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Baroness Hanham: In planning, one also gets told that a design is subjective. It is therefore quite difficult to build the issue of design into outline planning permissions. If the Minister is going to take this issue into account, he should look to see where the subjectivity test comes from and how to get over it. After all, what you like I might not like; what I like you might not like; and what one neighbour likes another might not. That has always been one of the tests one has had to deal with in planning matters.
Lord Rooker: I accept that. I should say to the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, that if she checks Hansard she will see that I made the point about the fear of going to appeal in my first few opening paragraphs. I said that small local authorities without resources would be put off doing so. That fitted in with my answer to the noble Lord, Lord Greaves.
Similar arguments apply to Amendment No. 116, which would require that an application for outline planning permission must include in the statement of design principles the contents prescribed by regulations. To a large extent the amendment is unnecessary for the same reasons that apply to the
On 15 December 2003, in a Written Statement, the Minister for Housing and Planning, Keith Hill, stated that if outline planning permission were to be retained one of the considerations would be the need for more information on key design principles. We believe that these concerns can be met by other means.
Amendment No. 117B requires special regard to be paid to the design aspects of other planning permissions in determining new applications. As I have saidI have made this point a couple of times but it is worth reinforcingthe amendment is unnecessary because if the design aspects of the previous planning permission are relevant to the development proposed in the new application, they are a material consideration to which regard must be paid in any event. If they are not relevant, no account should be taken of them.
On the other hand, in some ways that is a contradiction in terms. If we are saying to local authorities that under the existing policy they should reject poor design, how can it possibly be the case that they could ever grant a permission where design was never a factor? It is a contradiction in terms. Paragraph 15 of the existing policy states that good design should be the aim of all those involved in the development process and should be encouraged everywhere. There is no qualification about that. There is enough here for robust local authorities, with concerned councillors, to be able to make a substantial case to the developers. But many authorities are not as large or well-resourced as others and therefore they may not have sufficient confidence.
This point has been made and it is worth reinforcing. Good design delivers value for money and poor design actually costs more in the end. Therefore, it is not an issue of expenditure whether for the public or the private sector. Design costs comprise a very small percentage of construction costs and in some ways they are infinitesimal. They are certainly less than 1 per cent. If the work is done properly, it is repaid many times over in the lifetime of the building. We do not want to repeat the mistakes of the past. Better designed buildings last longer in any event. There are many examples near where we are.
I may be working towards accepting an amendment. To promote better design, the Government are working very closely with a range of partners including CABE, English Partnerships, the Housing Corporation and house builders to drive up standards and increase the range and quality of the advice and assistance when working with people in this field.
We are working with CABE in particular to put greater emphasis on using master planning and developing specific guidance for sites. That is very important because as regards what we are planning with the communities plan, with the four growth areas and the nine market renewal pathfinders, we are saying
We have also set up the Better Public Buildings initiative. We have delivered new schemes such as the Millennium Communities to provide good examples of successful, innovative and good quality design. We have announced three beacon councils under the theme of Quality in the Built Environment. We are sponsoring a number of housing design awards. We have asked Sir John Egan to undertake a review of the skills needed to deliver sustainable communities and he will report in the spring.
As regards specific measures, the ODPM has vastly increased the resources for the Commission of Architecture and the Built Environment over the next three years to ensure that good design becomes a priority in the sustainable communities programme. It is about £17 million, which is way above the normal expenditure.
We have made a commitment to the Better Public Buildings initiative. There is a ministerial design champion responsible for projects. He will probably not be there when the projects materialise because of the way in which Ministers are moved about. There is an attempt and a process to go through before one signs off buildings. We have encouraged the sponsorship of design awards in making good use of modern methods of construction to achieve higher quality in standards and reliability.
We want to remove barriers to good design. I shall return to the Deputy Prime Minister, who is in charge of the Bill, and insist on the strong suggestion from all sides of the Committee that the word "design" appears in the Bill. That is fundamental. It is important to change the guidance. It is also important to give courage to local councillors and officials who want to encourage good design, but there are other pressures on them to make a quick fix or, as the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, put it, "We cannot do that because we cannot afford to appeal".
The result of that kind of approach is some real eyesores around the country erected by some household names, which I shall not list because we all know who they are. It is true that some of them are mending their ways. The powerful case made initially by my noble friend Lord Rogers is unanswerable so I shall not try to do so. By some means I shall get the word "design" included in the Bill.
Lord Rogers of Riverside: I was delighted to hear all the things that the Minister said. In fact, I find very little with which to argue. I was also pleased to hear the general support of the Committee. It is imperative that we continue with the policy specifically mentioned by the Minister of John Gummer's concept of no out-of-town retail. It is consistent with the concept of using brownfield first. We have to be extremely serious about this matter. There is a tendency, especially in the north, to use greenfield land because it is easier.
Good design is critical, but I am not sure that I accept that it is subjective, because all art is subjective. We could argue about the quality of Georgian terraces or Bach, but there is a general sense in which we agree. We could be talking about a Cornish village. I am not suggesting that there should be high, middle or low art, but there is a general feeling about what is good designa beautiful farm as well as a great palace such as this one. We can find a measure of agreement and I would like to see that included as much as possible within the Bill and in added verbal support to the outline planning.
To make things simple, our aim must be not to have to go to lawyers for advice. Things should be so simple that we can understand what the outline planning permission is. Again, I do not think that there is any disagreement between us. I would like to take this opportunity to say how much I enjoy listening to the Minister. I am pleased to see in what good voice he is. It is unusual to have such a Minister. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Baroness said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 84A and 84B, which are grouped with Amendment No. 84. I rather wish that we could have stopped while we were ahead.
It is simply not possible to plan without looking ahead. The last census was contentious. Nevertheless, the draft London PlanI appreciate that we have got into the part on local developmentis based on population projections. As is well known, we expect London to increase its population by something equivalent to a city the size of Leeds over the period of the plan. That will also affect the boroughs and the relationship of the area with neighbouring areas. Members of the London Assembly were interested in the relationship with the area in which the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, lives because of the population living in Essex and commuting to and from London. I hope that the Minister can reassure me on that matter.
There must be some consideration as to whether limits on what can be provided could affect, for instance, what housing can be planned. The subject is quite circular. Although I am usually a critic of circularity, perhaps this clause needs to reflect it a little more.
Lord Lucas: On Amendment No. 84, my main ambition is to persuade the Government that not only does the state of affairs need to be considered but also what people would like to be the state of affairs. With a collection of housing within a local planning authority, people have to survive with what is there. One could say that that came under Clause 12(2)(a). But what is not included is any feeling about people's ambitions. Are people living in houses that they do not like? Would they like to move into different housing in different environments? A local planning authority may be looking at the building of housing for its people 50 or 100 years ahead. It is not a question of the housing people need now but the ambitions they have for the future. Looking ahead, what built environment are we trying to create?
It is a difficult concept. I agree that it does not fall naturally from a collection of statistics, with people ticking boxes. But to know what people wish to have in the future should be immensely important to the planning decisions we are taking, as well as the state of play now.
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