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Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, my Amendment No. 541A is grouped with the two amendments previously spoken to. Perhaps I may comment on the amendment proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. It seems to me that if the provision in Clause 300(2)(a) represents anything, it represents over-prescription on the face of the Bill. That is something for which we have been condemned from time to time by Ministers opposite. In regard to that subsection the boot is on the other foot.

Amendment No. 541A refers the Secretary of State's power to make a direction that the mayor should either amend the spatial development strategy, or indeed develop a new strategy back to Clause 295(6). That clause, in reference to delaying publication, states:

The purpose of the amendment is to limit the power of the Secretary of State to order or direct a new spatial development strategy to situations where only those two conditions are fulfilled.

We believe that that is not unreasonable. We do not think that it would be appropriate for the Secretary of State to have power to direct a new or amended strategy if the Secretary of State was doing so simply because he disagreed with an aspect of the strategy. More than that is needed for this kind of direction to be used. A conflict with national policies or a detriment to the interests of areas outside London would be appropriate reasons for a new or amended strategy to be developed. That is our reason for tabling this amendment. I commend it to the House.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, Amendment No. 541 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, would require the mayor to review the spatial development strategy at least every five years. I understand the thinking behind the proposal and why it may be felt that there is a need to build in a review process. It is important that the mayor should keep the strategy up to date and should regularly review it.

However, I do not see that that cuts across the general view that we have deliberately not included a fixed timetable for the production and review of these strategies. The work programme for reviewing strategies is a matter in the first instance for the mayor.

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I acknowledge in part the view of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, that there is a particular need for the SDS to be reviewed regularly because of its relevance to the boroughs' unitary development plans and planning applications which organisations may be pursuing and which may indeed come to government. That is why Clause 299 of the Bill already contains a specific duty on the mayor to review the SDS from time to time. But that does not necessarily mean that we should have a rigid timetable.

The same clause also includes a reserve power for the Secretary of State to direct a review of the SDS if, for example, the mayor were to allow the strategy to become seriously out of date. As I shall say shortly in relation to the other amendments, I do not anticipate that that power will need to be used often, if at all, but it is there. It safeguards some of the anxieties that lie behind the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin.

I have also undertaken, in Committee and in correspondence with the noble Lord and others from the City, that we shall also draw attention to the importance of regular review in any guidance that we issue to the mayor on the production of the SDS. We shall shortly issue the basis of that for consultation. I hope, therefore, that with those assurances the noble Lord will not press his amendment.

Both of the other two amendments would seek to circumscribe the Secretary's State's power to direct the mayor to alter or prepare a new spatial development strategy. They therefore move to some extent in the opposite direction from that tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin.

We are dealing with what is in effect a reserve power. In response to the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, in regard both to a new plan and alterations to the plan, the legislation very much reflects the existing provisions for the rest of local government, which appear in most recent form in the 1990 planning Act. That reserve power is needed in the context of London as well. As I said, it is a power that we would hope not to use very frequently.

The strategy has a prime part to play in setting the strategy framework for London, particularly in terms of its relationship with the boroughs and their UDPs. If, for example, the mayor failed to keep the strategy up to date, by means of this power the matter could be rectified in terms of the Secretary of State being able to direct the mayor.

Amendment No. 541ZA deals with alterations as distinct from directing a new strategy. Again, that is a reflection of the existing provisions in all other planning legislation. Were there not to be a reserve power, there could be significant problems. If the Secretary of State thought that the original SDS was seriously defective but only in one particular factor, or, in the case of a change, if the Secretary of State regarded that change as important but the mayor was ignoring it, it would make sense to have the ability to direct alterations to part of the strategy rather than involving the mayor in preparing a completely new

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strategy. That would save time and money for everyone involved. It would also avoid the uncertainty of having a totally new spatial development plan.

As I have said, this provision is fully precedented in the existing planning system. It performs an essential reserve power function, even if rarely used. I hope, therefore, that on all those counts the amendment proposed by noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, and the other two amendments will not be pursued.

Lord Jenkin of Roding: My Lords, I think I can accept the noble Lord's assurances on the question of the necessity, and perhaps even urgency, of having a review. We shall wait to see what is said in the consultative paper. The Minister has clearly indicated to the House that he accepts the importance of having a review of the crucial strategic development strategy. With that, I am happy to withdraw the amendment and seek leave to do so.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 300 [Alteration or replacement]:

[Amendments Nos. 541ZA and 541A not moved.]

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 542:

Page 167, line 41, at end insert--
("( ) In this Act, references to the spatial development strategy include, except where the context otherwise requires, a reference to--
(a) the spatial development strategy as altered; or
(b) a new spatial development strategy which replaces a previous spatial development strategy.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

6.30 p.m.

Clause 303 [Amendments of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990]:

Lord Jenkin of Roding moved Amendment No. 543:

Page 170, line 32, at end insert--
("(1D) The Mayor shall not exercise any power under subsection (1B) to direct a local planning authority to refuse an application involving the erection of a building by reason only of the floor space which that building is to provide if--
(a) the building to be erected is to replace a building which is located on the land to which the application relates;
(b) the floor space provided by the building to be replaced is not less than the floor space to be provided by the building to be erected; and
(c) the building to be erected and the building which it is to replace fall within the same use class.
(1E) In subsection (1D) above--
"floor space" in relation to any building means the sum of the total floor area provided by every level of that building, measured by reference to its external surfaces, and
"use class" means class specified in an order made under subsection (2)(f) of section 55 above or in an order having effect as if made under that subsection."").

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The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 543 I refer also to the Government's Amendment No. 543YA. I return to a matter that I raised in Committee; namely, that the mayor's strategic development strategy should focus on matters that are truly strategic in nature. Without wishing to repeat what I said on that occasion, the hostility that existed between the boroughs and the Greater London Council for many years had much of its origin in the interference by the upper tier authority in the planning role of the boroughs. I am aware that both we and the Government are anxious to avoid that happening again. It was a major flaw in the legislation and the way that it was implemented.

I make it clear at this stage that it is not my intention to press the matter to a Division, but I hope that in reply to the debate the Minister will be able to give a further indication of the mechanisms--perhaps subordinate legislation or ministerial guidance--by which this strategic focus will be achieved. I said in Committee that if the mayor's strategy did not deliver a quick and streamlined decision-making process for planning applications we would run into the same problems as post-GLC. Therefore, it is important that we get it right; and it is even more important that it is right for the City of London.

It is worth repeating the figures and the reasons for the concern. Based on 1997-98 data, 22 per cent of planning applications and 48 per cent of floorspace generated by developments in the City must be referred to the mayor as involving matters of strategic importance, and therefore will be dependent on the speed and efficiency of the new authority in processing them. Those are very high figures. In responding to the point that I and my noble friends on the Front Bench then raised in Committee, the Minister pointed out that the regime proposed would, in relative terms, involve reference to the mayor of only a very small number of planning applications throughout London. Without quoting from the debate on 27th July, the Minister estimated that it would involve between 150 and 250 applications over the whole of Greater London.

I readily accept that that is relatively small in relation to the whole of Greater London. However, the disproportionate effect on the City of London is illustrated by the fact that, supposing one took as a mid-point 200 applications that had to be referred to the mayor, about 10 per cent of the total would arise within the square mile. I can produce the figures if the Minister wants them. That is about 50 times what would be expected if the referral process was uniform over the whole area. Moreover, the figure of 48 per cent of floorspace generated as referable to the mayor illustrates that a very large proportion of the planning developments in the City will be subject to mayoral involvement.

I do not need to dwell on this for too long, because it is designed to enable the Minister to tell us a little more about the way that the strategy will be operated in practice. But perhaps I may make one or two further points so that they can be taken into account in subordinate legislation or guidance. Since our

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exchanges in Committee I have continued my consultations with the City. I am aware that the City has been in regular contact with the Minister and his officials. I am also aware that recognition by Ministers of the City's special position has been widely appreciated. Therefore, one approaches this issue on the basis that there is common ground across the House on the underlying objective; namely, to maintain the City's ability to respond rapidly and effectively to the accommodation needs of the international financial community.

My amendment provides that the mayor shall not direct a refusal of planning permission for a development on the grounds of the size of the development alone where the buildings envisaged by the application are no bigger than the ones they replace and are within the same use class. Anyone who is the least bit familiar with development in the City will know that we are talking about the redevelopment of office blocks with replacement on a like-for-like basis--perhaps the single most common form of development within the square mile.

Strategic considerations which might otherwise arise in relation to substantial developments, such as the ability of local services or the transport infrastructure to cope if there were to be a significant increase in the daytime population, will not be in point because by definition there will be no appreciable change in the circumstances in relation to these issues.

I accept it is perfectly possible for issues of strategic importance to arise in other contexts; for example, a redevelopment may have unusual architectural features. The clause caters for this because subsection (1D) to be inserted refers to floorspace alone as preventing the mayor from directing a refusal. If there are other features which raise issues of strategic importance then the mayor can still intervene.

One appreciates that these are matters of some detail, but they are of enormous importance to what one recognises is a hugely significant part of our economic life. The Bill should enable matters to be dealt with through subordinate legislation, and that is my aim here. I hope that the Minister will be able to indicate that the points I have raised will be considered when those orders and regulations, or guidance, are drawn up.

The Minister for London indicated when the revised proposals for the spatial development strategy were announced in March that an order would be laid, and observed that,

    "the consultation ... also highlighted a number of points which need technical clarification ... and are to be covered by the drafting of the order".

I note that only last week in a Written Answer in another place Mr Keith Hill, now Minister for London, said:

    "The Government will be carrying out further consultation on the draft secondary legislation associated with the mayor's planning role shortly".--[Official Report, Commons, 19/10/99; col. WA 521.]

Therefore, the opportunity exists for these points to be dealt with.

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I hope that this evening the Minister will be able to say that the matters I have raised will be considered as part of the process, whether in secondary legislation or supporting guidance. It cannot be right that nearly half the planning applications in the City by floorspace should be regarded as strategic. If the Minister can provide some reassurance on that point it will go some way to allay the concern that has been expressed. I beg to move.

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