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The Bowater House development, where I want the Mayor to have more powernot less, which is the position of the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, in this clause stand part debateconsisted of 82 flats in the private part and 70 flats in the social housing section. Of the 70 social housing flats, 41 were less than 600 square feet and the balance of 29 varied between 600 and just more than 1,000 square feet. In the private part of the development, 18 of the 82 flats were 900 square feet, 15 were 1,500 to 2,100 square feet and 52 flats were 3,300 to 16,500 square feet. Someone told me that those larger flats were selling for somewhere between £35 million and £80 million each. I find the figures unbelievable. Maybe the figure is the lower one of £35 million, but I am sure I shall be challenged by the Candy & Candy people when the proceedings of this Committee are drawn to their attention.
My point is that the social housing element is not 30 per cent or 50 per cent, but is based on the number of units. Ken Livingstone, as MayorI hope he has people here todayshould look at that. That is the way developers get round the system. It means that developers such as Candy & Candy bully the local authority into minimising the amount of social housing and, at the same time, they offer the maximum number of units. In this case, 70 flats were for social housing, but that was only 11.8 per cent of the development. Then they interfere with the social
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I was always in favour of the sale of council houses outside Londonagainst the policy of my own partybecause I wanted to see balanced communities with a mix between private and social housing, but that is not the case here. With the agreement of the council and, on this occasion, with the agreement of the Mayor of Londons officeI understand it did not have the power to stop them doing what they didthey simply dropped the 70 units of social housing provision in a part of Westminster where there was already a balance, and it upset the local community. The Conservative councillors were brought in to argue with them, saying, Why are you doing this? Of course, they could not answer because it is unanswerable. The facts are that the policy, as far as Westminster was concerned, was to rarefy the social atmosphere even more within Westminster by concentrating the private part with the vastly expensive flats in Knightsbridge and ensuring that the social housing was simply placed in another area which destabilised the social dynamics of that area. That policy does not work.
The noble Baroness will make the matter worse. By deleting this clause, she wants to reinforce and strengthen the power of the local councilshe calls it the local communityas she says it understands more. It does not. The Conservative councillors in the ward where the social housing was put in Westminster were not even aware of what had happened in their local authority. I know because I went to the meeting and I interviewed a chap. He did not know what had happened, and when he answered the questions that he was asked by people at the meeting he did not have enough knowledge to recognise what was happening in terms of the social engineering by the planning authority in Westminster.
I want to make a little recommendation for Ken and his successors, whoever they may be. When they consider big planning applications coming in under the new arrangements, they should ensure that the documentation relating to social and affordable housing is part of the application and not put with Section 106 agreements, such as the one that I have here that talks in general terms about the fact that some sort of social housing provision is going to be made. It does not say when that is going to happen. It sets down certain criteria, but when I tried to find out this morning whether they had actually been enforced, I was unable to do so. It sets out in the most general of terms the circumstances in the Section 106 agreement under Schedule 1, and that is not good enough.
The Mayor should see the detail of the affordable housing component running in tandem with the original private development application so that he can make a balanced judgment as to what that social housing component is and whether he can use his powers to influence the process in some way and maximise the number of units. We do not want those calculations based on the 11.8 per cent principle, as happened in this case. If we are talking 30 per cent, let us have 30 per cent of all the footage available in the development going to social housing. We do not even need 50 per cent in those conditions and can do with a lesser figure based on a real footage calculation, not simply on the basis of the number of units.
Baroness Hamwee: I shall address the clause in a more generalised fashion and shall resist the temptation to respond on the small parts of the Bowater House application of which I have knowledge because I do not have knowledge of very much of it. My personal view is that if boroughs have agreed a proportion of affordable housing, they need the confidence to stick to it, as well as everyone else involved.
Can the Minister explain the problem with Clause 30? I have some difficulty understanding the need for it. Local development documents must be in general conformity with the London plan. The boroughs can ask whether the Mayor thinks that a document is in general conformity and so on. The Mayor can give an opinion and, if he does so, the borough has an examination-in-public procedure to go through and will be able to adopt the documents only in accordance with an EIP report.
Generally, I support giving powers that are currently with the Secretary of State to the Mayor, but what has led to the need for Clause 30? Is it a need for tidying up? Is there some concern about the current process, including the examinations in public, orwhich is, of course, what the fear will bedoes the Mayor need the mechanism to have greater control? I hope that the Minister can flesh this out by giving the background to it.
Lord Jenkin of Roding: I hope that noble Lords will forgive me if I do not follow the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours. I have no knowledge of the Bowater case and no wisdom to bring to the situation that he described. I have five amendments down in this group
Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: I was waiting for my noble friend Lord Jenkin. If the Minister will allow me to make a brief intervention, I should like to make it clear that I am not briefed by Westminster City Council. Indeed, I did not know that this matter was to be raised until I came back from the Scottish Parliament Statement a moment ago which, for those who did not have the privilege of hearing it, will be
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When the Mayor took office, he invited a distinguished former director of Shelter to carry out just such a survey across the whole of London. I am sure there are people in this Room who will remember that survey. I was still a Member of Parliament and was invited to attend the Westminster City Council session lasting a couple of hours in which the former director of Shelter asked questions and Westminster presented a case. When I saw the overall recommendation of the director of Shelter about what the percentage of affordable housing should be in such planning applications, I could not see how Westminster would be able to achieve it. I knew the district valuers views on land values in Westminster and the implications that they would have for how much affordable housing could be afforded and where it would go. There is some danger in this debate, particularly when we take individual cases, of getting bogged down in the same state of unreality as attended the Scottish Parliament Statement a moment or two ago.
Baroness Andrews: This has been an interesting debate, veering wildly from the general to the very specific. Clause 30 relates to local development schemes prepared by London boroughs. These are their work programmes which guide them when they are preparing their new-style development plans. The clause is needed because it is about improving the process. It is not concerned with the content of plans, which is why we will have difficulty addressing the specific issues raised by my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours. However, I will come to that later. The clause is essentially about process, which is why I will have to give a brief account of the process and why the clause is relevant to it.
We have a plan-led system of planning in this country, meaning that decisions on planning applications are taken in accordance with the policies in development plans unless there are sensible reasons to do otherwise. Within this system is a hierarchy of plans, with national policies setting the context for regional plan policies, which in Londons case is the Mayors London plan, and local development frameworks having to be in general conformity with the regional plan policies. As the plans go through, they are accompanied by rigorous consultation and are independently examined.
However, for the system to work effectively, it is crucial to ensure that borough development plans are up to date and are amended to reflect changes in policies at the regional and national level. Boroughs cannot always respond very quicklyLondon is generally in a better position than the rest of the countrybut some borough-level plans have not been
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The Government first sought to address the problem through the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 by introducing a requirement for local planning authorities to prepare a local development scheme setting out the documents that they will prepare as part of their local development frameworka suite of documents that address different parts of the processtheir subject matter and the timetable for preparing the documents. The 2004 Act gave a power for the Secretary of State to direct changes to the scheme.
Clause 30 takes this further simply to reflect the unique governance arrangements in London. It makes provision for the Mayor to be able to direct amendments to the boroughs schemes or to require the boroughs to prepare a revision to their LDS without having to ask the Secretary of State to do so on his behalf. To achieve that, Clause 30 amends the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 to require boroughs to send a copy of their draft LDSs to the Mayor at a time to be prescribed in regulations or when directed to do so by the Mayor. The power must be exercised personally by the Mayor and cannot be delegated to others, but it does not extend to the Mayor being able to direct the content of a boroughs development plan. It is simply about allowing the Mayor to ensure that policies dealing with the key policy areas in his London plan are brought forward by the boroughs in a timely manner. For example, if a borough is slow in developing an affordable housing policy, the Mayor can gee it up by using the power as a way of saying, We want that plan and we want it as fast as possible. It is a question of keeping a watch on matters. The power applies to the sort of plans that the Mayor has a legitimate interest in being furthered.
With regard to the circumstances under which the Mayor might make a direction to bring forward a plan that is slow or missing, our intention is that he may do so to ensure that a borough brings forward policies that reflect the London plans priorities for, say, regeneration of a particular area. However, the clause also requires the Mayor to have regard to any guidance issued by the Secretary of State when considering whether to issue a direction, and it requires any direction to contain the Mayors reasons for making it. He will have to take account of the resource implications for the boroughs and local priorities in carrying out that work. It requires a reality check. We expect directions to be used as a last resort, with discussion resolving differences wherever possible.
The borough concerned must comply with the direction, subject to a power for the Secretary of State to direct the borough to disregard the direction or to give effect to it, subject to modifications. To allow the Secretary of State to decide whether to issue a direction, the clause requires the Mayor to copy his direction to the Secretary of State and it prevents the borough bringing the LDS into effect until a
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This clause is more technical and more restrictive than it appears. The issues regarding densities are important, although I cannot comment on the case raised by my noble friend and it is difficult to have any meaningful debate on such issues. There are many ways in which space standards for housing are controlled and enforced; for example, the Housing Corporation has minimum space standards for dwellings, but they are more generous than those in the private sector. Our new Planning Policy Statement 3 sets a minimum housing density standard of 30 dwellings per hectare. The London plan sets different densities for different parts of London. My noble friend said that we should look at floor space rather than units. We can argue that point; indeed, different methods are being discussed. Developments of very low density would in any case be caught by minimum density requirements. I cannot have that debate with my noble friend today in the context of this clause but, given his concerns, I suggest that we have a private conversation with relevant officials in the department and that we pursue the issues that he has raised in that way. I hope that noble Lords will feel able to withdraw their opposition to the clause.
Lord Campbell-Savours: I inform my noble friend that Westminster City Council is about to deal with a very controversial application for Chelsea Barracks, which will raise precisely the same problems. It is another Candy & Candy development, and the rumour in Pimlico is that once again the council is trying to offload in some way its affordable social housing responsibilities.
Whatever we do, the system will be tested by the legislation, depending on when the application comes inand, if it is not tested by the legislation, it will be tested by the arrangements that are in place. I want to know whether the Mayor of London and his office will use his and its teeth on this occasion to ensure that we get the maximum amount of affordable housing into that development.
Baroness Hanham: I am sure the Minister will say that it is extremely difficult to discuss one particular case and one particular borough against the background of planning law, as well as the role of the Mayor, in development issues. I have no intention of commenting on the Westminster situation, except to say that the issues relating to the development of land in London are very special. It is largely to do with the price and lack of availability of land. One aspect of my amendment to Clause 30 related to local development plans.
I am grateful to the Minister for her explanation about the technical nature of the provisions. I shall consider the matter further before bringing anything back, but I am bound to say that the bureaucracy engulfing local development plans is completely counterproductive. I believe I am right in saying that there are still only two local development plans in the country that have been passed and are operating. The rest are still operating on the unitary development plans, because the system is taking so long to wind its way through that it is just not achieving what it set out to achieve. We all saw that coming when we discussed the planning Bill. This simply puts another impediment into the process: the plan has to go to the Mayor and the Secretary of State, the Mayor has to advise the Secretary of State on what he thinks, then it has to come back again to the borough. I do not know how long that will take, but it will probably not be days or weeksit could be monthsand it is another problem in getting these development plans up and running.
I am grateful to the Minister for describing exactly what is going to happen, but it has made me a little more nervous about the process. It is now absolutely engrained in the whole local development plan system that there is far too much bureaucracy and far too many steps. The plans are useless as they stand because they do not advise anyone on anything very much. However, for todays purposes, I shall not oppose Clause 30.
(2A) In respect of applications which are to be determined by the Mayor of London in accordance with a direction under section 2A of this Act, the Secretary of State may by regulations make provision about
The noble Baroness said: I rise to move us firmly into the planning process. In moving the amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 93 and 95, which relate to the planning applications over which it is proposed the Mayor should have powers.
The planning part of the Bill has exercised us greatly. It is the area in which the Mayor is being given more power than any other part of the Bill and it could potentially leave Londoners open to planning applications being considered away from them. As the Minister knows, we favour more freedom for the boroughs, increased co-operation between them and more flexibility in the market.
However, the extension of powers given by Part 7 is alarming, not least because, as my honourable friend
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The principle behind Amendment No. 93 and some of the amendments tabled by my noble friend Lord Jenkin of Roding is important. It is clearly to define and restrict at an appropriate level what constitutes an application of strategic importance. I have read the draft town and country planning order, which purports to define strategic importance, and I think we will be in a court of law trying to define what that is. It is not clear, and it is not clear in the regulations either. I hope that by the time we get there somebody will have had a better effort at it. My amendment clearly defines and restricts at an appropriate level what constitutes an application of strategic importance. There is real concern about how often the Mayor can intervene in applications that are not genuinely of strategic or citywide importance. There are nearly 200 targets in the London plan that applications are expected to meet. It is inconceivable that an application could meet all of them. There is consequential concern that the Mayor could use failure to reach certain targets as an excuse to intervene. Amendment No. 95 is included because there is no reason for the Mayor to have to add officers concerned with planning enforcement to his employees.
The Mayors proposed planning powers are too wide ranging and poorly defined. The areas in which he can intervene under these provisions will cause great difficulties to local authorities. We have had more correspondence on the subject of these planning provisions than on any other part of the Bill, and it behoves us to ensure that we have them detailed and sorted out before we finish with this Bill. I beg to move.
Lord Jenkin of Roding: I begin with an apology for jumping ahead of the game a few moments ago. As I explained earlier, it was partly because I am not sure how much of what is going on I can hear accurately, but I do my best.
I have five amendments in this group and I hope that the Committee will bear with me if I spend a few moments explaining what they are about. They are all of enormous importance to the planning regime in the City of London. I shall start with a quotation from a very interesting article in todays Financial Times by Sir Stuart Lipton, who has perhaps contributed more to the development of the Citya greatly praised contributionthan almost anyone else. He writes:
The City of London's planning regime has played a vital role. It is the only local planning authority whose elected members have a direct representative link with the business community. They understand that the City needs to grow and adapt in a rapidly changing business environment, with a planning regime and a decision-making process that provides certainty and speed.
I shall first address Amendment No. 92A to Clause 31(2), which inserts a new Section 2A into the Town and Country Planning Act. Subsection (2) of that new section provides that a direction by the Mayor that he should take over the role of local planning authorities in deciding planning applications must include the reasons why the Mayor is giving the direction. However, the Bill does not say anything about the nature of the reasons and, in particular, about how convincing they need to be.
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