|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
The noble Baroness said: I have four amendments in this group, Amendment Nos. 119ZCZD, 119E, 119ZCA and 119ZCB. Clause 46(3) provides for regulations to require local planning authorities to include their policies on planning contributions in,
However, the Bill does not explain at all how the possible planning contributions documents will be created. Those policies will have a considerable effect on many people. Largely, they will determine how much is paid by landowners, developers and those who buy new houses or new developments. They will also affect the providers of public services such as schools and local residents who need to know that local services will be able to cope with major development.
The amendments remove the ability to put the local authority policies in non-development documents. These are probing amendments, to see what procedures the Government will introduce for these other documents. Amendments Nos. 119ZCA and 119ZCB are designed to bring clarity to the circumstances in which a local authority will accept a planning contribution. Clause 46(3)(b) and (c) include reference to the circumstances in which the local planning authority will and will not "consider accepting" a planning contribution. My amendments would remove "consider accepting" and insert "accept". I beg to move.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: These amendments have been discussed once already in another place. They were explained as an attempt to clarify the Bill's provision. However, the amendments are unnecessary, and they probably result from a misunderstanding of the Bill's provisions. As the noble Baroness explained, Clause 46(3) sets out the ambit of the Secretary of State's regulation-making powers. It enables the regulations to require local planning authorities to set out in a development plan document the circumstances in which they are likely to consider that a planning contributionwhether by way of negotiated agreement, or by the option of planning chargeis appropriate and specifically state when a planning charge will not be accepted.
The regulation-making powers in Clause 47 set out the types of controls that can be placed on planning contributions sought by local planning authorities. Guidance will be issued on the types of matters that planning contributions should apply to and the circumstances in which it may be appropriate to seek a planning contribution. Detailed regulations and guidance are the more appropriate places to set out how the planning contributions scheme will operate. The regulations will be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure, so there will be full and ample opportunity for detailed scrutiny of those regulations at a later stage.
The amendments would restrict the regulation-making powers, rather than the matters for which planning contributions can be sought. If the amendments were accepted, having set out the local planning contribution policy local authorities would be forced to accept a contribution in every circumstance contemplated by that policy, leaving the local authority little or no flexibility to make allowances for the viability of a particular development on a difficult site.
That would be different from both the existing system and from our new proposals where it is, and would be, open to the local authority not to seek any planning contribution. We need to strike a balance, with flexibility and certainty. In working up our proposals, we have been concerned to ensure a degree of flexibility, while offering certainty and predictability. Clause 46(3)(a) strikes that balance. It enables local planning authorities to set out what they consider to be an appropriate charge for particular developments and for particular matters, but it does not bind them to seeking that level of charge from developers. It leaves them the option of charging less, or nothing, making a judgment about what is appropriate in each set of circumstances.
The amendment would remove this degree of flexibility and require, perhaps even oblige, the local authority to seek the full contribution as set in advance. The clauses as they stand will protect developers and communities and provide them with that benefit. They might not have to pay a full charge, or any charge, in circumstances where the local authority believes that that is right, for example when it would affect the viability of a proposed development. If it undermines the potential for development, the charge will not be made. That is good news for local communities, because the flexibility will ensure that developments that can benefit the community are delivered.
In the circumstances, I hope that the amendments will be withdrawn. We have got the balance of benefits between developers and communities about right. It will provide some local discretion and flexibility, and that is worth protecting.
It makes the acceptance of the planning charge something that the local authority can decide whether to do, in each case, and therefore can, in every case, drop a developer into Section 106; in other words, it is the option of the planning authority whether to go down the Section 106 route.
The latter is not the understanding that I have gained from the Minister as to the intention behind this provision. As I understand it, the intention is that in appropriate cases if a developer opts for paying the planning contribution, that is what happens. I do not read subsection 3(a) and (b) that way. The amendments proposed by my noble friend would cure that problem and make it clear that where a local authority has said that it will accept a planning contribution it is obligated to do so. I do not read it, and I cannot construe it, as the Minister did in his reply. I should be grateful for further clarification.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: I said at the outset that I thought that the amendments were based on something of a misunderstanding. I make that point again. The noble Lord has given us his reading of the amendments and his reading of the clause. I am happy with what I have said and put on the record, but, as ever, I am willing to listen and learn. If there is something else there that we have not spotted, I will be more than happy to have another look at it.
Equally, I suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, and to the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, that they study carefully what we said. We have got the balance right; we are trying to create some flexibility. We do not want to straitjacket the local authority. Where it would be of greater community benefit not to "obligate" the authority to seek a planning charge, we want to provide that facility. The way in which the amendments are constructed may be unnecessarily restrictive in that regard. I hope that is a helpful observation.
Lord Lucas: I do not wish to delay proceedings any further. I should be delighted if the Minister would write to me. There are still two things that I do not understand. First, where in this clause does it say that if this is a development for which a planning
Lord Bassam of Brighton: I think that the answer is that that will be in regulations. The local authority must ensure that it is clear about what its upfront charges will be.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page