The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): My Lords, the United Kingdom has long encouraged the use of constructive dialogue to resolve differences between the Government of Indonesia and the credible representatives of the Papuan and West Papuan people. We welcome the Papuan peace conference held in Jayapura from 5 to 7 July, which included discussions between Indonesian government Ministers and Papuan community leaders addressing political differences over regional governance and possible avenues for further dialogue.
Lord Harries of Pentregarth: I thank the Minister for his reply. I am particularly glad that he has drawn the attention of the House to the recent peace conference, when more than 500 representatives of different aspects of West Papuan society gathered in order to call for serious negotiations with the Indonesian Government and to appoint five people to negotiate on behalf of the West Papuan people. Will the Minister ask the Indonesian Government to respond to this initiative?
Lord Howell of Guildford: I am grateful to the noble and right reverend Lord for his question. We are discussing these matters with the Indonesian Government. We know they are committed to trying to carry this process forward. It is a matter of them putting their money where their mouth is because Papua and West Papua receive by far the largest chunk of the regional funds from the central government. They want to carry this forward. I think the message of the noble
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Lord Avebury: Considering that, after many years of struggle and destruction of the economic potential, the Government of Indonesia came to an agreement with the people of Aceh on devolution, will the Foreign Office ask Jakarta to refrain from arresting and imprisoning dozens of people in West Papua for so-called subversion and at least have discussions with the OPM to see how the benefits of mineral exploitation, including BP's LNG project in Bintuni Bay, could be more widely shared with the people?
Lord Howell of Guildford: On my noble friend's final point, my understanding is that not only BP but Rio Tinto and other major investors are determined to work out ways in which the benefits can indeed be shared more widely with the people. My noble friend is absolutely right about that. We have raised queries about some of the arrests-there was one over displaying the wrong flag or something like that-and the size of the sentences seemed disproportionate. We are aware of these worries and we shall continue to raise them with the Government.
Lord Hannay of Chiswick: My Lords, does the Minister not agree that Indonesian policy in West Papua and Papua-I declare an interest as a regular business visitor there for eight years between 2001 and 2009-is a rather disturbing mixture of generosity-as the noble Lord has explained, those provinces are the biggest aid recipients of transfers of resources within Indonesia-and repression? It must surely be in the interest of the Indonesian Government to strengthen that generous strand and to reduce the repression and, above all, to allow the international press free access to Papua and West Papua so that they can see what is really going on.
Lord Howell of Guildford: The noble Lord is absolutely right: it is not only in the interests of Indonesia-wherever there is repression, it is not the right way forward-but in our national interest as well. It may seem far away, but the reality is that we are talking about an area mid-way between the Pacific rim and the Indian Ocean, where all the world's growth, dynamism and accumulation of wealth and influence will be. It is very important that we are constructively and helpfully involved there.
The matter of journalists' access to Papua and West Papua was discussed at the EU human rights partnership meeting with the Indonesians in Indonesia on 5 May. It is one that we continue to raise, because clearly access for balanced reporting would be of benefit to the situation.
Lord Anderson of Swansea: My Lords, in terms of human rights, it is normally best for representations to be made on behalf of the European Union as a whole so that individual countries are not picked off. What is the position here? Have there been representations by the European Union? Are we fully behind them?
Lord Howell of Guildford: Yes. I described in my answer to the previous question that on 5 May there was an EU meeting that discussed a number of aspects of repression, including a matter that the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, quite often and rightly raises-the question of the apparent persecution of, and violence against, the Ahmadiyya community and other Christian communities. All these matters are indeed discussed and were discussed at that very helpful forum between the European Union and the Indonesian Government on 5 May.
Lord Liddle: The whole House will welcome the progress-uneven progress-being made on human rights in West Papua, and on human rights in the rest of Indonesia, and will welcome Indonesia's joining of the UN Human Rights Council, but what positive progress is being made under the EU-Indonesia dialogue? What active support are the British Government giving, particularly in terms of ministerial visits such as that of Mr Jeremy Browne last year to Indonesia? How do the Government balance their proper concern for human rights with their present emphasis on expanding UK trade in emerging markets such as Indonesia?
Lord Howell of Guildford: The answer to the noble Lord's general question is that we do balance. In many cases, one would argue that the two go together. If we can get expanded commercial and economic activity, effective inward investment and the expansion of trade, this will pave the way for a more open society and a more effective policing of human rights.
Results are a bit difficult to measure. All that can be said is that there is a human rights dialogue between the European Union and Indonesia. We support it fully. Our evidence in this increasingly transparent world is: first, that it is getting more difficult for any country that wishes to oppose and repress human rights to do so; secondly, that we intend to try to make it more difficult for them to do so; and thirdly, that the Indonesian state, whose territorial integrity we fully support, is anxious to carry forward and sensibly settle this and other human rights issues in a good and constructive way.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): My Lords, we remain deeply concerned by the continuing violence and humanitarian situation in Southern Kordofan. We call for an immediate cessation of hostilities and full humanitarian access. We fully welcome the Framework Agreement on Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan,
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Lord Avebury:My Lords, my noble friend did not mention the UNMIS report, which has not been published, on the regime's devastating attacks on the Nuba people in these three territories and, particularly, in South Kordofan where Ahmed Haroun, the governor after a disputed election, is wanted by the ICC for war crimes. Does my noble friend agree that the UN decision to send a mere 4,200 troops to Abyei and none to South Kordofan is woefully inadequate in the face of an incipient genocide of the Nuba people in the whole region? Will the UK remind the Security Council that the responsibility to protect applies in these territories to a far greater extent than it did in Libya?
Lord Howell of Guildford: My noble friend is right to point to the reports of atrocities. I think he is referring to the report initiated by the UN Mission in South Sudan and these regions, which makes very grim reading indeed. As far as we understand its contents, it is extremely worrying. In fact, my honourable friend the Under-Secretary of State, Mr Bellingham, who, incidentally, is in Sudan at this moment, was at the United Nations a few days ago and urged that the report should be put to the UN Security Council for full consideration. We are fully aware of that aspect of things. As to sending more troops, the problem at the moment is, as my noble friend knows, that the Khartoum Government are trying to veto any further extension of the UN troop mandate of the UNMIS mandate. That has to be overcome, and it is not easy for the United Nations to begin to meet the security needs through adequate troop provision by the UN over and above the Ethiopian mission I have already mentioned.
Baroness Cox: My Lords, when I was in Juba last week for the joyful celebrations of the independence of the peoples of the south, I had the opportunity to meet leaders from Abyei, South Kordofan and Blue Nile. They all expressed grave concern over President al-Bashir's stated policy of turning the Republic of Sudan into an Arab Islamic state. What is Her Majesty's Government's assessment of al-Bashir's policies with regard to the ethnic and religious minorities in those areas of the Republic of Sudan and, indeed, in all the Republic of Sudan?
Lord Howell of Guildford: The assessment we have is based on the wisdom and experience of the noble Baroness and on the visit of my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary to Juba 10 days ago for the independence celebrations. Our assessment is not at all encouraging. There is a clear attempt to use extremely violent methods and to carry them out in South Kordofan, the Blue Nile area and the Nuba
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Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead: I wish to return to the leaked UN documents. The report states that 73,000 people have been displaced and that 7,000 people who were not taken into the compound have disappeared. The situation has been described as resembling Srebrenica. There are aerial photographs of mass graves. So why has the UN remained silent about such disturbing evidence? As a member of the Security Council, what exactly is the United Kingdom doing when a sovereign Government in Khartoum are refusing to allow anyone to investigate what is happening and are continuing to obstruct essential humanitarian aid to the very needy people of South Kordofan?
Lord Howell of Guildford: The noble Baroness is right and reinforces what I was saying a moment ago. This report is extremely worrying and full of evidence of really serious atrocities. She has further elaborated and underlined that. The question is what the UN agencies, UNMIS itself and the reporting authorities are going to do about it. I have to tell the noble Baroness that as far as the British Government and my honourable friend Mr Bellingham, who was at the United Nations, are concerned, our urging has been that this report should go forward to the Security Council and be fully discussed in the light of the grim and terrible reports that it contains. That is the position so far. I cannot tell the noble Baroness exactly what is going to happen next or how it will be handled, but that is HMG's position on the matter.
Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, on the report that the noble Lord has referred to and which I sent him a copy of yesterday, he will recall that two weeks ago I sent him a report from Kadugli where UNMIS soldiers themselves were responsible for handing over people who were seeking refuge in the refugee camp there-"like lambs to the slaughter", according to a witness. What does this tell us about the nature of peacekeeping in Southern Sudan and of the UNMIS force itself? Are we intending to refer these crimes against humanity to the International Criminal Court, not least because of the thousands of people who are trapped in the Nuba mountains and suffering from aerial bombardment?
Lord Howell of Guildford: I can only repeat what I said earlier. The noble Lord very kindly sent me a copy of this report, as did a number of other people. As I have already said twice, it makes very grim reading. The noble Lord has rightly raised the quality and behaviour of existing UN troops a number of times. Of course we are worried that there was inadequate behaviour or that troops stood aside while people were dragged from their cars and shot, and so on. We
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To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will ask the Government of Israel to return to its original owners expropriated land in East Jerusalem and the West Bank which has not been developed or is used only for military training.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): My Lords, as the noble Lord will know from my reply on 16 June, we are very concerned about Israel's policies on developing settlements. It is Britain's long-standing policy that settlements are illegal under international law and an obstacle to peace. During his recent visit to Israel and the Occupied Territories, my honourable friend, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Alistair Burt, stressed the need for the parties to return to negotiations on the basis of parameters set out by President Obama in his speech on 19 May-that is, the 1967 borders with agreed land swaps, as well as security arrangements that protect Israel and respect Palestinian sovereignty.
Lord Hylton: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his reply. Does he accept that my Question is a modest attempt to prevent new facts on the ground being created in the West Bank and East Jerusalem which are bound to pre-empt the negotiations that he mentions? Are we not already faced with a single-state situation, with Bantustans in Ramallah and Gaza, and will the quartet act positively to redress the most unequal balance?
Lord Howell of Guildford: The quartet, alas, in its recent meetings found itself unable to establish even enough agreement for a statement, so this indicates the continuing difficulty, tensions and disagreements underlying this whole scene. The noble Lord is absolutely right about the creation of facts on the ground, which are obviously an obstacle to a return to negotiations and a serious impediment to the long-term prospects for peace. It is particularly concerning that the building of settlements and these demolition programmes in East Jerusalem, which are illegal, are continuing, particularly the very provocative building and demolition operations going on in the Sheikh Jarrah district. I have to agree with the noble Lord, but these are matters that we keep raising with the Israeli authorities.
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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the noble Lord said that Mr Burt raised the hope of the United Kingdom Government that there would be negotiations, but he was not explicit about how the Israelis responded. He has implied negativity but has not been explicit. Can he explicitly tell your Lordships' House what the Israelis did say in response, and, if it was negative, does the noble Lord really believe that there is any realistic possibility of negotiations with a Netanyahu-led Government?
Lord Howell of Guildford: I was not explicit because, as the noble Baroness will know-she is better equipped than most of us in these sorts of areas-what one often gets when making representations that are not welcome to the recipients is a shrug of the shoulders and a polite nodding of the head but no action. I am afraid that the most visible action is of the opposite kind-buildings have continued to be demolished, which gives rise to a question about the prospects for progress.
No one can disguise the fact that most of the responsible world-the Arab world, the western world, the European Union, the United States, the UN-believes that the present fluidity and turmoil in the region provides an opportunity for Israel and a Palestine that we hope is moving towards a united Government, although it is not there yet, to start serious negotiations. That is what we want, but it has to be said that this has appeared not to be the opinion of the Israeli authorities at the moment. Their inclination appears to be just to hunker down and hope that something else will turn up.
It is not a situation in which we are optimistic. None the less, we think that continual pressure and the continuing presentation of the realities of the destructive path on which an Israel that refused to negotiate would set itself will eventually move things, but I cannot pretend that it will happen tomorrow morning.
Lord Alderdice: My Lords, my noble friend made much of the fact that the Minister declared that the settlements were illegal under international law, but is my noble friend aware that if the Minister had gone further and said that there might therefore be a case for materials produced in those settlements to be boycotted, he would be in breach of the new anti-boycott law which the Knesset introduced on 11 July? What is Her Majesty's Government's response to the introduction of that law? Does my noble friend agree that it seriously undermines not only freedom of speech in Israel but even Israel's credentials as an open, free and democratic society?
Lord Howell of Guildford: I myself-and I think this would be a government view-do not very much like the shape of the boycott law, which seems to intrude very greatly on the freedom even of speech about what can be traded and developed in the relevant areas. However, I understand that the matter will come before the Israeli Supreme Court and has been challenged, so maybe it is premature to make final judgments on
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Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, do Her Majesty's Government believe that there should be no return of land until there is a final settlement? The noble Lord will know that that statement was made back in 1967. Is that still the view of Her Majesty's Government today?
Lord Howell of Guildford: I think the noble and learned Baroness is aware that this question has come up very recently in discussion. I believe that that statement was made by a former Foreign Secretary, George Brown MP, many years ago after the 1967 war and the Israelis' occupation of the West Bank after they were attacked. I do not believe that it forms part of the entirely new and fluid situation that has developed long since then, or of the new realities that we have to face in moving to negotiation. I will check the precise legal status of that statement, which was valid all those years ago, but I do not think it is at all relevant to the way in which we want to go now.
Lord Eden of Winton: My Lords, are not the attitude and policy of the Administration of the United States of America key to a resolution of these matters? Can my noble friend say whether they are pressing as hard as Her Majesty's Government are?
Lord Howell of Guildford: My noble friend is right to say that the influence of the United States on the situation is major, although it may not be absolutely as final as it is sometimes argued. The European Union has its role and individual nations have theirs. The United Kingdom continues to be able to play an influential role and maybe could do even more. But obviously if the United States is not, as it were, on side, little progress will be made. We all hope that the very fine speech made by President Obama indicates the way he wants to go and that he is allowed to go that way. However, we would be blind if we did not recognise that there are formidable political forces in the United States which seem to stand in the way of sensible progress on this issue.
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): My Lords, the Chancellor of the Exchequer regularly discusses the situation in the euro area with his European Union colleagues, including in bilateral meetings and at the Economic and Financial Affairs Council. The most recent ECOFIN meeting on 12 July, which the Chancellor attended, covered the situation in the euro area, and a number of previous ECOFIN meetings have also discussed this. The Treasury continues closely to monitor financial developments in the euro area.
Lord Barnett: My Lords, the Chancellor was quoted as saying-I hope that the noble Lord does not mind me quoting him-that they should try to obtain a settlement whereby banks are more heavily capitalised. That was a very sensible suggestion, although it might be difficult to achieve. I hope that the noble Lord is not complacent that, if the crisis really hits the eurozone, simply because we are not in the scheme we will be all right since it will not cost us any euros. We would not have to bail out European banks, but we would have to bail out UK banks that got into serious trouble. Does he accept that it would be sensible for the Chancellor to be much more positive about trying to achieve a deal? Indeed, if he can get a sustainable deal that is recognised internationally, he should go as far providing guarantees because that would be a sensible move which would safeguard UK taxpayers from tens if not billions of euros.
Lord Sassoon: My Lords, the Government are not the least complacent about the very serious situation in the eurozone, as evidenced by not only the continuing discussions around the next stage of the programme for Greece but also the situation of Italy as regards the capital markets and its interest rates recently. The most constructive things we can do are, first, to make sure, as the FSA and the Bank of England are doing, that the UK banks are subjected to stringent stress tests; and secondly that they continue to build up, as they have done satisfactorily so far, their capital liquidity positions. In his discussions with the eurozone, my right honourable friend the Chancellor has made it quite clear how supportive the UK is not only of the short-term measures in which we are not directly involved-the Eurogroup discussions around Greece-but also through ensuring that Europe presses ahead with the structural adjustments that are needed to bring sustained growth to Europe. At the same time, we also make it abundantly clear that it is for the eurozone itself to finance further bailouts and that the UK, as has been agreed in the context of Greece, is not going to be a direct participant in these bailouts.
Lord Lamont of Lerwick: My Lords, is it not clear, as the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, has pointed out, that while we all obsess about Rupert Murdoch and News International, there is a much more serious crisis actually brewing on the European continent? Is it not clear that two paths are open to the eurozone? One is to recognise a default by Greece now; or if that is judged too risky to the banking sector, for the eurozone then to come up with what it has always promised, which is to do whatever is necessary to stop the
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Lord Sassoon: I certainly agree with my noble friend about the relative seriousness of different crises that are going on at the moment, and I repeat that the crisis in the eurozone is extremely serious. As to prescriptions and questions about what the eurozone would do, my noble friend speaks words of wisdom. However, it would not be appropriate for a UK government Minister to lecture the eurozone as to what to do. We shall look with considerable interest at what the meeting of eurozone leaders over the next two days comes up with. It is important that they make further considerable progress.
Lord Peston: My Lords, is the Minister aware that some of us do not believe in exaggerating the problems of the eurozone or using the word "crisis", which is immensely damaging and should not be used by Her Majesty's Government? Is he aware that, overall, the eurozone has been a great success? A vast amount of eurozone paper is held willingly throughout the world and ever more trade is being carried out in euros. Is it not about time that Her Majesty's Government took at long last a more positive attitude both to the eurozone and to Europe in general?
Lord Sassoon: My Lords, we take as a Government a very positive and pragmatic attitude towards Europe and the eurozone. It is after all where 40 per cent or more of the UK's exports go. We wish the eurozone success. In the ways that I have sketched out and we have discussed on other occasions, we will be supportive, particularly on completing the single market and putting in place structural reforms. At the same time, it is right for countries to make their decision as to whether they want to be in or out, and the UK has made and continues to make the right decision about where we are.
"(9) CIL regulations must provide for an exemption (or a partial exemption) from liability to pay CIL in respect of a development where the person who would otherwise be likely to pay CIL in respect of the development is already required to make payment of a sum or sums under a planning obligation under section 106 of TCPA 1990 which is or are applied towards-
(a) existing infrastructure (within the meaning given in section 216(1)), or
(b) other existing local infrastructure or matters relating to that infrastructure.""
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, might I intervene? It is customary, if one wishes to ask general questions, to do so on the Motion that House do now go into Committee. Last week, Back-Benchers involved in this Bill showed a willingness to move on and to debate the Bill, and not to argue about how it should be arrived at by particular times. Announcements were made. Might I suggest that if the Chief Whip of the Opposition has anything to say, he has the courtesy to have discussions with me first outside the Chamber? If he wishes to proceed now, of course that is his right. My noble friend Lord Jenkin of Roding was supposed to be moving an amendment. I remind the House that it is the normal courtesy to give notice that one wishes to say something on going into Committee. The noble Lord decided not to do so. If he has changed his mind and wants to do it in a different way, it would be helpful to the House if it knew what procedure was to be followed.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I am normally very courteous in your Lordships' House and I do not wish to trespass on its time. I am more than happy to have discussions outside the Chamber-that would be preferable-but I draw to the attention of the House that the Government have set a target of 29 amendments. The House is due to rise at 10 o'clock this evening and, with it sitting again at 10 o'clock tomorrow morning, your Lordships will wish to know that that permits, on my calculation, only 12 minutes per group of amendments, and some of the groups contain as many as 40 amendments. We are, of course, more than ready to try to make progress on the Bill. It is a serious Bill containing serious matters and the House needs to give all the issues serious and proper consideration. I hope that the House will support that approach- that is how we usually proceed-but, if we cannot reach that target by 10 o'clock this evening, I hope that we will adjourn at 10 o'clock because noble Lords need to come back tomorrow refreshed to carry on with urgent and proper business.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I am grateful to the noble Lord the Opposition Chief Whip for saying that the Opposition are keen to make progress. We on this side of the House are also keen to make progress. These are preliminary discussions and we will certainly listen to all the debates as they proceed because all Members who have amendments down consider them to be important. The Back-Benchers said again and again last week that they want to get on with scrutiny of the Bill. Let my noble friend Lord Jenkin of Roding have his moment to do just that.
"( ) Where a local authority has a scheme or process of neighbourhood engagement and localised planning that promotes and enables the involvement of the residents and businesses of its area, within their local neighbourhoods, and that process has been agreed by the Secretary of State to-
(a) meet the objectives set out in section 61F, 5(a)(i) and (ii) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 as amended by Schedule 9 to this Act; and
(b) constitute a sufficient process of local engagement to enable the making of neighbourhood development orders and neighbourhood plans on the basis of informed involvement and consent,
that local authority may make such orders or plans on behalf of local residents without the establishment of neighbourhood forums or the holding of a referendum."
Lord True: My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendment 148AZZF. We are approaching a critical new section of the Bill and I want to underline that I do not seek to challenge the concept of neighbourhood planning or public participation in it-both are absolutely essential. They have been agreed in Committee and so I could not support amendments which seek to remove reference to neighbourhood forums in any circumstances. However, I oppose a straitjacket being placed on local authorities in relation to how they should go about neighbourhood planning.
The Local Government Association has written to many noble Lords saying that the Bill adds unwanted levels of bureaucracy and Whitehall interference that threaten to squeeze the life out of a fluid, flexible and localist system that is currently in operation. I would not go as far as that but I believe that in its present form the Bill could delay effective neighbourhood planning in many places as much as it accelerates it.
Amendment 148ZZEA is clearly defective in its drafting. It was drafted in this way in order not to leap ahead of another amendment that was later withdrawn. However, I hope its purpose is clear and that the Committee will be able to support its principles. They are that there should be an expectation of every local authority to have satisfactory arrangements for neighbourhood planning and that those arrangements must be approved by the Secretary of State. If those arrangements do not exist-I repeat, do not exist-the
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My view is that good local authorities can be trusted to, and encouraged to, trust and involve local people in planning their futures. It has been a frequent thread in this Committee that the Bill's approach seems too often based on the view that local authorities cannot be trusted and must be made to operate centrally designed systems. We had that in the section on the community right to bid where a sensible backstop system to protect key community facilities became transformed in the writing of the Bill into a potential engine of bureaucracy.
I was moved to put down this amendment after entertaining dozens of dedicated local authority workers who had given up Saturday after Saturday and much other of their spare time to help our local communities in working up neighbourhood plans. One of those local authority officers-with a lot of justifiable pride in her case because she had done more than most-said to me, "It has been a great experience. People want to take part. They welcome it so much. It is so rewarding to be breaking new ground". Of course, she was right, although our authority is far from alone. The Local Government Association brief gives us many other examples of innovative activity right across the country. People want more say in local planning and the Bill's instincts are right. The Government's interest in it is welcome but-this is a big but-why must it be presumed to be done only in the elaborate way in the schedules to this part of the Bill?
As I have said before, more than 15,000 people have taken part in our neighbourhood planning process. I think the assumption should be that every citizen and business in a village or neighbourhood should be involved in the process, which is why in my other amendment in this group, Amendment 148AZZF, I suggest that the default position should be that all people should be involved in deciding who forms a neighbourhood forum. That is also the effect of Amendment 148AZZFA and other amendments from my noble friends Lord Tope and Lord Greaves. Why should it not be the case for all local people, supported and facilitated by a good local authority, and not a selected few-as few as 21 people in this Bill-who may well claim to represent their area but could well be representative of only part of competing local opinions? Why those few and not others? Is not everyone's voice equal in matters affecting their own area? Indeed, you could argue that good neighbourhood planning should reach beyond established local pressure groups and amenity bodies, which already have a voice, and not go through them.
I ask my noble friends to consider allowing different approaches, without the need for forums or potentially costly referendums in every case. I am not challenging
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While I freely acknowledge that the words of my amendment may not be right, I hope that between now and Report the Government will give active and serious consideration to the approach that I am suggesting: namely, to have an overriding expectation of local authorities to carry out neighbourhood planning but to do it in a way that liberates and supports existing innovation and fits their own area, and for the Government to have powers in reserve to require the same spirit of community engagement from those other authorities which are not as complying as local people might wish. That would be real localism.
I have views about many aspects of neighbourhood planning that are covered in this group but, in the interests of making progress, I will leave it there for now, as other noble Lords have amendments. However, I cannot sit down without at least welcoming the intent behind Amendment 148AA, in the name of my noble friend Lady Hanham, and others in the group which accept points made at Second Reading that an unelected neighbourhood forum, once set up, should not be untouchable for five years, as it is in the Bill. I am a little disappointed in the briefing being circulated that says the removal of a forum's designation should be a rare occurrence. I do not see why a fixed set of people should remain in place for five years, unelected, when an elected council can be removed after four years. However, the acceptance that a forum may be disbanded, replenished or renewed is welcome. It represents an excellent first step away from some of the rigidities built into this part of the Bill. I thank my noble friend for that and I only hope that we can tempt my noble friends further. I beg to move.
Lord Greaves: I start by agreeing with pretty much everything that the noble Lord, Lord True, has just said. I have more than a few amendments in this group-I will speak generally and raise the questions they bring up rather than go through them individually.
Liberal Democrats are supportive of and excited by the concept of neighbourhood planning but we have two practical criteria to apply to this Bill. First, we want it to work; and secondly, we want it to work in the interest of local communities. We are not sure that the Bill as it stands does that. We are into a new world-a new architecture-of a new neighbourhood planning system based on neighbourhood areas and on authorised and qualifying bodies to carry out planning functions in these areas, which may be parish councils; or, in unparished areas, neighbourhood forums. These bodies can make neighbourhood development orders and neighbourhood plans. This is quite revolutionary stuff.
I will indicate my recent experience of neighbourhood planning at this stage. In recent years I have been involved, as a local councillor, in several master-planning exercises under the housing market renewal programme in east Lancashire, involving consultation with and participation by local residents and businesses in areas of Victorian terraced housing and local industry. I was also a member of the Whitefield Regeneration Partnership in a similar, but mainly Asian heritage, area in Nelson with special conservation status that started with an inquiry-by-design process run by the Prince's Foundation for the Built Environment. I was a member of the partnership board which was chaired by my noble friend Lord Shutt of Greetland.
Issues and questions raised by our amendments include the designation of neighbourhood forums. We question the concept in the new Section 61F(5)(a)(ii) of the Town and Country Planning Act of a neighbourhood forum set up solely for,
There is a government amendment to this effect. The question is whether this will mean businesses giving themselves planning permission via a neighbourhood development order. What is the role of residents-both those living in the area, however few they may be, or residents living just outside the area, who may be many-who may be affected by nuisances caused and decisions made?
My noble friend Lord True has already referred to the membership of neighbourhood forums. We are concerned that their membership must be inclusive and their internal processes democratic, so that everyone who lives in the area and all councillors representing the area can take part in neighbourhood planning, and to make sure that the forums are representative of all social and geographical parts of the local community. Similar amendments deal with this issue. This is a central issue for us in this part of the Bill. It is absolutely crucial that we do not end up with neighbourhood forums that are run by a local clique for their own particular purposes. In what ways does the Bill guarantee this? What extra prescribed conditions for possible designation of an organisation or body as a neighbourhood forum are intended in new Section 61F(6)? In particular will narrow profit-making bodies be allowed to set up as neighbourhood forums? These are crucial matters, and I look forward to the Minister's reply.
So a neighbourhood area, for neighbourhood planning purposes, can be the area of a parish council or a part of the area of a parish council. Can two or more parish councils combine to form one neighbourhood area? This is an obvious question in relation to small parish councils that are simply not big enough to do the job on their own. And what happens in areas that only have parish meetings?
Neighbourhood development orders effectively give planning permission outside the normal system. We will be talking about these orders quite lot in the
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Baroness Whitaker: My Lords, my Amendment 148AZZC relates to what the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, has been saying, which I generally support, but is much narrower. It reflects concerns shared by the Royal Town Planning Institute and relates entirely to the purpose of setting up a neighbourhood forum, and hence making a neighbourhood plan.
The purport of "either or both" is that the neighbourhood forum and any consequent neighbourhood plan could be set up purely with the sole purpose of carrying on trades, professions or other businesses. There is no reason for that not to be one of the purposes, but government guidance and most ideas of planning take account of economic, social and environmental aspects of sustainable development. A neighbourhood plan should surely not address one activity alone.
The Government may want to think again and adopt something along the lines of my amendment, which makes it clear that the purpose of the neighbourhood forum is to further the social, economic and environmental well-being of the residents, including carrying on businesses if need be, but would not allow this at the expense of the other factors.
Lord Jenkin of Roding: My Lords, I have five amendments in this group and will deal with them extremely briefly, because they are really all addressed to the same issue. I do not find at all clear the relationship between a neighbourhood area that may consist wholly or largely of residential properties and one that has an established business in it. My noble friend has tabled a very important group of amendments to establish that there can be neighbourhood business areas. That is certainly a very considerable advance. But when one is dealing, as one does in Schedule 9, with definitions of bodies that can be neighbourhood areas and areas that they can cover, can that include a neighbourhood area with a business? Can they form a neighbourhood area? Is all that in fact now covered by government Amendment 148AE, which comes in a future group? I and others are not at all clear on what will be the interaction where there are combined communities of
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I disagree with my noble friend Lord Greaves-we are moving into an entirely different area here. Quite a lot of local plans have developed around the country, and I will not weary the Committee by reading out a list of them. It seems important that if one is going to have all this new bureaucracy to try to surround this whole area, which is what we are getting in the Bill, the question is whether it can be made to work as successfully as quite a lot of the local plans have been working. I entirely support the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord True, but if my noble friend on the Front Bench can give us some indication of how the various components of what a neighbourhood plan would be can work together, that would be extremely helpful. A number of bodies outside will read her words with very great care.
Lord Newton of Braintree: My Lords, in what people will no doubt regard as my characteristically generalist way, I rise not to move some clever amendment or ask some difficult questions but simply to express my support for what I take to be the basic thrust of my noble friend Lord True's amendment, which goes to the heart of one of the tensions in the Bill. This is called the Localism Bill, and it is supposed to promote localism, but all too often we find that localism means what the Secretary of State wants it to mean rather than what people think it means locally. If I am right, I think that my noble friend is saying that there is a risk that the proposed neighbourhood forums-in the case of authorities that do not really want them to work-will simply be formulaic arrangements with box ticking and meetings where they can say who has attended. That is a risk, at any rate; we have all seen it happen. Meanwhile, however, perfectly good working arrangements in authorities such as those of my noble friend are made to be scrapped in favour of doing this other stuff. In other words, if you have a vehicle with four purpose-built wheels that work perfectly well, the Bill would appear to force you to replace them with the Secretary of State's bog-standard design wheels. I do not see what is to be gained by that. It is not consistent with localism and we need the additional flexibility that my noble friend seeks.
Baroness Valentine: I declare an interest as chief executive of London First, a business membership organisation including infrastructure providers in its membership. I support Amendment 148C, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, which seeks to exclude development associated with nationally significant infrastructure from the scope of neighbourhood development orders. This refers to infrastructure which gets, or would have got, planning permission via the Planning Act 2008.
A signal box next to a railway track is perhaps a good example. It may not constitute nationally significant infrastructure in the sense that the track does, but the signal box is integral to the running of the railway. If a neighbourhood plan had the ability to set land-use planning policy for the area containing the signal box, the plans could affect the running of the railway. It is therefore important that in drawing up neighbourhood plans and the associated development orders, development that is ancillary but integral to the working of nationally significant infrastructure is excluded from the scope of neighbourhood planning.
Lord Beecham: My Lords, I follow the noble Lords, Lord Jenkin and Lord True, in expressing some concern about the relationship of the various amendments and clauses that will ultimately emerge, particularly in relation to neighbourhood development areas and business areas-if I might use that shorthand term. It seems that we could have a situation in which, under the later amendment that the noble Baroness will be moving, a business area could be declared on the basis that it is wholly or predominantly a business area, which sort of makes sense, I suppose. However, another amendment refers to a situation in which there might be two referendums in the same area because there is a business area and a neighbourhood development area, which implies that it is not just a business area, or that there is some sort of overlap.
I think of a situation in the ward I represent where you have a business area-a shopping street-on either side of which there are two distinct residential communities, both of which regard the shopping area as common, as it were. However, each has its own separate issues which might encourage it-this would no doubt be welcome-to seek area status in a development forum for each residential side of the road, as it were. I do not see how this fits together, particularly having regard to Amendments 148ZA and 148ZB, which the Minister will move later. I mention this at this stage to give her a little time to think, or be advised about, the relationship between these issues. It seems to me that this could lead to considerable confusion because, on the one hand, business areas are supposed to stand alone whereas, on the other hand, other parts of the Bill suggest that they will not stand alone. You might then have competing neighbourhood forums sharing, as it were, a business area. It would be helpful to have elucidation of this rather complex situation and how it might work on the ground as I fear that it will confuse rather than clarify the situation for those occupiers-be they residential or business occupiers-who want to progress with the development of a plan for the area as they see it.
Lord Lucas: My Lords, I thoroughly agree with my noble friend Lord Newton of Braintree. Good existing relationships ought to be encouraged but where they do not exist the idea that we should have to go the whole hog and create neighbourhoods as set out in the Bill will be a very difficult thing to do, particularly in cities. Where I come from in Hampshire, localism at present consists of the parish council saying, "We'd like this", and the district council ignoring it. Therefore,
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As regards some of the points raised by my noble friend Lord Greaves, I say go for parishes. We have a well set-out system in an Act passed by the previous Government to enable parishes to be created in urban areas. If you use that, you will have the democratic structure you are looking for.
Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: My Lords, having listened to the other speeches that have been made on amendments in this grouping, it is clear that this is a thoroughly valuable grouping. I am speaking to Amendment 148AZZA, which was prompted by the Heritage Alliance. I was prompted by the UK Association of Preservation Trusts and the Heritage of London Trust. The amendment is supported by a rainbow alliance in all four corners of the Chamber. This has had one slightly untoward consequence in that, as my noble friend Lord Clement-Jones and I have waited on about four different occasions over the past 10 days to move this amendment, he eventually ran out of time and asked me if I would take over the gist of his speech. That was a helpful and constructive suggestion, except that I have mislaid the merged article. There will therefore be a slight quality of improvisation to my remarks.
The heritage sector has been arguing for a local approach for the past 11 years, since the publication of Power of Place in 2000-a report that was facilitated by English Heritage and represented the views of a wide part of the heritage sector. It was followed by A Force for Our Future, published by the DCMS and the then the DTLR, which included the observation:
"There is a very large body of research that demonstrates the great economic sense of conservation-led regeneration. As stated by the Government, 'policy-makers need to regard the historic environment as a unique economic asset, a generator of wealth and jobs in both urban and rural areas'".
That report was followed in 2004 by Recharging the Power of Place: Valuing Local Significance, published by the National Trust, the CPRE and Heritage Link-which underpins what is now the Heritage Alliance as a whole.
Heritage is a limited resource, and international organisations such as the International Council on Monuments and Sites, once remarkably led by the late Bernard Feilden, recognise it as a fourth component of sustainable development. When the Prime Minister, on 23 November last year, made his speech on the Government's agenda for well-being, he indicated that the historic environment was a major contribution to
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The heritage sector is concerned to achieve a balanced approach to public and private financing of neighbourhood development plans and orders. The Government's emphasis on economic growth as their particular imperative is totally understood, and is to be welcomed and supported. However, heritage is not a psychological addiction or obsession; it has a practical perspective in these matters.
When I began subscribing to life membership of the various heritage societies some 40 years ago, I recall the chief planning officer of the City of Bath, when criticised for the fact that he had caused to be knocked down a large number of Georgian artisan dwellings, said that he would be happy not to have done so if the city fathers had provided him with a number of Georgian artisans to occupy them, and that since they were not available the redevelopment had to occur. In Northern Ireland, planning regulations were massively relaxed during the Troubles, simply as a stimulus to economic activity. I therefore recognise that there are occasions when you have to eliminate some of the rigour that you would normally have.
However, in the past 25 years, both the Landmark Trust and the Heritage Lottery Fund, in the money that they have poured into the infrastructure of our heritage, have created a great deal of enjoyment and pleasure, as well as constructive economic activity. The churches are a superb exposition of the development of the British, especially English, vernacular tradition in which our heritage has unrolled harmoniously over the centuries. The essence of the amendment to which I am speaking on behalf of the Heritage Alliance is to make sure that there is a consideration of cultural well-being in addition to the considerations that the Government have placed in the Bill.
The Earl of Lytton: My Lords, I have no brief from anyone, but I declare an interest in that I am chairman of a very small chamber of commerce. My comments come from my professional experience, and I speak in support of the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord True, who seems to me to have asked a fundamental question about how the decision-making process unfolds which will be of particular importance to our unparished urban areas. A considerable while ago, the Government of the day introduced a class B1 use into the planning system in a town and country planning use classes order. One characteristic of class B1 was that it was intended to be compatible with a residential activity. We all know that urban centres are not segregated, with residential here, shopping there and industrial in some other place-yes, if it is a modern, purpose-built, designed from scratch settlement, but in places that have evolved over many centuries we do not start from there in the majority of cases.
So uses are cheek by jowl with each other. Residents in flats in inner-city areas, some of which may be quite smart and sought after, do not like the sound of bins being emptied in the wee hours of the morning when the local hotel waste has to be taken out or the shop bins cleared from a service yard. We need to bear in mind that in the same areas, there are late-night activities associated with their economic well-being. I can think of many inner-city areas where there are flats, offices, shops and nightclubs that open into the wee hours of the morning and, yes, the odd rowdy drunk being turfed out in the early hours with much noise to boot.
The noble Lord, Lord True, talked about the danger of trying to find a "one size fits all" solution. There is no one size that can be made to work; there is no common template. Where does that leave us? I think it means that powers have to be in place at local level so that the appropriate measures can be brokered to suit the circumstances that arise. We do not know what that mix will be.
I learnt a salutary lesson many years ago about the creeping effects of urbanisation. It related to a town which I shall not name where, over the years, the post-war industrial area, with its rather small, tatty and relatively substandard buildings, had progressively been encroached on by redevelopment which involved the construction of residential properties. Because it was in an area where companies commonly operate 24 hours a day in one shape or form, every time there was a planning application to build an extension, replace something or do anything that required planning consent, a condition was put in about hours of work. Progressively, people in the industrial area found that they were constrained in their hours of work, because no provision had been made to settle the difference between the aspirations of the redeveloped areas turned over to residential use and the pre-existing industrial and commercial activities. If we are not careful, that produces a very unpleasant form of blight and uncertainty that helps no one. There must be local democratic ways to deal with the brokering of such arrangements.
Lord Newton of Braintree: My Lords, so as to avoid the risk of upsetting everyone, I promise to be very brief. I want to make a totally different point, having had my attention drawn to it by the amendment of my noble friend Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, with which I have some sympathy. I should like to know-this is in the Bill-how it can be established that a body is expressly for the purposes of,
Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, we have Amendments 148AZZD and 148AZB in this group, but before I touch on them perhaps I should say how
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Our Amendment 148AZZD is consistent with those of my noble friends Lady Whitaker and Lord Whitty and also consistent with the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, whose improvisation is always a joy to the Chamber. I very much agree with his addition of the word "cultural" to one of the considerations for well-being. Amendment 148AZZD simply reiterates the point that my noble friend Lady Whitaker made-that there are concerns, particularly expressed by the RTPI, that the inclusion of the words "either or both" could mean that a local plan might be focused only on business and not have the rounded sustainable development approach. I am bound to say that concerns over that are particularly reinforced by anxieties generally that the Government are shifting the definition of sustainable development. We could be reassured on that point if we had sight of the NPPF, which I understand is very close to publication -or it was last week. That may be one point on which the noble Baroness can enlighten us when she comes to respond.
Amendment 148AZB is aligned with the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Cotter, which has not been spoken to. Frankly, I am not enamoured of our wording but the amendment seeks to ensure that when membership of a neighbourhood forum includes individuals who work in the area, they should, like individuals living there, reflect the type and size of businesses in the area to prevent possible domination by large businesses.
Picking up a little on the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Newton, who asked what on earth is meant by "wanting to live" in an area, perhaps the Minister can help us with the definition of neighbourhood forums being open to individuals who work there. What does that mean? Clearly, if someone has a place of work in a particular area and turns up there every day, that is clear cut and straightforward, but what about a jobbing plumber who may spend part of his time working in the area and part not, or a window cleaner who has part of his round in the area and part not? Indeed, what about someone delivering those free newspapers that we get these days? Would they be included as working in the area? What about someone who works on a construction site which may be in existence for two years, possibly when the neighbourhood forum is part-way through its work? Once work is finished on the construction site, do all the workers on it cease to be members of the forum? There are real issues of definition here which simply add to concerns about bureaucracy and we deserve some answers on them.
I turn to some of the other amendments that have been spoken to. As I have indicated, we very much support the thrust of what the noble Lord, Lord True, said on his amendment. We obviously support the government amendments which provide the opportunity to withdraw designation from a neighbourhood forum, although how rare that will be remains to be seen.
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The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, took us through some of the democratic deficit in his terms and what needed to be done to try to redress that: forums should be open to all individuals and must have all-elected members. We absolutely support that. He also has Amendment 148AZZJ which says that organisations must have zero or minimal charges. That is important because you could have people squeezed out of membership by someone ratcheting up the charges.
There are a number of detailed points on some of the other amendments but the broad thrust of them is to make these arrangements more democratic and more inclusive. We are certainly supportive of all that. I think that the Government should take this collection of amendments seriously and address the issue of why everyone should be forced down the same route that is prescribed in the Bill when, at the moment, there is good practice which could be developed in other ways by a range of local authorities.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for their contributions on this immense number of amendments now before us. At the outset, I shall apologise because I know that one or two of them have not been spoken to, but I shall probably reply to them on the basis that I find this system of numbering confusing. Trying to work out my notes against all this ZZZ-ing has been almost impossible. If I overstretch the mark and reply too often or not enough, please forgive me and we shall sort it out at the end.
I think it is reasonable to start with the government amendments. My replies to the other amendments are clustered under various headings, and if I do not respond to them all I shall try to pick up the points that were made.
The government amendments, which are 148AA, 148AB, 148AC, 148AD and 152B, address the issue of what happens if forums fail to continue to meet the conditions and criteria and empower local councils to remove the designation of a forum in these circumstances. That is what noble Lords have pointed to.
Amendments 148ZCA and 148ZMA are intended to remove the ability of neighbourhood forums to bring forward neighbourhood planning proposals. We agree that, where they exist, parish councils will be the appropriate body to bring forward neighbourhood planning proposals. Where parish councils do not exist, we do not think that communities should be prevented from having a say in the future of their areas. Therefore, our proposals for neighbourhood forums are a pragmatic solution with safeguards in place. Those are the government amendments in this part.
Amendment 148ZZZEA, in the name of my noble friend Lord True, would allow local planning authorities to bring neighbourhood development plans and orders into effect. To achieve this, too much of the power to lead on neighbourhood planning, we believe, would be transferred back from the community to be shared with the authority. I know that my noble friend has
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Government Back-Bench Amendment 148C seeks to expand the definition of development which is excluded from neighbourhood planning. A number of noble Lords have raised this issue, which I will talk about in more detail a bit later on. Our position is that we have excluded development types and classes which, due to their scale and complexity, are inappropriate to be given planning permission through a neighbourhood development order. These include nationally significant infrastructure projects and county minerals and waste applications, which are far too big for a neighbourhood to consider. These amendments would constrain the ability of communities to develop detailed, ambitious neighbourhood plans if they choose to do so. We believe that Amendment 148C would inappropriately widen the range of development that is excluded from the scope of neighbourhood planning and thus constrain the ability of communities to develop detailed plans with major-scale proposals if they choose to do so.
Our neighbourhood planning proposals are founded on the principle that communities should have a greater say in the future of their areas. Government Back-Bench Amendments 148ADB, 148ADC, 148ZC and 148ZD would go against that principle by allowing major infrastructure owners and operators, such as Network Rail or British Gas, to bring forward neighbourhood planning proposals.
Government Back-Bench Amendment 148AZZFB removes the requirement for neighbourhood forums to have a minimum number of members. In response to concerns raised in Committee in the Commons regarding the legitimacy of a neighbourhood forum, especially about the number of members, we amended the Bill to increase the minimum membership requirement for forums from three people to 21 and to ensure that membership is drawn from across the community. This amendment would remove those important safeguards. Our expectation and hope is that a forum of 21 people will not be just a forum of 21 people; the intention is to involve the whole neighbourhood. There will be a leading group in the forum, but it will not be exclusive and cut out other residents who live in the area-after all, it is their area and they need to be talked to. A number of people will bring forward plans and then discuss and consult on them.
Amendments 148AZZJA, 148AZZHA, 148AZZHB, 148AZZH and 148AZA, and opposition Back-Bench Amendment 148AZB, would impose more restrictive requirements that a local planning authority would consider in deciding whether to designate a neighbourhood forum, and consequently the criteria against which prospective forums would be judged. For example, Amendment 148AZZHB would include new criteria for looking at whether the forum's membership is drawn from all sections of the community within the neighbourhood area.
Amendments 148AZZG, 148AZZFA, 148AZZF, 148AZZFAA, 148AZZFAB and 148AZZFAC would change the membership conditions that a group must
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Amendment 148AZB responds to concerns about business involvement in forums. However, the amendment is unnecessary as provisions in the Bill will mean that local councils should consider the desirability of designating a forum whose membership is drawn from different sections of the community in the area. That would include businesses-and, indeed, small businesses. We consider that there are important safeguards already in the Localism Bill to ensure that neighbourhood forums have an open and inclusive approach to their membership, and we have sought to secure membership across the neighbourhood area and from all sections of the community. The amendments would mean that a very small minority of individuals in a neighbourhood area could frustrate the development of neighbourhood planning proposals by declining to join the neighbourhood forum.
Amendment 148ABZA would debar companies and other bodies that operate for profit from being designated as a neighbourhood forum. Our position is that we do not want to impose any unnecessary restrictions on organisations that want to put themselves forward to create neighbourhood forums. Local planning authorities will have discretion on which body or group to designate as the neighbourhood forum, but we certainly feel that businesses that work in a neighbourhood will have a role to play.
Amendment 148AZZGA seeks to remove the power for a local planning authority to designate as a neighbourhood forum groups or bodies which do not fulfil all the requirements in the Bill, but which meet alternative conditions prescribed by the Secretary of State. This power ensures we can cater for new and changing circumstances without having to amend primary legislation specifically to allow community groups that may have been inadvertently excluded legally to take forward neighbourhood planning in a designated neighbourhood area.
Amendment 148ABZB would remove the restriction that a parish council or neighbourhood forum can bring forward only one set of proposals at a time for neighbourhood development orders. However, we consider this a sensible restriction. The amendment would give rise to a situation where a parish council or neighbourhood forum could submit a plethora of proposals, one after the other, some completely incompatible with others, before any decisions, either at examination or referendum, had been made on earlier ones.
Amendment 148ZN would allow a neighbourhood forum to be designated for a neighbourhood area which includes a part of a parish council area. This would cause confusion and possible duplication as the amendment would create two qualifying bodies in the
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Government Back-Bench Amendments 148AZZA and 148AZZE respond to concerns that neighbourhood forums could have a sole purpose of promoting business in an area-certainly, one of the amendments was in relation to that. Amendment 148AZZE would prevent a neighbourhood forum having an express sole purpose of promoting business in an area.
Amendments 148AZZD and 148AZZC also try to limit the opportunity for neighbourhood forums to have an explicit sole purpose which relates to the promotion of business in a neighbourhood area. Amendments 148AZZD and 148AZZC would require neighbourhood forums always to have a purpose related to furthering the well-being of those who live or want to live in the neighbourhood area concerned, regardless of the suitability of this given the local context.
I want to make clear that businesses will not be able to override the interests of residents in neighbourhood planning. Neighbourhood planning is based on building consensus rather than an adversarial approach. The involvement of business in an area that is not a business neighbourhood must help to contribute to that. All forums must be open to those living in the area. In designating a forum, local councils must consider whether the purpose of the forum reflects the character of the area. In a conservation area, you would probably want to see members of conservation societies involved; in an area where there is heritage, you would certainly want to see heritage societies involved; and in a specific business area, you probably want to see somebody from that. In some areas, the forum may wish to focus on the promotion of business in the neighbourhood-for example, in an industrial estate or commercial centre.
Regardless of the forum's purposes, any neighbourhood planning proposals will need to meet the basic conditions for neighbourhood planning, whether it is a business neighbourhood area or a neighbourhood forum. They may include being appropriate in having regard to national policy and being in general conformity with the strategic policies of the local plan. Wherever there is a neighbourhood plan, it has got to be in conformity with the local development plan and with the national planning frameworks, which I have been advised will be ready for consultation soon.
Residents will always be able to have a say in the development of proposals at independent examination and in the referendum at the end of the process. It will be very much in the interest of the neighbourhood forums to see that they have consulted with the people who live in their area and given them an opportunity to comment and be part of what is being proposed. Otherwise, if they put it to a referendum they are not going to win it, which would probably not be quite what they had in mind. Where proposals will affect people living on the periphery of a neighbourhood area, it will be possible for the local authority to extend the referendum area to include those people in the vote.
Amendment 148AZZB would potentially reduce the clarity provided by the Bill about the legitimate purposes of neighbourhood forums. It would allow a forum to be set up with the express purpose of furthering the well-being of individuals with "an interest" in the neighbourhood area concerned. This amendment would counter the Government's amendments to the Bill at Committee which sought to provide clarity on the legitimate purposes for a neighbourhood forum, in response to opposition concerns.
Amendment 148A would allow neighbourhood forums to be designated in parishes where the parish council has not achieved certain quality standards. We recognise the value of quality standards, such as those provided by the National Association of Local Councils. However, we are not persuaded that they should form a prerequisite for parish councils to undertake neighbourhood forum planning.
Amendment 148ZM removes the ability of parish councils to prepare a neighbourhood plan for anywhere other than an area that is exclusively within their own parish boundaries. The amendment means that parish councils would not be able to prepare a neighbourhood plan for any land that sits just outside their parish boundary. This amendment would remove the ability for parish councils effectively to respond to their communities' wishes, while also restricting the ability for neighbourhood boundaries to reflect natural neighbourhood boundaries.
Amendment 148ADCA would allow an application for a neighbourhood area to be made by two or more parish councils. I was asked about this earlier on. Our provisions on the designation of neighbourhood areas are very flexible and are designed to respond to local circumstances-for example, to allow larger parishes to be divided into two or more neighbourhood areas. Equally, the neighbourhood area could be extended beyond the parish boundary in the case of a smaller parish and there is nothing to prevent two or more parishes joining together in a single neighbourhood area, with the important condition that all the involved parish councils give their consent. The way we see the process working is that one parish council would be nominated to take the lead.
Amendment 148AZZJ adds a new factor to the Bill by requiring local authorities to consider, when designating a neighbourhood forum, specifically whether a forum is charging "a zero or minimal" subscription fee. In line with the community-led principles of neighbourhood planning, we do not feel that it is appropriate for central government to dictate the way a forum should run its finances, as Amendment 148AZZJ would do. The requirements in the Bill that neighbourhood forums must meet are deliberately limited in order to maximise the range of new and existing groups of individuals who can put themselves forward to develop neighbourhood plans, while ensuring that they have an open approach to their membership and draw their membership from different sections of the community. With those assurances, I hope that noble Lords will feel able not to move their amendments.
I was asked a number of questions which I will try to respond to. The noble Lord, Lord True, made very clear his difficulties with this aspect of the Bill. As I
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On the question of combinations of neighbourhood forums, my noble friend Lord Jenkin asked me about the difference between "residential with business" and "business with residential". I think they are precisely that: the neighbourhood forums should be all-encompassing in being representative of what is in their neighbourhood. If a neighbourhood is largely residential but has some business component in it, we expect that business component to be represented on the forum and at least have a say in how the neighbourhood plans are formed. Most business areas usually have residential areas attached to them somewhere, but areas that are substantially business areas are still required to look to the residential nature of the area around them and ensure that that residential voice is also involved in the forum. Only if they were fully business areas would they be able to draw up their own plans.
The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, asked me whether neighbourhood forums would be able to support their own neighbourhood development plans. They would have to put the plan out to a referendum in the normal way to those who would then take part and decide whether they thought they were suitable.
Baroness Hanham: My Lords, if they were included in the area, they would be part of that business forum. If it was decided that, percentage-wise, the area was more business than neighbourhood, they would still have to be involved in that. If they were outside that forum, they could make their own forums, but if they were in the business forum area they would have to be included rather than be the totally driving force. Does that answer the question?
Baroness Hanham: My noble friend Lord True asked about the extent to which the regulations would lead to a one-size-fits-all approach. We think it is important that local communities put these forums together in a way that suits them, although the forums will have to be put together in conjunction with the local planning authorities. Those planning authorities will be able to see their plans at the neighbourhood level through the development plan documents, but those documents will influence the neighbourhood plans.
The noble Lord, Lord Beecham, asked about the designation of the neighbourhood forums. I think I responded to this. The local planning authority will be responsible for designating a neighbourhood area and deciding whether it is a business neighbourhood. It
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Baroness Hanham: My Lords, lots of areas are places where people would like to live and where they aspire to live. Neighbourhood forums may know some people like that. It is not a brilliant definition, so if I can get a better answer, I will do so.
Lord Lucas: My Lords, perhaps I may pick up on what my noble friend has been saying. I am puzzled as to how business gets involved when a parish is the foundation for neighbourhood planning. A particular example would be this. What happens to the strawberry and cherry growers of Kent? Noble Lords may have a view of strawberry fields and cherry orchards in Kent as they remember them from their youth, but if they went there now they would see polytunnels full of Poles, which tend not to be popular. Well, the Poles are popular locally, but the polytunnels are not. It would be very difficult, under a neighbourhood planning regime, to get permission for a new strawberry field and the polytunnels involved if there was no business influence at all in a neighbourhood planning environment run by a parish council.
Lord Greaves: My Lords, I have a few brief points. I agree with the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, in the debate. Other parts of this Bill and other legislation are probably going to lead to an impetus in some areas for the creation of new parish councils. But it is true to say that over three-quarters of the population of England do not live in a parished area, so there is a serious problem of the democratic deficit here.
I am extremely grateful to my noble friend the Minister for her detailed answers to questions I and other Members put to her, but this issue is so complex that I shall have to take her responses away and read them. We will do that, and perhaps we will have the whole summer for it. However, I am not sure that the Government have yet really got a grip on the question of the democratic credibility and legitimacy of neighbourhood forums. The amendments I put down to take away the limit of 21 were not because I want to go back to three, but because I think that 21 is far too small.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I hesitate to interrupt my noble friend because I know that he has great experience of these matters. However, we are
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Lord McKenzie of Luton: Perhaps I may say that the mood of the House on this side is not to delay the Bill but to make sure that we do have proper scrutiny of what is a very long and complex Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, will answer for himself, but I think he has been done an injustice.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, proper scrutiny is what we are all about, of course. My noble friend has just given an extremely lengthy answer which shows that this Government are also committed to just that.
Lord True: My Lords, we have had a lengthy debate, but this is one of the most fundamentally important aspects of the Bill and it is the first time that we have had an opportunity to put forward proposals and discuss it. I totally respect what my noble friend has said, so I shall seek to be brief in responding to the debate, as I sought to be brief when opening it. However, this is an extremely important matter and, again, it is the first time that we have had an opportunity to grapple with it.
Like other noble Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for her lengthy response, which I will study carefully. However, I hope she will forgive me if I say that she skated a little briefly over the fundamental point of whether there should be a permissive regime or not. As I heard it, there were two responses. One was that the proposal that I put forward might take the process a little further away from the community. My fear is that the process in this Bill will take it further away from the community, which is why I put forward in my amendment the proposal that the default position should be that all members of a local community take part. In responding, my noble friend quoted the Government's guidance to the Bill, which states that everyone will have a chance to get involved during the process but that one group will lead it in each neighbourhood area. I have to ask why. Who thinks up these ideas? Are not local councillors, elected representatives, the people who should lead the process of forming and reconciling local opinion? Why cannot the local authority simply facilitate these matters? I question whether we need these bodies all over the place.
On my noble friend's other response, I ask her to consider with her officials before Report her statement that local authorities do not need to set up neighbourhood
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It is not necessary to impose the forums in urban areas. As the Local Government Association said-this is not a personal view-there is a risk of bureaucracy. I do not want to labour the point further, but it is one of the most important points that we have come to in the Bill. I ask the Government to reflect on the wide support that my amendment received across the Committee from almost every Peer who spoke, by which I was hugely encouraged. Having heard what was said, I intend to pursue the matter at a later stage, unless we can reach some more productive agreement during the summer. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Lord Jenkin of Roding: My Lords, when I put down this clause stand part debate, I might have anticipated that the previous group would cover a great deal of the ground that I want to refer to, so I shall be extremely brief. I shall begin with a bouquet to my noble friend on the Front Bench. It is very helpful that she has sent us in her document her letter to the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie of Luton, of 13 July setting out the purpose and thrust of the many government amendments which have been tabled. However, that is the end of my bouquet, because the fact that, on this part of the Bill alone, my noble friend has tabled well over 30 amendments illustrates what I have been referring to during the passage of the Bill; that is, that the Government are trying to micromanage the whole process. I remember hearing my right honourable friend the Secretary of State proclaim that the localism legislation would be the end of top-down micromanagement. I just wonder how it has all crept into this Bill in the way that it has.
I shall say two things about this. The first is that I have been sent a large number of amendments by the Local Government Association, which is as appalled as I am by the extent of the detailed bureaucratic interference by central government. It has asked me to table a list of amendments-I have 40 of them. I simply said, "I am not going to waste the time of the House by tabling these amendments. I will send the list of the amendments to my noble friend, so that she can see what they are getting at".
More positively, I have had a discussion with my noble friend's honourable friend Greg Clark, the Minister of State in charge of the Bill, and he has agreed-I am very grateful for this-to a meeting with me next week, together with representatives of the local government associations, to see what can be done to try to remove much of this top-down micromanagement, of which we have heard a great deal in the last hour and a quarter. The Local Government Association has sent him a long list of what it thinks could be properly removed from the Bill without affecting its main general thrust of localism and devolving power down to local authorities and local communities.
Happily we have enough time before Report for the Government to ponder these matters. I hope we will see many amendments which do not add to the complications, of which we have heard so much, but remove substantial chunks of the Bill, leaving more to be decided by elected local authorities without the detailed prescription with which we have been furnished. I could give a number of examples from this part of the Bill of an absurd amount of detailed prescription, but I will not do so. This is a clause stand part debate, with which a large number of amendments have been grouped, and I do not wish to weary the Committee further.
Your Lordships know my views on this and I am trying to do something about it between now and Report. I recognise that my noble friend is doing her best to reply to a mass of amendments, but these have been provoked by the fact that there is a great deal of top-down micromanagement even in this part of the Bill. Of course noble Lords will table amendments-as I did myself-if they want to change this or they want to change that. It should not be there-and that is the point that I seek to make.
I apologise for getting a bit hot under the collar about this but I know my views are shared widely across the House. I hope my noble friends will recognise that I do this with the best of motives to try to improve the legislation with which we have been confronted.
Lord Greaves: My Lords, as the noble Lord knows well, his remarks are shared by myself and my Liberal Democrat colleagues. We wish him well in his efforts to reduce a great deal of the prescription and the size of the Bill. My Amendment 148ADEA also seeks to remove unnecessary prescription and regulations and to reduce the size of the Bill. I was not sure whether the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, wanted to remove the whole of Clause 101 to Room 101 but, in practice, it is the unnecessary prescriptive parts that we would all like to see go to Room 101.
I have one general question under the clause stand part debate about the funding of local planning authorities. It is clear that, as set out in the Bill, neighbourhood planning will result in extra burdens, extra costs and a need for extra resources for local planning authorities. The Government have given a guarantee to local authorities recently that any extra burdens will be funded. What guarantees are there that the extra costs on planning authorities due to neighbourhood planning will be funded, and in what way will this be done?
The amendments in relation to neighbourhood areas are probing amendments and are not to be taken literally; they are merely to probe the issues. They probe why it is desirable to designate the whole of a parish council area as a neighbourhood area and in what circumstances it may be appropriate not to do so. I think that the Minister has substantially answered that already. I particularly welcome her statement that two or more small parishes could join together, where sensible, to form one neighbourhood area, otherwise the process would become rather ridiculous. That is most welcome. They also probe why it is desirable to maintain the existing boundaries of a neighbourhood area if they are no longer appropriate and in what circumstances it may be appropriate not to do so. Perhaps more substantially, they suggest that,
In her very welcome statement that parishes could combine in a neighbourhood area where that is sensible, the Minister said that that would take place only with the consent of the parishes concerned. Surely, if the boundaries of neighbourhood areas that include the parish or part of the parish are to be changed, it is only sensible to do it with the consent of the appropriate parish council or councils. It would be helpful if we could have that assurance.
The amendments also suggest an additional consideration when a local planning authority is considering whether to designate an area as a neighbourhood area, which really gets to the core of the matter of whether the area is suitable for the purposes of neighbourhood planning. I was surprised that this consideration was not in the Bill. It seems to me to be the first and most important thing that should be considered. Again, I look forward to the Minister's reply.
Lord Shipley: My Lords, I shall speak specifically to Amendment 148ADBA because it is another aspect of the problem that we have identified about parish councils and the area in which they can sit in relation to a neighbourhood plan. This amendment would remove the restriction on a parish council being part of a neighbourhood area where the rest of that neighbourhood area is unparished.
Parish councils in urban areas have existed since local government reorganisation in the early 1970s, and they can lie within wards of a local authority but may not cover the whole of that ward. As it stands, the Bill prevents such a parished area working with the unparished area when it wants to, to produce a single neighbourhood plan. This amendment simply solves that problem. However, there is a better solution, which is to turn the unparished areas with neighbourhood forums into parish councils. That would give a democratic legitimacy to neighbourhood planning which is then based on the ballot box.
The solution to this problem lies in the public services White Paper published last week. Within that, there are a set of proposals in relation to the creation of neighbourhood councils in urban areas. I noted what my noble friend the Minister said about unparished neighbourhood forums being a pragmatic solution.
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A referendum will not be sufficient to do that because the people helping to make decisions should have a democratic base. The solution to that problem lies within the public services White Paper. It would be enormously helpful if in the next few months the aims of the Government in relation to that White Paper and neighbourhood councils could be brought together with this Bill to produce an outcome which enables unparished urban areas to have a parish council structure.
Lord True: My Lords, I have three amendments in this group. They are all deigned to build greater flexibility into the Bill and make it operate more in line with the real meaning of localism as I see it and with the opinions of local people, particularly in urban areas. New Section 61G(1)(a), to be inserted in the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 by Schedule 9, allows an authority to designate a neighbourhood area only where a would-be neighbourhood forum or parish council has asked for it. That is cumbersome and restrictive.
My Amendment 148ADA would allow a local authority simply to ask local people what they consider their neighbourhood areas to be and to designate them themselves. To quote the Bill, why do they need to wait for a,
Does that cover a local authority-be it Richmond, Newcastle or anywhere else-if 5 per cent of the population indicate what their area is in a ballot? You could have a neighbourhood forum where perhaps nobody has responded. Or does the amendment mean that there would have to be at least a 5 per cent response within each area that was to be designated as a neighbourhood area? That is rather different from the wording that is before us.
Lord True: That may be the case and I apologise if the drafting is not clear. What I had in mind is a 5 per cent response across the local authority area. It seems to me that if only a very small number respond to say that they want this place to be designated as an area or village, ipso facto that demonstrates that they do not see it as an area. However, if a significant number do, then they would. Some of these may be small. My Amendment 148ADD would require an authority to take account of local people's preferences in the survey. Perhaps I could answer the noble Lord by saying he is
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Lord Beecham: No, because you could have 5 per cent of Newcastle or Richmond concentrated in part of the authority. That would then appear to validate the creation of neighbourhood forums in parts that have expressed no interest whatever.
When people were asked to respond as to what their neighbourhood area was, those areas often overlapped, not just horizontally but vertically. People in an urban area can very easily feel attached to two geographical concepts and at different levels-a community and a town. My Amendment 148ADE challenges what I think is, again, a rigid concept in the Bill that no neighbourhood area may overlap another one. It allows people to be members of and participate in more than one neighbourhood area, if they have said in a survey that they feel part of or influenced by events and developments in more than one area. In the previous group, my noble friend was moving towards that by saying that people outside the area could participate in a referendum. However, people's perceptions about planning may differ also within an area-two communities may have different views, say, about local parking standards but be united on back-garden development across the whole of the town, or on shops. The last thing I would contest is the guidance to the Bill, which says that there should be a strong assumption that existing ward boundaries will define the neighbourhood area. The noble Lord, Lord Shipley, also addressed this point.
Anyone who has been involved in representations to the Local Government Boundary Commission will tell you that lines drawn by the commission are frequently strongly contested and often bear absolutely no relation to community realities. Take my own small town, which is covered by parts of three different wards. The neighbouring ward contains two communities that, in the survey I mentioned, self-defined as two separate communities-Mortlake and Barnes. They saw themselves as entirely different. Barnes is actually split between two wards, while Twickenham is covered by four wards. I do not see how you can address neighbourhood
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Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, I will be brief. First, can I say how much we appreciate the effort that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, is making to try to get some of the bureaucracy out of this Bill? We would be very interested in staying in touch with his considerations, with the LGA and the Minister, to see what progress is being made. That would certainly help the passage of the Bill when we come to Report and subsequent stages.
On the separate amendments, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord True, that we should not be in a situation whereby you can designate a neighbourhood forum only if you are asked to do so. There ought to be flexibility for an authority itself to do that, as long as there is sufficient community support. I will not go into the arithmetic of how the 5 per cent works. We support the thrust of that. The idea of two or more parish councils joining together has been supported.
The noble Lord, Lord Shipley, in seeking to deal with overlap with parish councils, made a very valid point. He is right in the sense that the best solution would be for it all to be a parish council, or more than one parish council. But even if that is not the case, I do not see why that overlap could not be part of the flexibility that is around these provisions.
The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, wanted a suitability test. I am not quite sure why that is not encompassed within the desirability test, but perhaps we should not at this hour get into the semantics of that. I see what he is seeking to achieve, and I certainly support the noble Lord in seeking to delete a lot of the regulation-making powers in the provisions.
Baroness Hanham: My Lords, I thank noble Lords for their brevity in introducing these amendments. I do not think that I want to comment widely on what my noble friend Lord Jenkin said in addressing the stand part. It was not entirely to do with this part of the Bill but was a much more wide-ranging discussion on the nature of the Bill and his concerns about it. I am glad to know that he will be able to express them to the Minister who is handling the Bill, Greg Clark, and I am sure that the discussions will be well received, because Greg Clark has been very notable in consensus in the other place. Whether he will be able to be consensual with what is being said, I do not know. Noble Lords say that the Bill is trying to micromanage
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I want to address one or two areas that were raised. The noble Lord, Lord True, has a very great deal of concerns about this Bill. There is not a lot that I can say to reassure him to make it any better. But as regards why the local authority should make decisions, I think that the noble Lord himself, as leader of a council, would be very upset if the council did not have a role in ensuring that neighbourhood forums were where they were wanted by the neighbourhood. He would be upset if they were not properly constructed in a way that the council thought was sensible, as well as the people who lived in that area. On why communities will be taking the initiative in planning their areas and on who will initiate the process of deciding a neighbourhood area, the local council will have an important role in the work of ensuring that they are coherent. On overlapping areas and ward boundaries, the latter are reasonably sensible in towns, being well understood and well designated. They largely cover similar areas and similar problems. However, I do not believe that there is any difficulty in cities. If I am wrong about this, I will be corrected and will come back on it but I see no reason why there should not be two forums within a ward, if that is the way the ward splits up.
Lord Newton of Braintree: I apologise but whatever may be true in towns, perhaps I might give a direct illustration. My wife's ward on Braintree District Council is called Coggeshall and North Feering. The neighbouring ward is Feering and Kelvedon, and I need hardly say that North Feering almost certainly sees itself as more closely related for most purposes with Feering and Kelvedon than with Coggeshall, which is roughly two and a half to three miles away. The reason for this is that the ward boundaries have been drawn to produce reasonable equality in order to justify the numbers of councillors. They have nothing to do with the sort of things that we are talking about. Again, we are seeking flexibility, not a straitjacket.
Baroness Hanham: My Lords, I confirm that I was right that wards can divide themselves or be divided into more than one neighbourhood forum, which may pick up on some of the points that my noble friend Lord Newton has made. There is a certain coherence within ward boundaries, but that coherence may be of people having more than one sense of community to come together in a forum within those boundaries.
The noble Lord, Lord Shipley, raised the point about the coming together of the public services White Paper and this legislation. I have not read that White Paper in huge depth but I am sure that somebody has. My sensible answer is to say that we will look at that to see whether there are overlaps or differences. Parish councils are going to be the main type of council in the country that has a mandate to undertake a neighbourhood plan because I gather that, by definition, most areas anywhere in the countryside are parished.
Amendment 148ADCAA is intended to allow a neighbourhood area to cover more than one parish area, where two or more parish councils make a joint application. As I think I said in reply to the previous debate, we are pretty content with that. Our position on many existing town or parish council boundaries is that they will form logical boundaries for neighbourhood planning. I appreciate that there is a great difference in the numbers that are in parish councils, but they will be able to divide themselves into one or two if they wish.
I am not going to comment on all the amendments, as I am told that we have to keep to a very tight timetable. I hope that most of my remarks cover most of the sense of the debate. Perhaps I should quickly respond to the noble Lord, Lord Shipley. He asked whether a neighbourhood plan could be produced covering a parished and a non-parished area. The answer to that is no. The Bill already allows for parishes to work with non-parished areas in preparing comprehensive neighbourhood plans covering both parished and non-parished areas. Neighbourhood forums should be able to become parish councils and we hope that many neighbourhood forums will take the opportunity of producing a neighbourhood plan to consider becoming a new parish council. The Government are required to provide resources to local authorities in respect of any new statutory duty under the new burdens scheme, so the answer to the question of whether there will be financial support is yes.
Lord Lucas: My Lords, I am very disappointed that my noble friend is not paying more mind to the amendments of my noble friend Lord True. Life is complicated out there. I know that Kensington and Chelsea are pretty uniform places, but even if she were to stray south of the river into Battersea, where I spend some of my time, she would find that it was very difficult to draw boundaries that will have any sense of agreement. There will be a tendency for fragments of local communities to try to grab territory for themselves in an unco-ordinated way. That will apply particularly in the deeper inner cities where community tends to be defined by origin rather than by geography. Under those circumstances, it would be very helpful to have a local authority-which after all is used to dealing with the coherence of the area and how it works-setting out at least some framework by which people can operate. They can always propose something different if they feel that they need to, but to have that coherence offered by a local authority would be immensely helpful.
As regards overlapping areas, how do you deal with somewhere like Winchester, say, which is obviously too big to deal with as a neighbourhood but needs coherence over that area when it comes to neighbourhood planning? Going back to a point that I think the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, made on the previous occasion, how do you deal with areas where there is a city or a large town which is confined within boundaries that are too tight and needs to work with its surrounding areas to expand? Under both those circumstances we are going to need to think of local flexible solutions that work with the grain of the neighbourhood and
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Lord Greaves: My Lords, this is a small group. In moving Amendment 148ZZEA, I wish to speak also to Amendments 148ZL and 150ZZA, with which it is grouped. All three refer to national parks. Amendment 148ZL states:
That is in a national park, obviously. These amendments seek to ask the Government whether they have thought about the role of neighbourhood planning in national parks. Is the same model appropriate? If it is appropriate, should there be extra safeguards to prevent decisions of local residents, and/or businesses, overriding the national interest? Planning in national parks is different. National parks are different. The reason they are national parks is because they comprise very special areas. Because of this, planning is done differently and is the responsibility of national park authorities, which are a partnership between local interests-representatives of local authorities and parish councils in the area-and national interests comprising independent members appointed by the Secretary of State. National park governance is being looked at by the Government and there may be some changes. However, I do not think that that basic principle will change.
The system of neighbourhood planning set out in the Bill does not seem to cater adequately for the national interest in national parks. Neighbourhood development orders and neighbourhood development plans will have to conform to the local plan-the national park plan. I assume that that is the case, and I hope that the Minister will confirm that. However, further safeguards are still needed. For instance, a referendum of local residents on a neighbourhood development order does not allow for the national interest to be involved in the referendum decision-and clearly it cannot.
We see a conflict over planning applications in national parks. Very often the recommendations of district and parish councils are not invariably followed by the national park authority. There are good reasons for that-there has to be a balance between local and national interests because they are national parks. I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say, but this is an issue that the Government have perhaps not yet properly thought through. I beg to move.
Baroness Hanham: My Lords, I think that the short answer to my noble friend's question is that I understand that the powers in relation to national parks are extremely different from what we have been talking about. Neighbourhood development orders would be allowed in national park areas, but they would still have to be in general conformity with the strategic policies of the local plan. I also understand and appreciate that national parks may cover more than one local authority, and it would therefore depend on which area they were in with regard to the local plan. NDOs would have to be appropriate and have regard to national policy. The national policy framework would govern that, but there is an area within that that we can discuss. The situation is covered, and the fact that NDOs would have to conform with the local plans and the national policy frameworks would be enough to suggest that development orders could be formed in that area.
Lord Greaves: My Lords, I am not sure that that is a satisfactory answer. I thank my noble friend for it but there needs to be further discussion about this matter and exactly how these new types of local plan will impact on the very special areas that are national parks. There is time for further discussion and, on that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
148ZZF: Schedule 9, page 304, line 24, after "permission" insert "to implement the policies or proposals of an applicable neighbourhood development plan or development plan document (within the meaning of Part 2 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004)"
Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendments 150E, 152ZD, 152AA and 152BA. As we have discussed, involving communities in planning for neighbourhoods is significant. It provides the opportunity for local communities to engage in shaping their local environments now and in the future. However, I reiterate the concern that others have raised about the complex provisions that have to be grappled with at a time of growing scarcity of resources to local authorities and neighbourhoods. We should also be worried about the potential lack of accountability in the preparation of neighbourhood plans.
Noble Lords may be aware that the Royal Town Planning Institute has set out other options that would not require this additional cumbersome legislation. However, we are where we are. There remains, however, a real risk that the overly complex nature of the proposed system may mean that neighbourhood planning will not be as visionary, widespread or effective as intended. However, we acknowledge that improvements have been made on Report in another place.
Our Amendment 148ZZF defines a neighbourhood development order as an order that implements an NDP or a DPD policy. This is part of the proposition
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It is suggested that this is necessary with regard to neighbourhood planning to ensure that developments consented to through NDOs and community right to build orders are based on a comprehensive understanding of issues. The RTPI understands that that may be the intention behind the provisions in the Bill, but does not believe that it is clear from the relevant clauses as drafted. The amendment is supplemented by Amendments 152ZD and 152AA, the latter requiring proposals for NDOs to be accompanied by the NDP or DPD policies they are intended to implement.
Amendment 150E again addresses an issue raised by the RTPI, which recommends that neighbourhood plans and the associated referendum should be used to express the community's priorities for investment in the area-for example, the community's priorities for any CIL or the new homes bonus. That would help to ensure that neighbourhood planning is clearly linked with sources of investment in neighbourhoods, such as proposals for the new homes bonus and community budgeting and thinking about community assets, and would make neighbourhood plans more positive and meaningful.
Lord Greaves: My Lords, I have more than a few amendments in this group. Again, I shall not refer specifically to them because that would take too long; I will just try to cover the issues in most cases.
One of the most important amendments is about neighbourhood development orders. It seems to us that neighbourhood plans can fit into the existing planning system reasonably well, especially if they have to comply with the broad aspects of the local and national planning guidance. Neighbourhood development orders seem to be more difficult, and could have a fairly disruptive effect on proper planning if we are not careful.
The lead amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, has covered the crucial question of the relationship between neighbourhood and development orders and the existing development plan and its components. I think he referred to the national policy planning framework and other national guidance. If neighbourhood development orders have to comply in a general or strategic way with existing plans, is it the same as if they were ordinary planning applications or is it in some way different? Is the degree to which they have to comply less or the same? My second question is whether neighbourhood development orders and plans can be made and adopted if the local plan has not yet been adopted. I recently received a Written Answer suggesting that just over 100 local planning authorities have now adopted a core strategy. That leaves several hundred who have not, and it is not clear how long it will take them-although quite a few more are in the pipeline and have been submitted for examination. That is an important issue, because there will be a hiatus in many places.
One of my amendments, Amendment 148ZZJ, probes what that means. What is the relationship of that word to the usually understood types of planning permission? People talk about full planning permission and outline planning permission. If it is an outline application, it requires a further application for the details. Even if it is a full application, there may well still be reserved matters that require a further application or, perhaps more likely, the written consent of the local planning authority. How will this work with neighbourhood development orders, which are effectively for outline permission? Does it mean that outline permission can be given for, say, housing, perhaps with details of access and nothing more? In that case, how will the detailed application be determined? Will it need another neighbourhood development order and, if not, will the parish council or even the neighbourhood forum deal with it and give consent for the details, or will it then have to be passed to the local planning authority? I cannot work out from the Bill the answers to these questions. Indeed, can the developers just get on with it, with no further permissions required? If so, that would drive a coach and horses through proper planning.
Can that mean just part of a neighbourhood area? Once the neighbourhood area has been defined as a parish or an urban area with a neighbourhood forum, can a neighbourhood development order relate to part of that area rather than the whole area? Again, the position is not clear to me.
but the boundaries of neighbourhood areas may not relate to a reasonable proposal on the ground. This concerns the flexibility issue that has been talked about. Why cannot two parish councils or two neighbourhood forums co-operate to make one neighbourhood development order for an area which straddles a boundary -for example, an area of disused land, perhaps with former industrial use, old railways sidings and so on-between two clearly defined neighbourhoods where the development site forms a natural marginal border area? Would that not be possible under this system and would there therefore be a need to go for a normal planning application?
I do not understand what that means. How exact and specific do the two cases have to be? Is it referring to exactly the same area, exactly the same kind of
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What is the role of local planning authorities in examinations of neighbourhood development plans and neighbourhood development orders? The Bill says that they have a right to appear if there is a hearing but what if there is no hearing? Does the local planning authority have an automatic right to comment on the plan, engage with the inspector or examiner, and make representations and recommendations?
Setting standards for neighbourhood development orders is an area where clear rules are plainly needed. Our amendment says that the Secretary of State "must", not "may", make regulations here. This is one area where regulations are clearly needed, otherwise the standards will not exist. If the proposed standards for the preparation of the neighbourhood development order and other documents cover what is in any documents, as well as, under the Bill, the,
I do not understand how that will work. Does it mean that a neighbourhood development order can cover a range of different planning permissions for the same site? It seems to mean that. Normally, you get planning permission for a particular project on a particular site in an area, so how will that work?
Is this really a practical proposition? What assessment has been made of the availability of professional planning staff to support parish councils as planning authorities? Would it be a general provision or would just a few large town councils apply? What criteria would be applied? Would it make the system more efficient? I can imagine that a town council might demand that every application goes to the council rather than through the system of delegation which is typically used about 90 per cent of the time now in local planning authorities.
Lord Lucas: My Lords, I have three amendments in this group. Amendment 151 is quite simple. I am interested in the Government's views on how strong a neighbourhood plan will be. If someone has been left out of a neighbourhood plan and still wants to develop their property, will they have the same scope to go for a departure as they do at the moment, or will there be a strong presumption that the neighbourhood plan prevails?
Amendment 152ZB deals with the way in which neighbourhood plans intersect with development orders. A lot of planning permission goes through under development orders which, quite rightly, a district, a county or a borough will not have a particular interest in, but which a neighbourhood will have an interest in. Neighbourhoods are very interested in the way in which their local shopping streets develop, for example. Many things that can happen to a shopping street can happen under the general permissions given under a development order. I am interested in the way in which those two intersect.
Amendment 152 is a little more complicated than that. Rural and semi-rural parishes, where there is a lot of scope for development, will become wealthy-that is the wrong word; they will have a lot of money at their disposal as a result of this Bill. A typical parish will go round its residents and ask what they want and will also go round all the neighbouring landlords and say, "If we give you the sort of permissions you are looking for, what will you do for the community?". That is the only way it can work, because if that did not happen, any landlord who had a deal to offer could upset the referendum by saying to people voting in it, "Why are you voting for this and giving Farmer Jones £1 million as a result of the development? If you had asked me, I would have said that you could have had £0.5 million towards the village hall, a new village shop or to subsidise the bus service and that I would require only £0.5 million if you put those houses on my land".
Inevitably, there has to be that kind of negotiation with all the local landlords. The neighbourhood plan, when it emerges, will be a document which results in a very substantial flow of funds from landlords to the community. In what way they will provide those funds, whether by permissions or by being prepared to build things for the community or subsidise things for the community, will be a total re-establishment of relationships between landlords and the community and a much more equal appreciation of sharing benefits and burdens of development. I reckon that you would probably get the planning game settling down at about 50:50 between the landlord and the community.
Incidentally, this will render entirely unnecessary the argument that we had a few days ago about the community right to bid. Most of my noble friends were worrying about relatively rural communities. They will be in a position to buy. They will have funds potentially sitting around to buy the cricket pitch. They will not be hanging around waiting to see whether they can raise money. They will be well off and have a great deal of flexibility where such things are concerned and anyone wanting to sell local property will start to think of the local community as being a place to find a
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Lord Berkeley: My Lords, I listened very carefully to what the noble Lords, Lord Greaves and Lord Lucas, said on this grouping. My conclusion is that the developer who offers the most money to the community will get his planning permission. It sounds like a Dutch auction, with very little to do with the sustainability arguments that the Committee talked about in the past two days. Perhaps I have got it wrong; I shall be very interested to hear what the Minister says in response.
Lord Lucas: I think that the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, is being entirely too untrusting of communities and of the structures in the Bill. First, the wider issues of sustainability clearly come in to the examination of the plan. A site on a flood plain, for example, which has been proposed merely because the landlord is prepared to offer 70 per cent of value rather than 50 per cent, will clearly not get through the process. Secondly, communities will make a judgment. Sustainability is a concept that has a meaning for a community that is not there in its wider application; it is how the community evolves and flourishes. There will be many aspects of that which will apply to individual sites and bear as heavily as the amount of money that may come out of the site.
Communities will take a sophisticated judgment on which plans they wish to have. They will be well aware of the advantages and disadvantages to them of putting a development in a particular location. Landlords will likewise be able to see, for example, that this is the obvious place to put houses and so they do not need to give the community as much. If the neighbouring farmer wants to have a development on his land and it is slightly more of an eyesore, he will be asking the community to accept a greater burden in having the development there, so the community will need a greater benefit. That is the fundamental of neighbourhood planning. Under the current system, the farmer gets all the benefits and the neighbourhood gets the burdens. Under this system, the benefits are shared. How great the burden is should be reflected in how great the benefit is.
Baroness Hanham: My Lords, I will start with the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. Certainly, neighbourhood development orders will be effective within the terms of local development plans. These plans will designate areas for development. Although a neighbourhood development order will be able to
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Neighbourhood development orders have to be in general conformity with the strategic policies of the development plan and with national planning policies. We discussed that earlier. We want to make it clear in the Bill that neighbourhood development orders are very flexible. They can permit different types and classes of development. For example-I was asked a question on this-a community could decide that it wants to use neighbourhood development orders to give full or outline planning permission for a specific development scheme, for several types of development schemes across a wider area or to extend permitted development rights more generally across the neighbourhood area. However, that has to be done within the plans that it has already put forward and agreed with the council and the community through the referendum. Legally, a neighbourhood development order can grant planning permission under the terms. A development order can only grant planning permission for development specified in the order and could still permit a whole class of development, for example a change of use.
The Bill's provisions seek to ensure that a neighbourhood development order cannot grant planning permission for a development that already has planning permission. I think that that makes sense. If a planning authority has already given permission for a development on a site, for example, that planning is already in place and it cannot consequently be changed unless the applicant makes changes to the plans, which then would need to be dealt with in the neighbourhood order.
The test of general conformity with strategic policies in the local development plan currently in place in the area covers what I said. I was asked whether the local development plan has to be conformed with, and we have said yes several times.
The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, made a short contribution about developers buying off the community. There are crucial safeguards in place to ensure that proposals contribute and are kept within the confines of regulations.
I think that that more or less addresses the questions that I was asked. I will also have to move two government amendments: Amendments 148ZA and 148ZB. I wrote to noble Lords with an explanation of what the
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The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Faulkner of Worcester): Would the noble Baroness allow us to dispose of the existing amendment first? She can move her amendments when this one has been withdrawn.
Lord Greaves: I asked two questions. If a neighbourhood development order gives outline planning permission, which body is then responsible for dealing with the detailed planning permission which presumably has to follow? That was the first question, and the most important one.
Lord Berkeley: My Lords, I would like to add another question. I listened very carefully to the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, as he moved a number of amendments. There is probably not time for the Minister to answer them now, but perhaps she will be able to write to us with a detailed answer to the questions relating to how a small parish council will have the resources to grant planning permission, if it is going to.
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