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It seems that we agree on the principle that the Bill needs to be abundantly clear about the role of the Secretary of State and to achieve the right balance between different parties in strategy-making and delivery. I would not want there to be any confusion over the
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On the initial strategy and Clause 67(7), as I said in Committee, we want a smooth transition to the new arrangements. I intend that the regional spatial strategy and the regional economic strategy should in combination form the regional strategy on commencement of the legislation. In Committee, we debated a series of amendments on the provision and now we have Amendments 158 and 159 in the names of the noble Baroness, Lady Warsi, and the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield. They would give the responsible regional authorities instead of the Secretary of State the power to specify how much of the existing regional spatial and economic strategies would form the regional strategy on commencement.
I accept the principle that the Secretary of State should not be given responsibility for determining how much of existing strategies should form the regional strategy on commencement. I cannot accept that it makes sense, however, for such responsibility to be given to another party, given the ensuing uncertainty and the risk of inconsistent decision-making. We explored that in Committee. We have therefore tabled Amendment 157G, which removes the concept and the process involved in a transitional arrangement. We are proposing instead that it should be automatic and that, on commencement, the regional strategy would simply consist of the RES and the spatial strategies that subsist on that day. That is a much more sensible outcome. It reduces the uncertainty, removes unnecessary procedure and recognises that considerable work has already gone into aligning the regional economic and spatial strategies such that we consider the risk of significant contradictions between them to be minimal. This approach would also deal with the concerns at the heart of Amendments 158 and 159, which would remove the Secretary of State from the process.
We have also taken a fresh look at the process for approving revisions to regional strategy with a view to ensuring the right balance. The Secretary of State retains responsibility for approving the strategy but the end product is jointly owned by the responsible regional authorities. Our Amendment 164G takes up the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, in Committee. I am sorry that he is not in his place, as I would have liked to have seen his delight as we accepted this amendment. He proposed to remove the requirement for the Secretary of State to publish the approved strategy and to replace it with a requirement for responsible regional authorities to publish the approved strategy. That means that the regional authorities will publish the approved strategy. It does not take away the Secretary of States responsibility for approving the final version but it gives the regional authorities a clear responsibility for publishing the final approved version. That confirms the leadership role that they have in drafting the strategy. I trust that both the amendments will meet with noble Lords approval.
Lord Hanningfield: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her comments. We recognise that the Government have gone some way with their amendment and we are grateful for that. That is encouraging and it is the second time today that they have removed some of the powers of the Secretary of State along the lines that we wanted. I hope that there might be further movement as we go through the legislation. We argued throughout the Committee that that should be so.
I am still a little unclear about what elements of the existing strategies we are talking about. I gathered from the Minister that the Secretary of State would not look at RDAs individual strategies where they do not affect national policy and that they would be able to decide what they took forward. I give noble Lords an example. Since this legislation was written and thought about, there have been dramatic events and changes in the way in which development is taking place. Only this morning, I was looking at a large development in north Essex that has collapsed because the developers cannot afford the Section 106 agreements that they entered into because of the collapse in the price of the land. They want local authorities to put in some of the infrastructure that would have come out of the Section 106 agreements. Therefore, whatever strategy the Secretary of State or the RDA has, a lot of local decisions will have to be made. We are talking about 15 years for a development that was going to take place in the next three.
The planning strategies in this legislation will be very much dependent on the economic situation in the next few years. Some of them are almost irrelevant for the moment; they might be more relevant in five years. It is very difficult to see how we are going to build some of the houses that are planned for. Therefore, whatever the Secretary of State says, a lot of local decisions will have to be made. I would like to see more of that in the legislation; I shall come back to that in a moment. However, I am grateful to the Minister. She has moved in our direction and clarified that the Secretary of State will not be as involved as we first feared. None the less, I would like to know a little more about how she sees the RDAs developing the regional strategy from day one under their own auspices.
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, we have three amendments in this group, Amendments 164C, 164E and 164H. On Amendment 164G, I think that my noble friend Lord Greaves would probably say that he is glad to see the Government accepting sensible propositions and wishes that they would do more of it.
Clause 74, to which our amendments relate, deals with the approval of revision by the Secretary of State. The amendments would ensure that any modifications to the draft revision of a regional strategy proposed by the Secretary of State were published for consultation so that any member of the public could make representations about the changes, with the views being considered by the Secretary of State before the revision was finalised and published.
As the Bill stands, the Secretary of State has the right to determine whom to consult. This exclusive discretion contrasts with the current process for the revision of the regional spatial strategy. Our first amendment would give the right to anyone who wished it to be consulted. Draft revisions of a regional strategy would be developed by the regional development agencies and the leaders boards in consultation with stakeholdersthat horrible wordand local communities. It is important that those who live and work in a region are able to feed in to the development of the strategy, hence the second amendment.
If, under the process for revising a regional spatial strategy set out in the current legislation, the 2004 Act, the Secretary of State proposes to make changes to the draft revision, those changes have to be published for public consultation. It seems to us that, if the Secretary of State decides to modify the strategy at this stage in the process, the changes should be published for consultation, so that views can be given and taken into consideration, as is consistent with the process for developing regional spatial strategies.
Baroness Andrews: My Lords, these amendments cover a number of detailed aspects of the process for approving revisions to regional strategy, and I can understand the intentions behind them. Noble Lords want to strengthen the consultation requirements on the Secretary of State before approving or revising the draft strategy. It is absolutely not our intention to limit the Secretary of States consultation in any way. Amendment 164C would make it explicit that the Secretary of State must publish a draft revision of a regional strategy for consultation and would delete the current provision for the Secretary of State to,
Amendment 164E would insert into Clause 74(3) a provision that any person can make representations on the proposed changes. Clause 74(4) already makes it clear that any person can make representations and the Secretary of State must have regard to those representations. That also takes care, in part, of Amendment 164C.
Amendment 164H would insert an explicit requirement into Clause 74(5) for the Secretary of State to set out reasons for making any changes to the draft strategy revision submitted by the responsible regional authorities. We have had the regional spatial strategy process for some time now; it is a well established and welcome practice for the Secretary of State to set out the reasons for making further changes to strategy revisions. It is done in some detail so that everyone can see why the Secretary of State is recommending a different approach. It seems to me that there is little substantive difference between what the noble Baroness is proposing and the existing provisions. The important principle, on which we are absolutely agreed, is that there should be wide public consultation on the final draft of the strategy. We will make sure in guidance that that will be as clear a commitment as possible.
I may not be able to answer the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, in exactly the context in which he raised it. He is absolutely right that we are in a very dynamic situation, and it is clear that the landscape over the next few years is going to look very different, whether we are talking about management of resources or the trajectory of housing starts. Clearly, our regional spatial strategies will have to be dynamic. We are looking at revisions to some strategies at the moment as more demographic information comes online.
The important point about the amendment is that, instead of having what we originally proposedthe concept of a transitional arrangementwe will just have the regional spatial strategy in its present status and condition and the regional economic strategy. Together they will form the regional strategy on the day of commencement. There will not be any waiting for further changes or negotiation of accommodationthat will be the starting point. The noble Lord was absolutely right that the delivery of our strategy will be affected by local economic realities. It is the combination of evidence, intelligence and forecasting that comes out of the RES and the RSS which forms the framework for development. In local decisions, of course, economic conditions are always a material consideration. There will be a feed-through into local decision-making as well. I am very happy to write to the noble Lord if he would like some more detail on how we see that process working.
Lord Hanningfield: My Lords, I do not really expect the Government to accept this amendment, but I want to talk to it. We talked a lot about regional strategies, their success and how they are going to happen or not going to happen, and I am sure that we will talk more about leaders boards and other things. Our contention is that regional strategies are not successful, do not work and that we would do better without them.
When the Government published their proposals for this legislation, I thought that something might be happening that one could begin to agree with. We talked about economic assessments and EPBs, which are sub-regional, as well as MAAs and the development of LAAs, which everyone can support because their local authorities are working together for the best for that area, or groups of areas. They could all be successful because there are people on the ground who know the problems. As long as they are on EPBs and are mostly elected rather than appointed members, all three are recipes for success.
The noble Lord, Lord Smith, has talked about the north-west, and I accept that in some places it works differently. But that is my argument; the Governments whole approach should have been more flexible. Flexibility and different arrangements for different places would
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As I have said several times during the passage of this legislation, I have spent most of my life in local government trying to get things to work and things to happen. I want to see housing and the economy improving, and a more flexible approach would have been much better. The Government have missed a tremendous opportunity here in developing that. I know that with legislation it is difficult to be flexible, but I would have liked to see some attempt to do that.
The House of Commons Business and Enterprise Committee published a report a couple of weeks ago on RDAs and this Bill. Some interesting, revealing and illuminating evidence was given to the inquiry, which has produced a report. Paragraph 89 says:
Many witnesses raised the lack of RDAs skills in relation to spatial planning. RDAs stated that they were already addressing this shortage and would both inherit some staff from regional assemblies and recruit new staff.
That does not sound very encouraging to me, when many local authorities, whether at unitary, district or county level, have very good planning officers and the capacity to do more of that work. We were defeated on an amendment a little while ago that might have involved different tiers of authorities in creating more of the planning requirements. The committee said other things about this legislation, which have not been addressed at all in our debates.
I know that the Government will not agree with this amendment, but it is not too late to have a bit more flexibility in this legislation. It would have helped if the EPBs had more power, and perhaps that is the future. If there is a change of government in the not-too-distant future, EPBs could become much more responsible bodies, because they are at a sub-regional and more local level. They might get local authorities to work together to deliver what we all want to see. I beg to move.
I am puzzled by this amendment, because it removes Clause 67 alone. The noble Lord has not tabled amendments to remove any of the subsequent clauses that follow on from this, on the review of regional strategy in Clause 70, and so on, or Clause 82, which brings in Schedule 5 and repeals, including among others the repeal of the first 12 sections of the 2004 legislationthe regional spatial strategy clauses. I am not sure whether the noble Lord is intending to revert to the 2004 situation or to the pre-2004 situation. As and when he replies, he can deal with that and, perhaps, be a little clearer about the technical position, if I may put it that way. Although I absolutely take his point that one should deal with realities and then make the
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As I understand it, the argument of the noble Lord is that there should be no strategy at a regional level. On these Benches, we take the view that what the Government have put in place is too over the earstoo heavy, or too top down. We would much prefer a less heavy or rigid model than that, but we believe that there is a need for strategic work above the district level. That is where the noble Lord would leave us in some places, so I have some difficulty in following him on this.
Baroness Andrews: My Lords, this amendment by the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, seeks to remove Clause 67, on regional strategy preparation. I take the point that the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, has just made: without Clause 67, the effect is that Part 5 of the Bill cannot be implemented, so the amendment is clearly significant. When we debated this issue in Committee, I resisted it strongly. I completely respect the experience and commitment of the noble Lordcertainly his commitment to making sub-regional arrangements work, and to being highly innovative in his own areabut I must disagree with him about the need for a spatial strategy that occupies the regional space.
In Committee I spoke at some length about the role and scope of regional strategies and why I believe that a regional perspective and policy capacity will be needed even more in future, in the post-recession world. That world may well be facedthe noble Lord has already indicated that he understands thiswith radical differences in location, in terms of jobs, regeneration, skills and housing, and with the extraordinary challenge of building a low-carbon economy. I do not want to reiterate those arguments, but I must briefly say why we need this part of the Bill and why the noble Lord is quite right that we cannot accept his amendment.
This country has had regional strategy-making provision in various guises for decades, because successive Governments have recognised that there are strategic issues that can only be addressed at the right spatial level, whether that is national, regional, sub-regional or local. We are a country of regions, just like other European countries. Our regions have different strengths, demographics, histories and geographies, and they face different challenges on resources, land use, housing and regeneration, and on employment and natural environments. Each of our regions could put forward a different profile; each presents a different contribution to the future of the UK, the European and the world economies; and each faces different challenges in how to build aspirations, skills, jobs and enterprises, and how to deliver sustainable growth.
Finding a solution to those challengesalthough the solution will differ and sometimes be more difficult in different regionscan be effectively sought only at the right spatial level. Working at a regional level to link across higher education, for example, to plan for social cohesion, to create knowledge-based jobs, to reduce travel-to-work times and to target the right investment and regeneration, are all challenges common to all regions. To compete with global challenges
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More than ever, we need a regional perspective and regional opportunities. The creation of a single regional strategy is a crucial tool to help strengthen our local and regional economies in a sustainable way. If every local authority had to prepare its own strategy in isolation, it would be a recipe for confusion and uncertainty. It is the opposite of what business and communities want. They want certainty, transparency and leadership. That is why our response to the consultation showed near universal support for the principles of a single regional strategy.
The new strategies we are legislating for in the Bill will help support and grow our regional and local economies in a particularly potent way. The current system of separate strategies has led to fragmentation of both the number and range of strategies and organisations at the regional level.
I took the liberty of taking some advice from the north-west as it moves towards its own analysis and configuration of its regional strategy. I am very grateful to be able to quote from its most recent document, Principles and Issues Paper, as I think that it is a very compelling argument. It states:
We ... know that there will be increasing and sometimes competing, land-use pressures on the countryside, urban fringe, open spaces and brownfield land. All will be needed to deliver economic growth, infrastructure, housing, energy, adaption to increased flood risk and climate change, recreation, less intensive farming, food, and a valued landscape ... All these issues mean that we must ask ourselves fundamental questions about how our economy and society work. We will need to be radical in considering how we can integrate environmental, economic and social issues to achieve economic prosperity without unsustainable use of resources. We will need to address what sustainable models of business look like post recession, where the jobs of the future will come from and any fundamental long term changes in the world economy.
The north-west has set out how it sees that vision unfolding for its region. That means an integrated vision for 20 years or soa strategic frameworkbringing together the spatial elements of policy on land use, planning, demographic and housing needs, which have been expressed so far in the regional spatial strategies. That has to be brought together with the evidence and planning for jobs, investment and enterprise, which has been held by the regional economic strategy. It is not so much an alignment of strategy, whether it is alignment in evidence or policy, as a way of expressing those elements together to get the right results in the use of natural resources, planning for urban and rural areas and housing, locating suitable transport, jobs and business. It is the only way we can hope to meet our greenhouse gas targets and our budgets and to identify the right regional parties and local interests which ensure that we have a strong delivery focus.
Therefore, in all those new strategies, we are looking for more than an alignment of evidence or policy; we are looking for a framework which will provide a more streamlined and timely process, with a better balance of priorities and local interests and a clear alignment between economic and spatial planning with a strong delivery focus. We also believe that, contrary to the
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We have also made it clear that there are improved requirements to consult and engage communities and stakeholders with the process of independent testing of the regional strategy though an improved examination in public. Where the legislation provides for the Secretary of State to intervene, this intervention is limited. Where there are Secretary of States powers, they are either not new or they are limited in scope.
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