Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

5.30 pm

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I understand that we are under pressure of time and I am totally in support of getting this Bill through. However, that should not reduce us to the sort of Commons Committee stage format we seem to be reaching of no answers being given to amendments that have been moved and spoken to. I do not feel that I have been answered in any respect in any of the amendments that I raised. The Minister has available to her the option of agreeing to write in detail to noble Lords to cover points she has not answered. She also has the option of suggesting meetings between now and Report. I very much hope that she will avail herself of those, because otherwise I shall feel the need to speak at much greater length to make sure that my points are properly recorded.

Lord McKenzie of Luton: I thank the noble Baroness for her response. The more we got into the amendments moved by the noble Lords, Lord Greaves and Lord Lucas, and some of the responses that came forward, the more complex this issue became. I am still not clear what the boundaries of the neighbourhood development order will be in all respects and why it could not be used simply as a tool to deliver the development plan policies or the neighbourhood plan policies as a more efficient and effective route of engendering neighbourhood planning. However, I will read the record and consider whether we need to return to this on Report.

19 July 2011 : Column 1239

The exchange between my noble friend Lord Berkeley and the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, around financial consideration is extremely important, because we are going to come on to what I think will be quite a substantial debate on Clause 124-I was going to say shortly, but hopefully at some stage before we rise tomorrow. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, made an important point about making sure that transparency is absolutely key for there to be confidence in whatever system we have.

The idea of financial inducements flowing from all of this-as I understand it, and I am not a planning lawyer-takes us down a rather sticky and difficult path. We have issues around CIL and Section 106, the application of which has been narrowed. If this is seen as an opportunity for there to be inducements beyond those related to the development, that is quite a significant departure from where we have been in planning policy since 1947. Perhaps we will have the chance to expand on this in a later debate. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 148ZZF withdrawn.

Amendments 148ZZG to 148ZZJ not moved.

Amendment 148ZA

Moved by Baroness Hanham

148ZA: Schedule 9, page 304, line 37, leave out from "if" to "have" in line 1 on page 305 and insert "in each applicable referendum under that Schedule more than half of those voting"

Amendment 148ZA agreed.

Amendment 148ZB

Moved by Baroness Hanham

148ZB: Schedule 9, page 305, leave out lines 5 and 6 and insert-

"(5) If-

(a) there are two applicable referendums under that Schedule (because the order relates to a neighbourhood area designated as a business area under section 61GA), and

(b) in one of those referendums (but not the other) more than half of those voting have voted in favour of the order,

the authority may (but need not) make a neighbourhood development order to which the proposal relates."

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, perhaps I might ask the noble Baroness a question on this. I am sorry, I think it applies to Amendment 148ZA as well-I think I am in the right amendment here, with all these Zs. I am grateful for the explanatory letter that came with these government amendments, which touch upon issues of non-domestic ratepayers and their involvement with a referendum. Can the noble Baroness confirm that with non-domestic ratepayers we are not just dealing with businesses, we are dealing with a whole range of other organisations which would be non-domestic ratepayers, for example, charities?

19 July 2011 : Column 1240

Could we have clarity in respect of how many votes somebody gets? Is it one vote per hereditament, even though there might be several hereditaments occupied by the same entity, or is it one per entity, however many hereditaments are actually occupied? The amendment presupposes that there will be more than one referendum in relation to a proposition, although the noble Baroness's letter referred to there being one referendum at the same time, although the votes will be counted separately. The proposition seemed to be that it was one referendum, not more than one referendum, but perhaps the noble Baroness might clarify that for us.

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, if the referendums are on different subjects, I think that is where the duplication came from. Of course, they would be counted separately, they would be carried out on the same day, and they might even have different rules attached to them, depending on what they were about. I hope that answers the noble Lord's question. With regard to votes, there would be one vote per listed non-domestic ratepayer and, as I understand it, there would be one vote for anybody on the electoral register. "Non-domestic ratepayer" is one business and if there was a resident it would be on the electoral register.

Lord McKenzie of Luton: If, for example, a supermarket had two different establishments in a particular area, they might be separately rated, separate hereditaments-is that one vote or two?

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, I do not know if the scheme we are running can do that. I will check and I will write to the noble Lord, but my gut feeling would be that if they were in the same neighbourhood area it would probably be two if they were separately rated because it is one per listed non-domestic ratepayer. If that is not correct, I will write to the noble Lord.

I will just say to my noble friend Lord Lucas that I thought I had addressed his concern about financial inducements by saying that there could only be an exchange of money around planning on the basis of agreed local development plans and any negotiations that have been done on those to reduce CIL or Section 106. Having said that, I also agree that anything that is done needs to be transparent, and we will make sure that that is the case.

Lord Greaves: On this question of voting, if there is a small business, a corner shop, for example, where the shopkeeper also lives, does that shopkeeper then have two votes?

Baroness Valentine: I support the government amendments but would like to make one suggestion about simplification. There should be two votes in all cases, a business and a residential vote, except where either businesses or residents are a negligible presence in the neighbourhood area. The benefit of that would be that the local authority can test the mood of both residents and business. Where they agree, the vote would be binding, but where they disagree the solution is likely to be a mediated solution rather than a yes/no

19 July 2011 : Column 1241

vote. That is likely to represent a more sustainable solution where the residents and businesses vote differently. My plea would be for there to be a business and residential vote in most situations, with the local authority taking the casting vote. From a civic society point of view, the businesses would never override the residential vote and the default would be for the local authority to take the view.

Lord Beecham: I am sorry to add to the Minister's burdens, but I would like a little clarification. In her recent intervention, the noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, has continued to use the term "business vote", but as the Minister has rightly pointed out it is a non-domestic vote, which presumably includes the local authority's own buildings, and indeed government offices, so she might be casting votes up and down the country. However, I have a difficulty-it might just be me, I must confess-with Amendment 148ZB. The latter provision in Amendment 148AE requires an authority in effect to consider whether a business area should be designated as a neighbourhood area, but Amendment 148ZB talks about a situation in which there are,

Am I correct in thinking that there are two applicable referendums because they relate both to a business area and to a residential neighbourhood area? I do not quite understand the reference to "two applicable referendums". If there are to be two applicable referendums, I come back to the question that I posed earlier about a business area that might adjoin two separate residential neighbourhood areas. I do not understand how this will work for referendums and how proposed new subsection (5)(b) in Amendment 148ZB will operate, because there might conceivably be three referendums: one for the business area and one for each of the two adjoining residential areas. If I am correct that that might occur, the outcome will be somewhat complicated.

Frankly, I do not expect the Minister to be able to give an answer off the cuff, although she may do, in which case I will nominate her for a Nobel prize for understanding daft legislation. I would be very grateful if she could indicate that she will write to me and perhaps place a copy of the letter in the Library afterwards.

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, I have two responses to give. The first response is to my noble friend Lord Greaves, who asked about residential accommodation above business premises. Both would have votes, so there would be two votes. The second response is to the noble Lord, Lord Beecham. If he will forgive me, I will write in response to his points about the referendums.

Amendment 148ZB agreed.

Amendments 148ZC, 148ZCA and 148ZD not moved.

Amendment 148ZE

Moved by Lord Greaves

148ZE: Schedule 9, page 305, line 15, after "with," insert "the Equality Act 2010,"

19 July 2011 : Column 1242

Lord Greaves: My Lords, in moving Amendment 148ZE, I will also speak to Amendments 148ABA, 150C and 152C in the same group. These amendments are basically about equality.

New Section 61E(8), which was inserted into the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, says that the local planning authority can refuse to make a neighbourhood development order in the event of non-compliance with "any EU obligation" or with the Human Rights Act 1998. Amendment 148ZE would add compliance with the Equality Act 2010 to these obligations. Amendment 150C makes the same stipulation about a local development plan. Amendment 148ABA states that a neighbourhood forum exercises,

the Human Rights Act and the Equality Act. Amendment 152C would require an equalities impact assessment on neighbourhood development orders.

5.45 pm

At the heart of these amendments, which are based on suggestions from Friends of the Earth, which has worked on this issue with the Equality and Human Rights Commission and local planning networks and communities, are the existing unequal levels of participation in local decision-making. Local power dynamics come to play in planning as in other spheres, as any of us who are involved in local politics know. This is partly to do with resources, poverty and expectations, and the ability of people to communicate with official bodies, but it can also be to do with inequality and discrimination.

Experiences vary between different places, and they are not all bad, but there was some general commentary on the problem in How Fair is Britain?, the Equality and Human Rights Commission's first triennial review, which was published last year. This found that groups that share protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010 are currently underrepresented in local decision-making. It also identified the decline in opportunities for individuals to contribute to decisions that affect their lives as a major barrier to moving towards a fairer society.

DCLG's most recent citizenship survey found that when given greater flexibility many public bodies tend to overlook vulnerable and underrepresented groups and that certain groups, such as younger and older people, although not, I think, older people in your Lordships' House, feel consistently excluded from the decision-making process-hence the need to put this in the legislation and to underpin the whole process with equality legislation.

I have tabled elsewhere amendments aimed at entrenching the inclusiveness of neighbourhood forums and the right to be heard, which will also help to tackle this issue and which we will reach in due course. This is an important issue, and a major issue of principle, and I beg to move.

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, the Minister might say that these issues are otherwise covered in legislation. If they are, fine, but if they are not I certainly support these amendments. If one needs

19 July 2011 : Column 1243

any convincing, one can just turn to the department's own equality impact assessment. The answer to the questions,

"Which group(s) of people have been identified as being disadvantaged by your proposals?",


"What are the equality impacts?",

is people from black and minority ethnic communities. Where any group within the community participates less in the preparation of a neighbourhood plan, for whatever reason, there is a risk that those plans will not reflect the needs or wishes of those people. Those needs or wishes might not necessarily be linked in any way to the particular characteristics of those groups, but nevertheless might concern matters that are properly addressed through the planning system. There is, however, evidence to suggest that members of minority ethnic communities are less likely to engage with the planning system in the preparation of a neighbourhood plan. It is vital that we address that issue, so it is important that we address these propositions in relation to the Equality Act.

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, for his amendments and the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, for his comments. Our position is that the safeguards are in place in the neighbourhood planning provisions. Neighbourhood forums do not exercise a public function, so the public sector equalities duty does not apply. The Bill requires forums to have an open approach to their membership and to have sought secure membership from across the neighbourhood area, so there is more than an expectation that everyone will be represented in the area, particularly if there are ethnic minority groups living together, because there often are. Neighbourhood planning proposals cannot be approved unless they are compatible with human rights obligations, and will be subject to consultation, publicity requirements, independent examination and a community referendum.

We particularly want neighbourhood planning to be an open and inclusive process, and we want the whole community to be at its heart. I want noble Lords to know that we will set out regulations and requirements for consultation with and participation by the public to ensure that this is the case. I hope that with the assurance I have given that the amendment is not totally necessary-we do have in mind the areas that have been discussed-the noble Lord will withdraw his amendment.

Lord Greaves: My Lords, I am grateful for that response, but the answer was not exactly what I was expecting. I thought that the Minister was going to say that neighbourhood forums were exercising a function of a public nature and therefore would be covered by existing legislation. However, she said that they would not be exercising a function of a public nature and so ought not to be covered by the legislation. The purpose of the amendment is to try to make sure that they are covered.

If what the Minister has said is correct, we will have a situation in which neighbourhood plans and development orders are treated differently in parishes

19 July 2011 : Column 1244

from neighbourhood forums in unparished areas. Parish councils are covered by the duties in the Equality Act, and they could not possibly argue that in the production of neighbourhood plans and development orders, they were not exercising a function of a public nature. Everything they do is a function of a public nature. One group will be covered, but in the unparished areas of our large cities and towns, where on balance it is perhaps more important that the legislation should apply because many of the local people may be classed as disadvantaged, hard to reach and so on, it will not apply.

It is difficult to argue that promoting a neighbourhood development order, and particularly promoting and putting together a local plan, is not a function of a public nature. Putting together a plan at any level, whether it be for a district or a neighbourhood, has to be a function of a public nature. I have not been given the answer I expected and I think the response I got initially makes me even more concerned that this ought to be in the Bill to make sure that the Equality Act applies.

For the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment, but I give notice that we shall certainly want to have further discussions with the Government about this before the Report stage, and I may wish to bring the matter back then.

Amendment 148ZE withdrawn.

Amendments 148ZF to 148AZB not moved.

Amendments 148AA and 148AB

Moved by Baroness Hanham

148AA: Schedule 9, page 307, leave out line 24

148AB: Schedule 9, page 307, line 31, at end insert-

"(8A) A local planning authority may withdraw an organisation or body's designation as a neighbourhood forum if they consider that the organisation or body is no longer meeting-

(a) the conditions by reference to which it was designated, or

(b) any other criteria to which the authority were required to have regard in making the designation;

and, where an organisation or body's designation is withdrawn, the authority must give reasons to the organisation or body."

Amendments 148AA and 148AB agreed.

Amendments 148ABZA to 148ABA not moved.

Amendments 148AC and 148AD

Moved by Baroness Hanham

148AC: Schedule 9, page 307, line 45, after "designations" insert "(or withdrawals of designations)"

148AD: Schedule 9, page 308, line 6, at end insert-

"(ba) suspending the operation of any duty of a local planning authority under paragraph 6 or 7 of Schedule 4B in cases where they are considering the withdrawal of the designation of an organisation or body as a neighbourhood forum,"

Amendments 148AC and 148AD agreed.

Amendments 148ADA to 148ADEA not moved.

19 July 2011 : Column 1245

Amendment 148AE

Moved by Baroness Hanham

148AE: Schedule 9, page 309, line 34, at end insert-

"61GA Neighbourhood areas designated as business areas

(1) Whenever a local planning authority exercise their powers under section 61G to designate an area as a neighbourhood area, they must consider whether they should designate the area concerned as a business area.

(2) The reference here to the designation of an area as a neighbourhood area includes the modification under section 61G(6) of a designation already made.

(3) The power of a local planning authority to designate a neighbourhood area as a business area is exercisable by the authority only if, having regard to such matters as may be prescribed, they consider that the area is wholly or predominantly business in nature.

(4) The map published by a local planning authority under section 61G(8) must state which neighbourhood areas (if any) are for the time being designated as business areas."

Lord Lucas: My Lords, since the noble Baroness has not spoken to this amendment, perhaps I may ask a question. Would she regard Kensington High Street as a business area or are we talking about areas like Westfield? In other words, how little interaction has there to be with a residential neighbourhood before it is allowed to be a business area?

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, somewhere with as much residential accommodation attached to it as Kensington High Street might not necessarily fit into the business category. We have already talked about areas which are mainly shopping areas, and the noble Lord mentioned Westfield as an example. Practically all of it is a business area rather than residential. That is more what we are talking about.

Amendment 148AE agreed.

Amendment 148AF

Moved by Baroness Hanham

148AF: Schedule 9, page 309, line 43, leave out "and 61G" and insert "to 61GA"

Amendment 148AF agreed.

Amendments 148AG to 148AL not moved.

Amendment 148B

Moved by Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn

148B: Schedule 9, page 311, line 4, at end insert ", and

( ) development that would be likely to harm a heritage asset of national importance or its setting."

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn: My Lords, this is a probing amendment which has been tabled with the intention of exploring what seems to be a striking omission in the Bill; namely, to take explicit account of the importance in the planning context of the historic heritage, including the archaeological heritage.

19 July 2011 : Column 1246

The noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, the chair of English Heritage, has authorised me to say that she supports these amendments and would speak to them if she had been able to be here today.

Noble Lords: She is here.

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn: I beg the pardon of the noble Baroness. In due course I shall invite her to make her own observations.

We are told by ministerial sources that the national planning policy framework will soon be available in draft form and that it may be in hand for later stages of this Bill. But that does not help the present situation. It has been suggested in news reports that the national planning policy for the historic environment, PPS5, and in particular the requirement for pre-application archaeological assessment, will no longer apply to local planning decisions. It would be helpful to have an explicit ministerial assurance that the policy will remain in force and have statutory effect. This amendment would go part of the way towards reinforcing that.

Great unease has been caused in the heritage community by a recent speech by a local council leader, Councillor Alan Melton of Fenland District Council, who was reported in the Cambs Times on 22 June. The article stated:

"Regulations governing new developments including the need for archaeological surveys are to be swept aside from July 1 in a purge designed to get Fenland building again".

I think he may have gone too far and perhaps may have realised that, but this is exactly the point. What are the safeguards which are not on the face of this Bill, and why are they not here?

The amendment, along with Amendment 149A, seeks to ensure that the local planning authority makes a determination as to whether a proposed development might harm a heritage asset of national importance. That it will normally do by referring to the local heritage environment record. The amendment places the onus on the developer to seek such a determination from the local planning authority before proceeding.

The matter is perfectly simple, and the issue is real. If the Minister can give explicit assurance that the amendment is not needed since legislation currently in place continues to have effect and will not be impaired by the passage of the Bill, and if she will kindly specify exactly what provisions are being cited, it will give great reassurance. I beg to move.

6 pm

Baroness Andrews: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for so beautifully moving the amendment. I only just managed to sneak into the Chamber in time, so I was not here for all his speech. Declaring my interest as chair of English Heritage, I am happy to support the amendment.

The sites that the noble Lord talked about could be designated as scheduled monuments, but they have not been so scheduled for the simple reason that, until now, they have been perfectly well protected through the planning system. We are concerned here with the possible loss of that protection through neighbourhood development.

19 July 2011 : Column 1247

There are about 80,000 sites of archaeological interest of national importance that could be scheduled, compared with about 20,000 that are already scheduled. The reason for our not having scheduled all the sites historically is that scheduling is a very strict, precise and quite expensive regime to implement. Many sites of national and international importance have not been scheduled because the onerous protection system has been seen as unnecessary as long as they have sat within the planning system. Neighbourhood development orders have the potential to take them out of that protection.

The NPPF may well provide for policies to protect such sites and some policy protection in the event of a normal planning application. The problem to which we return is that we do not yet have the document. I am therefore quite anxious to see whether it is explicit in saying that neighbourhood development should not interfere with such sites. I therefore strongly support what the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, seeks in his amendment, which is expressly to exclude those sites and put the matter beyond question. That is what the community of people who have to guard and look after the sites want. It is also what every community in the country that is proud of its local archaeology would want.

These sites by definition hold a very important interest that extends well beyond neighbourhood boundaries because of their national significance. There should be no real objection to putting it beyond doubt that they cannot be affected, at least physically, by neighbourhood development orders.

If the amendment is not carried and we lose the protection that it would offer, the pressure will be on local authorities to schedule. That would be an extremely onerous and expensive undertaking, an unintended consequence of which would be that the matter was taken away from neighbourhoods and subjected to the national regime. To put it at its most simple, the system that we have works best. It is proportionate; it is well understood; it delivers the protections that are required. It would be an enormous shame if, inadvertently, the system was destabilised and the protections were lost. I have great pleasure in supporting the amendment.

Lord Newton of Braintree: My Lords, perhaps I may briefly extend my support to my noble friend. I had better confess that I am in the same boat as the noble Baroness, who got back just in time. I had sneaked off for a while, in the belief that I deserved some respite from this suffering, but I was tempted back by my noble friend Lord Renfrew, having had the same representations from the same groups as he has evidently had. I have not given them such assiduous attention as him, but I express my support for the careful consideration of the purport of his amendments, even if they are not perfect to achieve his objectives.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: My Lords, I shall speak first to Amendment 152ZZA in my own name, which is a probing amendment, before turning to my noble friend Lord Renfrew's amendments, about which I shall explain my concern.

In order not to repeat the lengthy procedures described in Schedule 10 for the making of neighbourhood development orders, which are set out as new Schedule 4B

19 July 2011 : Column 1248

to the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, Schedule 9 inserts into the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 new Section 38C(5), which says that new Schedule 4B shall apply to the making of a neighbourhood development plan, but as modified. Paragraph (d) of that subsection refers to paragraph 8 of Schedule 4B, found on page 321 of the Bill, and states that that paragraph is to have effect as if sub-paragraphs (2)(b) and (c) and (3) to (5) were omitted. These sub-paragraphs refer to the need to have regard to preserving listed buildings and their settings, and preserving and enhancing conservation areas.

I cannot immediately understand why the Government think that in drawing up a neighbourhood plan such matters should be disregarded. My failure to understand, and therefore my query, is possibly prompted by my prior constituency experience, which was unusual. When Pevsner published his original two volumes on the buildings of inner London, the first volume was devoted wholly-apart from some buildings in Holborn-to what later became my former constituency of the City of London and Westminster South, while the second volume was devoted to what was in 1950 the 42 other constituencies in inner London; in other words, there was a major concentration of listed buildings in my former constituency. Such listing considerations weigh very heavily in my former constituency's localisms. I would be grateful if my noble friend the Minister could explain what is intended. As I said, my amendment is probing.

I turn to the two amendments proposed by my noble friend Lord Renfrew. My noble friend is the chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Archaeology Group, in which I am simply a modest foot soldier. However, I once read Greats at Oxford, and I have done archaeology in the vicinity of the Roman wall in Corbridge in collaboration with medieval historian Maurice Keen. He and I went north together and explored mosaics of a Roman villa in a farmyard in Corbridge. I am speaking especially to Amendment 149A, but Amendment 148C is similarly connected.

My Back-Bench experience as Member for my former constituency in the years 1977 to 1979, before my party went into government, was very much influenced by concerns felt by the City of London and the Museum of London about the amount of deep-basementing that was going on and was in the process of turning the City of London into the principal continuous archaeological site in Europe, because so much extraordinarily interesting stuff was being uncovered. That work changed quite a lot of our knowledge about the city's history. A concordat was reached between the archaeological unit at the Museum of London and the developers as a whole as to how this problem should be handled. It was that, provided there was adequate proof, the developer must always make six months available to the archaeologists to find out what they could, and the developer would pay for the entire archaeological work.

Because so much of this work was going on and was working well, there was a possibility that there would be an occasion when there was disagreement between the archaeologists and the developers. Therefore, eight years later in 1987, both sides being anxious to forestall such a problem, they created an appeal committee

19 July 2011 : Column 1249

of three to deal with a logjam, if it were to occur, of which one member would sit on behalf of the developers, one on behalf of the archaeologists and I-because of my having once been at the Harvard Business School, because of the modest experience that I had had as an archaeologist and an ancient historian, and because I was the local MP and acceptable to both sides-would serve as the chairman. As I was also a Minister, that required permission from No. 10, which, to my agreeable surprise, my noble friend Lady Thatcher afforded me. Even more agreeably, despite the apprehensions which had prompted the creation of this committee, it never had to meet because the arrangements continued to work extremely well.

The arrangements in the City worked well because of the critical mass of the archaeology going on and because of its essential importance. However, this will not always apply across the country. The principles adduced by my noble friend's amendments are not dissimilar to those I have described in the City, but it is very important that they should apply much more widely and by statute. That is why I support them so warmly. I have addressed my remarks to archaeology but they apply just as readily to the wider heritage scene to which my earlier Amendment 148AZZA was addressed. The fact that this goes so much more widely makes my noble friend's amendments even more important.

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, this has been a short but fascinating debate. The noble Lord, Lord Newton, said that he had left the Chamber for a respite from our deliberations, but the discussion on this amendment has given us all some relief from the turgid stuff with which we were dealing earlier. Clearly each noble Lord who spoke-the noble Lords, Lord Renfrew, Lord Newton and Lord Brooke, and my noble friend Lady Andrews-spoke with great knowledge and authority. In this job you learn something every day-and I certainly learnt something from that exchange.

If it is right that the Bill would remove protections that are in place at the moment, it must be right that amendments are put in place to address that. If the Minister in responding can assure us that that is not the case and spell it out-we need to know the detail-all well and good. Part of the problem comes back to the dear old NPPF. The Minister said earlier that it will be with us soon but her colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, last week told us that it would be very soon-we seem to be going backwards on this.

My noble friend Lady Andrews made the important point that if there cannot be satisfaction on this, the risk is that a process of scheduling will take place that would involve local authorities in huge expense. It would be a huge capacity issue for them and we should seek to avoid it. We all want to do everything that we can to make sure that heritage assets, particularly those of national importance, are preserved and that the planning system plays its role in doing that. I look forward to the Minister's response and her justifications of why she believes that that will happen and that we do not need to change the Bill.

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, we are hugely sympathetic to the whole question of heritage. The noble Baroness and I discussed this before at a very

19 July 2011 : Column 1250

early stage. We have been working with English Heritage to ensure that neighbourhood development orders do not weaken the heritage protection. The matters the noble Baroness has raised are not unfamiliar to us and I can assure her and the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, that consultations are still ongoing to ensure that there is no slip-up and that the concerns raised are addressed.

We recognise the importance of protecting heritage and all proposed neighbourhood development orders must meet certain conditions, which we discussed earlier, before they can be put to a referendum. Most importantly, they must have special regard to the protection of listed buildings and conservation areas. In addition, every plan and order must be appropriate having regard to national policy. I appreciate that that takes us back to the NPPF, but that matter will be addressed when we have a chance to discuss it. The plan or order must also be in conformity with the strategic policies in the local plan. We have made it clear from the outset that the plans must be coherent and will then have to go to independent examination.

We believe the concerns are covered with that procedure alone. All heritage aspects would be covered under the planning conditions anyway but we shall be delighted to have further consultations with English Heritage to make sure that there is no slip-up. On that basis, with those assurances, I hope the noble Lord will be content to withdraw his amendment.

6.15 pm

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn: My Lords, I am grateful for the various contributions. I am particularly grateful that the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, was in her place and made such effective remarks about the undesignated sites, which are a major problem. I am grateful for the support of both sides of the House.

My noble friend the Minister has given some helpful general assurances, but as we do not yet know what is in the national planning policy framework her assurances are vague and do not give much comfort. I certainly do not doubt her good intentions but she did not give a categorical or detailed assurance and she did not make specific remarks in relation to the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews.

While I shall not press the amendment, I hope to do rather better on Report. It may be that the national planning policy framework will be published by then. I certainly hope so, otherwise what on earth do these assurances mean? If it is not published by then and we cannot find out how it will integrate into the Bill, we may have difficulties on Report. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 148B withdrawn.

Amendments 148C to 149AB not moved.

Amendments 149B and 149C

Moved by Baroness Hanham

149B: Schedule 9, page 313, line 16, after "14" insert "or 14A"

149C: Schedule 9, page 313, line 26, leave out "section 61F or 61G" and insert "any of sections 61F to 61GA"

19 July 2011 : Column 1251

Amendments 149B and 149C agreed.

Amendment 149CA not moved.

Amendment 149D

Moved by Baroness Hanham

149D: Schedule 9, page 313, line 32, leave out "section 61F or 61G" and insert "any of sections 61F to 61GA"

Amendment 149D agreed.

Amendment 150

Moved by Lord Lucas

150: Schedule 9, page 314, line 17, at end insert-

"( ) after subsection (4) insert-

"(4A) If there is no neighbourhood development plan in force, such documents as the local authority considers reflects the interest of the community.""

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I shall speak also to my other amendments in the group.

Amendment 150 is, to some extent, an echo of the first amendment that we debated today which was tabled by my noble friend Lord True. It looks at ways of dealing with neighbourhood planning in cities, where it will be quite difficult to get the impetus to create communities. In towns and villages, the extent of the planning gain which will be available to the communities and the way in which they care about how their open environment is developed will produce strong motivations for communities to engage with the Bill. However, that is not so in cities. Even in areas such as Battersea it is not so, let alone the poorer parts of cities. In those areas, we need to have ways of creating communities which are more attuned to what is going on in the cities, to the needs of the citizens and to their particular cares.

Amendment 150 and, more particularly, Amendment 167 attempt to produce a structure to allow a local authority to have regard to community views on planning, which are expressed in a less formal way than that set out in the Bill. There would be none of the structure of having to go through gathering all the voices, an examination and a referendum but something much more suited to an area where there is no existing geographical community and where the community will never put together the effort to go through the procedures in this Bill because the gains are too small and its own structures are too weak. Those communities should be able to gain what they can from the direction of this Bill through their more gentle expressions of opinion, which should be taken properly into account in planning decisions. Of my two amendments, Amendment 167 is the one for which I have the most affection.

On Amendment 152ZC-an amendment is never the easiest thing to find in this Marshalled List.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Geddes): I think you will find it at the bottom of page 13.

19 July 2011 : Column 1252

Lord Lucas: Amendment 152ZC looks at how you take the structures of this Bill and produce something of interest to local neighbourhoods. Straightforward planning and dealing with planning permissions, and their outcomes, is not really what a city neighbourhood is about. It is about its environment much more generally. When it comes to the streetscape, it is a question of whether a particular street should be pedestrianised, narrowed or given a 20 miles an hour limit. It is a question of how traffic regulations are enforced. This is a particular plague in some bits of London where councils seem to have forgotten that businesses need trade and that local people sometimes need to park in order to visit shops or neighbours. Neighbourhoods have a lot of interest in the way in which traffic regulations are set out and enforced. If one had that as part of the scope of this Bill-I understand that it may be and I look forward to what my noble friend the Minister has to say-it would produce a package which gives this Bill a much greater chance of succeeding and producing the same sort of vibrant communities within cities as I am sure it will produce in the countryside and towns.

My final amendment is Amendment 152A, which picks up on a point that has been made several times; namely, that we should find ways within the procedures set out in this part of the Bill for our neighbourhoods to become parishes. They have to go through an enormous number of hoops and great effort to produce a neighbourhood plan under this Bill, which is much more than is required by the legislation for the creation of parishes, particularly given that, having created a plan and a direction for the neighbourhood, the animal created under this Bill then dies. It is a great shame that all that effort comes to nothing. The Bill should be directed at creating a parish where the people involved want some form of continuity but it should be made easy and obvious how a parish can appear out of a neighbourhood plan in an area which is not parished. I beg to move.

Lord Greaves: My Lords, I was discussing this matter when, some time ago, the Chief Whip suggested that I should sit down and that we should move on. I thought that that was a bit unfair but I will briefly make two points. The important point made by my noble friend Lord Lucas is that of linking neighbourhood planning with the formation of new parishes. Earlier, my noble friend Lord Shipley, who is not in his place, said that a mechanism to do that would be extremely valuable. At the moment, the problem with creating new parishes is that it requires a local governance review by the principal council, the district or unitary council, which can take quite a long time.

These principal councils are not always terribly enthusiastic about creating new parishes. If someone comes along with a petition or whatever, they will be forced to have a local governance review but they may not take it very seriously. There are a number of instances where there has been a clear demand for a new parish council on the ground and the principal council responsible has simply blocked it and said "No, you can't have it". If this new Bill is to be a stimulus for the creation of lots of new parishes, of which I am certainly in favour, there needs to be a way

19 July 2011 : Column 1253

in which the Government can link that to this legislation, whether in primary legislation or in some other way, and perhaps change the advice that is given to councils about local governance reviews, thus making it much easier to carry out the review and to create the parishes. I say that as someone who lives in a borough which is now totally parished. The fact that it is totally parished is not entirely unconnected with my activities in the past 30 years.

Lord True: My Lords, I support the spirit of my noble friend's amendments, particularly Amendments 150 and 167, although I slightly fell out of love with Amendment 167 when I read the last few words, which refer to,

That might be determined more locally. Otherwise, the light-touch approach was much to be welcomed. I also strongly agree with my noble friend's point about traffic controls, parking and so on. In my contention, ultimately, we should move towards a position where high street shops and shop owners have a decisive role in deciding how those matters should be policed locally.

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, I should like to comment briefly on parishes. I can see the strength of the argument that for the purposes of these provisions we have a parish, which deals with issues around governance, probity and the democratic component. I have not thought through, which I guess we need to balance, the consequences of having parishes within an urban or a rural area where you have area committees, a district council or a unitary authority, how those sit together and the consequences of all that. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, from his experience will be able to hold forth extensively on that issue. I do not encourage him to do so on this occasion. We need to look at issues around parishes in the round and not just in relation to these provisions, but I see the benefits of parishes for the application of these provisions.

As I understood it, the thrust of the amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, were about not just having formal arrangements to input community views and the wishes of a community but that they must be collected in a variety of different ways, which must be right. I hesitate a little around issues where there are written expressions of community interests. Those must be included and taken up, and one should always be conscious that people communicate and express their views in different ways. Some are very forthright and able at doing it in written form and others are not always in that position. Therefore, we need to take account of that. But the idea that there should be a variety of informal and semi-formal ways for the views of communities to be brought to bear on neighbourhoods is absolutely right and one that we would support.

6.30 pm

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, I am not aware that there is anything to stop views being gathered up about neighbourhood plans in whatever way. However, ultimately they have to fall into some sort of structure in order for people to understand what is going on.

19 July 2011 : Column 1254

Whatever the observations made during these discussions, ultimately they will form part of the neighbourhood plan and will have to conform with the local development plan. With all the policies in respect of neighbourhood planning there is a great deal of flexibility as to how things are done and how they are brought to bear on it. I have tried to make that clear throughout this afternoon, although I am not sure that I am altogether persuading my noble friends behind me.

We absolutely agree that community views are core to effective planning. They are embedded in the planning system already, and we expect people's views to be taken into account in whatever way they can be. The Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 requires councils to prepare a statement of community involvement and that is precisely what it has to be-the community involvement has to be organised in a way that makes sure that all those community views are put forward on planning matters before any statement is constructed. I do not think the amendment is necessary from that point of view, because, as I say, the flexibility is there to ensure that views-however they are collected-must be taken account of.

The noble Lord also raised the matter of traffic regulations. I hear what he says and know that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, has views about how things should be done in respect of traffic in particular. However, I am not sure that traffic regulation orders could become part and parcel of the neighbourhood orders. They are, by and large, either controlled by by-laws or by national legislation and create criminal offences, so are probably not something that can just be tinkered with so that they affect only small areas. If the by-laws are used inappropriately, they can have a significantly adverse effect on the local environment, so they should be employed only when all other measures have failed. We ought not to be tinkering with them at a local level.

The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, raised the question of parish councils and their creation. That process is probably going to take almost as long as, or longer than, creating neighbourhood forums and making the representations where there are not parish councils, which would be largely in cities. I hope that with those remarks, the noble Lord will be willing to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I am a little puzzled, because the noble Baroness was kind enough to allow me a meeting with her officials a few days ago. I am always capable of misunderstanding things, but I had expected rather different replies from those that she has given today on the subject of how far one could reach in neighbourhood plans in order to affect things related to the local environment; such as the two illustrations I gave of the way in which streets are used, speed limits, pedestrianisation and the way in which parking rules are set out and enforced. I am clear that both those things belong with the local council but I certainly came away with the impression that neighbourhood plans could be written in such a way that they had an influence on such matters. I also came away with a much more positive view on parishing and the department's attitude to it than the noble Baroness has conveyed today. I am puzzled by that.

19 July 2011 : Column 1255

Coming back to my general purpose in these amendments, we have to look carefully, if we think this is a beneficial thing-which I very much do-at how we make it beneficial within cities. There is an awful lot to be said for the amendments of my noble friend Lord True in this regard on how local neighbourhoods get designated and the flexibilities that exist as to their extent and overlap, as well as other aspects reflecting life in cities. If we are to have a process that results in a referendum, there is also a great deal to be said for saying there must be incentives for the people involved and those voting, in terms of the referendums being about things they really care about. If we go back to Battersea, what do I care about planning? The place is built up and there is no space to put anyone else. There are only little bits and pieces, which the council deals with perfectly adequately, in terms of access to light and disputes between neighbours. There is no incentive there to go through the whole process that is in this Bill. By contrast, other things about the environment and the way the council interacts with the neighbourhoods that make it up are matters of extreme concern to locals that they will pay a great deal of attention to.

My noble friend's answers do not encompass any offer of further consultations and do not seem to incorporate the consultations that I have already had. I remain puzzled and not a little bruised as to why the Government think this is for rural communities only. I can see the advantages and importance of that, but where we need community and where coherence and community understanding are important is, by and large, in cities. Villages have pretty good communities for the most part-they can be argumentative or constructive, but villages get together at frequent intervals, in my experience, to celebrate various things or do things together. Getting them together is easy. Within cities it is much harder to do those things and it is much more important to set about creating communities. I am really concerned at the difference between the replies from my noble friend and what I had thought was the underlying direction of her department; and about the lack of interest in using the period between Committee and Report to extend this. I am also somewhat puzzled by the lack of interest from the Labour Party in how one develops communities within cities. Perhaps there is a belief that all wisdom resides in councils.

Lord McKenzie of Luton: I am not quite sure why the noble Lord concluded that we have a lack of interest in developing communities within cities. I would have thought that we could demonstrate lots of places up and down the country where we have been very supportive of developing communities. I am not sure I have convinced the noble Lord here and now, but I hope to reassure him. I can see that the noble Lord is getting ticked off by his noble friends on the Front Bench-perhaps I ought to sit down or they will start on me soon.

Baroness Hanham: I am disappointed that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, is disappointed. If he has had consultations that have said something different to the reply I have got, then I think I should offer to have discussions with him between now and the next stage of our proceedings.

19 July 2011 : Column 1256

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I am happy to accept that. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 150 withdrawn.

Amendment 150ZZA and 150ZA not moved.

Amendments 150A and 150B

Moved by Baroness Hanham

150A: Schedule 9, page 314, line 44, leave out from "if" to "have" in line 1 on page 315 and insert "in each applicable referendum under that Schedule (as so applied) more than half of those voting"

150B: Schedule 9, page 315, leave out lines 5 and 6 and insert-

"(5) If-

(a) there are two applicable referendums under that Schedule as so applied (because the plan relates to a neighbourhood area designated as a business area under section 61GA of the principal Act), and

(b) in one of those referendums (but not the other) more than half of those voting have voted in favour of the plan,

the authority may (but need not) make a neighbourhood development plan to which the proposal relates."

Amendments 150A and 150B agreed.

Amendment 150C not moved.

Amendment 150D had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.

Amendments 150DA to 150E not moved.

Amendment 150F

Moved by Lord Greaves

150F: Schedule 9, page 316, line 17, at end insert-

"( ) In preparing a neighbourhood development plan the qualifying body must-

(a) have regard to the policies set out in the development plan, approved development plan documents and other local planning policies,

(b) set out in the neighbourhood development plan the ways in which the policies in the plan differ from those referred to in paragraph (a),

(c) comply with the provisions of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, and

(d) comply with the provisions of chapter 1 of Part VIII of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (Trees)."

Lord Greaves: My Lords, In moving Amendment 150F, I shall speak to the other three in the group in my name; they are a mixed bag. We are still on neighbourhood development plans and orders. Amendment 150F covers various issues, some of which I think we have dealt with satisfactorily, some of which we have half dealt with and some we have not dealt with yet. It covers the preparation of the neighbourhood development plan and says that it must have regard to the existing local planning documents and explain ways in which it differs from them. I think that we have adequately dealt with that matter and do not have to discuss it any

19 July 2011 : Column 1257

further. The amendment goes on to say-and this links back to the issue that was raised recently by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville-that the neighbourhood plan must comply with the existing legislation on listed buildings and conservation areas in the 1990 Act on those matters, and comply with the sections of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 that deal with trees.

I listened with interest to the discussion about conservation areas and listed buildings and it is worth probing on that a little further. Amendment 153AKD refers to paragraphs 23 and 25 in Schedule 12, which are supposed to be consequential amendments that remove the protection normally given to conservation areas and listed buildings in the case of the neighbourhood development orders. I have only just discovered that bit of the Bill, and I could not find what they were consequential on. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, has pointed me in the right direction, because I had not spotted that bit at all.

My noble friend the Minister said, or appeared to say, that it was okay to take all these provisions out of the primary legislation. Schedule 12 does that; it specifically says that in the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990:

"In section 66 (general duty as respects listed buildings in exercise of planning functions), at the end insert-

'(4) Nothing in this section applies in relation to neighbourhood development orders'".

Into Section 72 is added a similar provision in relation to conservation areas, which says:

"Nothing in this section applies in relation to neighbourhood development orders".

I will not read out what the 1990 Act about listed buildings and conservation says, but clearly it gives the protection that we all understand in relation to planning applications and planning in general.

The Minister seems to say that it is okay to take out those specific provisions in the existing primary legislation because it will be somewhere else in relation to neighbourhood development orders. She read out a duty in relation to neighbourhood development orders to pay due regard-I forget the exact words. I was not clear where that wording came from. I cannot find it in this Bill but, there again, I do not claim to have absorbed every line of the Bill. It would be interesting to know where that is. There is a discussion of the national planning policy framework that is only guidance, so the worry is that the protection for listed buildings and conservation areas in neighbourhood development orders will be in the form of guidance rather than primary legislation. That seems to be a possibility and it is what I am probing further.

I have two further questions about neighbourhood development orders. Can they propose new conservation areas within their boundaries or extensions of existing conservation areas? Can they propose the abolition of existing conservation areas or changes in the boundaries of existing conservation areas?

6.45 pm

In the amendments, we also require neighbourhood development orders to comply with the provisions of Chapter 1 of Part 8 of the Town and Country Planning

19 July 2011 : Column 1258

Act 1990 relating to trees, notably about tree preservation orders. There is also a general duty in Section 197 on planning authorities in respect of trees; it requires planning permission to include appropriate provision for the preservation and planting of trees, and there are sections relating to the replanting and replacement of trees. There are then some sections that actually deal with the preservation of trees in conservation areas. Will the local planning authority still have the powers and duties under the tree preservation and planting provisions in this chapter, even if a neighbourhood development order is made for a particular site? If so, how will the powers and duties of local planning authorities be integrated into the neighbourhood planning system and, in particular, in relation to neighbourhood development orders and plans?

I have one final question for which I did not give notice, so I do not expect an immediate answer. Will Schedule 3 to the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 on sustainable drainage systems, known as SUDS, apply to developments within a neighbourhood development order? If so, will they be regarded as freestanding applications or will they become combined applications under paragraphs 8, 9 and 10 of Schedule 3? What process under paragraph 11 will be used for determining them? I realise that that is a very technical question about an Act, which we had through this House fairly recently, and I would be grateful if I could have that in writing if the Minister does not know the answer.

Amendment 152CA refers to consultation processes for the preparation of neighbourhood development orders and when they are submitted to the local planning authority. It probes questions of public consultation and says that it must comply with the local planning authority statement of community involvement. Is that the case? The parish council or neighbourhood forum under this amendment must also adopt other means as they consider reasonable to bring the matter to the attention of local people. The amendment also says that when a draft neighbourhood development order is submitted to the local planning authority, that authority must carry out the requirement for consultation with local people, which would apply to ordinary planning applications as set out in the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2010.

How will consultations with statutory consultees be handled for neighbourhood development orders? I refer to the Highways Authority, the Environment Agency, English Heritage, other local authorities and so on. Will there be a requirement on parish councils or neighbourhood forums when preparing a neighbourhood development order, or will that consultation wait until the draft order is submitted to the local planning authority-or will it be both?

Finally, a very important amendment is Amendment 153ZF, which would extend the right to be heard, which exists in local plan-making, to neighbourhood plans. The wording is from the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 as it applies to local plan hearings. This is another equalities issue. As the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, said not long ago, less articulate people are often better making their views known in person than in writing. Schedule 10(9)(1) says:

19 July 2011 : Column 1259

"The general rule is that the examination of the issues by the examiner is to take the form of the consideration of written representations".

But there can be a hearing if the examiner considers it necessary to ensure adequate examination of the issue or for a person to have a fair chance to put a case. Many people do not have the literacy skills to be able to take part comfortably or confidently in complex written exchanges, but they are much better at putting their views across in person. The purpose of the amendment is that people should have a choice. I beg to move.

Lord Best: My Lords, I rise to speak to Amendments 152ZA and 153ZA, which concern the design considerations in neighbourhood plans. This House contains many eminent champions of good design, including the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, and the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, who have added their names to the amendment and are in their places today. I would only say, in declaring my interest as an honorary fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects, that my experience of looking after housing projects has proved to me that poor design not only alienates and depresses those who have to suffer it but is wastefully expensive because it does not last.

Contrast the disasters of now demolished council housing from the 1960s and 1970s with the enduring popularity of the homes built many decades earlier in the garden villages of Rowntree's New Earswick, York, and Cadbury's Bourneville, Birmingham. Last week the president of the RIBA, Ruth Read, launched an excellent report, Good Design: it all adds up, which the relevant Minister, John Penrose, highly commended. Design matters, so it seems entirely right that neighbourhood plans should be just as mindful of the requirements of good design as the local development plans of local authorities themselves. The first of these two amendments places a responsibility on neighbourhoods when engaging in neighbourhood planning to have,

This replicates precisely the existing obligation on local authorities which resulted from an amendment in your Lordships' House to the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill in 2004.

Amendment 153ZA would mean that when neighbourhood plans are examined, as they will have to be under the Bill's provisions, the independent examiners would have special regard to the desirability of achieving good design. It may be argued that this issue can be addressed at one remove, through national or local government planning requirements. Publication of the national planning policy framework-when we finally see it-may shed light on the emphasis to be given nationally to issues of good design, and because the neighbourhood plan must be,

priorities of the local development plan, good design could perhaps be implied through that route. However, the experts tell me that this is likely to be too weak a link.

Ministers in another place have helpfully accepted an amendment that requires the independent examiners to pay special regard to conservation areas and listed buildings. It seems equally important and worthy of

19 July 2011 : Column 1260

an amendment to require the examiners to have special regard to design quality. I know that the decentralisation Minister, Greg Clarke, also favours good design and I hope that these amendments will appeal to the Government.

Baroness Whitaker: My Lords, in supporting Amendments 152ZA and 153ZA on the crucial aspect of the good design of the places that people live in, which has such wide support from professional and interest groups, I take comfort from the Minister's undertaking in her letter to me of 20 June:

"We remain committed to promoting the highest standards of architecture and design".

Indeed, this is what the Government did in also undertaking to honour the provisions relating to design in the previous housing and planning Acts. Those provisions, as the noble Lord, Lord Best, said, bound local authorities but not neighbourhoods because neighbourhoods did not come into being as the deciders of planning until the present Bill, so it is only consistent that the duty to have regard to good design should be extended to neighbourhoods, as Amendment 152ZA says.

Amendment 153ZA is consistent with the Government's undertaking and I need hardly repeat the evidence of the profound impact that design has on enjoyment, security, amenity, health and leisure. I am sure the Government would agree that communities should be enabled to make good design choices.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I have tabled three amendments in this group. I apologise that I missed my amendments in the earlier group, because the Committee is making such breakneck progress on this Bill, but I wish to speak now. However, I support both the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Best, and the cross-reference by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, to Schedule 12 and the need to clarify the position in relation to conservation areas and the setting and general appearance of buildings, which from Schedule 12 seems not to apply to neighbourhood plans. My amendments attempt to relate neighbourhood plans to the broader planning structure, which still exists. The Government have, of course, deleted any application of regional spatial plans but there are still national policies, national advice and the local plan.

This part of the Bill, paragraph 8 of the new schedule in Schedule 10, relates to the issues which the examiner should take into account when considering neighbourhood plans. It seems to me that under paragraph 8(2), there is a weak relationship between the requirements on the examiner and the reference to national policies. We all know that "having regard to" national policies and advice containing guidance means that you can take no notice of it. Indeed, that is often the case. I am suggesting a rather stronger form of words: that the examiner should consider whether the plan "is compatible with" the national policies and the advice issued by the Secretary of State and that, in relation to the local plan in paragraph 8(2)(d), rather than the order being,

of the local authority's plan it should be in,

19 July 2011 : Column 1261

of that plan. It seems to me that general conformity is, again, fairly weak. If the examiner were to find that the plan is in general conformity or had taken into account the Secretary of State's advice but then totally ignored it, there would be problems.

We need to place some tighter requirements on the examiner in this regard. I am all for flexibility and localism but if we are maintaining a structure of planning, there needs to be interrelationship between its various layers. My three amendments in this section, starting with-I get lost in this alphabet soup-Amendment 153ZZA, therefore would attempt to tighten up the form of wording in this section. I commend them to the Minister.

Lord Marlesford: My Lords, I strongly support the very wise words of the noble Lord, Lord Best. I shall give an example by going back to some of the things that my noble friend Lord Lucas was saying about Battersea, because in 1967 I bought a small house in Kersley Street, Battersea. When I went to buy it, I was told by the Battersea authorities to be very careful because the mayor of Battersea wished to sweep away all that area. Those houses were built in about 1893 and now it is a conservation area and all that, thank goodness, and is a gem in its way.

To be honest, on this question of design, I am afraid that developers and architects of the 1950s and 1960s have an enormous amount to answer for. There has only very recently been salvation. The noble Lord, Lord Best, referred to the demolition of some of the ill considered, ill designed and ill constructed blocks which were put up in the place of extremely desirable housing for people. One thinks immediately of places such as World's End in the old days. I hope that the Minister will assure us that the Government are as united as we are in making sure that this is protected fully for the future.

Lord Newton of Braintree: My Lords, unusually, because I nearly always agree with almost everyone who has spoken, I want to express a note of scepticism which I even dare to hope might be helpful to my noble friend on the Front Bench, if she is looking for that. I am a bit sceptical about this because what is now regarded as dreadful 1950s/1960s stuff was regarded as good design at the time. This is totally subjective and I do not understand how it is going to be interpreted. In any circumstances, people will have regard to design but whether it is good design may depend on whether it is thought to be so at the moment. It may be thought a totally rubbish design in 20 or 30 years' time, which is exactly what has happened, so what is the point of writing it in?

Baroness Whitaker: Would the noble Lord agree that if local people participate in the choice of the design, as is good design practice, it is more likely to suit their needs?

Lord Newton of Braintree: That is a slightly separate question of what they feel about their area at the time, which clearly ought to be taken into account. It is not necessarily the same as good design.

19 July 2011 : Column 1262

7 pm

Lord Marlesford: Perhaps I may say to my noble friend that what was lacking in those days was, frankly, design. The object was to put up buildings in a somewhat Leninist style and atmosphere, cramming people into the smallest possible space with little consideration of their welfare and long-term benefit. What we are doing now is emphasising that design should be included where it was not in the past.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I will avoid getting into a discussion about design. However, I would like to ask a question which underlies the debate. Mention has been made of the need to be in conformity with the local development plan. I have heard that if there is no local plan in place, or no core strategy, there cannot be a neighbourhood plan or a neighbourhood development order. I have not been able to pin this down in the Bill. I wonder whether the Minister can help me on that. Given the number of local authorities which are still moving towards fulfilling the provisions of the relevant planning Act that was passed some years ago, this is a serious issue. However optimistic the Government are about the progress that local authorities will make, this is nevertheless a major consideration.

Lord Boyd of Duncansby: My Lords, I did not intend to intervene in this debate about design, but I have been prompted by the noble Lord, Lord Newton, to do so. I am married to an architect. Before we were married, I took my wife-to-be to meet my parents. My father was a doctor. He started needling her about architecture and design. Eventually, she turned round and said, "That, of course, is the difference between your profession and my profession. In your profession, your mistakes die, in our profession they live on". That might be a rather flippant way of introducing a note of caution in all this. My view is that we do not allow good architecture to flourish in many respects, partly because we are hemmed in by rules and guidance on good design, which are sometimes rigidly enforced. We have to ask what sort of good design we are trying to promote. Is it, for example, the good design that the Prince of Wales has championed, sometimes controversially, or is it other aspects of good design which perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Best, and my noble friend Lady Whitaker are championing? We should debate what good design is, but what is good design in one place will not be good design in another. We have to have the flexibility to ensure that communities can respond to this and to allow good architecture to take root and flourish in this country.

Lord Berkeley: My Lords, I remind my noble and learned friend Lord Boyd that however good or bad we think the Prince of Wales's views on architecture are, he interfered in a very big planning application in respect of Chelsea Barracks. I do not think that that is right.

Lord Boyd of Duncansby: I was not suggesting that we necessarily follow the Prince of Wales, but the very fact that he has provoked that controversy demonstrates,

19 July 2011 : Column 1263

if I may say so, the point that I am making-that what is good design to one person is not good design to another.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: My Lords, as there was no Conservative name on Amendments 152ZA and 153ZA, I am happy to join the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford. Indeed, I will not argue the toss with him as to which of us is metaphysically adding our name, but it is desirable that it should have Conservative support. Having said that-I have said similar things on many other such Bills in the past-in the context of what my noble friend Lord Newton said, I was confronted, as then Secretary of State for National Heritage, with a decision about a building in Bethnal Green by Denys Lasdun. The building was not listed-the department had the responsibility for listing-and was threatened with demolition by the local authority. No intervention occurred because of the listed building consent issue. We had to decide in the department whether we should list it. It was in our view a fine piece of architecture and design. We eventually decided that we would, knowing that the Secretary of State for the Environment-the noble Lord, Lord Deben-would have to make the decision about listed building consent, so in that sense we transferred the problem to him. However, he had not dissimilar views to ours about architecture. Since we no longer had Chinese walls in the Department of the Environment, he took no decision on giving listed building consent. The local authority had wanted to demolish the building and the only housing association that was interested could not raise the money to take it over. However, a private property company took it over. It is now absolutely packed with private-sector tenants who think that it is a marvellous building. Therefore, it is wrong to be dismissive of buildings constructed in earlier eras just because they were not necessarily in line with taste at that moment.

I have one other thing to say before my noble friend Lord Hodgson gets up. As my noble friend Lord Greaves was kind enough to mention my name in connection with my Amendment 152ZZA three groupings ago, I shall take the liberty of going back to it, unless your Lordships' House wishes me to move it when we come to it shortly in the proper order of the Bill. My noble friend the Minister did not give me an answer to my probing amendment at the time that we debated it three groupings ago. I was expecting her to say that she would write to me because I agree that the matter was complicated. If it is simpler for her now to say when she replies to the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, that she will write to me, I would regard that as a wholly satisfactory resolution.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: My Lords, I support the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Best. He made a powerful statement about the importance of good design and referred to architecture and design. Since we are discussing the Localism Bill, I hope that my noble friend will be able to reassure me as regards the importance of using local materials and local design when building locally. When I hear about national policies I slightly fear that there will be a national standard of good design which will not reflect the building styles and building standards of different parts of our country.

19 July 2011 : Column 1264

One of the most depressing aspects of the present situation is that if you were blindfolded and put down by helicopter in a perfectly nice new development, whether it was in Truro, Norfolk or Newcastle, you would not be able to tell where you were because we are now building to standard designs, built by national housebuilders, which do not greatly reflect what goes on in the locality where they are based. Therefore, historic traditions of building which are different across the country are gradually being wiped out to the detriment of local pride and local community feeling. I hope that the Minister will reassure us on that when she winds up.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I wish to speak briefly to Amendment 153. I would be very grateful if my noble friend could enlarge a little on the relevant strengths of "having regard to" and "in general conformity with". To take a particular illustration, Hampshire has a policy that there should be no new development in the countryside. Does that mean that there is no point in neighbourhood planning in Hampshire?

Lord True: My Lords, I have three amendments in this group. On Amendment 153ZC, which relates to the weight given to emerging documents, I think that that has been discussed and I will not pursue it at this point. I have been reassured that emerging documents are given weight. Amendment 153ZD is relevant to the short debate we have just had about design, which strikes me as being a rather pleasant and agreeable way of spending an afternoon in the Moses Room when the Education Bill is not being discussed there. I do not want to detain the Committee on that, but I am absolutely certain that what my noble friend Lord Hodgson, the noble Lord, Lord Best, and others have said must be right because if this Bill is about localism the vernacular should matter. Local people like their vernacular and they like building that is in keeping, whatever the design is, if that design is good. Local authorities as well as national housebuilders have failed in that respect over the years. I do not mind a little cajoling to them in the Bill, but we have to be careful because design, as I think Lewis Carroll said, is probably "what I say it is". There is a problem there.

Amendment 153ZD is related to that because it is about how the examiner deals with neighbourhood planning orders. A case in our authority involved the Government intervening on our existing core strategy to say that it must include high-rise building. Notwithstanding that there was cross-party agreement against it and that hundreds of people protested against it, a planning inspector imposed an extension of the ugliest building in our borough on the basis that the existing core strategy provided for such buildings. The local authority, with the strong support of local people, is trying to revise its plans. It takes a long time to revise a local development framework and my right honourable friend Secretary of State has said that he hopes to accelerate it.

There will be circumstances in neighbourhood planning where local communities say, for example, "We do not want any more high-rise". However, if an examiner looks, as that examiner did, at the previous building

19 July 2011 : Column 1265

and says, "Your existing plan says let's have some high-rise", then unless we include a provision such as my Amendment 153ZD to allow a local authority to assent to an order that is not in compliance, we may find that neighbourhood planning is defeated. Perhaps I am being oversuspicious, but there might be circumstances where the will of the local community is clear and the examiner should be able to give weight to that informal opinion.

I will deal with Amendment 153ZE very briefly. It refers to the situation in London and the definition of localism. I am simply saying that if an emerging policy is not necessarily in compliance with the higher-authority policy and there is tension between the policies of the mayor and the borough as regards its neighbourhood plans, then the examiner should, in circumstances where those matters are being considered, give greater weight to the more local of the two emerging policies. I do not expect an answer from my noble friend on that or the other amendment to which I referred, but both are significant.

Lord McKenzie of Luton: This has been an interesting group of amendments. I certainly support the amendments of my noble friend Lord Whitty which seek to strengthen the relationship of NDOs with national policies and the strategic policies of the local development framework.

The noble Lord, Lord True, focused on emerging policies, when the local development framework is not in place or is being revised. I certainly see the thrust of his point. How one tests those emerging policies and encapsulates them, when they are in the process of being consulted on, is an issue. However, I take his point.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, asked what happens if there is no local development plan in place. Does that preclude a neighbourhood development plan? My understanding is that it does not, and thereby hangs a potential problem. If the only level of guidance available for the neighbourhood development plan is the NPPF, assuming that we see it at some stage, it is inevitably going to be written in relatively high-level terms. That is its purpose. It proclaims the benefits of tearing up a thousand pieces of paper and condensing them into 40 or 50 pages. We shall have to see how many there are in due course. Therefore, the leeway that that gives a neighbourhood development plan is an interesting point. If we were able to embed in the Bill issues around sustainable development and its definitions, it might help.

I support the thrust of the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Best, and the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, about design issues. My understanding is that design is not just about individual buildings and their quality but about the landscape, the environment, the relationships between buildings and how the whole urban fabric works. Although there may be different views on the aesthetics of any particular building, and views may change over time, we all know and can spot situations where design has not properly been taken into account, and you get grotty buildings that the planners and architects often have no intention of living in themselves. The thrust of the argument on good design is absolutely right.

19 July 2011 : Column 1266

The issue is particularly pertinent because the funding for CABE has, I understand, been withdrawn and only a minority of people from that organisation are transferring to the merged body with the Design Council. Therefore, the opportunity of keeping focused on design is especially important.

The concept of trying to ensure that the neighbourhood development plan must have regard to or relate to the development plan must be right, and the concepts of sustainable development should be embodied in the neighbourhood development plan. That is why it would be good to get those provisions enshrined in the Bill in primary legislation. I hope that those comments from our Front Bench have indicated the level of support that we would give.

7.15 pm

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: My Lords, in my excitement over design and Denys Lasdun, I failed to speak to Amendment 152D in my name, relating to Schedule 10. The new national planning policy framework will form an important plank in planning for localism, as well as for the wider planning system. It is therefore important that the new document continues to protect the historic environment. The current suite of policy planning guidance notes and statements is, as your Lordships will know, to be replaced by the NPPF. National policy is a vital tool in the planning processes and it expands and enlarges upon statute. The current planning policy statement 5 on planning for the historic environment was introduced in March 2010. In the short period since, it has worked extremely successfully and has been supported by the heritage and development sectors. The Heritage Alliance, to which I alluded earlier, is responding separately to the Department for Communities and Local Government on the content of the NPPF. National planning policy guidance is referred to at page 321 of the Bill at paragraph 8(2)(a) of new Schedule 4B to the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, which requires regard to be taken of the NPPG. However, this provision is not strong enough. Development could be approved under the neighbourhood development order process without the current requirement for predetermination, information and consultation. We talked earlier about archaeology. Without predetermination of archaeological work, fewer unknown sites will be identified and, as a result, such sites may be destroyed without any adequate record, and development work may be delayed with additional costs. That is why I and others on behalf of the Heritage Alliance have proposed our amendment.

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for a very interesting debate. It has circled around a number of areas. Most specifically, the concentration has been on design and the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Best. We believe that design is sufficiently well taken care of and safeguarded in the planning policies. One needs to take account of the fact that design is very subjective. The noble Lord, Lord Newton, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Boyd, made that point. However, nothing within the development of a neighbourhood plan would stop neighbourhoods saying what sorts of designs they would like. It would not necessarily be binding on the

19 July 2011 : Column 1267

inspector but it would be guidance for the future-the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, talked about predetermination -when developers were going to develop and had to hold predetermination discussions with the neighbourhood.

I think that I will resist taking it any further today by putting it more strongly in the Bill, as proposed in the amendments. I understand exactly what the noble Lord is saying; and I understand those who say that this is a very difficult area to deal with because what is good design in one person's mind is not appropriate in that of another.

The noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, asked whether we would include in the Bill the question of using local stone, and so on. No, but the response I have just made about design probably covers the same. If the local neighbourhood wanted to have Cotswold stone as the only means to use in developments, there is nothing to stop it saying in the plan that it believes that Cotswold stone would be the ideal. It would then have to discuss that with developers before any suggestion of a development order or planning permission was given. Once again, I do not think that that is suitable for the Bill, but it can be taken into account.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: I absolutely understand what my noble friend is saying, but she will understand that a local community trying to get a national housebuilder to move off-plan-of its standard houses-will be very difficult. There will be inequality of arms in a local community trying to deal with a national housebuilder. The housebuilder will have its designs and will say, "This is how it works". No account will be taken of what the locality has produced historically in either design or materials.

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, that is a rather depressing view of how neighbourhood forums and neighbourhood plans will be developed. The whole point of having a neighbourhood plan is to have the local community say what they would like, how they would like it and how they would want something constructive. The local community is in a much stronger position. We have already discussed predetermination, but developers will have to go to talk to the neighbourhood before they get planning permission under a development order about how they will develop it. The whole thrust and emphasis is that they should be able to have discussions, make plans and carry them out according to what the neighbourhood wants. If the neighbourhood wants Cotswold stone and the developers do not, there will be an interesting battle of arms as to who comes out on top, but as the neighbourhood holds in its hands the development order and the planning permission, I rather suspect that it would be in a strong position.

The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, asked whether communities can promote development outside urban areas through neighbourhood planning. If neighbourhood planning is pro-growth-we want to extend communities, developments and housing-communities could use a neighbourhood plan to promote a higher level of growth than in the local plan, but it would still need to have regard to national policy. Practically all the answers that I give tonight will be that plans have to be in general conformity with either national or local policies.

19 July 2011 : Column 1268

Baroness Whitaker: I apologise for interrupting the noble Baroness, but I am not quite clear how the national policy planning framework will bite on neighbourhood decisions. How are they bound by the national framework?

Baroness Hanham: They will be bound by the local development plan, and the national policy framework will impact on them through that. The local development plan must have more than regard to the national planning policy framework, and that will bite through the local authorities' plans.

Lord McKenzie of Luton: As I understand it, they have to be consistent with the strategies in the local development plan. Do those strategies encompass design?

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, I do not think so, because I do not think that design is part of the planning consideration, for the very reason that we discussed: design is fairly subjective. I remember that when we were discussing the Planning Bill in 2008 there was a huge discussion on design. Eventually, we came to the conclusion that it could not be a requirement because everyone saw things differently, although we would want to ensure that development was as conforming as it could be.

Baroness Andrews: I am sorry to interrupt the Minister. I go back to the point raised by my noble friend Lady Whitaker. It concerns conformity where there is no local development plan or where the local development plan does not contain the policy. Neighbourhood framework plans are required to conform only to the LDF, not the national policy planning framework. Where there is no LDF, they are not required to conform. That is where the problem will lie. That was the problem identified in Amendment 152D, which I think requires further thought and answer. That breaks the link of conformity to the neighbourhood plan. That is a great weakness in the resilience of the planning framework as a whole.

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, I am happy to write on that and to have further discussion, but my understanding is as I have set out. If that is wrong, I will come back to the matter.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, asked: can you have a neighbourhood plan with no core strategy in place? The answer is yes. That may cover some of what we have been talking about. The national policy would still apply and the examiner and local planning authority can consider the weight to give any local plan policies. Existing local plan policies would of course take us back beyond the local development framework to the unitary development plan if they have not got further than that, so most authorities, even the most dilatory, will have something in place. We have dealt with design and the plans. I will certainly come back on the national framework, although I think that I have now answered on that.

The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, asked about consultation with the public and the statutory consultees. Those requirements will be set out in regulation, but

19 July 2011 : Column 1269

they will be requirements. There will be consultation both before and after the submission of the draft plan to the local planning authority with both categories. The noble Lord asked: what protection is there for listed buildings and can neighbourhood development orders change or propose conservation areas? Schedule 4B, in paragraph 8, sets out the protection for listed buildings and conservation areas where neighbourhood development orders are considered. We have already made clear that we take that very seriously. Can a neighbourhood development order propose conservation areas? They cannot change them, they can only propose them.

The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, asked about tree preservation orders. No, tree preservation orders are covered by basic conditions in relation to national and local policies. He asked: can plans or orders propose new conservation areas? One answer says yes, the other says no.

Lord Berkeley: What is the answer?

Baroness Hanham: I will have to come back on that.

In answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, neighbourhood plans and orders will have to have appropriate regard to national policy, as in the past. I will try to answer the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, this time, because he gets upset if I do not. On neighbourhood planning in cities, the amendments would strengthen the requirement on neighbourhood plans and orders to meet local planning policies. Our test is general conformity with the strategic policies and the local plan. We believe that that strikes the right balance, ensuring that neighbourhood planning proposals are in general conformity with strategic local policies, giving flexibility to determine those issues that are rightly dealt with at community level. I do not think that that answers what the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, asked me and I shall write to him. I hope that I have covered reasonably satisfactorily a number of the points that were made.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: My Lords-

Baroness Hanham: I apologise to my noble friend Lord Brooke for not having picked up the matter that he raised and I shall write to him.

7.30 pm

Lord True: Will my noble friend also very kindly undertake to respond to my point on Amendment 153ZD where neither the local community nor the council wish to have the existing policy imposed by an external authority? I should like a reply on that point but it can be a written reply and I shall be very grateful for it.

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, I shall certainly do that. With those replies, I hope that my noble friend will withdraw his amendment.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I am very grateful to my noble friend for her answers. I shall write to her saying what else I need.

19 July 2011 : Column 1270

Lord Greaves: My Lords, it seems a long time since I introduced this group of amendments and it has been a very interesting discussion. I am very grateful to the Minister for dealing valiantly with questions flying at her from all corners of the Committee. I am not sure that she has satisfactorily answered all mine yet but I shall not pursue them any further tonight. I shall read Hansard carefully and take up matters afterwards.

I am not going to get involved in the design argument, other than to say cynically that good design is what I like and bad design is what I do not like. However, that is a cynical view. In many cases you can more easily recognise bad design than good design and get consensus on that, but the important point is that design and style are very different things. You can have good design in almost every style of building and architecture, and that is the crucial point that people often miss.

I said that I was not going to get involved in design and then started talking about it. I shall now shut up and beg leave to withdraw Amendment 150F.

Amendment 150F withdrawn.

Amendments 151 to 152ZC not moved.

Schedule 9, as amended, agreed.

Schedule 10 : Process for making of neighbourhood development orders

Amendment 152ZD not moved.

House resumed. Committee to begin again not before 8.33 pm.

Schools: Funding Reform


7.33 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State in another place:

"With your permission, Mr Speaker, I should like to make a Statement on our plans to reform school funding.

As Members from across the House will know, the current systems for funding schools-both for their revenue and capital needs-are too complex and lack transparency, which is why I want to make the way we fund all schools fairer, simpler and more efficient. I want to turn to capital spending first.

Capital investment is crucial to education reform but, at a time of economic difficulty, we need to ensure that we are getting the maximum value for every penny we spend and we must ensure that tight resources are targeted on those most in need. In order to ensure we could target money on those areas in absolutely greatest need, I had to take the difficult decision last year to stop a number of school rebuildings planned

19 July 2011 : Column 1271

under the Building Schools for the Future programme. In areas where planning was most advanced, more than 600 projects will go ahead, but other projects were stopped, and I recognise the deep disappointment that that provoked in communities where hopes had been raised. But we had to ensure that money was spent efficiently, and the design of the old BSF scheme was not as efficient as it could have been. Specifically, it did not prioritise schools in the worst condition and it did not procure new buildings as cheaply as possible.

In order to ensure we spent money properly, I asked Sebastian James of the Dixons Store Group to review the entire DfE approach to capital funding. His report makes compelling reading and I commend it to the House. He found that the whole capital system was bedevilled by a complex allocation process with multiple funding schemes, a lack of good-quality building condition data, inefficiency in building design, a lack of expertise when it came to improving new buildings, a failure to make procurement as efficient as possible, a lack of clarity on maintenance, and overly complex regulatory and planning requirements.

I am grateful to Sebastian James for his exceptionally thorough work and I wish to accept the majority of his recommendations, subject to a thorough consultation process over coming months.

Specifically, I have accepted the recommendation to conduct a full survey of the school estate. The last Government stopped collecting any data on school condition in 2005, which has made fair distribution of funding much harder. I have also accepted the review's recommendation significantly to revise the school premises regulations so that a single, clear set of regulations applies to all schools. I intend to consult fully on this in the autumn.

In addition, I have accepted his recommendation to move towards greater standardisation of design. One of the aspects of the BSF programme that Mr James criticised was that each school was separately designed, costing unnecessary millions in consultancy fees and often resulting in buildings which were not fit for purpose. Greater standardisation will reduce costs, improve quality and limit the opportunity for error.

However, I recognise that in the short term schools around the country are facing real and pressing problems. The most pressing problem is ensuring that every child has a school place. In some local areas, there are simply not enough school places to meet rising demand. Local authorities have told me that insufficient attention has been given to this issue in the past. That is why I have already doubled the sums available to meet this pressure, announcing £800 million of additional spending given directly to local authorities to meet the demand for school places.

Today, thanks to efficiencies and savings we have identified, including in BSF projects, I can announce an additional £500 million to fund more new school places in those areas of greatest need. Funds will be allocated this financial year to the local authorities with the greatest demographic pressures so that they can provide enough places, especially at primary schools, in September 2012. Details of those allocations will be provided over the summer and finalised in the autumn.

19 July 2011 : Column 1272

But that is not all. I am also aware that many of our existing school buildings across the country are in desperate need of repair. I am grateful to honourable Members from all parties who have shown me and my ministerial colleagues schools in their constituencies which need investment. The energy and skill with which so many colleagues have lobbied underlines how effectively so many honourable Members represent the most needy in their constituencies.

We have already made available £1.4 billion this year to deal with maintenance problems. Overall, we are spending more on school buildings every year of this Parliament than the last Government spent in every year of their first two Parliaments. But I want to do more, which is why today I am launching a new privately financed school building programme to address the schools in the worst condition wherever they are in the country.

This programme will be open to local authorities and schools that had been due funding via BSF but, critically, it will also be open to those which, despite real problems, had never been promised BSF funding. I believe strongly that those in genuine need should receive the funding they deserve, and no part of the country should be favoured over any other. Individual schools and local authorities will all be able to apply and I am launching the application process today.

The scheme will be rigorously policed to ensure that we do not incur the excessive costs incurred by previous privately financed schemes. The programme should cover between 100 and 300 schools, with the first of these open in September 2014, and it is expected to be worth around £2 billion in up-front construction costs.

Some of those local authority areas which had experienced the termination of their BSF projects asked for a judicial review of my department's decisions. In February, Mr Justice Holman found in favour of the department on the substantive matters in dispute. But he found against me on procedural grounds and asked me to look again at the decision in six local authorities. He stressed that the decision to restore all, some or none of the projects was a matter for me.

Over the past few months, Ministers and officials have listened carefully to the case made by the six local authorities and I am grateful to them for the constructive way in which they have presented that case. I have today written to those authorities to let them know that I am minded to indemnify them for contractual liabilities resulting from the stage their projects had reached, but I am not minded to restore their specific BSF projects. They now have a further opportunity to make representations to me before I take a final decision.

I appreciate that the local authorities and their representatives will be disappointed. But let me also be clear that this decision, if confirmed after any representations have been made, does not mean an end to new school buildings in their areas. Those local authorities will all be eligible for support from the new programmes I am establishing to cater for population growth in the areas most in need and the new programme to cover the worst dilapidation. That is central to my reasoning on why I am minded not to restore their projects. I want to ensure absolute fairness in the distribution of the resources at my disposal.

19 July 2011 : Column 1273

Because the previous Government chose not to collect data on the condition of school buildings after 2005, I do not have the facts to judge how the needs of these schools compare with the needs of other schools around the country. The fairest thing that I believe I can do is to help to meet the costs which might arise from the stage these projects had reached and then to invite the affected schools to apply to the new school rebuilding programme, and be assessed on an equal footing with everyone else, on the basis of need. And, of course, should any of these local authorities have severe need pressures, they are likely to receive a portion of the £500 million fund that I have announced today.

I would now like to turn to schools revenue funding. The current funding system is, of course, extremely complex, opaque and often unfair. Most colleagues will have lived with the inconsistencies for years now, as similar schools in different parts of the country received widely differing and inequitable levels of funding. The problems with the system that we inherited have recently been underlined by concerns expressed over academies funding. Under the system set up by the last Government, academies received money in lieu of services that would previously have been provided by their local authority. But local authorities continued to receive the same funding as if they were still providing these services. That meant that local authorities were being, relatively speaking, overfunded, for duties they no longer discharged. So, at the spending review we announced that, from now on, we would deduct money from local authorities to take account of the fact they no longer provided services to academies.

The huge success of the academies programme, with 803 academies open and over 800 more in the pipeline, has meant we need to look at the issue again. A number of local authorities have asked us to reconsider the amount of money deducted. So today, I am publishing a consultation document for local authorities explaining the basis on which it is intended that this money will be deducted in this year and next. But this area is only one where the funding system we inherited is failing to meet the needs of the 21st century and much wider reform is needed. So today, we are also publishing a consultation proposing a fair and comprehensive reform of the way in which schools revenue funding is calculated overall.

At present, similar schools in different areas can receive very different amounts of funding for their pupils. This is not fair on head teachers, on teachers or on pupils. That is why I am proposing a new fairer national funding formula, with appropriate room for local discretion, in order to have a simpler, fairer and transparent system. The problems with the current system run very deep, and we will not be able to solve them overnight. We want to consult to ensure everyone's views are heard on how much change schools can cope with. We will not introduce change until we are confident in the new approach and certainly not before 2013, and we will ensure that there are substantial transitional arrangements. But we are determined to start moving as soon as we can towards a system which ensures all children are given the right level of funding to meet their needs.

19 July 2011 : Column 1274

Taken together with our investment in 100 new teaching schools announced last week, our investment of an additional £300 million in the early years and an extra £2.5 billion in the pupil premium, I believe that we can now begin to ensure that our schools are funded in a way which is modern, fair and just".

7.44 pm

Baroness Hughes of Stretford: I thank the Minister for repeating that Statement. On capital, some might say that scrapping the most transformational school building programme for decades and replacing it with a survey is not the most convincing evidence of commitment to improving school buildings. However, I welcome the action that the Government are now taking to sort out the mess and uncertainty left in the wake of the Secretary of State's precipitous decision to axe the Building Schools for the Future programme.

High-quality buildings and facilities are indeed essential to high-quality teaching and learning. It is a pity that the Government could not acknowledge what the National Audit Office called the crumbling school infrastructure that my Government inherited in 1997 and the outstanding progress made in rebuilding schools since then. The replacement for BSF, but for up to only 300 schools in the worst condition, is to be private finance. Can the Minister explain the terms of this scheme and what will be the long-term revenue consequences for schools and local authorities of using private sector funding? Does the Minister agree that the full survey of the school estate, to which he referred, should be completed speedily and can he say when that will be published? On the funding for extra school places, can he explain how the allocation of that funding will take account of plans for free schools in the local area and the surplus places that will follow in those areas consequently from having a surfeit of schools?

I turn to revenue, about which the Statement strangely said relatively little. In principle, I welcome the consultation on how best to fund schools and also the decision to consult widely, although with schools breaking up this week they may not feel that they have the full 12 weeks in which to consider this detailed document. The Government say they want to achieve fair and comprehensive reform of the way in which schools revenue funding is calculated. The Minister has also said that similar schools in different areas can receive different amounts of funding and that that is not fair. But does the Minister accept that equal funding is not necessarily fair funding? Does he accept that schools in areas with more social or economic challenges or with more challenging pupils will need more funding in order to give those children a fair chance? None the less, will the move to a national formula ensure that schools with the highest needs will receive more funding?

The Government's proposal to move to a new national funding formula with local discretion is, on the face of it, seductive. It sounds as though it will be simpler and more transparent. However, even a cursory glance at the consultation document this afternoon, which outlines, for example, the proposal to move to three or four funding blocks, the methods for calculating them, the complicated proposal for a new combined area cost adjustment, the fact that local authorities

19 July 2011 : Column 1275

will still receive funding through the formula grant for other education services, to name just a few of the issues, suggests it may not be so simple.

Getting money to 25,000 schools, especially when the Government are pressing as many as possible to come out of the maintained sector, is inherently complex. The devil will be in the detail and the detail will show whether we really end up with a simpler system that schools and parents can understand and support. So can the Minister explain what he expects the outcome to be of moving towards a national funding formula for schools in deprived areas and for schools with higher proportions of children with additional or high needs? With a national formula, what continued role does the Minister envisage for local authorities in ensuring that funding to schools reflects local needs and circumstances? Will the Government now publish the modelling, which they must surely have done, so that we can see which schools will gain and which will lose in the new system?

Indeed, the Minister has acknowledged that changing the system in the manner proposed will result in many winners and many losers, so I welcome the decision not to introduce any changes before 2013-14 and to make transitional arrangements. I hope that those arrangements will include some kind of tapering to ensure a gradual transition to what may be a sizeable change to their budget for many schools. The Government want most schools to come out of the maintained system and become academies and free schools, so the parallel announcement to review academy funding is both necessary and welcome. Does the Minister agree that the funding system should ensure parity of funding between maintained schools and academies, based on need? Does he agree that academies should be subject to the same reporting framework in respect of the public money that they receive?

The consultation proposes three models for academy funding, but gives no bases for respondents to evaluate the different options. Will the Government now publish the data necessary to illustrate what would be the different impacts of those three models? We know that recently the Secretary of State was forced under threat of legal action to agree to a review of funding for academies. Will the Minister update the House on the progress of that review, and how it will link to the consultation that he announced today?

There are one or two notable gaps in the consultation, especially in relation to children with additional or high levels of need, and to post-16 funding. Will the Minister assure the House that the consultation will take account of the responses to the special educational needs Green Paper, as parents of children with special educational needs will have concerns over funding levels as a result of today's announcement? Furthermore, Ministers were silent today about 16 to 19 funding, which is particularly unfortunate as it is the subject of a critical report from the Education Select Committee. Many people are concerned that the changes to post-16 funding and the reductions in funding to school sixth forms could see some forced to close. The Secretary of State has promised a review of post-16 funding. It would make sense to conduct it concurrently with the consultation that he announced today. Perhaps the Minister will comment on that.

19 July 2011 : Column 1276

Finally, the question of most concern to parents and teachers is how far the Government will protect funding for schools. Despite the claims made today, is it not the case that the Government failed to keep their promise to increase spending by 0.1 per cent in real terms throughout the spending review period? Is it not also the case that simply maintaining a national schools budget at last year's cash level has meant a real-terms cut that many schools are grappling with?

We on this side will work constructively with all parties on the consultation to try to reach the best outcome for children and schools on the funding mechanism. At the same time, we want to see not only fair funding but also sufficient funding to ensure that every child gets the chance that they deserve.

7 52 pm

Lord Hill of Oareford: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her response. I welcome her offer to contribute to the consultation and to have constructive conversations about the way forward.

I will answer the questions that she asked. I am glad that she welcomed the announcement on capital that we made today. She called the decision taken by the Secretary of State last July to cancel the Building Schools for the Future programme "precipitous". We had to stop it and act rapidly because of the economic situation that we had inherited. We could not carry on with the programme and, as a consequence of having taken that decision, we have been able to make savings on some of the programmes and projects that have gone ahead, which has contributed to the £500 million that we were able to announce today to help with basic need.

The details on private finance will need to be worked out. The Government believe that they can learn from previous schemes and find ways of doing it better. My noble friend Lord Sassoon announced today that the Treasury has identified £1.5 billion-worth of savings from running current PFI projects, but we will need to work out the details.

The noble Baroness is absolutely right that the condition survey needs to be carried out speedily. We want to start straightaway. She asked about basic need and free schools. This is a pot of money that will be allocated to local authorities on the basis of demographic need, where the need for new places, particularly primary places, is greatest.

I accept the noble Baroness's point about revenue. She said that some schools need more than others. The principle that we are striving for, which I am sure she shares, is that schools in similar circumstances, with similar conditions and similar pupils, should be funded on an equal basis. However, I accept her underlying premise that some schools will have different needs. I also agree with her that moving to a national funding formula may not be simple. The system is inherently complex. That is one reason why we will do this very cautiously-which the noble Baroness welcomed-rather than rush it; we will have a lot of consultation, make sure that there is proper transitional protection in place and not implement it before 2013-14 at the earliest. As the noble Baroness knows, one of the questions in the consultation is whether we should do this on an even longer timescale.

19 July 2011 : Column 1277

On the question of academies funding, I am absolutely clear that the principle to which we are working is parity of funding. We are having this consultation because of the views expressed to us by local authorities, and the concern that they expressed about the decisions that the Government reached at an earlier point about the basis on which funding would be taken from them, to stop the double-funding that had been going on.

The noble Baroness asked about special needs. It is very much our intention that everything we do should be compatible with the direction of travel set out in the Green Paper. Another proposal out for consultation is that we should have a special block of money for high-needs pupils to make sure that their needs are properly protected.

The subject of 16 to 19 funding is extremely important. We propose to look at that, too, and see whether we can simplify it, on the same lines as we are trying to simplify schools funding. We will run a review on that, which will start in the autumn.

On overall funding, I agree with the noble Baroness about the importance of maintaining funding in schools. In difficult circumstances, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State managed to protect funding for schools at flat cash levels with the pupil premium on top. In the circumstances, that was a good settlement for the Department for Education. On our announcement today about capital and about basic need, I am the first to concede that it is not the answer to everything, but it is a step in the right direction. I am glad that the noble Baroness welcomed our announcements on capital and revenue-with the caveats that she expressed -as a step in the right direction.

7.57 pm

The Countess of Mar: My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Hughes, mentioned her concerns about funding for 16 to 19 year-olds. The Minister will be aware of my concerns about young people with ME who have been learning through the Nisai Virtual Academy. The funding continues through local authorities until they are 16, but it is now being cut off for 16 to 19 year-olds. At a vital stage when they are taking their exams, they find that they can no longer continue with their education.

I understand that Harrow College is funding existing students through their courses but will take on no new students. The Minister may agree that, as ME causes more long-term sickness absence in schools than any other illness, and about two-thirds of children on home tuition have ME, this is a very important group of children. Many of them are high achievers who are very frustrated because they cannot get on. Will the Minister give us hope that there will be funding? The virtual academy-it is virtual because it uses the internet-cannot tick the boxes for Ofsted and the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance because it has no bricks and mortar. Will the Minister help?

Lord Hill of Oareford: I am very sensitive to the noble Baroness's point about children with ME, for a variety of reasons. I will look into the case that she mentions. Perhaps we can talk about it and take it forward.

19 July 2011 : Column 1278

Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement. I heartily welcome the fact that the Government are grasping the nettle of the complexity and unfairness of school funding, which the previous Government did not do in 13 years-indeed, they compounded the complexity problems.

First, I will say a word about capital funding. I notice from the Statement that the Secretary of State has accepted Mr Sebastian James's recommendation to move towards greater standardisation of design of school buildings. Casting my mind back to the debate during the Localism Bill, I am sure the Government would not want a set of cloned schools all over the country. Can the Minister confirm that there will be a set of standard designs from which local communities can choose the most appropriate for their particular needs, not just one size fits all? That would not be in line with what this Government are trying to achieve. Will he also say whether energy efficiency, including microgeneration, will be included in those standard designs because, moving forward, that is going to be a very important issue?

On revenue, I welcome the consultation on moving towards a fairer national funding formula with appropriate room for local discretion-that is particularly important to those of us on these Benches-and the move towards a simpler, fairer and more transparent system. Schools need to know what to expect. From what the Minister said, I am sure he accepts that if you have a very simple system, it is likely not to be very fair, and if it is a very fair system, it is likely to have some complexity. I am sure that the Government's consultation will allow for that. I also particularly welcome the Government's determination to iron out the inequalities between areas and between academies and local authority schools.

On the subject of academies, I welcome the fact that the Government are publishing a consultation document for local authorities explaining the basis on which they intend that the money will be deducted this year and next. Does this mean that local authorities with no academies will have no deductions? Does it mean that there will be a standard costing for the services that academies will provide which local authorities will no longer provide? Finally, will he tell us a little more about how special schools will be treated?

Lord Hill of Oareford: Like my noble friend, I sat through the previous debate on design, and I thought someone would ask me about it. I was expecting the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, to be in her place, but my noble friend has asked the question instead. Coming to listen to another Bill going through its Committee stage and being subjected to some of the same kind of scrutiny to which I have been subjected in the Moses Room makes a nice change.

On design, the Government want to get a balance between delivering savings through a common sense approach and not reinventing the wheel every time. I agree about not having a one-size-fits-all design that can be rolled out across the country. There clearly needs to be proper discretion about the set of standardised designs-plural-that we would work up. In that context, building schools and other buildings that are energy efficient is extremely and increasingly important.

19 July 2011 : Column 1279

I agree with my noble friend about the importance of local discretion in thinking about revenue. She put the point about simplicity, equity and complexity very well. It is precisely those issues that we will need to tease out in the consultation to try to get to a point where there is more transparency and openness but there is still room for people to make sensible judgments on the ground. As she also said, we want to iron out some of these inequalities across the country. The points she raised about academies and academy funding are the sorts of issues that we will be discussing with local authorities and their representative bodies to try to resolve this issue.

Special schools, like all schools, will be able to apply for funding to help with their condition because we know from the work we have done that, just as with other schools, there are special schools in great need of help with dilapidation, so they will be able to apply to the same fund.

Lord Boswell of Aynho: My Lords, I, too, welcome the Statement. Can my noble friend help me with a couple of details on the capital side? First, possibly in parallel with, rather than in sequence with, the study that he is to undertake into the state of school conditions, will he be giving some thought to building up a matrix that will aid him in deciding which schools have the greatest need for capital work so there is a principled basis for doing it?

My second point is something of an extension of the point made by my noble friend Lady Walmsley. It is in relation to the cost of building projects. Will he make sure that the costing takes into account the whole-of-life cost so that the building projects are sustainable, rather than simply the cheapest at the time?

Lord Hill of Oareford: My Lords, the point of carrying out the condition survey is precisely to arrive at the point, to which my noble friend referred, where one can make a fair comparison between schools across the country to work out which of them have the greatest need and are most in need of having their condition improved. He is obviously right about that.

So far as the cost of the building projects is concerned, my noble friend makes a good point. One of the things that we will be looking at is how to try to secure the best possible value in a number of different ways, perhaps by grouping schools.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords-

Lord Davies of Stamford: My Lords, the noble Baroness is a very distinguished Member of this House, but I think Labour Back-Benchers are the only group who have not had a turn so far. We have a certain amount of time.

On design, did not the Victorians produce some extremely distinguished school buildings that have stood the test of time on the basis of just three or four rather standardised models? I hope the Minister will look at that example and perhaps be inspired by it.

19 July 2011 : Column 1280

On revenue funding, at first sight, one sees that it appears very just and sensible to cut back proportionately revenue funding to LEAs where a portion of that funding is earmarked for services that are now being paid for directly by funding academies. However, is it not the case that there are very considerable economies of scale in education, including in the operation of LEAs, and that the administrative and other fixed costs of those LEAs in providing those services will now, under this new system, fall on a reduced volume of funding for the LEA schools and therefore be a higher proportion of that funding? Therefore, schools that remain within the LEA system, will lose out, simply because there are academies in that area, and they will lose out more, the more academies there are in that area. Surely that is not fair either.

Lord Hill of Oareford: I agree with the noble Lord about Victorian schools. I am not an expert, but I think one of the reasons why, when one goes around London, they all look quite similar is because they were procured by a board. He is absolutely right about the question of how one goes about doing that. That demonstrates that it is possible to have something that looks recognisable but is also good quality and stands the test of time. My observation, as someone who gets sent around academies quite a lot, is that they all had fantastic architects and a lot of expense, and they all pride themselves on how original they are, but they all look quite similar if you look around the country. Going back to our earlier debate, I think the point about how design is accepted at a time is well made.

I understand the noble Lord's point about economies of scale and academies. It is obviously the case, and it is indeed happening, that many academies are choosing to carry on buying services from the local authority if they think they are good quality local services and that they are delivering what they want. It is also the case that some local authorities are embracing, if that is the right word, a different role and are thinking that they want to be in the business of becoming commissioners and selling their services to a range of schools across broader areas. A number of different approaches are developing. I accept the underlying point he makes, but there is a varied response going on across the country.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, I want to add to the design debate. First, I entirely agree with what the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, has said. Energy efficiency is also very important, but please let us have a design architectural competition to choose some of the best experts in that area. Secondly, the repairing of the older schools is terribly important because, again, pride in your school requires you and enables you to keep it in good order. The less well cared for a school is, the more likely it is to get kicked about and made even worse. Thirdly, and anticipating a debate we might have tomorrow but which sadly I can no longer take part in as I shall not be there, the involvement of the children themselves in the design of these schools and what is required there is crucially important. I have seen it in action with some young children advising student architects on what they should incorporate into a design. I hope that the Minister will bear that in mind when he is thinking of student governors.

19 July 2011 : Column 1281

Lord Hill of Oareford: I am sorry that the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, will not be joining us tomorrow but I am looking forward to our debate on school governors. I agree with all her points. I agree that involving the children or the students in what is going on in a school is jolly important. Her point about the upkeep of it and people taking pride in it is also obviously right. Getting input from architects will also be extremely important when we are trying to come up with our standardised set of designs.

The Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Davies, was not entirely right to say that it was only the Labour Benches that had not yet contributed. We do not like to be overlooked too much, small though we are. I have another question for the Minister about new buildings, and about the procurement process. I speak as the chair of a new academy that has gone through the procurement process for new buildings. I have been struck by just how complex it is and how the costs of that must be built in to the end cost you have to pay when you get to the final preferred bidder. I agree that simplification in the design process should not go too far, but could that simplification also be applied to the procurement process?

Lord Hill of Oareford: The remarks made by the right reverend Prelate echo my almost daily plaint. I agree with him entirely. It is our hope that with the new scheme we will be able to deliver it faster, perhaps up to 12 months faster, which will obviously save money. I agree that these processes can seem extremely complex. If he has experience from the academy with which he is involved, I would be interested to talk about that because we are keen to learn and try to do it better.

Baroness Wall of New Barnet: My Lords, I want to highlight a couple of things in the Statement, but first I must say that I think it was quite a mean-spirited Statement in its very negative description of the approaches taken by the previous Government. Even in the paragraph on academies, there is no recognition of the success of the academies programme, which started under the previous Government and has carried on under this one. It is probably the most negative Statement that I have seen for quite some time in this House, and I just want to put on record the fact that I am very disappointed about that.

I have some questions about university technical colleges. Where do they fit into all this? What is their relationship to the academies? What is the funding for them? I am quite surprised that the Statement does not refer to them as the way forward. Noble Lords will know from the noble Lord, Lord Baker, that they are very much the future, as I know from my involvement with some of the FE colleges that are going in that direction. Where are the university technical colleges going to fit in terms of revenue and the whole process?

Lord Hill of Oareford: My Lords, I hope that noble Lords who have been subjected to me talking about academies would say that I have always been very quick to make clear the huge contribution that the previous Government made to academies. I have said from the

19 July 2011 : Column 1282

beginning, although this might not always be an altogether welcome message for those on the Benches opposite, that I see my job as trying to build on what the previous Government did and what they intended to do in 2005. We are taking that forward; I am very clear about that. I am also very clear about Building Schools for the Future, having met a lot of the schools, children and heads who were involved with it. I absolutely share the previous Government's intention to improve the building estate. I know what they were trying to do, and I understand why they did it, so I am sorry if the noble Baroness felt that the Statement was mean-spirited.

We did not mention funding for the UTCs in the Statement, but the noble Baroness will know that the Chancellor found some more money in the Budget to-I hope-double to 24 the number that we were aiming for in the lifetime of this Parliament. That is in place, and is not affected by anything that we have announced today. Given that these are new institutions, I guess that by definition the pot for dilapidation is not going to be relevant to them. As she will know from her conversations with FE colleges, there is a lot of support for them. We have had a large number of applications, which we are considering, and we will in due course make announcements on those which I will be very happy to share with her.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: May I press the Minister a little further? Where does the pupil premium fit into these proposals? As I understand it, there will be an allowance for deprivation and so forth on top of the basic amount, and I assume that that is where the pupil premium will come in. However, given that the local schools forum will still play a part in allocating resources at a local level, how can schools be guaranteed that they will actually get the money that they need from the pupil premium?

Lord Hill of Oareford: That is an extremely good question. Our approach to the pupil premium has consistently been to put it on top of other funding that is made available so that people can see very clearly where it sits and will over time be able to calculate its effect as we build it up. Our intention is that it will continue to be identified separately and go to schools, which over time will report on and account for the purposes to which it is spent.

8.18 pm

Sitting suspended.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page