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Page 77, line 32, leave out ("or").
Page 77, line 33, at end insert (", any joint authority established under section 34 of the Local Government (Wales) Act 1994 or the Residuary Body for Wales established by section 39 of that Act").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Bancroft moved Amendment No. 224:


Before Clause 75, insert the following new clause:

("Joint planning arrangements for sustainable development

. After section 2 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 there shall be inserted—
"Joint planning arrangements for sustainable development.

2A.—(1) Subject to subsections (2), (3) and (4) of this section, where the Secretary of State at any time considers it expedient so to do in respect of any relevant area, he shall direct the local planning authorities for that area to integrate the principles of sustainable development into their strategic planning functions and to establish and maintain joint arrangements for the discharge of those functions.
(2) Before deciding whether to issue a direction under subsection (1) of this section in respect of any area, the Secretary of State shall consult with every local planning authority and with persons or bodies representative of business, industry and other relevant interests within that area.
(3) Without prejudice to his powers so to do at any other time, the Secretary of State shall, in every area in respect of which he makes an order under section 17 of the Local Government Act 1992, forthwith consult with the persons mentioned in subsection (2) of this section for the whole of that area.
(4) If in the light of any consultation under subsection (3) of this section it appears to him expedient so to do in respect of all or part of the area, the Secretary of State shall issue a direction under subsection (1) of this section which shall come into force on the same day as the relevant order under the Local Government Act 1992.
(5) In this section—
"relevant area" means any non-metropolitan area in respect of which an order is made under section 17 of the Local Government Act 1992 replacing the two principal tiers of local government with two or more single tier authorities, or any part of any such area; and
"strategic planning functions" means the functions of a local planning authority in relation to the structure plan or unitary plan, to the winning and working of minerals and ancillary operations specified in paragraph 1(1) of Schedule 1 to the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 and to the disposal, treatment, storage or processing of refuse or waste materials.".").

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The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving the amendment standing in my name and those of other noble Lords, I acknowledge straight away that this is not a planning Bill. But the town and country planning system is one of the most important instruments available to promote sustainable development, and sustainable development is at the heart of this Bill. Its Long Title is broad, and it therefore seems proper to use this opportunity to prevent a possible weakening of the planning system's capacity to deliver sustainable development in certain areas. This weakening may well result from the reorganisation of the bodies that are chiefly responsible for planning decisions; namely, the local authorities.

Orders have been recently approved by this House, as we all know, and in another place to abolish the Avon, Cleveland and Humberside county councils and to vest their powers in new and considerably smaller unitary authorities. An order has also been approved to create a new unitary authority for York within the area that is presently administered by North Yorkshire County Council. Orders designed to change the local government structure in some other counties—albeit generally only in certain districts of those counties—are likely to be put before your Lordships in due course. The recent announcement by the Secretary of State has, I am bound to say, increased and prolonged the uncertainty about the ultimate extent of this process.

All the orders approved so far provide for the new authorities jointly to inherit the respective county structure plans. But thereafter this and other county planning functions—notably those in respect of minerals and waste—are to be discharged by the new unitary authorities with no provision whatsoever to secure joint working.

These are all subjects which require to be tackled strategically over wide areas. That is self-evident in the case of structure planning. But in addition, a small authority naturally tends to resist mineral and waste developments on principle in its own area. But it will not be able to defend those decisions on appeal or on call-in by reference to a broader, coherent balance between economic and environmental factors.

In Cleveland there is relatively little scope for mineral extraction. But there is an intense concentration of industries producing wastes, quite often of types needing particularly careful treatment. Elsewhere, mineral extraction will generally be equally, or even more, important.

There are existing powers to set up joint planning authorities, but none of these fits the present case. Section 2 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 enables a joint county planning authority to be set up for more than one county, or a joint district planning authority for more than one district. But it does not enable a joint authority to be set up to exercise county planning powers within a single former county.

Earlier this week, on Monday 6th March, at col. 107 of Hansard, the noble Viscount the Minister kindly reminded me of Section 21 of the Local Government Act 1992 when I glancingly raised an analogous point on the Humberside and North Yorkshire orders. But in

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my respectful submission, Section 21 of the 1992 Act will not meet the case. This section contains default powers to set up a joint authority within a recognised area but only if it is found that the constituent authorities are failing to do so.

In reality, failure will not manifest itself until the authorities have been trying for some time to make the planning system work, according to their own lights, and bad decisions have been taken and implemented. That will be too late.

The new clause would empower the Secretary of State to direct the new authorities to set up joint arrangements to carry out these vitally important planning functions in any area where two or more single tier authorities take over the functions at present exercised by a county council. The use of his powers of direction would, one hopes, be a matter of last resort; for it would grieve me deeply to see yet more powers migrate from the localities to the north tower of the Marsham Street toast rack. I remember it well, although it is nearly a quarter of a century since I first moved in there with the noble Lord, Lord Peyton.

Many authorities will gladly collaborate over joint arrangements. To assume that all authorities will be so disposed may be a hallucination—pigs might fly. But the mere existence of that power would act as a deterrent to non-collaboration. The process is a simple one. The new clause would require the Secretary of State to exercise the power of direction if it appeared expedient after consultation with the local authorities and other interests —business, industry and organisations with an interest in the local environment and economy. That could happen at any time, but in particular the clause would require him to go through that consultation process whenever he made an order reorganising the local authorities in any area and have any necessary new joint planning arrangements in place from the start.

I repeat, it is always preferable that local authorities, as responsible, accountable bodies, should be allowed to settle their own affairs. But equally in a matter as important as the present one, a last resort should be available in time to prevent serious and perhaps irreparable damage. Existing powers do not provide for that but the new clause does. I beg to move.

5.30 p.m.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, I should like briefly to say how delighted I am to support the noble Lord, Lord Bancroft. In that dreadful building in Marsham Street he contributed, with his considerable intelligence, something in sharp contrast to the building which housed him. I would share to the full the grief that he would feel at the departure of any more powers from the localities concerned to Marsham Street. I hope that it will not happen. The new clause, to which I have put my name, is intended more to explore the mind of the Government than to confer yet more powers upon the Secretary of State.

I have three questions which I should like to put to my noble friend. First, how does the Secretary of State propose to use the powers that he already has to promote sustainable development? Secondly, what role does he see for the local authorities in that same task?

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I ask my third question against the background of a certain bewilderment. It may be that other noble Lords are absolutely clear, since the developments last week, about what the Government have in mind for the future of the local government commission and the proposals which emanate from it. For myself, I must confess to a certain confusion of mind. Therefore, I particularly ask my noble friend what view he takes of the capacity of small unitary local authorities to take a full part in strategic planning and sustainable development. There will be repercussions from what has happened in authorities such as Avon and Cleveland or, as the noble Lord, Lord Bancroft, mentioned, a larger authority, such as York, where there have been very considerable changes. How will either the small size of an authority or the extent of change which is visited upon an authority affect its capacity to play an effective role in strategic planning?

My underlying fear is that the Secretary of State or his successor will feel a terrible temptation to say that the local authorities do not have the capacity to do such things and therefore that he (or his successor) will take over their duty more and more. I have some very great fears on that score. For that reason, I am pleased to support the new clause moved by the noble Lord, Lord Bancroft. I shall be particularly interested to hear what my noble friend has to say about it. I hope that he will be able to allay the anxieties which the noble Lord expressed and which I share.


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