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Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, I rise to support my noble friend's amendment. I feel

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that this, in terms of a strategic Bill, is much too detailed to specify how the mayor is to present the strategy. Indeed, it might even be regarded as fairly old-fashioned in the sense that, with advances in technology, one could have a strategy which is entirely on line and which deals with a virtual reality presentation of the strategy, with no diagrams, illustrations or other descriptive or explanatory material. It might be entirely visual.

Perhaps the Minister could also tell me whether, if it specifies that it must contain diagrams, illustrations and so on, it states anywhere that it must contain any words.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I often feel that the proceedings of this House could be greatly enhanced were we to have illustrations rather than words!

I deal first with the amendments proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Miller. We do not say in response that we do not propose to prescribe in great and precise detail the type of diagram and explanatory material to be included in the spatial plan. We do, however, believe that it is important that there should be a measure of consistency with other parts of the planning system. This applies in particular to the inclusion in the SDS of a key diagram, along the lines that we expect to be included in structure plans and in the new form of regional planning guidance. That is the reference that the noble Baroness made to the explanation given in another place.

This is required and it is particularly important because in London we have the UDPs which provide the development plan for London boroughs, which need to be in general conformity with the SDS. A similar provision can be found in existing planning law in relation to the Secretary of State's ability to prescribe the content of development plans. I hope, therefore, that it explains the reference to diagrams and explanatory material, which will doubtless contain the odd word.

I turn to Amendment No. 420A. This amendment, taken literally, would prevent the Secretary of State from saying anything about the content of the SDS. I need to make it clear that we do not intend to prescribe here what policies the mayor should follow but only the general matters that should be addressed.

We believe that it is important to set out in very broad terms the scope of the SDS. This is necessary because of the important place that it will occupy in the totality of the planning system in London and for consistency with the system that exists in the rest of the country.

To take one example, the SDS must say something about the provision of land for housing in London. Noble Lords will be aware that at present a fair amount of debate is taking place about providing for the increased numbers of households that are projected in the south-east. It is conceivable, though I accept unlikely, that a future mayor may find it expedient not to deal with the issue of housing land within the SDS. That would not be a satisfactory state of affairs either for the boroughs or for the south-east as a whole.

Equally, the setting out of the broad scope of the SDS will be an important matter of defining more clearly what kind of animal it is. We have previously discussed the fact that this is a new type of planning instrument.

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Some noble Lords opposite have sought more detail on what it means. We have had other Opposition amendments which have sought to prescribe on the face of the Bill that the SDS should address such issues as land requirements for transport, protection of the green belt and regeneration of brownfield sites. I said during those debates that I did not believe that it was sensible to put those on the face of the Bill. However, they are examples of the kind of areas that would sensibly be covered in secondary legislation and would therefore help to define the scope of the SDS.

In relation to Amendment No. 424 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, this proposes the removal of the subsection which allows the Secretary of State to make different provision in regulations for different parts of London. It is linked to the provision in Clause 264(8) which allows the mayor's SDS to make different provision for different parts of London, on which we have already had some debate.

If I may repeat the arguments that took place at that time, the provision is necessary in the event that the Secretary of State in regulations wanted to specify that the mayor should in the SDS address strategic problems of a particular area of London. In response to an earlier amendment from my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis, I used the example of the River Thames, where we currently have a regional planning guidance in force that is produced by the Secretary of State. When we discussed the question of the Thames in the context of Part II of the Bill, there was consensus that the mayor should seek to continue to replicate specific strategic planning guidance for the Thames and the banks of the Thames. This clause would enable the Secretary of State to prescribe matters such as this.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, addressing the first amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, indicated that she believed that the power to prescribe content went beyond the equivalent position in similar provisions for structure plans. That is not in fact so. Section 53 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 provides:

    "Without prejudice to the previous provisions of this Chapter, the Secretary of State may make regulations with respect to the form and content of structure and local plans".

It is therefore almost exactly the equivalent power that we are providing for the mayor in London.

I therefore think that this clause reflects the need for consistency both in London and between the London arrangements and those which apply in the rest of the country. I therefore hope that the noble Baroness can withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Hamwee: I thank the Minister for that response. I think that the last point he made on Amendment No. 420, and my reference to the section being without prejudice to the other provisions of the Act, was helpful. I shall check the reference in the other legislation. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 369B to 372A not moved.]

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Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 372B:

Page 141, line 31, at end insert--
("( ) In preparing the spatial development strategy, the Mayor shall consult and have regard to the views of the London and the South East Regional Planning Conference (SERPLAN) and its successor bodies.")

The noble Baroness said: This amendment would add to Clause 264 an obligation for the mayor to consult SERPLAN (the South East Regional Planning Conference), or any "successor body" to it, in the preparation of the spatial development strategy. We have spoken a little in the debates on this Bill--my noble friend Lord Beaumont of Whitley and I said a good deal more during the proceedings on the legislation for the regional development agencies--about the importance of the area's relationship with its surrounding areas; or, as my noble friend described it, its hinterland.

I am sure that it is entirely obvious to all Members of the Committee that London has a very close and, in some ways, tense relationship with its hinterland. Issues relating to transport provide one example. No doubt the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, would remind us of the matter of waste, coming as he does from Essex. Issues of employment also arise. As regards transport, I have in mind the apparently inexorable radial effect, one might say, that London seems almost to be something of a centrifugal force. I know that people in areas around London would prefer more emphasis to be placed on orbital movement.

It is important that there should be a direct dialogue. It should not be left to the Secretary of State to make assumptions about the views of either area and act as a sort of middle-man in passing on messages from one to the other, as to nature of their concerns. In another place, when responding to a similar amendment, the Minister said that it would be inappropriate to refer to SERPLAN because it is not a statutory body. This amendment builds a little on the one that my honourable friends tabled in another place, by adding a reference to "successor bodies". The Minister also said:

    "Alternative arrangements may emerge to ensure proper co-ordination between the mayor in London and the areas outside ... in secondary legislation".--[Official Report, Commons, Standing Cttee A, 18/3/99; col. 1379.]

I take the opportunity of moving this amendment to ask the Minister whether the Government have made any progress in dealing with any such alternative amendments. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: Although I can appreciate the thinking behind Amendment No. 372B, I am afraid that we cannot accept it for a number of reasons. We do not believe that it would be appropriate to create a formal requirement in primary legislation to consult SERPLAN, because, as the noble Baroness recognises, we have already said that it is not a statutory body. It is a group of local authorities and one which may in due course be subject to some rearrangement in the light of new developments, such as the setting up of RDAs. If so, we hope and expect that new arrangements would be devised to ensure the proper co-ordination of

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planning across the broader South East, but it is not yet clear--this answers some of the questions raised by the noble Baroness--what those might be.

In the mean time, Clause 265 requires the mayor to consult councils in areas adjoining London on his or her SDS proposals. Clause 274 enables the Secretary of State to prescribe in regulations additional consultees, which might include any existing or new body that may be set up to co-ordinate regional planning in the South East.

Given those uncertainties, we feel that it is better to deal with such matters in secondary legislation, although I must stress that it seems inconceivable that the mayor would not in any case wish to do what this amendment seeks to prescribe. In short, this amendment is pushing at an open door. We shall see what can be done to reflect its intent in secondary legislation. With those assurances, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

6.45 p.m.

Baroness Hamwee: This seems to be another example where, if it is "inconceivable" that the mayor would not do something, we should not try to spell it out on the face of the Bill. There seems to me to be an awful lot in the legislation that the mayor could not conceivably avoid doing.

However, although Clause 265(3)(c) refers to consultation by way of councils outside London, that relates only to councils for areas which adjoin Greater London. My concern is much wider. When one is looking strategically, one has to take a much broader approach. I should certainly welcome a relationship between the "chambers" supporting regional development agencies and any regional assembly, rather than the RDAs themselves. As the Minister knows, I do not believe that the RDAs should take a leading part in setting planning policy.

Nevertheless, as the Government have said both here and in another place that they are looking at the particular arrangements which might be put in place, perhaps the Minister could write to me between now and the next stage, sending a copy of the letter to the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, with regard to what provisions will be put in place through regulations. The noble Baroness nods her head in assent, so she need not reply in order to put that on the record. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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