the Chief Whip, but we have had a reasonably lengthy speech. I am about to speak about a matter of fundamental importance so far as my local authority is concerned to people who live there and other local authorities in the London area. It concerns a grave injustice that is being carried out and I intend to pursue a remedy, come what may, in your Lordships’ House. I hope that that will not be necessary and that the Government will listen.

The amendments relate to a specific issue, which is the impact of the proposal pushed through in 2013 to allow the automatic conversion of offices of B1 use, to use the jargon, to be converted to residential C3 use without full planning permission. At the time, many local authorities in London asked the coalition Government not to proceed with this step. I remember some testy meetings at the time, but of course the man in Whitehall knew best. We were told we could pass so-called Article 4 directions. We have explained now and many times since the problems of Article 4 directions, but again, the man in Whitehall knew best. We reminded Ministers of the principle of localism and not imposing a one-size-fits-all policy across the country but to let local authorities decide what was beneficial or damaging to the local economy. But I am afraid, again, the man in Whitehall knew best and the order was imposed in 2013 allowing automatic conversion of office to residential use.

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Under the procedure, councils’ residents and office workers—the people who work there—cannot object to these changes, except on the limited grounds of flooding, contaminated land and traffic. There is no consideration of the impacts on employment or on patterns of commuting. There is no requirement to meet space standards. There is no distinction between offices that are occupied and those that are not, and absolutely no provision for affordable housing, which is what the Bill is supposed to be about, among other things.

What has happened since in high-value residential areas such as mine? It was entirely predictable; we predicted it at the time. The consequences, at first sad, are now immoral and, for some families, bordering on the tragic. I will take some examples from my borough, but the London Councils brief shows that there are problems in many parts of London. Developers, driven by greed and with no social obligation, are asset-stripping high streets for housing, without any contribution to schools, transport or health. There is profit for the developers; the community picks up the ancillary cost.

By autumn 2014, Richmond Borough alone had lost 56,500 square metres of offices—almost 20% of the space in our borough. By April 2015, that had risen to 25% of office space, despite the attempt to contain this with Article 4 directions. The latest figure I have is of 234 prior approval applications granted, with a loss of almost 30% of our office space. I have to hand information on 143 of these prior approvals. Of them, 61 were empty. They are cases where a council such as mine would probably have given permission anyway, but with a social contribution from the developer. Some 22% of the offices turned into homes were partly occupied, and 50 offices, with nearly 15,000 square metres, were fully occupied. Yes, we are told that 189 residential units may come from those, but at what cost? Businesses were given notice or wound up, with no opportunity for succession, for the sake of a quick buck for the developer.

This bleeding of employment space is creating bottlenecks of supply in various parts of London, as the London Councils report indicates. Potential sites for free schools are being lost. The Government are cutting off their nose to spite their face: the policy means that the Education Funding Agency has to pay above odds to buy “resi-value” offices. At a recent public meeting I held, a doctors’ practice wishing to expand to serve new residents moving into new homes in the area complained that it cannot now find space in the area because the offices that they had in mind are being converted to houses. In our council’s latest business survey, 20% of businesses with between six and 10 employees said that they found it hard to find premises. The gearing between residential and office values in Richmond is up to £4 of residential value for every £1 of office value. It is a no-brainer for those after quick money: double your money, double it again and catch the plane to Bermuda, with not one penny in compensation to those who lose their jobs or business places, or the communities that bear the costs.

My Amendment 101B in this group, which I will not talk to given the hour, provides for compensation in these cases to those tossed out, and to the community.

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The quantities may not be right—I will hear an argument from the Government about that—but surely the principle is unarguable.

My borough has the largest number of these so-called prior notifications, but it is a widespread picture of growing damage across London. Well over 100,000 square metres of occupied space—businesses no longer there—have been lost in London. Rents are rising in many areas, deterring investment. Around 7,000 dwellings have been agreed in schemes of 10 units or more across London, which might, in the normal planning process, have yielded nearly 1,000 affordable homes. This way, there are none.

Article 4 could certainly be improved. Councils could be allowed to take into account impacts on jobs; local authorities could be allowed to charge fees. Article 4 directions could apply immediately, without risk of compensation claims, and I support the thrust of Amendment 100ZAZB in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Thornhill. But ultimately, the answer is two “L”s: localism and listening.

My amendment is about localism—it is not to be prescriptive, but concessive; not to be centralist but localist. It allows those who want the Government’s order to have it and I have been told that, in some areas, it is very welcome and has been very helpful. They can frame the order on the wall of the mayor’s office if they want to, with a portrait of the Minister alongside. My amendment allows an affected local authority to opt out of the order, where it is doing damage, in the interests of the well-being of its community and to protect jobs. What possible rational objection could there be to this, except the “They shall not pass” principle about which I was talking the other day.

When I put down this amendment, I was very disappointed to see that, very shortly afterwards, the Government arrogantly tabled an order making this prior approval permanent, without waiting even to hear your Lordships’ arguments or discussion on this subject. In my submission, that was a shabby way to treat Parliament and this House. It would be possible for this House to pray against that order and sweep away this whole policy. If that happened, it would go where it was wanted and where it was not wanted. In my view, that would be exceeding the proper performance of this House, but it could happen. Or we could take my approach. Let it stay where it is wanted and end it where it is damaging the economy and costing jobs.

I beg my Front Bench and my Government to listen. What morality, what principle, can there be in a policy—a Conservative policy—that puts hard-working people out on the streets, destroys jobs and enriches those who speculate at the expense of those who create? I find that shameful. I cannot explain it to my residents and it is profoundly, morally wrong. I beg this Government to listen and to think again.

Lord Tope: My Lords, once again I support the noble Lord, Lord True, in as strong terms as he has spoken to his amendment. I added my name to it for the same reason. Until May 2014, I represented a town centre ward in an outer London suburb and I saw the start of this. As the noble Lord, Lord True, said, it was entirely predictable and, sadly, the predictions have possibly more than come true. I, too, could quote

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statistics from my borough which are very similar to those which the noble Lord, Lord True, quoted but, at this time of night, I am not going to. I simply say that, in Sutton town centre—the area I represented for 40 years—between the coming into effect of prior approvals and 29 January 2015, when the Article 4 direction took effect, 28% of the office space was lost, just in that 18 months or so. That trend has continued.

One of the many arguments against these indiscriminate prior approvals is that they do not distinguish between occupied and vacant offices. Among the statistics given to me from the research done by the London Borough of Sutton was that 62% of the office space lost in the borough was either occupied or at least partly occupied. There are many other statistics to back it up, but the conclusion given to me by the council—and I am no longer a councillor—says that,

“The situation has now reached such a stage that the council’s economic development assessment states that the borough has an under supply of office space for the next 15 years”.

The noble Lord, Lord True, is absolutely right. I will happily join him in his campaign, although I am no longer a London councillor.

11 pm

Lord Beecham: My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord True, on his amendment. He is absolutely right to deplore the Government’s imposition of this rule, effectively allowing the conversion of commercial properties in high streets to residential, without any consideration of local need or the property market and to the detriment of the high street. This is Mary Portas in reverse. As the noble Lord said, it is an extraordinary step for a Conservative Government to take.

On an earlier day in Committee, I raised the issue of property guardians and the possible exploitation of people being housed on a very temporary basis in buildings awaiting development. That is an undesirable state of affairs, but this provision is worse because here we are seeing not just buildings that have become empty over time but buildings that are deliberately being emptied of their current occupants, comprising businesses contributing to the local economy, to make profits for private developers, as the noble Lord rightly said, on which he was supported by the noble Lord, Lord Tope. The system is thereby exclusively tilted in their favour without any regard whatever to local circumstances or the views of local people or local authorities. It is another example of the Government imposing their policies with complete disregard for the localism which they repeatedly proclaim is their watchword, and is totally indefensible.

The noble Lord’s amendments are quite lengthy but very much to the point and deal very effectively with the problem that he described. I hope that the Government will look again very carefully at what they are doing. Have they made any assessment of the impact of their policy? We have a very poor impact assessment for the Bill. What kind of impact assessment was undertaken when the Government made the decision to change the planning system in the way that they have in this respect? Where did they look for evidence of the

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impact? Did they consider the position in London, where there is huge pressure in any case on the housing market and huge pressure for the provision of residential accommodation? That should be met by properly thought through housing development and not at the expense of the local economy and local business. For example, have the Government consulted local chambers of commerce in London or anywhere else where these measures have been implemented? Can the Minister tell us what is happening up and down the country in terms of the number of conversions? We have heard very telling figures from two noble Lords in relation to their authorities. Do the Government have any idea what the national position is and what the impact has been not just in terms of the numbers of people but the viability of the local high street—and not just in terms of shopping, as the noble Lord said? He cited the case of a medical practice, and there will be other services as opposed to simple retail, important though that is, which will find life increasingly difficult.

It would be interesting to learn exactly what the Government know about the situation. Have they conducted any kind of review? Will they conduct any kind of review into what is happening on our high streets? Where does the process end? Is there any indication of even a balance of residential property with office and commercial and other uses of property in the high street? If not, the Government have failed lamentably to fulfil their responsibility to look at the picture in the round and, above all, to consult localities. There may be different approaches in some places. Some areas may be ready to accept conversions of this kind, but that is what a planning process is for. It is not a matter to be laid down arbitrarily by Whitehall.

I strongly support the noble Lord’s amendment. He may not call a Division on it today—I assume that he will not—but if we get to Report without any indication from the Government that they are prepared to change their position on this, I hope that he will test the opinion of the House. I can say with confidence that the Opposition will support him. The Government need to rethink the position they have created and the damaging effects they have caused, and to do so urgently.

Lord Kerslake: I support the amendment and, in doing so, declare my interests as chair of Peabody and president of the Local Government Association. It is worth going back to when this policy came in. It was in the context of an economy struggling to recover and the Government’s desire to stimulate development rapidly. It was particularly focused on the issue of office developments that had outlived their useful economic life and an unwillingness on the part of local authorities to contemplate change to an alternative use. That was the context in which the policy came forward. There was considerable debate about the issue, but the difficulty was that what worked in one part of the country may well not have worked in others. The safeguard introduced at the time was, essentially, to allow certain areas to be excluded from the application of the permitted development rights. In reality, only very few areas were excluded. The exclusions were very narrowly drawn to include areas, such as the City, that were very concerned about the issue.

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We now know that, while the policy was well intentioned, the consequences have been perverse in some parts of the country, particularly in London and particularly in places of it that we have heard about, such as Richmond and Sutton. Having that information now, it is right that the Government revisit this issue and think again. For the price of a small addition of new housing, we are in danger of denuding significant areas of their economic capacity to grow and develop. The case is compelling: we should learn from how policies have worked in practice and be open to revisiting them.

Lord Campbell-Savours: I support this amendment, because I recognise why this measure was introduced. In parts of the north of England there were lots of shops closing. You could look down a high street and see the first floor of many retail units completely empty. Sometimes they were boarded up, or with ripped curtains and dusty windows: totally unoccupied. The issue has only been one of flexibility. The mistake was that we did not allow local decision-taking. With that at the beginning of the process, this problem would have been avoided.

The statistics on the numbers involved must be available. I presume that the number of units converted from commercial to residential will have entered into the national housebuilding statistics. Can the Minister tell the Committee the exact number involved?

Baroness Williams of Trafford: My Lords, Amendments 99 and 100 would insert into the Bill requirements on local authorities and others where there are already appropriate protections in national planning policy and guidance to address these issues. National planning policy already incorporates elements of the agent-of-change principle by making it clear that existing businesses wanting to develop in continuance of their business should not have unreasonable restrictions put on them because of changes in nearby land uses since they were established.

The Government recognise concerns about the impact of new residents moving into an area with an established live music venue. As the noble Lord said, my ministerial colleagues met industry representatives in January to discuss this matter. We have responded to their concerns by including a provision in the office-to-residential permitted development right. This enables local authorities to ensure that mitigation measures address noise impacts from existing businesses on the residence. It will both help to protect residents’ amenity and to ensure the sustainability of established businesses.

The noble Lord asked about Scotland and Wales. Of course, planning is devolved there. He also asked if there is a plan to apply new prior-approval measures in relation to noise impact to new builds and not just to buildings undergoing a change of use. The permitted development rights take effect on 6 April and apply to changing the use of buildings from office to residential. The application for new build residential property will be considered under the NPPF, which incorporates elements of the agent-of-change principles. The noble Lord also asked if the regulations will only allow local authorities to take noise into account, not oblige them to do so. The regulations allow local authorities to

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take account of noise where it is relevant rather than obliging them, because that would be an inflexible requirement.

Lord Foster of Bath (LD): My noble friend Lord Clement-Jones asked a further question about the retrospective nature of the very welcome government proposals. I absolutely appreciate the real difficulties with retrospective legislation, but what advice and guidance will the Minister give to those music venues which will be affected before the change comes into effect? Can she also say what changes she will make to the guidance being given to local authorities?

So that the Minister is aware how serious this is, it is worth reflecting on the situation of the Fleece in Bristol, which started the campaign to change this. Chris Sharp, who led that campaign, points out that although he is pleased with the Government’s announcement:

“The irony is that the venue that was doing the most to change the law is being left out in the cold”.

It continues to have a problem.

Baroness Williams of Trafford: I will write to the noble Lord with details of the revised guidance and in response to the other questions he asked.

Amendments 101A and 101B would allow local authorities to consider the local community’s views and local and neighbourhood plan policies on a wide range of matters under the office-to-residential permitted development right. This has provided greater certainty for developers and has successfully encouraged more development, delivering much needed new homes. As my noble friend knows, where there is a localised impact on the office market, councils have power to remove permitted development rights. The Article 4 direction process provides more robust safeguards than the council resolution proposed by the amendment.

I have heard noble Lords’ words about the impact of this. I understand that 1,600 new homes were developed in London under PDR in 2014, and 8,000 in total. I also understand that it does seem, as the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, said, to be a problem in particular areas of the country. My noble friend and I have spoken about this, and although in Trafford, PDR is very welcome, it is clearly having an adverse impact in Richmond. I suggest that as the hour is late I meet my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Tope, before the relevant part of Report to discuss this further. I am not promising that we can move any further forward—and I understand what my noble friend said—but perhaps we might make some progress.

Moving to amendments 100ZAZA and 100ZAZB. I understand that Amendment 100ZAZA would insert specific requirements for local authorities to consider where permitted development rights allow for the change of use to residential. The amendment is not appropriate and would impose inflexible and unnecessary burdens. Permitted development rights strike a balance between encouraging development by providing greater certainty and allowing local consideration of specified matters. Such matters will depend on the building changing use to residential use. Where there are wider concerns, of course local authorities can make an Article 4 direction.

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Amendment 100ZAZB aims to remove the local authority’s liability to pay compensation where an Article 4 direction is issued with immediate effect. It will also allow the local authority to charge a planning application fee where an Article 4 direction requires a planning application to be submitted. Where a local authority brings forward an Article 4 direction, the current compensation provisions, alongside the exemption from paying an application fee, strike a fair and appropriate balance. They recognise that a national right is being withdrawn for development that is considered acceptable while ensuring that the local authority’s liability to pay compensation can be limited.

That said, I reiterate my offer to my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Tope. I realise that what I have said may not have satisfied them, but I ask—

11.15 pm

Lord Campbell-Savours: It is very good of the Minister to offer meetings, but we are on the eve of the Recess. The first day we come back we are into Report.

Baroness Williams of Trafford: I said I would meet them before Report. This part will not come to Report on day one, which is why I made that offer.

Lord Beecham: Perhaps the Minister will bear with me. She is offering to meet, which is desirable, but does that embrace the two amendments in the noble Lord’s name? Amendment 101A is about local determination and Amendment 101B is about compensation to businesses. Would both those things be on the agenda?

Baroness Williams of Trafford: I think my noble friend’s principal concern is the effect on Richmond of the permitted development right, but if he wishes to discuss compensation, of course I will discuss it.

Lord Campbell-Savours: In the event that the Minister meets her officials during the Recess, instead of meeting the two noble Lords, she might care to write to us all and tell us what recommendations are being made. It might save us a lot of time.

Baroness Williams of Trafford: My Lords, I am very happy to write to noble Lords on the back of a discussion.

Lord Beecham: I am sorry to press the Minister, but important though Richmond is, it is not the only place where this is happening. She may not be able to answer this question now, but I hope that the Government have details of what is happening up and down the country on this front. They have imposed this policy across the country; they ought to know what is happening. It would be helpful for those discussions to be a little broader, with all due respect to the noble Lord. The Minister may want to open this up to other Members of the House, because there will be people from different parts of the country whose own experience would be quite helpful. But I hope everything is on the table.

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Baroness Williams of Trafford: Yes, my Lords. I am not excluding anything; I am simply making the offer to the two noble Lords who raised this issue quite strenuously, and to any other noble Lords who want to attend. I suspect it is not a northern problem but more of a southern problem, but we can discuss all that in due course.

Lord True: My Lords, I apologise for having provoked a lengthy debate at this time, but it is Committee and one’s only chance to put a case. I illustrated it largely with examples from Richmond, but in the London Councils brief there are examples of problems in Croydon, Islington, Camden and Lambeth, which I do not think are Conservative authorities but are all citing difficulties.

I am extremely grateful to my noble friend, and of course I will gladly take up her offer. I hope that another order will not be laid by her friend at the other end before we can meet, because that was a rather unhelpful prelude to our previous meeting.

Lastly, the Minister can have his bone, because it is the Minister at the other end who is calling the shots, and I can have my bone so that my residents and the residents of Croydon and Lambeth have a bit of security. The order can stand and local authorities can be given the power to opt out within this Bill before Parliament. Everyone can be satisfied; those who want it and those who do not. That is what I put on the table, it is what I will take to my noble friend, and I am grateful for the opportunity to do so. But if we cannot meet on that, I will bring this back to the House.

Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, I am afraid that even as regards Amendments 99 and 100, the Minister has only a partially satisfied customer. As my noble friend has said, it is important that we look in a rather more granular fashion at some of the points that I have raised, particularly on the retrospective aspects and the difference between guidance and putting this on to the statute book.

I am concerned about precisely the point mentioned by my noble friend, which is the example of The Fleece in Bristol, where the local authority played a perfectly proper role. It took account of the NPPF and so on, but in the end it was the Planning Inspectorate that was the real problem. If the local authority is allowed to consider noise impact and then does so, what is the difference between that and the inspectorate perhaps being free or not to take that into account, and therefore it does not impose the same conditions as the local authority? Would it be different if we had something rather more obligatory on a local authority? Would that impose a higher duty on the Planning Inspectorate in those circumstances, thus avoiding the situation that The Fleece found itself in?

I am rather concerned about how strong this particular guidance is going to be. I recognise that the principle is floating around, but how much of a fix do we have on it in order to make sure that the future of our music venues is protected? I am not going to go any further at this time of night, but I would welcome a fairly detailed letter from the Minister. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Amendment 99 withdrawn.

Amendment 100 not moved.

Amendment 100ZA

Moved by Lord Palmer of Childs Hill

100ZA: After Clause 138, insert the following new Clause—

“Time limits for developing land where planning permission is granted

After section 58 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (granting of planning permission: general), insert—

“58A Time limits for developing land

“(1) Where planning permission is granted under section 58, the person or persons to whom planning permission is granted must develop the land to which the planning permission relates within a specified period of time, which the Secretary of State must by regulations made by statutory instrument specify.

(2) Regulations made under subsection (1) must specify that —

(a) development on the land must be commenced before the end of five years from the date on which planning permission was granted, and

(b) development on the land must be completed before the end of seven years from the date on which development on the land was commenced.

(3) Regulations made under this section may make different provision for different purposes.

(4) A statutory instrument containing regulations under this section may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.””

Lord Palmer of Childs Hill (LD): My Lords, the clock moves towards midnight, and we are on the eighth of nine days where probably the only consensus is that there is a need for more housebuilding. The Bill in its various components seeks to achieve that, by starter homes, self-build and many other means. However, in my view there is an underlying problem which Amendment 100ZA seeks to rectify.

The problem is the very slow development of land banks. As noble Lords will know, large residential developers want to build gradually to make it a near certainty that the properties will sell. Thus it appears that the owners of large sites—I really do mean large sites—reckon to build and complete no more than 100 to 150 properties per annum. This might suit the business plans of large developers, the construction industry, the banks and the financiers, and it might suit the manufacturers of building materials who want to provide a steady supply of bricks rather than deal with highs and lows. But surely this does not suit those who wish to buy a property. It is an element that keeps prices high because of a shortage of completions.

My first thought in drafting the amendment is that we should promote the good old Liberal policy of land value tax, which I am glad to note that some noble Lords can remember—a tax on land that is developed and undeveloped. However, the problem is that for the sanctions to be really effective, the tax would need to increase for each year that the site remains undeveloped. The amendment seeks a more gentle approach—although I would far rather go for a land value tax—so that when planning permission is granted for building on a site, work must be started

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within five years of the grant of permission. Then to avoid devices where minimal work satisfies this requirement, we add that the development must be completed within seven years of the start date. That is planning permission to action within five years and seven years to complete from the start date. I am not stuck with the five or seven years—I had to put two dates in—but there needs to be some restriction in order to get the developers to move on.

The focus needs to be on the minds of the holders of land banks—and there are holders of large land banks—so that they cannot just sit on the land while housing is in short supply. At present if the development is not started within the time of the planning application, as those of us who have served on planning committees will know, the period allowed—three years, five years—goes by and then the developer comes back to the planning committee and applies for it to be renewed. My planning officers in the London Borough of Barnet, where I was for 28 years, would always say, “Well you gave it to them last time, you’ve got to renew it”. There should not be a presumption where a developer has failed to develop land that they should immediately be given an extension of the planning permission. These land banks need to be developed. Dealing with odd, small brownfield sites will have a benefit but the only way really to increase housing stock is to tackle land banks and those holding the land banks. That is the real world and I hope the Minister when she replies will give me some further assurance. I beg to move.

Lord Campbell-Savours: Under the noble Lord’s proposed new Section 58A(2)(b),

“development on the land must be completed before the end of seven years from the date on which development on the land was commenced”.

Does that mean that if you just put up one house on a huge prospective estate you suddenly find you can extend your period by two years? That is what I read from the amendment. I do not think that was the intention behind it, I am sure.

Lord Palmer of Childs Hill: My Lords, the intention is to get the development started within five years and finished within seven years so, as the noble Lord says, if you start one house and do nothing else, you will be caught by the fact that within seven years you have to complete the site. That is the protection against people using devices to partially develop a site.

Lord Campbell-Savours: Then why not simply make it subsection (2)(a) on its own with a seven-year limit?

Lord Palmer of Childs Hill: Developers work by first applying for planning permission. We are saying that once they have the planning permission there has to be a period in which they start the work and then, being reasonable people, there is a period in which they have to complete that development. That was the seven years. It could be 10 years or whatever any of the Ministers want but I believe there has to be a dual requirement rather than the one the noble Lord suggests.

Lord Porter of Spalding: My Lords, the person the planning permission has been granted to might not necessarily be the one developing the site anyway, so to make the original grantee of the planning permission

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responsible for development is not practical, or probably legal. As has already been said, some sites will be a phased process so rather than a seven-year arbitrary deadline, developers should be working with local authorities to work out the phases of development and the proposed completion time on the basis of the phased development. If you were to grant somebody a site of 2,000 or 2,500 units, you certainly would not want them all being built within seven years. The way it is worded will work against some areas. I can appreciate that people should not be able to build up land banks without having any intention of bringing it forward, speculatively trying to increase profit on the basis of the land value itself, but the way this amendment is worded will have a detrimental impact on the communities where we try to implement it.

Lord Palmer of Childs Hill: My Lords, the actual development has to take place with the original developer—but on the suggestion that the developer might change, which I think the noble Lord made, the planning permission goes with the site. Even if the developer changes, the restrictions or advantages are still there. The person who buys the site gets those benefits and restrictions with it.

Lord Porter of Spalding: I totally agree—the land is where the planning permission sits, but that is not what the noble Lord’s amendment says.

11.30 pm

Lord Beecham: The noble Lord, Lord Porter, has a point.

Lord Palmer of Childs Hill: Let us get a lawyer to sort it out.

Lord Beecham: No, I am not going to sort it out—but I was going to suggest that one way in which to look at it would be to revoke the permission, so that that developer is no longer sitting on it. Does that not work?

Baroness Williams of Trafford: I am sorry to contradict a lawyer, and I shall probably get slapped down for it, but the planning permission is usually granted for a site and not for a person. I think that that is the point that my noble friend made. So you would not revoke the permission, because the permission is on the site rather than for the person—or you could, but it would run contrary to anything that planning law has ever done, in my memory anyway. But I am sympathetic towards the intent behind the amendment, because it raises the issue of planning permissions given but the building not happening. That is a challenge within the context of the Government trying to deliver 1 million homes by 2020. However, a requirement fixing a timeframe for both commencing and completing the development is a highly dangerous approach. While I appreciate that this measure is aimed at encouraging the build-out of permissions, it would not be prudent to introduce such a measure without the full and proper assessment of the potential consequences. In particular, careful

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consideration would be needed of the impact on the viability and deliverability of schemes. It is important to acknowledge that putting a standard time limit on when development should be completed might be unrealistic, given that developments come in different shapes and sizes, as my noble friend Lord Porter, said, and each has its own specific set of issues.

A number of factors can delay both starts on site and completion of development, including market conditions, availability of finance, difficulty discharging conditions and the availability of infrastructure and utilities. Imposing a requirement without considering any legitimate reasons for delay would be a highly risky, unreasonable approach that is likely to introduce fear and a reluctance to enter the market in the first place. It may deter development coming forward, given the added constraints and risks. That is not to say that I do not sympathise when these situations arise because, as a former council leader, I know that it is deeply frustrating. We are trying to encourage the build-out of existing stock of planning permissions and taking it very seriously. The department has already announced a number of measures designed to address these various factors that cause delays on site. They include a £1 billion fund to support small and custom builders to deliver 26,000 new homes, and the £2 billion long-term fund to unlock housing development for up to 160,000 homes announced in the spending review.

I hope that I have been able to set out that, although I agree wholeheartedly with the need to encourage build-out, the amendment is probably not the best way in which to deal with it, as other noble Lords have pointed out.

The noble Lord asked about the presumption to approve if a site has previously had permission. A planning application will always be considered on its planning merits at the time of application, so I do not think that that applies. I hope that with those words I have reassured the noble Lord, and he will feel happy to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Palmer of Childs Hill: I thank the Minister for her reply. The facts of the matter are that, on large sites, developers, whoever they are, never—or so I am told by people in the industry—develop more than 100 to 150 per annum. There must be some way forward to encourage those developers to build more. The amendment might not be right as it is—I accept the points about five years and seven years—but it was tabled to try to highlight the issue. I actually wondered about years. There must be some way to make sure that developers do not only develop 100 to 150 units on large sites. The reason they do that is to keep up the price of those units. There must be some way to work with the Government to have some provision in the Bill to facilitate that. It may not be the amendment which is before us, but I will reconsider that for Report. At the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 100ZA withdrawn.

Amendments 100ZAZA to 100ZAZC not moved.

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Clause 139: Planning applications that may be made directly to Secretary of State

Amendment 100ZAA

Moved by Lord Palmer of Childs Hill

100ZAA: Clause 139, page 70, line 19, at end insert—

“( ) In section 62A of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (when application may be made directly to Secretary of State), in each place where it appears except in subsection (1)(a), for “Secretary of State” substitute “Secretary of State or the Mayor of London”.”

Lord Palmer of Childs Hill: I rise on behalf of the noble Lord, Lord Tope, who is no longer in his place because of the hour in which this amendment is being debated. Amendments 100ZAA and 100ZBB relate to a matter that has come up in previous discussions on this Bill. Clause 139 will allow the Secretary of State to designate a local planning authority for its poor performance in determining applications for categories of development described in the regulations, possibly including non-major development. If a local planning authority is designated, developers may then choose to make an application for development in the poorly performing authority area directly to the Secretary of State.

It is believed that in London the actual consideration should be made by the mayor rather than by the Secretary of State, because the Greater London Authority, as the Minister will know, has significant planning expertise, local knowledge and strong experience of PSI applications, making it a far better place to determine these applications than Whitehall. This change will probably take into the account the mayor’s strategic planning role in the capital and the Government’s devolution agenda. So rather like a previous amendment proposed by my noble friend Lord Tope, this amendment is saying that in developments of this nature the person best suited to decide would be the Mayor of London rather than the Secretary of State, which would fit in with the Government’s proposals for devolution and localism. I beg to move.

Lord Beecham: Perhaps the noble Lord could help me. The amendment as drafted refers to the substitution of the Secretary of State or the Mayor of London. I take it he means the Secretary of State elsewhere than in London and the mayor in London, but that is not what the amendment actually says. It seems to pose a choice, even in London, which I do not think is the intention.

Lord Palmer of Childs Hill: There is to be a choice at times. There may be times when it is appropriate for it to be the Secretary of State. This does not completely outlaw the Secretary of State from taking action in this case, but the appropriate person to deal with it in the first instance would be the mayor of the largest city in this country.

Lord Beecham: With respect, that is not what the amendment seems to say. The Minister and I are in rare agreement.

Baroness Williams of Trafford: I think we might be. I will start with Clause 139, which amends Sections 62A and 62B of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

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It allows the Secretary of State to set out in secondary legislation categories of applications that a local planning authority may be designated for, should their performance fall below the specified threshold. This will allow our existing approach to addressing any instances of underperformance, which currently applies only to major development, to be extended to include applications for non-major development. The existing designation approach has proved successful in speeding up decisions on major development since it was first announced in September 2012. By extending our approach to include non-major development, we are ensuring that all applicants can have confidence in the service to be provided.

We will keep under review the categories of applications on which performance will be assessed to ensure that they remain targeted at the most relevant aspects of the planning process. As the existing designation approach has proved, this measure has several benefits. It encourages improvement and gives applicants the choice of a better service in the very few cases of persistent underperformance. This approach has shown its effectiveness in tackling performance on major development, so it is only natural that we should now bring non-major development within its scope.

I now turn to the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Palmer, on behalf of the noble Lord, Lord Tope, regarding applicants for planning permission having the choice to apply directly to the Mayor of London instead of the Secretary of State where a London borough is designated as poorly performing. I agree that it is essential that the Mayor of London plays an important part in strategic decisions affecting the capital, which is why the mayor already has power to call in for his own decision applications of potential strategic importance, for example where more than 150 dwellings are proposed.

I should highlight that if applications are submitted directly to the Secretary of State by applicants in areas that are designated as underperforming, Section 2A(1B) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 already provides for the Mayor of London to have the same call-in powers for applications that are of potential strategic importance. This ensures that the mayor can still take the final decision on applications of importance in London. I reassure noble Lords that we value the important role of the mayor in taking strategic decisions in London, and we are taking steps in this Bill to devolve more planning powers to the mayor. With that reassurance, I hope the noble Lord will withdraw his amendment.

Lord Palmer of Childs Hill: I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 100ZAA withdrawn.

Amendment 100ZAB not moved.

Clause 139 agreed.

Amendment 100ZABA

Moved by Lord Taylor of Goss Moor

100ZABA: After Clause 139, insert the following new Clause—

22 Mar 2016 : Column 2359

“Local planning areas: right to request alterations to planning system

(1) A local planning authority in England shall have the right to present to the Secretary of State an alternative approach to planning, and to request that the Secretary of State alters or suspends part or all of planning legislation to allow the alternative approach to be tried.

(2) The Secretary of State may approve such a request, save that the Secretary of State may not approve more than 12 such requests.

(3) Any such approval be limited to not more than 10 years.”

Lord Taylor of Goss Moor (LD): My Lords, I rise to move this amendment on behalf of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, who is unfortunately disabled by a herniated disk. He is flat on his back, which is probably exactly where most of us would like to be. He is probably tucked up in his bed, which is entirely sensible. He might be watching on telly, although I doubt it, but it is perforce, rather than for any other reason.

The reason I agreed to bring this forward is in many ways illustrated by the debates that have been taking place on this Bill. The longer I have been in Parliament, the more I have seen legislation prescribing in detail on a huge range of issues that back when I was selected were not prescribed in legislation. There are all sorts of reasons for Parliament to take the legislative approach, but it creates a situation in which it is very difficult to experiment.

Here I should declare that I have a number of interests in planning. I have worked on policy in the planning arena for many years, I am now visiting professor of planning at Plymouth University and I have worked with successive Governments of all colours on planning policy. One thing that arises when new ideas are being put forward is that we very quickly get to a point where ideas have been welcomed and people would like to see them experimented with, but we are then told that that will require primary legislation. At that point it is immensely difficult to move things forward. Primary legislation does not easily get a slot, but, also, something brought forward through primary legislation is generally rolled out for the country as a whole, and quite rightly in debates like this—as we have heard over the course of the debates on the Bill—people will query how well it has been thought through, whether it will work, and whether it is appropriate to do it. But we cannot do it unless we legislate.

11.45 pm