This amendment, therefore, puts the responsibility and the financial risk firmly back in the hands of the developers, which is where it belongs. It will hopefully be a tool to encourage more responsible and appropriate housing development in the future. A number of comments have been made this evening on the technicalities of that amendment, and I know that some more work will need to be done on it, but we very much support the thinking behind it.

Lord Porter of Spalding: My Lords, I do not know how to add this new interest into the debate, but at some point, I will have another company set up that will put me back into doing small-scale development

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with my son-in-law. The accountants are working on it now, and I am going to put this in the register as soon as it is done, but noble Lords need to know it now, because I am going to speak specifically from a developer’s point of view—even though, technically, I am not yet a developer. I am also going to speak as the leader of South Holland District Council, which covers an area that, if we were not allowed to build on flood plains, would become a ghost town, because we are on a flood plain. We would build nothing anywhere in my patch if we followed the idea that, notionally, the designation of a flood plain by the Environment Agency was true and accurate.

We have not flooded since 1947; adequate flood management schemes can deal with it. Amendment 120 would create companies set up to build one development that would then go bankrupt—and, as the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, said, on that basis we would have to insure against that, so that would add more expense in some areas disproportionately to others.

If I remember rightly, where we are sitting now is also on a flood plain, so all of the people around this area would also be moved out of town if we applied that. We cannot be frightened by water; we have to manage it properly. We cannot retreat from it. We are people and we can deal with it, and we cannot deal with it just by saying, “You can’t build anything anywhere”, which Amendment 120 would have us do; or create perverse incentives to get people to set up businesses that are going to go out of business every time they earn some money.

Lord Krebs: My Lords, perhaps I may respond briefly to that last comment. I do not think that Amendment 120 in any sense precludes building on a flood plain. It simply asks—and provides a possible answer—to the question of who should bear the liability if somebody buys a house that has just been built in a flood-risk area and that house floods. While it might be true that, in the noble Lord’s particular area, there has not been a flood since 1947, that does not mean to say that there will not be a flood next year. The people who bought homes that were built recently in those areas should have some form of protection. That is what the amendment is trying to provide.

Baroness Williams of Trafford: My Lords, I shall deal first with some of the latter remarks. Following December’s floods, it was clear that the rules that we thought applied did not apply, and that what we thought were blip events were becoming trend events. Therefore, there were lessons to be learned from both last year’s floods and the previous one-off-event floods. Following the December events, we established the National Flood Resilience Review, led by Oliver Letwin, to assess how the country could be better protected from future flooding and increasingly extreme weather events. This review will identify any gaps in our approach and pinpoint where our defences and modelling need strengthening, allowing us to take prompt action.

I understand the intention behind Amendments 119 and 120, but Amendment 119 seeks to place unnecessary provisions into the Bill, as national planning policy

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has already been strengthened to deliver sustainable drainage systems, and there would be problems with implementing the second proposal.

On Amendment 119, following enactment of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010, proposals to implement the provisions under Section 32 and Schedule 3 were put out to public consultation. The response to that consultation gave rise to a number of issues. These included the potential impact on the delivery of new development under a system that required the approval of sustainable drainage systems under a consenting regime separate from that for approving planning applications. There were concerns that this could add undue delay to the consenting process and impact on the speed of planning decisions.

The coalition Government listened to that response and in the autumn of 2014 put forward for consultation a new proposal to make better use of the existing planning system to deliver sustainable drainage systems, otherwise known as SuDS. In the light of the response to that consultation and a subsequent government announcement in December 2014, national planning policy was strengthened with effect from April 2015. The strengthened policy makes clear the expectation that SuDS will be provided in all major new developments, such as developments of 10 dwellings or more, unless demonstrated to be inappropriate, and it ensures that clear arrangements are in place for ongoing maintenance over the lifetime of the development.

This strengthened policy applies alongside the existing policy expectation that SuDS will be given priority in new developments in flood-risk areas, as well as the drainage requirements of building regulations. Despite the strengthened planning policy, the amendment would require provisions for a new consenting regime for sustainable drainage systems to be brought into effect before important provisions in the Bill could come into force.

We need to give these new arrangements time to show that they can work effectively. We are meeting key stakeholders to gauge their views on how the changes are bedding in, and we will undertake similar reviews at intervals in the future. The noble Baroness, Lady Young, asked where the reviewing process had got to. As I said, we have taken the views of key stakeholders and we intend to have a more in-depth review in a year’s time, which will be two years post change.

Baroness Young of Old Scone: Can I prevail upon the noble Baroness to write to us indicating which stakeholders she has taken views from? The evidence that we appear to be getting from stakeholders is that it is not working.

Baroness Williams of Trafford: I will certainly do that. We would also welcome suggestions from the Adaptation Sub-Committee based on its ongoing evidence gathering, as that would obviously help to build up a fuller picture.

Lord Campbell-Savours: I am not being unreasonable in asking this but have Ministers fully considered the effect that the cuts in local authorities’ budgets are

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having on their ability to clear culverts? As they cut back on that clearing programme, they aggravate the problem. Particularly in terms of starter homes, we are now dealing with the more vulnerable buyers—the people who are buying discounted properties and cannot afford to take that risk. I wonder whether Ministers have thought through the consequences of local authorities being starved of cash.

Baroness Williams of Trafford: My Lords, it depends where the culverts are. Clearly some are on private land and some are on public land. Local authorities will expect private developers to clear areas, particularly when assessing flood risk. So, depending on the circumstances, there are various obligations on various stakeholders to undertake some of these matters. However, the noble Lord raises an important point.

Amendment 120 covers any development located anywhere—even in areas where, for example, flood risk had not been identified. The housebuilder would be liable even where floods could not be foreseen. The amendment does not differentiate between causes of floods, so if flood defences were overwhelmed, the housebuilder would be liable. It requires the full costs to be covered, even for those for which the householder’s domestic insurance would provide cover, which I am afraid is a fertile area for dispute between developer, insurer and the housebuilder. It would also cause potential confusion with existing warranty schemes for new homes. However, I take the noble Baroness’s point that development should not add to flood risk and I would like to describe the Government’s approach to that important matter.

Flood risk is an important consideration in the planning system and there are already strong policy safeguards in place. The national planning policy is designed to ensure that if there are better sites in terms of avoiding flood risk or if a proposed development cannot be made safe from flooding, it should not be permitted. Local planning authorities are expected to steer new development to areas at least risk of flooding wherever possible. They should apply this approach through their local plan and in planning decisions take advice from people such as the Environment Agency and other flood risk management authorities, which might include the water authorities.

8 pm

Baroness Young of Old Scone: I am sorry to prolong the sitting but I should declare an interest as a former chief executive of the Environment Agency. The point of sustainable drainage systems is not necessarily about the location of development, which the sequential test that the Minister has just described attempts to deal with, but about the fact that increasingly with climate change we are seeing much heavier downpours of rain in rather random places that fill the drains up and flood no matter where you are. I have a house on top of a hill. Two Wednesdays ago a lake that had not been there for 50 years appeared as a result of torrential downpours of rain in Northamptonshire. It is that sort of situation we are looking for protection against in sustainable drainage systems. That can happen virtually anywhere. Were the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, in his place, he would testify to the fact that in the big flood

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of 2007, Sheffield did not flood as a result of the river but as a result of the drainage system. Protection against that is what we are looking for in the sustainable urban drainage package.

Baroness Williams of Trafford: I completely take the noble Baroness’s point, but I reiterate our point that local planning authorities are expected to steer new development to areas at least risk of flooding. That is not to say that we will not have one-off events. Nowhere is safe from that sort of one-off event.

Lord Campbell-Savours: The noble Lord, Lord Porter, sitting immediately behind the Minister, brought us into the world of reality. He told us that they will carry on building. That is what he said. So how does the Minister deal with that?

Baroness Williams of Trafford: If I have interpreted my noble friend’s words correctly, he tells us that he lives in an area that is quite low lying. We are sitting in an area that is in a flood plain, so it is not at all unusual for areas of high flood risk to be built upon, albeit that London has been built upon for the past 200 or 300 years. Going back to my original statement, the review by Oliver Letwin going forward and the total way in which we approach water management must take on a new meaning. That is not to take away from the noble Lord’s point. I think that my noble friend was making an entirely different point, which is that in some places we build on flood plains.

Where development is necessary in a flood risk area, it must be made safe, without increasing flood risk elsewhere, and be appropriately flood resilient and resistant. We have recently seen examples of where building in one place has increased flood risk elsewhere. Where appropriate, developers need to identify through a site-specific flood risk assessment all the flood risks to and from the development. This should accompany the planning application to the satisfaction of the local planning authority. Our planning guidance, which supports the NPPF, is very clear that all local planning authorities are expected to follow the strict tests set in the framework to protect people and property from flooding.

Lord Deben: Can my noble friend explain why the Government are not willing at this stage at least to say they will look into the unanimous advice that the Minister has had to insist that it is no longer compulsory that the water authority should link up to the local sewerage system just because a development has been put up? The developer should be responsible for making a connection that is not damaging. Why can we not make such a simple and necessary change to the law?

Baroness Williams of Trafford: My Lords, my noble friend brings up a really important point, but some of these things will be discussed in the round as we consider how we manage flooding in future. I am sorry—I have lost my train of thought. I wonder whether it is the lateness of the hour. The work of my noble friend’s committee will be invaluable to that thinking.

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I come back to the issue of flood resilient construction. Currently, building regulations do not require building work to incorporate any flood-resilience or flood-resistance measures. This is because local authorities can already ensure through plans that measures to address flood risk are incorporated into new development where appropriate. Nevertheless, approved document C of the statutory guidance which supports the buildings regulations promotes the use of flood-resilient and resistant construction.

We recognise the importance of the issue and have asked the Building Regulations Advisory Committee, the statutory committee which advises Ministers on building regulations matters, for its advice on this. I know that the committee has been considering the issues, and we expect to receive its advice shortly.

Lord Campbell-Savours: The noble Baroness said “shortly”. Is there any chance of it before Report?

Baroness Williams of Trafford: I do not think I can give that assurance, but I shall certainly try to put a timescale on it before Report, if that suits the noble Lord.

I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment, but I also hope that the Committee will indulge me; I know everyone is anxious to get away. We have spoken about how planning applications for housing can often take an extraordinary time to complete. After some very long nights in this Chamber, I believe people are beginning to say the same thing about planning Bills. I pay tribute to everyone who has spoken in debates today and through the whole course of the Bill so far. The expertise which noble Lords have displayed has greatly enhanced consideration of the Bill, as well as my thinking about how we can improve its implementation.

I know that many noble Lords will not believe me when I say this, but I look forward to continuing the debate on Report. Although we will continue to disagree on some issues, we will, I hope, move closer to agreement on others. Over the Recess, therefore, I shall be tabling a number of government amendments which will take into account some of the points that noble Lords have raised. Given the hour, I will write to noble Lords with further details shortly—and I mean shortly.

I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Foster, is not here—oh no, there he is in the corner. I have also written to the DPRRC, responding to its 20th and 21st reports and have placed a copy of that letter in the Printed Paper Office, as noble Lords requested. I am happy to be making a number of positive changes. I will not detail every point here now, because I fear that noble Lords have heard enough from me, but I hope that my response will be helpful.

One final Easter present to you, my Lords, before we rise: within the past couple of hours, we have launched our consultation on starter homes. During Committee, noble Lords from across the House raised a number of questions about the implementation of the starter homes programme. I heard their concerns, and in response we have decided to consult on a number of proposals. We will spend the next eight weeks

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actively engaging with the housing industry and local government, and I am happy to ask my officials to brief any noble Lord who wants to know more. I have written to noble Lords with further detail and, again, asked my officials to place the consultation in the Printed Paper Office and the House of Lords Library.

That is it for now. I thank your Lordships again for the depth in which we have scrutinised the Bill and wish you a very happy Easter.

Baroness Parminter: Briefly, I thank the Minister for her recognition that the issue of sustainable homes is serious. I have two quick points. The Government’s defence for not accepting the amendments seems to be that they want to ensure that the new arrangements have time to bed in. I am grateful that they are offering us more information about the stakeholder meetings. I am sure the Committee will agree that stakeholder meetings bear no comparison to national monitoring of the situation, both of the number and quality of SuDS. The evidence we have seen from major housebuilders and the adaptation sub-committee shows that this is not working.

Secondly, I am grateful to the Government for confirming that costs are not stopping them moving on this issue, it is the issue, as they put it, of undue delay. My argument would be that one extra stage in the process of planning is worth the price that will be accruing to the benefit of home owners, the wider community and the environment from the introduction of SuDS. On that basis, I will go away with colleagues and consider the response. I thank colleagues around the Committee who have joined in promoting this cause. We may well wish to return to it on Report.

Amendment 119 withdrawn.

Amendment 120 not moved.

Clause 192, as amended, agreed.

Clause 193 agreed.

House resumed.

Bill reported with amendments.

High Speed Rail (London—West Midlands) Bill

First Reading

8.11 pm

The Bill was brought from the Commons, read a first time and ordered to be printed.

Scotland Bill

Returned from the Commons

8.11 pm

The Bill was returned from the Commons with the amendments agreed to.

23 Mar 2016 : Column 2519

UK Convergence Programme

Motion to Approve

8.12 pm

Moved by Lord Ashton of Hyde

That this House approves, for the purposes of section 5 of the European Communities (Amendment) Act 1993, the Government’s assessment as set out in the Budget Report and Autumn Statement, combined with the Office for Budget Responsibility’s Economic and Fiscal Outlook and Fiscal Sustainability Report, which forms the basis of the United Kingdom’s Convergence Programme.

23 Mar 2016 : Column 2520

Motion agreed.

Royal Assent

8.12 pm

The following Acts were given Royal Assent:

Riot Compensation Act,

Access to Medical Treatments (Innovation) Act,

NHS (Charitable Trusts Etc) Act,

Scotland Act.

House adjourned at 8.13 pm.