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The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Gibson of Market Rasen): My Lords, before the Minister moves that the Draft National Planning Policy Framework be considered, I remind noble Lords that the Motion before the Committee will be that the Committee do consider, rather than approve, the Draft National Planning Policy Framework.
That the Grand Committee do report to the House that it has considered the Draft National Planning Policy Framework.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): My Lords, the Government's intention to hold a debate on the National Planning Policy Framework, consultation about which has just closed, was rather pre-empted by the Opposition in calling one last week. We have also had detailed discussions during the course of the Localism Bill, so we have had many bites at this particular cherry. However, I do not think that that is a bad thing. The views of noble Lords are always worth having and planning is of fundamental importance to our society. It is the bedrock of our country. It affects our environment and heritage. It affects where we live and where business is sited. It protects our countryside, heritage, green and open spaces and our environment in general. It helps to stimulate and grow our economy and provide employment opportunities for local people. In order to thrive as a society and as a nation, we need a planning system that works.
Through the development of the new National Planning Policy Framework, and the Localism Bill, which this House has spent a good amount of time debating, significant changes are being made to the planning system. In particular, local people will be given a greater involvement in the decisions about the shape of their area. We are also changing our approach to national planning policy. Over time, the volume of statements and guidance have burgeoned exponentially, becoming ever more wordy, complex and opaque. This Government inherited a set of national planning policies that run to more than 1,000 pages. Not even the most committed members of local communities can hope to navigate policies of that length and complexity without expert help. As a consequence, a great deal of power
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In July, we published our proposals to streamline policy to just over 50 pages. Our aim was to express clearly and powerfully the principles that should help guide local authorities in planning for their local areas. We think that anyone who wants to read and understand policy should be able to do so, and that the system can and should be made clearer and more transparent. That is the thrust behind the National Planning Policy Framework and the withdrawal of the current mass of directions.
At the very heart of our reforms is the idea that planning must be positive. It would be an abdication of responsibility to the next generation if we continue to fail to provide new homes. Already, partly because of a lack of affordable property and for a number of other reasons, young people struggle to buy without help from their families, and four in five under-30s have no prospect of obtaining a mortgage to buy on their own. Not only do we need housing and new homes, we need to deliver the infrastructure to support them from high-quality public transport to energy, which is vital to helping us make the transition to a low-carbon economy.
To achieve these aspirations, planning must not simply be neutral and passive. It must help communities shape their future. It must seek out opportunities for responsible, sustainable growth. This idea is not new. It is planning at its best, exemplified by the post-war Government that rebuilt towns and industries devastated by war.
Contrary to the views of some, planning has never been either simple or uncontroversial. It has long been recognised that without control of development, the uses of land, whether economic, environmental or for the community, cannot be reconciled. The emphasis on sustainability of land use needs to be guided through agreed plans.
The interpretation of what we are now trying to achieve has unfortunately been wildly misinterpreted over the weeks of the consultation on the National Planning Policy Framework. It is easy to exaggerate the depth of contention over this. As the noble Lords, Lord Rooker and Lord Howarth, eloquently made clear on 13 October, the rhetoric of opposition to our proposals has become somewhat overblown. None the less, it is abundantly clear that the Government and many of those opposing the draft framework share a great deal of common ground.
We agree that economic development should not be the be all and end all, as the Prime Minister said. We need a balanced system, bringing together economic, social and environmental objectives. We are clear that planning decisions must and will continue to take into account those three factors.
We agree, too, that communities should wield real power and that local plans, developed by authorities in close co-operation with local people, should have
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We agree that we should prioritise building on previously developed land. No one, least of all this Government, wants to see houses built on beautiful open spaces when there are previously developed sites crying out to be brought back into use. In other words, many opponents of the draft framework want the same outcome as the Government: perhaps we differ only in how it is to be achieved.
Our current draft framework states that authorities should prioritise land of "least environmental value" for development. We chose "least environmental value" rather than "brownfield" because in many cases previously developed land has turned into places treasured by local communities as oases of green and quiet where wildlife and nature have taken over.
The evidence suggests that local authorities use that flexibility responsibly. Councils have a strong track record of choosing brownfield first. The current national policy sets an ambition for 60 per cent of new homes to be built on brownfield sites, but some councils are already building 80 per cent of their new homes on brownfield land. They understand the arguments and go well beyond what is specified nationally because it makes sense locally.
As part of the consultation on the draft framework, we heard a range of helpful comments from many organisations including housebuilders, regeneration groups, English Heritage, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and many more. They raised important points. Some want to look in more detail at the definition of "sustainable development" to ensure that it reflects current thinking. Others have questions about implementation: whether there should be transitional arrangements between the abolition of the regional spatial strategies and the completion of local plans.
Other respondents examined specific sections with a fine-toothed comb: for example, the proposals for Town Centre First, where we see strong support for the principle of ensuring that there continue to be busy, bustling, relevant high streets. In the consultation we asked whether the right balance had been struck. Now we can give this close consideration in the light of views from shopkeepers, residents and planners. In London, we have heard that we need to be clearer about how the framework relates to the mayor's London Plan.
The consultation has just closed and the proper thing for us to do is listen and reflect. Noble Lords will understand that I cannot set out any conclusions today on the issues on which we have been consulting. Indeed, it would be improper for me to do so. We will read every single submission that has been made and we will test and retest our wording to make sure the impact of our proposals matches our intentions. We will carefully consider the views expressed in this House both during the Bill and in these two important debates. We have made a commitment to publish our response by the end of April; if we can do it earlier, we will do so.
We need to seize this moment to make sure that planning genuinely does its job: not to create bureaucracy, delay and frustration, but to shape places that people are happy to call home, where they want to work and raise their children; to create communities that are not just functional, but inspirational, and to protect the green spaces and our heritage that are an inalienable and invaluable part of our past and future. I look forward to hearing the contributions of noble Lords.
Baroness Whitaker: My Lords, I am grateful for the Minister's broad sweep, particularly for the ideas underpinning the document. In contrast, I have a short contribution in only two areas of this wide-ranging document, but they are areas which are often neglected. I sympathise with the Government in trying to streamline planning guidance, and in one of the two areas the result is very helpful. This is the section on design at paragraphs 114 to 123. I quote:
and the full coverage of what a good place is makes it clear that well-being, security and economic viability must all go hand in hand and come from design. The earlier provision for an independent examiner to assess neighbourhood plans is also very welcome.
The very uneven spread of good planning design in the UK points to some strengthening being necessary. If people are not to continue to be condemned to live in unsatisfactory and socially destructive surroundings, two elements, I suggest, must be dealt with. One is the overwhelming power of developers, who should be deterred from taking the easy way out and building on greenfield sites by a stronger presumption for using brownfield sites. The Minister is reassuring, but I fear the risk remains if there is not a stronger restraint.
The other matter, arguably more difficult, is to deal with the lack of capacity in planning authorities to make well informed and design-sensitive decisions. For this, more about design review is required. Local authorities should have to take account of review panel recommendations; it should be clear that the review panels are independent and cross-professional, and planned developments that do not meet local or national design standards should be turned down. Incidentally, there is an apparent inconsistency with the recommendation for local authorities to use design codes and the discouragement of additional plan documents in paragraph 21. I would be grateful if the Minister could explain this. Good design procedures are going to be very important for housing quality, and particularly important for affordable housing. How are the Government going to make sure that local authorities work out what skills they need and obtain them?
Finally, on design, I make a plea not to junk all previous separate planning guidance documents. Many-in fact, I think most-were the product of expertise as well as consensus and consistently enjoin up-to-date best practice. If they had an authoritative guidance status
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The second area I put to the Government is alas much less satisfactory. The noble Baroness will not be surprised to hear that I refer to policy for Gypsies and Travellers to have somewhere legal to live. This is of course conspicuous by its absence from the NPPF. The Government have decided to deal with it separately in consultation, but end up with a comprehensive document, which last is, of course, a good idea. But rather than incorporate the widely accepted Circular 01/06, they decided to repeal it and put out a replacement light-touch draft. This was incompatible with the NPPF -no presumption in favour of sustainable development there.
Following the issue of Circular 01/06 there had been a measurable increase in permitted sites, although there was still a large shortfall and local authorities were still slow to carry out their needs assessments. There were a few things in this circular which needed amendment, such as the definition of Gypsies and Travellers, which needs to follow that in the Housing Act 2004, so that nomadic culture is respected and they are not expected to put up with either bricks and mortar or nothing. CLG's replacement draft did not follow this principle and contains many other prejudicial provisions, which make it ever less likely that local authorities will see it as their duty and obligation to provide sites or allow private sites. There is not really time to go into the detail of the proposed provisions now, but their disadvantages have been widely signalled to the Secretary of State and their combined effect has caused consternation in the Gypsy and Traveller community.
If the Government are bent on making a solution ever more difficult for that small proportion of Gypsies and Travellers who have no legal site to live on in their traditional-and legitimate-way, where are they supposed to go? Are they supposed just to vaporise? When they are continually moved on, where are their children to go to school? Where are the expectant mothers-already with the highest rate of mortality in the UK-to get antenatal care? Where are their diabetic patients, their cancer patients or their elders to have the treatment they need? It is unconscionable to so massively deprive fellow citizens in comparison with what other homeless people can expect. Or are they not thought of as really fellow citizens?
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I predict that this debate will fail to satisfy many people. None of us will be able to say everything that we want to say, and those outside this House with an interest will be frustrated that we have not been able to. I think that the Minister must have the hardest time on this, having to button her lip-which she does most graciously-
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I welcome making planning rules accessible and demystifying them. I have never thought that we should approach any sort of rules as job creation for lawyers. They should be intelligible to people who read normal language. However, simplifying is not simple. The noble Lord, Lord Hart, drawing on his experience as a practitioner, made the point far better than I on 13 October. Is the document too short to be adequate? Not necessarily, but it probably is. I am not qualified to assess what policies from the current draft of statements cannot be-or have not been-fitted into 50-odd pages. I assume that the Government have analysed in detail what has been omitted. It does not seem to me that the impact assessment that has been published, which identifies 18 headline points, I think, can be complete. Of course, we do not know and we will not know what went between the CLG and the Treasury-or, more likely, in the opposite direction.
A lot of money is associated with planning. When I was a councillor in a London borough and chaired a planning committee, it felt a very unbalanced position: a developer with deep pockets against an overstretched local planning authority acting on behalf of its community. There will be minute examination of the new framework-already cited as emerging policy-compared to the previous statements. Will it be made unequivocally clear that the previous statements have been cancelled when the new framework takes effect? The Government are never overjoyed when courts intervene, as they see it, in policy, but I fear that we will have another episode of what may be regarded as judicial policy-making when they attempt to interpret the framework.
A good deal of the document is welcome-the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, mentioned design-but there are a lot of gaps between the lines and, indeed, between policy areas. The style seems to me to be more narrative than policy. My noble friend Lord Greaves called it a narrative when he spoke on 13 October. Either that or it begs questions. When is a local plan not up to date? Noble Lords will recognise that question from paragraph 26. What is,
Leaving aside whether this is the place for a piece of current and very specific policy, is "very significant weight" weightier than a material consideration? There is a big body of case law on materiality. Where does that stand? I come to my last example:
Language is hugely important. The Minister reminded us that the very term "planning" has positive, forward-looking connotations, and I very much support the notion of a plan-led system. The language of public debate has been most unfortunate. I do not like saying it, but the Government have brought it on themselves by using the term sustainable development as if it simply means development. That is how it reads; certainly that is how it is being read. Both detail and tone are important here. It was only when I read the draft that I realised that "development control" has become "development management". That change of language is suitable.
I add my voice to those calling for the retention of the carefully balanced definition of sustainable development. I will say today merely that what tend to be thought of as the fourth and fifth limbs, the responsible use of science and good governance, seem to me to be as appropriate to planning as to other areas of government.
Planning has to serve many demands, and those who have to operate it may in some cases be torn between concern over a lack of certainty-which we have always been told is so required in planning-and a welcome for opportunities, which uncertainty allows. Will developers, who used to call for certainty, find that uncertainty is their goal because it gives them so much more scope?
I hope that what we end up with is not tilted towards development because development per se is said to be a good thing. Nor should it be so loose that we are left with knowing what is okay only when we see it. I say to the Government, and I hope that this does not sound impertinent or patronising, that there is nothing wrong in revising a draft. Very extensive revision is not a defeat. When the Government revise this draft, as I hope they will, they should claim it as being good at government.
Lord Cameron of Dillington: My Lords, I must first declare an interest as a farmer and landowner in Somerset. I would like to entitle my intervention "The challenge of change in the countryside". The challenges include the fact that our rural population is growing by about 100,000 per annum, which is faster than the urban population, and, as indicated in a survey of a few years ago, that 80 per cent of people who live in urban England want to live in the countryside, although it has to be admitted that most of them are not quite sure about that once they get there.
This massive influx throws up both opportunities and problems. Inevitably, the problems include a lack of jobs and a lack of housing. In terms of jobs, it is important to realise that agriculture now provides less than 5 per cent of rural jobs. This means that the rural economy is mostly dependent upon manufacturing, financial services, retail and tourism. Rural tourism was worth about £16 billion per annum the last time I looked. In that context, we have every right to be proud of how we have planned our countryside over the years and centuries.
England-not the UK-is, I believe, the fifth most densely populated country in the world, with a population of 50 million. They are not all based in the south-east. The Peak District National Park, for instance, situated mostly in Derbyshire, has 21 million people living within one hour's drive. This is a very good example because, in spite of this density, it has some of the most beautiful and cherished countryside on earth, which continues to provide an inspiration for our nation and a boost to our rural economy.
The boost to our economy from the beauty of our countryside is not only through tourism. The real economic success of our planning system is seen in the statistic that 66 per cent of all businesses started in rural England are started by incomers. That is a pretty staggering statistic. People want to come to the countryside and do their business, to live and work there, because it has kept its beauty. Furthermore, while farmers mostly look after our woods and fields, the maintenance of our villages and built environment very much depends on these incomers and their businesses.
Business is the lifeblood of the conservation of our countryside. That is the meaning of sustainable development in this context. Destroy our countryside and you destroy its economy. Destroy the rural economy and you destroy our countryside and its social fabric.
Moving very briefly on to the social fabric, I made a mental list of the challenges of change in the countryside. As you would expect, they include deprivation-which often goes unrecognised-housing, training, providing better services for the young and the growing proportion of elderly. Transport, too, is a key challenge. In my view, in planning terms, the problems all come down to the need, as far as possible, for each village to have its own provision of housing, especially affordable housing, and, above all, workspace. This would not spoil the countryside.
Every village needs to work out what they want their village to be like in 15 to 20 years' time-not just what it will look like, or where development will be allowed to go, because it is bound to be a visual disaster and design does not matter. I will leave that debate to others. They must work out what services they want to survive, what they want in terms of work and play, what they want their kids to be doing. Do they want their kids still to be able to live there? That is what planning is about. It is not just about development control or even development management.
That brings me to the NPPF. What I have just enunciated is what it, along with the Localism Bill, purports to do. But does it? Frankly, that could be anyone's guess. It is not a developers' charter, as some
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It is also my experience that the more locally one makes planning decisions, the greater is the resistance to change. This applies in particular to affordable housing, where it is almost always the villages that say, "No, we don't want cheap housing in our village". That worries me more than anything else.
We need a helpful transitional process from where we are now to where we are going to get to. We also need encouragement-and perhaps financial inducements-for local planning authorities to produce their long-overdue local development frameworks, and also to produce faster advice and decisions. Sadly, a lot of the current problems lie in the fact that many planning departments have been cut to the bare bone and find it hard to cope with their workload. In a nation struggling to emerge from recession, this simply will not do. The Chancellor needs to be told.
My final point concerns brownfield sites. They cropped up several times in the debate two weeks ago. I agree that greenfield sites should be avoided when there is a brownfield alternative. However, it would be helpful in the countryside if the definition of brownfield sites could include redundant farm buildings that are more than, say, 15 years old. I refer in particular to the often asbestos-clad Dutch barns, piggeries and the like that are a blot on our landscape and are crying out for either demolition or for the site to be used for housing or workspace. This may be a step too far, but in many cases it should be possible to do a deal to transfer their brownfield print to the most suitable site for development on the farm in question in return for total demolition and the restoration of the original site to pristine countryside. I hope that under the new system we can in this way maximise the use of all our old, redundant farm buildings for both workspace and housing.
The Lord Bishop of Ripon and Leeds: My Lords, I, too, am very grateful to the noble Baroness for giving us the opportunity to discuss the provisions of the National Planning Policy Framework. I welcome very much the rationalisation and simplification of our planning procedures that will follow from it. Nevertheless, the point of discussing a draft is to see whether we can improve it, and I share concerns about the dangers in the draft of a postcode lottery. Local decision-making needs to be balanced by proper safeguards so that the loudest voices in any particular locality do not dominate.
I, too, would like to see in the framework a more developed definition of sustainable development. I join the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, in wanting to check what the Government's view is of the Securing the Future quintet of 2005: living within environmental limits, ensuring a strong, healthy and just society, achieving a sustainable economy, promoting good governance and using sound science responsibly. I have the impression that economic development is the
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The framework helpfully quotes Gro Brundtland defining sustainable development as meeting the needs of the present without compromising future generations. It does not go on to quote the next phrases of the Brundtland declaration on the overriding priority of the needs of the poor and on the limitations caused by the needs of the future: namely, justice and environmental care. I hope that those principles will be more strongly stated in the final framework that the Government produce.
That would mean ending the idea that where a local plan is absent or silent, planning permission should be granted. Just because no one has thought about a proposal before does not mean that it should automatically be granted. A default answer of "yes" seems to be dangerous in legislation and could well lead to problems in, for example, the proper provision of affordable housing. We have seen recently what I believe to be the vexatious use of the village green legislation to prevent affordable housing being built. We need to be still clearer here about the need for such housing, especially in rural areas where depopulation continues to occur. People in many areas of North Yorkshire, for example, simply cannot afford to remain in their villages.
The stress on local decision-making is an encouraging development so long as it cannot degenerate into nimbyism. Parish councils and neighbourhood forums need to be required to take into account the needs of people who are not like us. There needs to be more here about the needs of those who may be perceived by local communities as a threat. That might include, for example, the provision of mental health provision or detention centres within a particular community. The proposal in paragraph 51 that a neighbourhood plan takes precedence over a local plan seems to be simply wrong. Surely there needs to be provision for an agreed resolution, with arbitration if necessary, but this will only be possible if we have a more developed definition of sustainable development, including both justice and the environment.
Paragraph 165 is about the natural environment and makes an interesting case study for some of my arguments. The aim, it says, should be to "minimise" adverse environmental effects. The aim should be to prevent adverse environmental effects. The paragraph states:
Again, they should allocate land with the least environmental value and should seek to do that. It is a case of how much effort is put into overcoming the difficulties of that. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, that one of the ways this can be done in the countryside is to have another look at which land is of the least environmental value, because the present planning laws do not always define that appropriately. It is the tentative nature of the aims which gives something of an excuse for ignoring them. The paragraph goes on to say that the "adverse impacts" need to,
before planning can be refused. I think it should be the other way round. The benefits should have to be shown to outweigh the adverse impact significantly and demonstrably. There is a pulling back here from concern for the protection of the natural environment in the future. There needs to be a more positive framework for the environment here. In this respect, could the noble Baroness comment on the relationship between this framework and the natural environment White Paper? Some clear link between the two documents and the two policies would be immensely valuable.
Finally, I want to return to the major issue of justice highlighted by the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker-the needs of the Gypsy and Traveller communities. They do have a mention in the framework, but we need a much more positive attitude to the contribution they make to our society, and a determination to serve the needs of this most ignored of all our minority ethnic groups. There is an opportunity here to provide proper planning provision for settlement sites and the like. Dale Farm may have been the crisis that hit our newspapers, but time and again, Travellers feel harried and unwanted, and local communities become fearful and defensive. Neither of those helps in terms of community cohesion. Proper planning provision could reduce this serious blot on the inclusive nature of our society. I very much hope that we shall be able to see that and tackle this issue, which has been around for a very long time.
I believe that this is a good start. A fuller definition of sustainable development and a greater emphasis on justice and the environment could make it a still more valuable framework as we look to the future.
Lord Reay: My Lords, I declare an interest as a landowner. We are lucky-perhaps the Minister is not so lucky-to be having this second bite of the cherry following our planning debate on 13 October. I am relieved, myself, to be losing the PPSs and the PPGs and starting again with 50 or 60 pages, although I imagine that amendments in one form or another to the NPPF will follow in subsequent years. Meanwhile, I hope that the NPPF will be revised to reflect the concerns that we have all expressed and that the Government will not simply in the end insist that we have misunderstood what the document means.
On the question of the transition, local authorities surely need to be given reasonable time to complete up-to-date local plans, particularly as they dare not leave out anything, since silence will confer consent. We have heard that just under one-half of local authorities have completed their now to be renamed plans, but will these not automatically be all out of date once the NPPF has been adopted? I should be grateful if the Minister could answer that question. And who decides whether they are out of date? Is it a planning inspector? And at what point?
Government Ministers, as we have heard today, have recently been deploying all sorts of arguments to explain why there is no mention of brownfield sites as such in the NPPF: that some are of high environmental quality and that they want to protect gardens et cetera.
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This is an enormously important issue as in recent years-as the Minister explained-the proportion of houses built on brownfield or previously developed land has been astonishingly high, frequently well in excess of the target, which is also to be jettisoned. As the noble Lord, Lord Rogers of Riverside, pointed out in a notable speech in our last debate, there are towns, including seaside towns, that are crying out for regeneration. As the well known columnist Alice Thomson wrote in an article in the Times on 28 September:
The Government should say in the NPPF that, other things being equal, brownfield site development should have priority. They should use the word brownfield even if qualified; otherwise the abiding perception will be that this priority is no longer intended to apply.
I regret the inevitable introduction of the word "sustainable", which risks leading to all sorts of trouble. In the document's 52 pages I counted 78 uses of the words "sustainable" or "sustainability". It is applied so frequently and loosely as to virtually lose meaning. The Government do not always help when they set out to define it. I suggest a definition of "sustainable development" is needed that distinguishes that phrase from development without any qualification. That should be stated to mean after a balance has been struck between the need for development, on the one hand, and, on the other, after environmental and social factors-such as are mentioned elsewhere in the document-are taken into account.
My chief concern is regarding the countryside. I do not think that the document gives nearly enough weight to its protection. In contrast to the green belt, which receives extended treatment over three and a half pages, the national parks and AONBs receive only one sub-paragraph far down in a late chapter on the natural environment. This issue should be given far greater priority. No one could fail to note its demotion in this document. The policy should also be strengthened. The paragraph includes a sentence starting:
It then lists some factors to be taken into account when considering granting permission for a major development in a designated area, including its effect on the local economy. That is far too permissive. It also goes so far as to state at paragraph 75,
That could be read as an open invitation to develop designated areas. Instead, there should be an unqualified presumption of no development in national parks and AONBs and their settings and an explicit statement that wind turbines should be permitted in those designated areas and their settings only in exceptional circumstances, and then limited to a single small turbine.
In a previous debate, I described how developers have been testing whether they could break through the protection given to AONBs with wind farm applications. That struggle will be vigorously resumed unless it is perceived that the NPPF forcefully reasserts the priority of protecting designated areas from disfiguring development. The countryside outside designated areas also requires protection. The failure of the Government to recognise that has been one of the principal complaints of the National Trust and CPRE. Two-thirds of the countryside in England lies outside national parks or AONBs, but it contributes much to the country's reputation and its attraction to visitors.
The NPPF makes no obvious reference to the wider countryside at all. It states that valued landscapes should be protected without making it plain whether that refers exclusively to designated landscapes. Also, countryside is not the same as landscape, which includes urban areas. The NPPF should state explicitly, as PPS4 does today, that the countryside should be protected for the sake of its "intrinsic character and beauty" and that its protection, where relevant, should be taken account of in all development decisions.
Ministers keep telling us, here and elsewhere, that they want fewer planning applications decided on appeal. Let me tell the Government where they should start. The percentage of planning applications that go to appeal is not very high. According to the impact assessment, in 2009-10, it amounted to about 3 per cent of all applications received. That is very different for wind farm applications. According to a Written Answer I was given in August, in England, approximately one-half of wind farm applications are rejected by local authorities in the first place. The point was made in the Telegraph today that the percentage of those permitted has now fallen to its lowest point to date, at 42 per cent. Of those that are rejected, the proportion taken to appeal varies from one-half to three-quarters, so at least one-quarter of all wind farm planning applications are decided on appeal. Only a minority of applications which are rejected by local authorities do not go to appeal. That is despite the enormous expense for local opposition groups and small local authorities in contesting appeals.
Of course, the reason for that is that wind farms are hugely unpopular virtually wherever they are proposed as more and more people have become aware that they are a complete waste of time, despite the bluster of the Secretary of State; that they probably do not save any carbon emissions; and that they ruin the countryside, as well as the lives of those who are made to live close to them. Having read the recent HouseMagazinediary, I think that I will have the support of my noble friend Lord Cormack in saying that.
It is only possible for the Government to carry out their renewable energy policy, at least on land, by getting it forced through by the planning inspectorate at enormous cost-so much for localism. The NPPF should also state that local authorities may specify minimum separation distances between wind turbines and residences. I declare an interest as having a Private Member's Bill that seeks statutory authority for such obligations. Compliance with planning conditions and obligations can also be an issue. The NPPF could
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Finally, paragraphs 148 to 154 are highly objectionable and seek to apply pressure on local authorities to carry out the Government's extremely damaging and ultimately unsustainable renewable energy policy. One day, but not yet, I am quite sure this passage will become redundant and that we will start, if we have not done so before then, on a new series of PPGs and PPSs. However, that moment awaits a wiser, or financially more desperate, Government. In the meanwhile, subject to those limitations, I hope that the Government will display sense and sensibility and give us an NPPF that we can live with.
Baroness Andrews: My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, for creating this second opportunity to look at some of the complex, wide-ranging issues raised in the National Planning Policy Framework. I was impressed by her saying how important it was to have a positive planning statement and planning service. I am sure that she will have listened closely to what the right reverend Prelate said about the nature of positive planning and what it can encompass as I think that the document could go further in that respect. It was useful to have a glimpse of what the consultation has brought forward. I am sure that there will be wide consensus around those issues.
I will try very hard not to repeat what I said in the previous debate but that is difficult because I have to declare my interest as the chair of English Heritage and there is some unfinished business to which I need to draw the attention of the Committee. However, I will speak principally about the role of planning and regeneration with particular reference to heritage, and then pick up on a few of the wider issues. I make it clear that in our high-octane debate on the future of the planning system, Ministers have been at pains to reassure English Heritage, and the whole heritage sector, that there is no intention of diminishing the protections around our historic buildings, settings and landscapes. We have responded to that by working closely with the Government to change the document so that this will, indeed, be the case. As the Government's trusted adviser, it is our duty to do that and make sure that there is no compromise around that.
The public process around the consultation has finished and now the hard work begins for the Government to accommodate and answer the many excellent questions raised, not least by the noble Lord, Lord Reay, and to begin to reconstruct the language as well as the content and emphasis of this document. It is a big challenge. However, the major challenge is to redraft the document in such a way that the Prime Minister's public assurances to the National Trust that the planning system is about balance, and, by implication, not about the preference for development at all costs over other considerations, are reflected in the document in such a way that planners, conservation officers, developers and the community as a whole know that that is the case, and thereby remove the confusion and recourse to the courts.
I wish to make a suggestion in relation to heritage. There is a very simple way of putting it beyond doubt that heritage protections stand undiminished and are absolutely central to achieving the wider ambitions for sustainable development. Much of the present confusion has been generated by the assumption that somehow economic growth, judged by development, is prevented or inhibited by heritage conservation when that is not the case. We could have a statement to the effect that the best, most sustainable, most popular and most desirable developments-ones which drive up the quality of the public realm as well as house prices-are those built around, and making the most of, historic buildings, our historic environment and our historic settings in terms of their character, perspective and distinction.
All the Government would have to do is to go and talk to the developers engaged in places like Kings Cross, Berwick and Snape Maltings, and in the reconstruction of the Roundhouse in Derby. Those developers and their partners, working at the heart of regeneration, will say that what makes these developments so successful as places to live or work is the marriage of heritage quality with the best forms of modern design. The problem with the present draft of the NPFF is not only that it seems to take a negative, even punitive, view of planning, but that it is perversely behind the times. It does not recognise that relationship. Changing this could make the document and the planning system much more successful and responsive so that it could do the job that we all need it to do.
I note that it is difficult to go through some of the initial processes of retaining structures and spaces, but the end product has the wow factor and it builds pride of place. I will give two short examples of what I mean. This week I had the privilege of being in Burnley with His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. As chair of English Heritage I have been involved in the reconstruction of very fragile mill buildings-those few survivors of the time when 100,000 looms were at work in Burnley. These buildings have been reconstructed for future occupation, bringing back to life the wonderful physical history of Burnley, which will now help build its future. We were at the Victoria Mill, which has been at risk for 20 years and has finally found the partners, support and commitment to take on a new future. Other buildings along that wonderful canal will follow suit. It is a great credit to the Prince of Wales that he has led a partnership between his own Prince's Regeneration Trust, the local authority, English Heritage and developers that will drive a new future for Burnley.
The same day at Middleport Pottery in Stoke we were able to celebrate the survival of one of the very few Victorian potteries. It still retains the moulds, buildings and transfers that bring back the history of the extraordinary ceramics industry, a global leader for two centuries. That project will drive regeneration across Stoke and will be sustainable because it will build on skills, crafts, knowledge and local pride. I hope that it will set a standard as a model for projects in communities all over the country.
There are many such examples already in existence. However, if the NPFF were not to be changed, and as a result the presumption of sustainable development were to override or diminish heritage protections, these
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There are very sound economic and social reasons why the NPPF should express the critical and positive role that heritage can play in leading the best possible forms of development and in ensuring that the right balance is struck. Once demolished, the buildings that formed the Industrial Revolution and drove prosperity for so many centuries cannot be replaced. But in most situations a positive solution can be found to the benefit of developers and the community alike.
We have to get the balance right, and that balance must be spelled out with clarity. We need to know now what the Government mean by sustainable development; it needs to be spelled out fully so that we all understand it. Without knowing that planning applications will have to pass the test of the various protection regimes in the NPPF, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, said, we are on a road to perdition in the courts. I see a perverse reality in the notion that developers might prefer uncertainty. It is perverse and would be very expensive. We need clarity now.
Taking a wider perspective, I noticed the Government's restated objective to get the NPPF agreed as soon as they can, ideally before April. I hope that they will bear in mind the real danger of getting it wrong if they proceed too fast. We need this to be as clear as possible. That is why the guidance will be so important. I should like an assurance from the Minister that the Government are fully committed to producing detailed guidance to ensure that planning authorities understand what the document means.
On the debate on brownfield sites, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Reay, about the need for precise language. I know that no Government like to learn from previous Governments, but the previous Government achieved a 70 per cent target for building on brownfield sites and were very proud of it. My understanding is that the difficulty with using the term "brownfield" has something to do with the decision to exclude gardens from the original definition. If that has been or can be put right, I would be interested to know why the term brownfield cannot be used. Under the original formula, planning should seek actively to bring back into beneficial use vacant and underused previously developed land. That is the existing policy and it is quite clear. That would be better than the formulation we have.
On housebuilding, I would like to know whether the Government now actually acknowledge that the failure over the past two years to build the houses we need has been the result not of failure of the planning system but of the impact of the recession. It is important to recognise that because, goodness knows, we need
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Finally, I believe in a strong "centre first" policy. The consultation seems to emphasise that, and PPS4, which revised the sequential test for town centre development, reflected the changed economic times we were entering in 2009. We still need that balance between edge of centre and town.
We have talked many times about transitional arrangements. I do not understand the explanation that the Minister gave for her amendment on transitional arrangements; I do not know whether she will be able to have another go at it today. The test is essentially whether it will meet the situation in which so many local authorities find themselves with an incomplete, silent or out-of-date plan. They will have either to remake those plans; address policies that were in the regional strategy; or reconcile themselves to being entirely dependent on the NPPF. That is the question to which I want an answer.
I agree with noble Lords who seek explicit protection for the open countryside. I suggest that it could be achieved by creating a requirement on local planning authorities to protect and enhance the quality, character and amenity value of the countryside and urban areas as a whole. That picks up on PPSs1, 5 and 7 and PPG17.
When we see the final NPPF, I hope to goodness that we will not be disappointed. We need a document which is significantly different, which achieves the proper balance that we have spoken about, which is clear about what it means by sustainable development, which protects and enhances areas such as heritage but which also offers appropriate protection for open countryside and which genuinely will serve our social and cultural-as well as our economic-future.
Lord Greaves: My Lords, it is always a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, and it is always very difficult to follow a contribution as good as hers-but I will try. I agree with a great deal of what has been said on all sides in this debate. If the Government genuinely listen in this consultation-not just to your Lordships but to everybody else-they will produce a document that will receive a great deal of consensual acclaim. I should again declare an interest as a member of a local planning authority and of a planning committee.
I, too, will try not to repeat much of what I have said before. However, I must repeat that there are serious problems with the document. Its language in many cases is inappropriate in a legal planning document, and sloppy. It is still difficult to know whether some of the problematic language is deliberately or accidentally provocative. That is at the bottom of the argument.
There is also a lack of consistency in the document. I have a list of examples where it states different things about the same thing on different pages-and sometimes on the same page. There are gaping holes. This is
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My noble friend Lady Hamwee reminded me that I described it as a narrative more than anything else. The more I look at it, the more it reads like a political policy pamphlet in which people have put down proposals in order to be provocative. A couple of days ago in the House, we debated the first amendment to the health Bill. It was moved by the Labour Party but taken substantially from a Liberal Democrat conference policy motion. People in that debate argued rightly that what is appropriate language in a conference policy motion-which, at least in our party, we still think of as important-is not appropriate for legislation. This is guidance rather than legislation, but the same principle applies.
The National Planning Policy Framework overlaps and interlocks with the Localism Bill, particularly with two remaining issues: the question of sustainable development-what it is now to mean and where and how it should be defined-and the transitional arrangements from the old planning system to the new. I will not say too much about these today because we will discuss them again in some detail on Monday, for the umpteenth time, and the Minister may be able to say slightly more helpful things in the context of the Bill than she can in the context of the NPPF. We will see.
The noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, referred to sustainable development. We have had some run-ins in my part of the world with her organisation, but it has been constructive and I hope that we will come to the sort of solution that she talked about.
The problem in many areas is that people think historic buildings are all castles and manor houses and so on in the countryside. Many of the most difficult ones, including ones that the noble Baroness talked about today, are in towns. Some of the great Victorian mills, most of which have been knocked down, remain and require a great deal of money and resources to achieve regeneration.
Earlier, the noble Baroness referred to the Weavers' Triangle area in Burnley. What is going on there is tremendous, but it is in competition with other areas. I refer to Brierfield Mills in Pendle, which I know well. It is like a mini Salts Mill in that it is that sort of grade two listed building; it is really quite tremendous. The council and many local people are attempting to find new uses for it because its old use as a textile mill that employed thousands of people has gone completely. But it is extremely difficult. The Weavers' Triangle, for example, is going to get one of the new technology colleges of the noble Lord, Lord Baker. We bid for the same college to be located in Brierfield, but we lost the bid. Regional development funding has been sought for both sites, and there are strong rumours that in the near future there will be an announcement that it is going to go to the Burnley site, not to ours-including the famous Todmorden Curve, so why can I argue about it? In fact, I do not argue about it. There are not enough resources to do it all, but it is very important.
This is a different sort of planning to that we see in the countryside. A lot of what I talk about in the NPPF concerns the future of the countryside and whether it means that mass housing developers can build great new estates on green fields all over the place, and whether the precious uplands of this country are going to be covered in new power stations or wind farms, and all those dreadful thoughts. This is where the controversy is and what the Daily Telegraph is talking about, but in practice there are many parts of the country where planning is about desperately trying to find people who are willing to develop and invest in projects which can economically and financially benefit from that investment. But I am talking about parts of the country that are not very attractive to people who want to build and make a profit. As well as the countryside, the National Planning Policy Framework also has to cater for that completely different environment.
I strongly support the submission made to the Government by the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Party Committee, of which I am a member, on CLG matters. However, I will not say more about it other than to express my support. I support much of what the Wildlife and Countryside Link has put forward, particularly its view that the document ought to include right at the beginning a clear statement of core planning principles. That is something the Government ought to think about very seriously.
Many noble Lords have talked about the problem of undesignated areas of the countryside, parts that are not designated as being of special national significance, but nevertheless contribute to what the CPRE and the others call the "intrinsic value" of the countryside. On the other side of that coin are the submissions from the Country Land and Business Association and one which I know has been put forward by my noble friend Lord Taylor of Goss Moor about the need for a planning system that allows appropriate development in the countryside, particularly in villages and using redundant farm buildings and so on, but which does not allow the countryside to be ruined. Finding that balance is very important indeed. I heard part of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington, and it is clear that no one is arguing for the countryside to become fossilised. It is important that rural communities and villages remain vibrant and do not become dormitory suburbs stuck in the countryside. That balance can be achieved, and if it is, I think that it will attract a great deal of support from everybody.
It is very important indeed that local planning authorities can use the document when it is finally produced and that it will work in the sense of producing good local plans as quickly as the Government want them to be used. A great deal of that is in producing the evidence base and carrying out the processes of consultation which, particularly since the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, have been burdensome, particularly for relatively small planning authorities and ordinary district councils. The local evidence collection and the analysis of information as a basis for plans and policies that will stand up to inspection will be even more important under the new system because the regional plans and strategies will have gone, and a lot of what is in local plans at the
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The planning officer on my council-Pendle-is Mr Neil Watson, who has had a good, hard look at this document. He says that the existing system has six clear requirements for building the evidence base. They are things such as retail infrastructure, a sustainability appraisal and so on. He has identified in the draft NPPF no fewer than 14 requirements-those six and eight new ones-and perhaps two more as well. If the Government are not careful, they will put a much greater burden on local planning authorities to produce evidence. If you do not produce evidence and show it as a basis for your policies, you will not get your local plan through the inspection process. The whole thing will fall apart at local level-it happens in a lot of places-and also at national level. So this is very important.
Finally, I will pick up on what the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, said about the great need for detailed guidance on what the document means. I wonder how many pages will be in the detailed guidance: perhaps it will be 1,000. Clearly it will not be: the Government may get it down perhaps to 60, 70 or 80 pages by the time they have taken into account the consultation. That would be a step forward. Then, over the next three and a half years of this Government, how many more pages of different sorts of guidance on the planning system-called different things-will the Government churn out? We will stop counting some time in the hundreds, and when it gets to 1,000 perhaps we will have a debate here about it.
Baroness Valentine:I declare that I am chief executive of London First, a business membership organisation that includes property developers. Given the previous two contributions, I should perhaps also declare my past involvement in the regeneration of two textile mills in Blackburn.
I enter the debate having missed the previous debate two weeks ago. However, I was fascinated to read the remarks of the opposition spokesman, the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, who gave his opinion that Ministers had been assailed by the leftist leader writers of the Telegraph and the closet revolutionaries of the Campaign to Protect Rural England. I shall try my best to sidestep the politics of the situation. Much has been said in the press and elsewhere and I wish to take a step back from that.
In a month, the Chancellor will deliver his Autumn Statement against the backdrop of European and global economic uncertainty. I believe that the Government's general economic strategy is right. Deficit reduction must be a central objective of government policy if we are to rebuild long-term economic stability and growth. There is no silver bullet to stimulate growth in the short term, but a few changes of emphasis would have a disproportionately positive effect. The National Planning Policy Framework is one of those changes. Planning processes have become so costly
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The NPPF should be viewed in tandem with the Government's Localism Bill. Taken together, they seek to strike a balance between the deregulation and simplification which supports growth, and a greater role for local people in determining the kind of growth that they want. Quicker and clearer decision-making processes will breathe confidence into a development industry far from recovered from the credit crisis. If the economy is to grow, new businesses need new office space and first-time buyers need somewhere to live. Development and economic growth are inextricably linked.
Taking the process first, the NPPF sets a clearer and more succinct default framework against which local authorities should take planning decisions. It should be accompanied by an up-to-date local plan which sets out in greater detail the kind of development that the local council would like to see in their area. This in turn may be further supplemented by the neighbourhood development plans set out in the Localism Bill. The perspective that I am closest to is that of urban London. More than elsewhere, London's local authorities have local plans in place. They see the benefits of a well defined plan, both for residents and for potential developers.
As well as simplifying the process of planning, the NPPF also amends existing guidance, notably through the presumption in favour of sustainable development. I welcome this presumption, which sets out the criteria against which development proposals will be judged on economic, social and environmental grounds. Concerns have been raised that the NPPF will somehow create a free-for-all in rural England. I note the conclusion drawn by the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, in the previous debate, that the countryside is not under threat, and I share his view that these concerns are exaggerated. Nevertheless, while the NPPF includes specific protections for environmentally sensitive areas, such as the green belt, the Government might consider bringing forward changes to the draft to further emphasise protection to important rural areas, as has previously been suggested. On the other hand, there could be further clarification of the wording in the core principles of the NPPF where it talks about land of "lesser environmental value" to make it clear that this includes brownfield land.
These changes could be reinforced by giving planning authorities a window of, say, two years to put in place their local plan, with, in the interim, the presumption in favour of sustainable development only applying to brownfield sites, or planning applications not being subject to the presumption in favour of sustainable development default during that period. Although it seems to me that while the matter of transition has been hotly debated, in fact the proposals in the NPPF are in fact less radical than previous changes to planning policy which had no transitional period.
I should also like to see greater join made between reform to planning policy and other related areas where the Government are considering change. For example, I urge the Minister to co-ordinate the NPPF with the forthcoming Portas review of high streets and the Government's local government financing review. Planning and other policies which put the high street first, coupled with local authorities being able to keep a revenue stream from growth in the high street, will give councils a palette of tools to support sustainable regeneration in town centres.
The Minister said that the Government were prepared to listen, and two debates in this House have certainly given her an opportunity to do so. I hope that she will take heed of the measures that I have suggested today, regarding both the wording of the NPPF and its links to wider policy. I finish by emphasising that simplifying regulation can be a money saver, an aid to economic growth and an empowerment to local communities, who just might understand what 52 pages of legislation actually say.
Lord Cormack: My Lords, I have not spoken in a debate in the Moses Room before: it is an interesting experience. The Minister, in opening this debate, talked about the developments that had to take place in the post-war period to repair the bomb damage and other ravages of Nazi Germany upon this country. I hope that when we come to put this plan into operation-suitably, properly and, I hope, extensively amended-we will not see again the sort of appalling, brutal architecture and terrible developments that replaced so much of the old City of London, for instance.
This whole debate hinges on an adequate definition of what we mean by "sustainable development". We have not had one yet. In the early 1970s I was particularly interested in studying what had happened after the war. I produced a book, Heritage in Danger,in which I looked at some of the more appalling episodes of iconoclasm and destruction that took place in our historic cities. I wrote about Worcester and Gloucester, where the heart was ripped out of beautiful places, symmetry was destroyed and balance overridden, and where appalling buildings were erected to replace buildings of great beauty. A movement began in the 1970s which owed much of its inspiration to the late, great John Betjeman, who I was privileged to call a friend. I always remember some lines he wrote when he was launching his Bath campaign:
Similar enormities took place north of the border in Edinburgh, where the old town was desecrated, not least by the university. The Cockburn Association came into being to focus international attention on the beauties of the new town, the Georgian town, which has been miraculously preserved and enhanced. It seems to me that we do not want to repeat those episodes. Therefore, we have to look for a proper definition of "sustainable development", which is at
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We often talk about the importance of the Nolan principles. We are all supposed, very properly, to swear to them and adhere to them when we enter this House. However, what we need are some Hanham principles that will clearly define "sustainable development". I suggest that there are two criteria above all others: first, the development must meet a specific need; and, secondly, it must contribute to, and not detract from, the area in which it is sited. Those should be the guiding principles behind all sustainable development, wherever it takes place. I very much agree with what my noble friend Lord Reay said about brownfield sites and the need to concentrate on those to start with.
Lord Marlesford: I will give my noble friend an example of a horrible use of the word "sustainable" in practice. In Suffolk, where I live, the Suffolk Coastal District Council fairly recently-within the past five years-said that if you want to convert a farm building into a house it must be used as a holiday home. That is very much in line with the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Cameron. This example is of personal interest to me; I declare an interest as a farmer and landowner. When the council was asked why it followed that policy, it replied that that was a more sustainable use of the building, by which it meant that it did not have to provide the relevant infrastructure. Therefore, that council favoured holiday homes which people visited over houses in which people lived. That is an example, I believe, of the misuse, or the potential misuse, of the word "sustainable".
The two criteria that I mentioned have merit, but in deciding on them, planners must take into account the nature of the historic rural environment in which the proposed sustainable development is to take place and must look at such factors as population balance. The noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, in a notable and interesting speech with which I entirely agreed, referred to a notable contribution in Burnley by the Prince of Wales. We can also learn from the Prince of Wales in Poundbury, Dorset, where a new community was created in a rural environment in a balanced and properly sustained and sustainable way, with real attention to the scale of buildings. That was the worst thing about what happened in London after the war. I introduced a skyline protection Bill, but it was far too late and it was talked out by a Conservative Government. There is no reference to scale in much development. We must bear that in mind in this new and seminal document that we are debating this afternoon.
Something else that must be taken into account is tourism, the revenue it produces and the potential it has. Here, I touch on points raised by my noble friend Lord Reay. He referred flatteringly and entirely accurately
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There was an interesting article in one of the papers this weekend about the apparent-I use that word deliberately because it has not yet been decided-threats to the village in Somerset made famous by TS Eliot: East Coker. It appears that some planners have it in mind to quadruple the size of the village in a way that would wholly distort the countryside there. We must not allow this document, when it finally emerges, to be a passport for those who would do that sort of thing.
I know from personal conversations with my noble friend Lady Hanham, who I hope will give her name to the principles of sustainable development, that she is just as passionately, honestly and sincerely committed to the enduring things in our nation's life as I am-and as anyone is. However, we must be very careful that this document, which will effectively tear up 1,000 pages and replace them with 50, 60 or 100-who knows, eventually?-does not discard protections that we have all too easily taken for granted, even if some of them were a bit cumbersome in the past.
I took a small deputation to see my noble friend a few weeks ago. Among those who came-she will readily remember-was the chief executive of the Heritage Alliance, which represents some 91 heritage organisations and is a splendid innovation on the heritage scene. It produced an interesting critique of the document we are discussing this afternoon, in which it made the point that the value of heritage to the wider economy does not seem to shine through this text. That point underlay much of what the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, said-and I will just say how much we all agree with what she does in her role as chairman of English Heritage, and what English Heritage does, often on far too meagre resources.
When we look at heritage in the context that the Heritage Alliance mentions in its document, we realise that tourism-which depends very much on heritage-is our most important and burgeoning industry. It brings so much into our country. We have recently moved house to the historic city of Lincoln, which is sustained by its heritage; and by those who come to walk up Steep Hill and pause to look at the Norman houses, the Jew's House and so on. They head to the castle and then to the crowning glory of them all-the cathedral. Take those away, allow them to fall into disrepair, threaten them with juxtaposed development that is not suitable in any way and you will frighten people away. In so doing, you will impoverish not only a city but a whole area, a whole region.
I end on this note. We have a great opportunity in this document to produce something that will protect the best and ensure that high-quality development takes place. Of course, we have to have new things, but the design factors to which the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, referred, and which I am glad to say are in the document, rank as objects of high importance. We have got to ensure-the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, made this point-that the final document is clear, precise and understandable. We want something that can be on the shelf not only of every planning officer and councillor involved in planning but on the shelf of every amenity society and everyone concerned with preserving the balance and beauty of our country, rural and urban. They should be able to take it down and read it; mark, learn and inwardly digest it; and understand it so that there is no ambiguity between the different bodies who read it. That is what we have to aim for. I hope that the consultation exercise will prove to be-I am sure it will-a totally genuine one; that the masses of representations that have been made from outside and that are being made here this afternoon, and were also made in the House previously, will be taken into account; and that at the end of the day, we will have a National Planning Policy Framework of which we can all be proud and which will stand the test of time.
Lord Shipley: My Lords, I declare an interest as a member of Newcastle City Council. I am on the board on One North East, a member of English Heritage and also of the National Trust. I agree absolutely with what my noble friend Lord Cormack has said about the nature of the document. I strongly welcome a document that is shorter than the existing 1,000 pages or more of planning policy and guidance. This draft has been easy to read and therefore to understand. However, it has also, as a consequence, been easy to misinterpret or to present difficulties in interpretation. Those difficulties need to be put right. Therefore, in redrafting, I hope that the document will be kept short and understandable so that it is not something, as we have now, that only planners and lawyers can understand. Crucially, the collation of national planning policy into a single document should increase the understanding of planning policy by everyone, including business groups, individual small businesses, residents, councillors and planning officers.
I have a number of concerns about the NPPF. The first relates to a lack of geographical differentiation in it, because not all regions of the same. The NPPF could offer an opportunity to help to rebalance the UK economy away from areas suffering from overdevelopment and too much congestion. I hope that we will avoid debate on the NPPF leading to greater stifling of development in regions where there is significant capacity for growth and job creation, and where regional economies are performing below their potential and can demonstrate greater capacity for growth. Having said that, I must add that the framework seems to be based too much on a drive for development. It must balance environmental and social issues with economic ones because this is a planning framework, not an economic one.
There has been discussion about the definition of "sustainable development" and I will not add to the debate this afternoon. However, I will refer to paragraph 14, which relates to a presumption in favour of sustainable development. The final sub-paragraph at least needs to be strengthened. The paragraph says that permission should be granted,
This could prove a goldmine for lawyers. Just because the local plan is silent or may be deemed by some to be out of date, it should not be a requirement for the adverse impacts to significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits. That judgment should be left to those elected to take local decisions.
There are potential problems with paragraph 26 which covers up to date local plans, and this has been referred to by other Members. Many councils do not have local plans in place and it may take them two to four years to produce them. We need it made clear, very soon, that plans in progress will be deemed to have legal status. It is not right that the NPPF will take over if the local plan is not in place. On balance, I prefer three years for a transitional period. It is not reasonable that the presumption must be in favour of development if the plan is not up to date and approved.
I welcome the duty to co-operate in paragraph 46, but it should be stiffened to make it clear that the community infrastructure levy should be part of the duty to co-operate where development takes place wholly in one council area but impacts on another-for example, through increased congestion. I was struck by a submission by the Woodland Trust, which stated that the duty to co-operate great may prove ineffectual where partners refuse to progress a shared strategy. Strengthening the NPPF and the guidance in the Localism Bill would be desirable. Might we include local nature partnerships, as the Woodland Trust requests?
We should also be prepared to take a stronger line, notwithstanding the end of the regional planning tier, on regionally significant infrastructure that may not be addressed effectively by co-operation between planning authorities. I refer in particular to energy or waste plants. The expectations on local planning authorities to work together to plan effectively for such needs should be tightened, with a clear role for local enterprise partnerships. The Planning Inspectorate will need to ensure that local plans contain clear evidence that the duty has been properly delivered.
I have a concern about neighbourhood planning; here I refer to paragraphs 49 to 52 and the importance of the ballot box in neighbourhood planning. The NPPF and the Localism Bill both look at neighbourhood planning from the perspective of rural areas. That is a strength in terms of rural areas but a potential weakness in terms of urban areas. Parish and town councils tend to be in rural areas, so those decisions have a democratic legitimacy based on the particular parish or council. It is hard to see how urban areas will manage to deliver neighbourhood plans which have
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Paragraph 76 covers planning for town centres. Perhaps I can make the point that the framework needs to recognise that the limited availability of suitable sites will in some places be a constraint, which means that the aim may not be fully met even if town centres are expanded or sites are searched for on the edge of or outside centres. In this situation, we do not want unsuitable sites to be allocated because that could impact on the vitality and viability of town centres, when maintaining those centres and the diversity of their high streets should be a prime objective of the NPPF.
Paragraph 84 relates to the objectives of transport policy-that it should facilitate economic growth and support reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Might we be more explicit in stating that it would help to achieve both objectives if people lived closer to where they work? In my own city of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, some 90,000 people come into the city to work each day. Of course, our boundaries are tightly drawn, but nevertheless reducing the distances travelled and providing sustainable, high quality public transport to reduce car dependency remain extremely high priorities.
In terms of housing supply and deliverable housing sites, paragraph 109 on the supply of those sites sets supply at five years plus 20 per cent. We desperately need to increase our supply of housing. In 2009-10 only 113,670 homes were built in England, the lowest number in peacetime since 1923-and this at a time of increasing rates of household formation. It is estimated that some 250,000 homes are needed each year to meet demand in both the social and market sectors. We do not want a situation to arise in which all a developer has to do is prove that a council does not have five years' worth of supply plus 20 per cent of deliverable sites, because if it does not have it the application will automatically be approved. That seems unwise, as it is to set targets that might cause brownfield land not to be developed. Developers prefer greenfield options that are faster to develop. I am not sure that we have the definitions of "deliverable" and "developable" correctly drafted and prioritised, nor that we have thought through the five years plus 20 per cent properly. Indeed, five years plus 20 per cent is six years, so why do not specify six years, and why six years rather than seven years? Perhaps we need to do a little more work there.
I strongly support paragraphs 133 to 170, which protect the green belt and the natural environment. It is vital to protect natural habitats against intrusive development that would impact negatively on biodiversity and threatened species, and which would reduce access to green lungs for recreational purposes. Paragraph 16 in particular should be taken as evidence of the Government's clear intent to protect natural habitats, but there must be no attempt to tamper with our green spaces against the wishes of residents. It cannot be the case that a site must be named in a plan or it might be developed. There are a number of dangers around
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The NPPF is a very useful draft and, as other noble Lords have said, the consultation will lead to improvement and clarification so that we will end up with a document that will stand the test of time and command broad consensus on its approach.
Lord Williamson of Horton: My Lords, this is an important document that will make a considerable difference to the way we live. Not surprisingly, we have had a large number of comments and objections, which should not be underrated.
First, I tell the Minister that I am quite favourable to the new structure of planning decisions included in the document: a national framework to be implemented through local plans setting out the long-term vision for the area and providing a local framework for decisions on planning applications. I have two comments on the local plans. I assure the Minister that I have not co-ordinated my speech with that of the noble Lord, Lord Shipley; it is just that the points he made and the points that I am going to make are very important.
It is indispensable that local plans are kept up to date, in particular on the amount of empty housing or business premises suitable for conversion to housing, or on the best estimate of available employment in the area, which is a vital factor. It may seem self-evident that they should be up to date, but I assure your Lordships that there is concern that it is not always so. It is essential, because outdated plans are likely to result in bad development-too little or too much-which it will be difficult for our successors to correct. Secondly, many areas currently do not have a local plan. Paragraph 14, the already well known paragraph which describes the presumption in favour of sustainable development as a "golden thread" running through both plan-making and decision-making, states that local planning authorities should,
or indeterminate. Absence of a local plan could mean something close to a development free-for-all. Perhaps it would not, but the risk is there. The Government cannot opt out of that risk but should monitor very closely the existence of local plans.
I turn to the Draft National Planning Policy Framework itself. I have two major comments on it. First, the framework and, hence, the local plan-makers, need to give more attention to the accelerating changes resulting from the IT revolution. That is widely relevant, in particular to shopping and retail development, which is covered by the chapter that begins at paragraph 71 on business and economic development, and includes the paragraphs on town centres and transport. I am glad that there are specific paragraphs on town centres and that there is recognition of housing within town centres. However, it would be good to stress more specifically the potential effects of internet shopping and working from home. The move to internet shopping is racing ahead. It has risen about 30 per cent this year; and now about 10 per cent of all retail sales are online. Currently, in many towns, about 10 per cent of shops
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Secondly, in planning the use of our scarce land for many years ahead, the rapid growth in world population looks likely to overrun the availability of food and water in some parts of the world, which in my view imposes an obligation on us to conserve our ability to produce food and to protect our water resources. I recommend to the Minister the "wise virgin" policy.
The other potential world problem is fully covered in the planning framework; namely, the effect of climate change and the need for a low-carbon economy. Paragraphs 148 to 159 cover cuts in greenhouse gases, flooding and coastal erosion. However, while climate change is a dominant theme-almost a golden thread-in the framework, the references to the importance of food production and the necessity to preserve our best productive land are, to say the least, minimal. It is certainly bizarre that when most of our land is used for farming and food production, the National Planning Policy Framework seems to have hardly noticed it. I feel tempted to suggest to the Minister that she should take the official team for a long walk in the country. In the approximately 23,200 words of the framework, I found the words "food production" only twice. This is a vital economic activity and I hope that the final version will signal its value more fully.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, I declare an interest as a landowner. I refer to the comment by the Minister at the beginning of the debate that everything that was said this afternoon would be taken into account when considering the final version of the NPPF. However, there is no opportunity for us or anybody else to make representations on the revised version of the document, Planning for Traveller Sites, which is intended to go into the NPPF. If I may say so, it is a major defect in the process that the two documents were not compatible with each other from the start. I make no apology for intervening to draw attention again, as I have done on several occasions since the Queen's Speech, to the planning vacuum that exists with regard to Gypsy and Traveller sites, and, in the context of this debate on the NPPF, to the confusion that arises from the decision to publish and consult on a separate document on planning for Traveller sites.
One of the first things that the Secretary of State did when he took up office was to write to chief planning officers to say that they were not bound to adhere to the target figures for Traveller site provision that had emerged from the process of Gypsy and Traveller accommodation needs assessments, and from the public inquiries that followed those assessments, or the limited redistribution of the obligation to provide sites through planning permission within each region so as to put the responsibility on local authorities which had not so far made any contribution towards meeting the overall need. The Secretary of State said that local authorities could start again from scratch and make their own individual assessments of the need for site provision, reflecting local need and historic demand, giving them an excuse for arriving at a lower
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Not surprisingly, a survey of 100 local authorities by the Irish Traveller Movement in Britain found that in the three regions covered, there was a fall of 52 per cent in the number of pitches for which planning permission would be granted, compared with the figures in the published and emerging regional spatial strategies. This reinforced the conclusion reached by the CLG Select Committee in its February 2011 report that revocation of the RSSs was going to mean a reduction in site provision. I would be grateful if the Minister would comment on the ITMB survey and say whether the figures in it are agreed by the CLG.
It would have been possible to abolish the RSSs but to retain the targets for Traveller site provision that were the outcome of the GTANA process on which local authorities had already spent a great deal of time and money. That was what we suggested in our manifesto. It would have saved a great deal of unnecessary expenditure as well as ensuring continuity with the new planning system, in which local authorities are still required to make adequate provision for Traveller sites. In fact, 30 of the local authorities that completed the ITMB survey adopted the RSS targets, and one adopted a higher target. My noble friend Lord Greaves referred to the huge burden on local authorities created by the requirement that they were to base their plans on new evidence gathered. In this matter, that imposition could have been avoided.
The London Gypsy and Traveller Unit goes a stage further and proposes that the whole GTANA process be incorporated in the new planning framework. The guidance on the process says that it should be led by local authority housing departments, thus it is not top-down by nature. The GTANA guidance, they suggest, could be added as an appendix to the guidance on preparing the strategic housing market assessment referred to in paragraph 28 of the NPPF. That sounds like an excellent idea to me, and I would be grateful if the Minister would comment on it, either when she comes to reply, or perhaps in a letter to your Lordships who have taken part in this debate.
The LGTU points out that the GTANAs are a valuable set of data which would be wasted if put aside, as the current PPS suggests. That would be contrary to the principle of evidence-based planning and to the injunction in paragraph 27 of the NPPF that local authorities should:
I would like to hear from the Minister why the Government decided to throw away all the work that was done on the GTANAs and the methodology behind them which, as the LGTU underlines, was tested at many public inquiries. If the caravan counts by local authorities over many years are "appalling", as the LGTU demonstrate with two examples of major errors, what reason is there to suppose that a new and untried system of assessments by local authorities
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What my noble friends ultimately intend to do about planning for Gypsies and Travellers is still wrapped in mystery. They have published a draft policy on planning for Traveller sites, which I have mentioned already, and they intend, we understand, to incorporate a revised version of it in the NPPF, which is radically different in approach. The NPPF is essentially concise and permissive, for which it has been roundly criticised, while the draft policy on Traveller sites is lengthy, strong on enforcement and on the unfettered enablement of local authorities to make their own assessment of need and to set their own targets for pitch and plot provision.
The consultation document warns that there is a risk of short-term reduction in authorised sites during the transitional period of the policy, which is to be six months from the date that the final policy is published. During that period, there is nothing to stop local authorities refusing to renew any temporary permissions that have been granted in the past. Surely no one believes that at the end of the six months, not only will there be local plans covering the 17 per cent of the caravan-dwelling population of Travellers still on unauthorised sites and legally homeless, but also those on sites with temporary permission that the relevant local authorities do not intend to renew? Is that really what the Government think? Assuming that such a miracle does occur, do the Government further assume that enough land will have been designated in the local plan to accommodate the numbers produced by the new assessments that have been completed in the six months following the final NPPF publication?
In principle, incorporating Gypsy and Traveller policy in the NPPF, provided it takes the same positive attitude to development for Travellers' needs as it takes for wider housing needs, is a good idea. But as far as we know, there is to be no opportunity to see and comment on the revised Gypsy and Traveller policy that will be incorporated in the NPPF. That is contrary to the Government's own Code of Practice on Consultation, and above all to Criterion 1,
and Criterion 3, that the consultation should be "clear about the process" and "what is being proposed". If I am wrong on this, perhaps my noble friend will correct me. A new consultation on the revised Traveller policy need not be a full exercise on the NPPF itself, but should be focused entirely on the section dealing with Travellers.
I have a few detailed concerns about planning for Traveller sites which I hope my noble friend will be able to address when she comes to reply, or if not then, perhaps she will write to me. First, it is proposed to retain the existing planning definition of Gypsies and Travellers based on travelling for economic reasons, which includes many New Travellers-as has already been mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker-but excludes many ethnic Gypsies and Irish Travellers,
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Secondly, the Secretary of State's foreword to Planning for Traveller Sites suggests that planning policy favours Travellers unfairly, particularly in green belt areas, but it says nothing about the huge unfairness of the under-provision of accommodation for Gypsies and Travellers, with 17 per cent of those in caravans legally homeless, according to the latest caravan count figures, as I have said. Nor does it refer to the unfairness of inflicting the downstream consequences of housing stress on homeless Travellers in terms of poor educational attainment, health and life expectancy. Will the Minister say that the Government will put addressing the acute accommodation shortage experienced by Travellers as the central objective of policy in planning for Travellers, and will they apply an analogue of paragraph 109 of the NPPF which outlines means of,
to do the same for the supply of sites for Gypsy and Traveller accommodation? If not, how can they reconcile treating Gypsies and Travellers differently from other people in regard to accommodation with the public sector equality duty in Section 149(1) of the Equality Act 2010?
Thirdly, Planning for Traveller Sites is based on a false premise: that existing policy failed because it imposed targets on councils and that a more locally based approach will deliver. At its worst, local determination leads to situations like Basildon's refusal to make any additional provision. The reason that local authorities are slow in identifying sites and most planning applications are refused is resistance by local residents. Putting the emphasis on determination by local communities is exactly how not to make provision for Gypsies and Travellers and thus to increase homelessness, evictions and inter-community tensions. Many local authorities make similar points. To make the needed provision, they need strong, unambiguous guidance from the Government, not putting the most parochial, reactionary sections of the community in the driving seat. Will the Government provide clear guidance to local authorities that where opposition by local residents to a Traveller site is based on reasons that are not concerned with planning, it is to be ignored?
Fourthly, the restrictions on development of sites in open countryside in paragraph 22 of Planning for Traveller Sites are at odds with the presumption in favour of sustainable development in the NPPF. Ideally, both housing and Traveller sites should be located conveniently for access to schools, public services, amenities and shops, but making it hard for Travellers to get planning permission except on land which is contiguous with other developments will drive up the price and make it far harder for them to provide sites for themselves, as they have been doing since Circular 1/06. Will the Government strike out paragraph 22, for which there is no equivalent in the NPPF?
Finally, the Secretary of State says, when asked about Travellers, that we want to see fair play within the planning system. However, what we have under the
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For the past 45 years, I have fought for the rights of Gypsies and Travellers to have places to live like everyone else. I am sorry to say that under this Secretary of State we are back where I began. The spectacle of riot police invading Dale farm to evict residents, including pregnant women, small children and disabled elderly people, was the epitome of our denial of fair play to this most deprived of all communities.
Lord Strasburger: My Lords, it seems, like most noble Lords who have spoken in this debate, that I too must declare that I am a landowner. I am also a farmer-although more of a lifestyle farmer than some of the noble farmers who are here today. I should declare to those noble Lords who have expressed somewhat sceptical views about wind farms that I am a recipient of planning permission for a wind turbine on my land.
I will be speaking about some general concerns I have about the draft NPPF, concerns which I share with other noble Lords who have spoken today and with many individuals and organisations who have made submissions during the consultation period. I will also address a few comments to a particular aspect of planning policy that, to my knowledge, has not been mentioned much in the discussion about the draft National Planning Policy Framework. I am speaking of the implications of the NPPF for the responsibilities of local authorities in England for the protection and preservation of world heritage sites in their area. I do so as a resident of the city of Bath, which some time ago was designated by UNESCO as a world heritage site.
First, let me turn to the draft NPPF and its more general implications. I think everyone welcomes the objectives of simplifying the planning system, reducing the volume of paperwork about planning policy by a factor of 20, devolving power to local communities, making planning more fair and stopping people playing the system. These are all laudable goals and I would fully support the draft NPPF if that was all it sought to do. However, there appears to be another agenda here. I fear that planning policy has been hijacked by the Treasury, that wishes to turn it into an engine for growth-and at any cost. So while the planning Ministers in this House and the other place make all the right noises about protection of the environment and getting the balance right between development and conservation, and I am sure they do so quite sincerely, the plain fact is that the words in the document do not accurately match the Minister's rhetoric. If the current draft were implemented unchanged, it would be likely to undermine localism, destroy treasured green spaces for ever and damage the nation's quality of life-the same quality of life that the Prime Minister, only a short while ago
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The Government are anxious to promote growth in the economy wherever they can. They are also concerned about the provision of adequate housing, including affordable housing, for our expanding population. The suggestion is that difficulties and delays in the planning system have been causing the shortage of new housing starts over the past few years. However, the figures show that new housing starts increased every year from 2001 to 2006, when they were only a few thousand short of the then Government's target of 240,000 a year. For the next two years the numbers went sideways and then in 2009 they fell off a cliff. Why was that? Was there some change in planning law or practice that caused new housing starts to halve? Of course not. We all know that the reason was not planning, it was the recession and the severe tightening of lending criteria by the banks. So it is not planning that is holding back the builders. By the way, it is estimated that the top housing developers hold planning consents for 280,000 homes that are not being built.
The authors of the draft NPPF would have us believe that planning policy is all that is holding us back from fixing the housing shortage and enjoying a growth bonanza. We have here a document that is skewed heavily in favour of development at the expense of the views of local people and the protection of the quality of life of current and future generations. I am not the first to point out that builders and developers could not believe their luck when they saw this draft, although I believe that in life you make your luck and it should be no surprise that developers were heavily involved in its production.
As currently drafted, the NPPF is very strong and clear about the need for growth. In contrast, it is brief, woolly and full of caveats when it turns to community involvement or the needs of the environment. Listen to a few examples of the language it uses about growth and development. In the foreword it states: "Development means growth". In paragraph 13:
There is more of the same throughout the document. On the other hand, the language relating to the community's own wishes or the many needs of the environment is brief, often heavily qualified and limited by yet more references to the growth agenda. A good example is paragraph 10, which states that we should,
There are many other examples of how the draft fails to strike a balance between the valid and competing factors that should be considered for proposed developments. The document must be amended to give equal prominence to the range of relevant government
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I conclude with a few words about the special case of world heritage sites. The draft NPPF provides protection to wildlife sites, which presumably arises out of the Government's duties under international treaties. I argue that there should be similar protection for world heritage sites where obligations arise from the World Heritage Convention. I believe that the Local Authority World Heritage Forum has submitted a detailed response to the draft NPPF, and I ask the Government to carefully consider the very sensible suggestions in that document.
Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, I thank the Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, for promoting and sponsoring this debate and for giving us a chance for yet another go at a debate on the NPPF. It has been a wide-ranging debate. My noble friend Lady Whitaker raised design issues; we had several contributions on countryside issues, particularly from the noble Lord, Lord Cameron; we heard about turbines from those who are for them and who seem to like and enjoy them; and we heard about heritage conservation and even about Liberal Democrat conference resolutions. We had a broad historical sweep from the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, about how planning has contributed to the environment or not, and we have had the IT revolution and internet shopping. We heard from the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, my noble friend Lady Whitaker and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds in particular about the Gypsy and Traveller community. I rather admire those contributions; they remind us that planning has to work for us all, the most disadvantaged as well as the best off.
This debate is timely, with the consultation concluded and as we head for Third Reading of the Localism Bill on Monday. These debates have helped to restore some balance into the consideration of the NPPF, which has not been without its controversy. If I may quote my noble friend Lord Hart of Chilton in the debate on 13 October, who said planning issues inevitably cause controversy because they,
It is about how we shape the places in which we live and how we build our communities-a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Cormack. The impact of these choices is heightened as we are a relatively small and densely populated country.
I do not propose to dwell on it, but the manner in which the Government have gone about introducing what amounts to the biggest upheaval in our planning system since 1947, and the rhetoric adopted by some Ministers-I certainly do not include the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, in that-has made these challenges
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Turning now to the process, I ask the Minister where we go from here. I am aware that she is constrained, given that the consultation has just concluded. The revised NPPF will doubtless emerge over the next few months; I think, it is hoped, by April. Is a second round of possibly truncated consultation on that revised document planned? What if any will be the parliamentary process attached to it? How does the timing relate to the plans for the revocation of the regional spatial strategies? It is understood that the environmental impact assessment consultation on the revocation plans has been launched-indeed somebody was kind enough to whack them on my desk just before we started this debate. Is it still envisaged that the regional spatial strategies will be revoked at the time the NPPF comes into effect so that there is no overlap? If not, I raise again the question of what will happen if we have potentially competing frameworks, although I understand from our discussions this morning that the regional spatial strategies actually form part of the local plan, so that there is no conflict. But it would be helpful to have the Minister's clarification.
The Government have set their face against the NPPF being in primary legislation, or even a requirement to produce one. They argue that this absolves them from needing a strategic environmental assessment and that it is not required by legislation, regulatory or administrative provisions. Can the Government confirm that this is their position and say why they would not wish such an assessment to be undertaken?
What of the content of the NPPF? The fundamental issue, the matter which is at the heart of concerns over the document, is this. The Government state, and the NPPF affirms, that sustainable development remains at the core of their approach to planning and that the Brundtland definition holds sway, but the language of the document undermines this. The Government have not supported putting a definition of sustainable development in primary legislation, but there is hope that they might seek to bring more clarity to this issue in the revised NPPF. Given the proximity of the Third Reading of the Localism Bill, perhaps the Minister can tell us what she is able to on that proposition.
Indeed, what is the Government's understanding of sustainable development and how will they ensure that it runs throughout the planning system, especially in the NPPF? The role of the NPPF should be to provide more detail on what sustainable development means in the planning context. It should provide key principles and minimum standards to help interpret the definition of sustainable development for practical application at the local level. It should guide local authorities and communities on what criteria, indicators and other mechanisms they may need to ensure that their communities and development are sustainable and fit within the overarching definition. Although the draft NPPF refers to the Brundtland definition of sustainable development, there is no further context or policy to help local authorities understand what this definition means or to guide how it can be delivered at the local level.
The draft NPPF completely fails to mention any national policies or strategies on sustainable development, including the 2005 UK Sustainable Development Strategy which the Government have advised is still applicable. It is difficult to determine from the draft exactly what is meant by sustainable development apart from the threefold analysis of "economic, social and environmental" as it relates to planning under the broad headings of "planning for prosperity", "planning for people" and "planning for places".
Great virtue has been made, and indeed it has been reiterated in our debate today, by the Government on the brevity of the NPPF, condensing into some 52 pages the entirety of the existing policy statements, guidance and correspondence. It is variously cited that between 1,000 and 6,000 pieces of paper have been condensed. Indeed, the Minister in the other place referred to 1,000 pieces of policy and 6,000 pieces of guidance. It is abundantly clear that 52 pages, even taking account of duplication and overlapping guidance, will need to be supplemented somehow. Perhaps the Minister can say how the Government are going to address this. As my noble friend Lord Hart said in the last debate,
A number of noble Lords picked up on the issue of language; the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and certainly the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, did so. We share the concerns about some of the language in the document-we have heard questions such as what does "indeterminate" or "out of date" mean-and indeed that this is a lawyers' charter.
The draft NPPF requires, variously, "significant weight" to be applied to supporting economic growth, "great weight" to protecting landscapes, "substantial weight" to apply to green belt land and "considerable importance and weight" to apply to conserving heritage assets. As the Royal Town Planning Institute points out, this kind of ambiguity is not suitable in a document needed to give a clear steer to decision-makers on how to weigh up the different competing interests in land and property. The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, also made that point. This ambiguity in the language has potentially blurred the policy intent. The presumption in favour of sustainable development does not clearly define the term, and hence different interpretations have been put on the NPPF by the Government,
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There can be no doubt that this ambiguity has added to the volume of responses received under the NPPF consultation, so the Government not only have to deal with that volume, they also have to allay fears stirred up by lack of precision in what is our first ever single national planning policy. Of course, some of the fears expressed may well be justified-the move away from "brownfield first", for example. Like the noble Lord, Lord Strasburger, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, I think that the jury is out as to whether the Treasury has held sway in giving primacy to growth in the balance of the sustainability pillars.
Several noble Lords called for transitional arrangements. I agree that it is essential that transitional arrangements are put in place if there is to be sensible management of change to the new system. As the RTPI argues, the NPPF does not just distill 1,000 pages of planning policy into 52 pages, it introduces a new process and a new policy, the combination of which may be problematic without clear transitional provisions. As drafted, the NPPF has a default process by way of the presumption where a local planning authority does not have an up-to-date plan. In those circumstances, planning applications have to be determined on the basis of the NPPF policies. As we have heard, many local councils do not have up-to-date plans and it is feared that because the NPPF itself introduces new policies, all existing plans will lack force immediately on its introduction. Perhaps the noble Baroness will address that point.
That is compounded by interdependence of local and regional plans, where some policies will be in one and some in the other, and the demise of regional spatial strategies, which make those plans currently complete, incomplete. In other circumstances, there is the risk of otherwise undesirable development proposals being approved, as well as the prospect of endless litigation. This is rightly causing alarm. We understand the Government's concern about lack of progress by some local councils to finalise their local development framework, and agree that inaction should not be a route to denying sustainable development. However, the local development plan as the foundation of the planning system has endured since 1947. The position is that planning should be granted for development which is in accordance with the plan unless material considerations dictate otherwise. We very much support that formulation. We support that, supplemented of course by the new neighbourhood planning arrangements.
A transition is needed to enable local authorities to get their development plans up to date. We are not prescriptive on timing, but it should take account of stretched resources of local authorities and the planning inspectorate, which also has to deal with the CIL schedules. What transitional provisions will be introduced? How is it proposed that they will be taken forward? What is the likely timeframe for that? Clarity on that will assist the Government on Monday's Third Reading.
The draft NPPF has had a difficult birth. Now is the time to look forward, because it is in all of our interests to get this right. The planning system is the
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Baroness Hanham: I thank all noble Lords for their contributions. It is the second time that we have had this debate in a week; it is remarkable how much the contributions have differed from the last time. A great deal has been added by what people have said and new areas have been opened up. As the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, said, I am treating this as part of the consultation process. I will not be able to comment on everything that people have said, but I shall try to cover some of the general headlines. I appreciate the various interests and expertise around the table today.
The consultation has been pretty widespread. We have had 14,000 replies, which will have to be scrutinised, and two debates in the House of Lords. I have promised that everything that has been said will be taken into account. There has been one debate in the House of Commons and the Localism Bill has been discussed in both Houses, so I think we have given these areas pretty detailed scrutiny. The NPPF is launched. The final version will not be available until early next year. It might be later or earlier than that; it depends how quickly we can get on with it, but it will then be the final guiding document for all planning thereafter. Whether it will grease the sides for noble Lords, I do not know, but it has already contracted down. There is a divergence of view on whether or not the contraction has lost something of the flavour of what planning processes should be about. We think that it falls somewhere in the middle, but we will need to talk that through and see whether more provisions need to be added. I do not know what size it will end up being. We hope that a whole batch of following guidance will not be needed. After all, the whole rationale of the NPPF is to try to get rid of thousands of pages of guidance and policies that have had to be taken into account and to make the process easier. If we are to ask local people to develop neighbourhood plans which will support this planning process, they have to be able to understand what they are trying to achieve. If they do not, that process will be a waste of time and will require far too much support from the ground to ensure that it is carried out properly.
We are beginning to structure a new system of planning not only with the NPPF but with the Localism Bill. That system will rightly take account of the growth that we need but that will not be the be all and end all. We badly need housing in this country, as has been said by a number of noble Lords. However, we also need to make room for business. The noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, drew attention to the fact that business cannot be excluded. If we want jobs, we need to support growth and business to help us move ourselves out of the rather difficult economic situation we are in. Business is vital. A very high percentage of young people aged between 16 and 24 are out of work and have never had a job. They need training and apprenticeships and all that business can offer.
The noble Lord, Lord Cameron, drew attention to the value of providing workspace in the countryside. I support that. I do not think the NPPF moves away from that in any way. We are very conscious that our beautiful countryside provides relaxation for people but it is also a working area. The noble Lord, Lord Williamson, said one had to remember that the countryside is where we grow our food, raise cattle and engage in rural activities and businesses. The noble Lord, Lord Cameron, drew attention to the number of businesses that start up in the countryside, so it is all-encompassing. We very much want to ensure that by the time this planning process is put in place it will have a long lifespan and will not need to be changed again.
An enormous number of questions has been raised and I will try to answer some of the more general points. If I feel afterwards that somebody has raised a specific question that cannot be answered at this stage, I will make sure that it is answered. I say at the outset that that will be the situation with the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, who has asked a number of very detailed questions about the Gypsy and Traveller policies. I will be able to answer or give a flavour of some of that but I will not be able to go into all of the detail. However, I will see that we send a letter to the noble Lord that takes detailed account of what he has said. After all, we have just completed a consultation on Gypsies and Travellers. We have not yet finally viewed everything that is in it, but it is going to play a part in how arrangements are made and sites are allocated in the future. The noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, also took up those points.
The noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, asked a number of questions. I will start with what the transitional arrangements will be between the regional spatial strategies and the National Planning Policy Framework. We have not decided yet what, if any, transitional arrangements there should be, but we see that you cannot get rid of the regional spatial strategies and not have something else. There is also, of course, the point-and the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, made it very clearly-that one of the problems about this process is that very many councils have not yet completed their local development framework, which I think was part of the Planning and Compensation Act 2004, which the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, and I laboured with to some extent. That is probably one of the best reasons why one should be cautious about transitional arrangements, because the arrangements from that Act were transitional-people were going to be able to produce their new policies, and somewhere along the line an awful lot of councils have just sat down and not done enough about it. However, those plans are important and they are going to have to be put together. There will be a speeded-up process. The planning inspectorate and the Minister, Greg Clark, are already in discussions as to what is needed to streamline and quickly get the policy through. They form the background and the base for future strategies.
We will come back to transitional arrangements in due course, but I understand what the noble Lord is saying. With regard to further consultation as planning policy is developed, we have undertaken the most enormous amount of consultation over the past three
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The noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, also raised the question of the strategic environmental assessment. I confirm that, as the national planning policy framework is guidance rather than a legislative statutory document, it is not a plan or programme that requires a strategic environmental assessment under the strategic environmental assessment directive or the Environmental Assessment of Plans and Programmes Regulations 2004. I thought noble Lords would want to know that so that they can look it up. We have undertaken an impact assessment of the NPPF, which has been published and has been quoted several times this afternoon. It addresses the environmental, social and economic impact of our draft policy.
Those words lead me to sustainable development. There have been many questions raised about sustainable development, and a demand for an explanation. I am not too close to Monday to say that we have thought very carefully about putting this in the Bill. I said at our last sitting that that would be something that we would be looking at. We now believe that the proper place for this is in the framework.
There is still an enormous number of questions about how much sustainable development is included, and how it is best included in planning. There are the five pillars of which we are all very well aware. There are people who would like to put in at least another two or three. We have to ensure that this is relevant to planning and we will want to develop that further. The five pillars are still in the NPPF but we may want to look at that again.
The noble Lord, Lord McKenzie of Luton, raised the question of the timing of the regional strategy revocations. I do not think that I have covered that yet. They will be revoked by order. A consultation is taking place on that at the moment. It is a voluntary consultation carried out by the Government to ensure that the environmental assessment of regional strategies is understood and people have commented on it before they are abolished. Once that has been taken care of, the regional strategies will be revoked and the local plans and the NPPF will be the guiding spirit.
The noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, mentioned design. I absolutely agree with her: design is one of the elements of planning that we really need to take into account. It is well supported within the NPPF, where it is made clear that planning permission can be refused for a development which is of particularly poor quality. The noble Lord, Lord Cormack, in his wide-ranging speech, gave us many good reasons why, in the past,
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I hope that I have covered the question of the countryside. We are fully committed to protection of the countryside, and understand and value all that it provides for us. The noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, carefully supports heritage. We truly support maintaining protection for our heritage. When we get to neighbourhood policies, heritage will be almost more protected because local people tend to be strongly in favour of something around them that has heritage attached to it. I suspect that there will be great enthusiasm to ensure that that is maintained in the way the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, would want us to do.
With regard to what the noble Lord, Lord Strasburger, said about world sites, I think that I am right in saying that those would be covered as well. The document does not call brownfield land "brownfield"-it calls it "land of lesser value"-but the implication, if nothing else, is that it is land which has been previously developed and is capable of being redeveloped. As I said in my opening speech, 60 per cent of building has already taken place on brownfield land and we expect that that will always be the first point of call-unless, as I said, it has already been adopted or adapted for some other use which local people wanted. There is no disagreement about the fact that such land should be developed first and foremost and that the green belt should be protected, as it is under the document. There should be limited development on greenfield sites only under special circumstances.
Those special circumstances might fit neatly into what we were talking about in providing small developments in the countryside. There will be areas where it is appropriate to have a small number of affordable houses for workers and other people who live in the countryside. The right reverend Prelate and my noble friend Lord Reay asked about the status of our plan. I have probably covered that. I hope that I have gone through both the policy and the practices.
Lord Cormack: I am most grateful to my noble friend for giving way. The noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, asked about parliamentary participation in the final stage of the revised plan. My noble friend indicated earlier that there would be a proper opportunity for the revised plan to be debated on the Floor of both Houses. Can she confirm that?
Baroness Hanham: I may have been so cautious that I did not get my point across. I mentioned earlier that we have undertaken a great deal of consultation already, but consideration is being given to whether
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Lord Reay: I do not think my noble friend has answered the question that I put to her. What is the status of the local plans that have been adopted by local authorities? Some of them will have been adopted quite a long time ago. Will they automatically become out of date when the NPPF is adopted? Will they therefore need to be revised or not? Who will decide whether that is the case?
Baroness Hanham: My Lords, the local plans will remain part and parcel of the requirements that people have to pay attention to. Those that have already been developed can and should be updated. That is going to be done on a fast-track basis. I said earlier that discussions were going on with the inspectorate. Those policies that have relied on the regional spatial strategies will maintain until and unless they are changed, and with the adoption of the National Planning Policy Framework. Where they are completed, they are the supporting documents; where they are not completed, they will
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Lord Greaves: Before the noble Baroness sits down, can she just clear up one point that has been raised? Who will have the responsibility of issuing the certificates of conformity on those local plans and local government frameworks that have already been adopted?
Lord McKenzie of Luton: The noble Baroness has been very generous with her time, but, just for clarity, if there is a local plan which is otherwise bang up to date, would the introduction of the NPPF itself cause that to be out of date or incomplete?
I hope that I have dealt with the more general aspects. If there are specific aspects that I need to take up further, of course I will do that. I again thank noble Lords who have taken part and who have given us the benefit of their advice, for which I am very grateful. I am grateful for the many and calm contributions we have had this afternoon. With that, I beg leave to conclude the proceedings.
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