Joint Committee On Human Rights Eighth Report

Greenbelt Protection Bill

47. The Greenbelt Protection Bill,[53] introduced by Mr John Barron MP, would have two main effects. First, clause 1 would require local authorities to use their powers under the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960, section 24, to 'provide or facilitate the provision of adequate and suitable accommodation for travellers and gypsies residing in or resorting to their area'. 'Travellers and gypsies' would be broadly defined (clause 5). Targets for provision of sites would be set by the Secretary of State in any regional planning guidance (clause 2). In our view, this would not give rise to any significant risk of violating human rights, and would improve the protection of the rights of travellers and gypsies to respect for the home under ECHR Article 8.1.

48. Secondly, clause 4 of the Bill would amend the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 by inserting new sections 215A and 215B. These would allow a local planning authority to serve a notice when it appears that unauthorized development has taken place on land in the green belt or on greenfield land in its area. The notice would normally require the development to be removed. If the owner, developer or occupier of land were to fail to comply with the notice within a specified time, he or she would be guilty of an offence, and the local planning authority would be able to authorize a person to enter the land and take the required steps, recovering the cost of doing so from the owner, developer or occupier.

49. These provisions (like all land-use planning controls) represent an interference with the right to peaceful enjoyment of possessions under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to the ECHR ('P1/1') in respect of the land, and (particularly if the development relates to a dwelling) may also interfere with the right to respect for private and family life under ECHR Article 8.1. However, the maintenance of land-use planning controls is a legitimate aim for the State when considering whether to interfere with those rights. Under section 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998, the local planning authority would have to consider whether issuing a notice, or entering the land to take the required steps, struck a fair balance in each case between the rights of the owner, occupier or developer of land and the general interest (under P1/1), or was proportionate to a pressing need to take action (under Article 8.2). In our view, the risk of a violation of Convention rights would be adequately offset by the legal obligations of the local planning authority in respect of its decision-making processes.

50. The power to issue a notice under proposed new section 215A would affect civil rights and obligations within the meaning of ECHR Article 6.1. The legislation should therefore provide for any dispute about the rights and obligations arising from the notice to be determined in a fair hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal. Under Chapter 2 of Part VIII of the 1990 Act, a person on whom a notice under section 215 of the Act (condition of land adversely affecting the amenity of part of the local planning authority's area, or of an adjoining area) is served may appeal to a magistrates' court on any of a number of specified grounds (section 217), with a further appeal to the Crown Court (section 218). However, the Bill does not provide for equivalent channels of appeal against notices issued under proposed new sections 215A and 215B.

51. We draw to the attention of each House the risk that this could give rise to a violation of ECHR Article 6.1 because of the absence of a hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, and we recommend that provision for such a hearing or hearings should be added to the Bill, along the lines of that contained in sections 217 and 218 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

53   House of Commons Bill 49 Back

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