HC Deb 02 June 1960 vol 624 cc1713-6

7.15 p.m.

Mr. A. J. Irvine

I beg to move, in page 12, line 39, after "terminating", to insert "in due course".

This is a small point and our desire is to clear up a possible doubt which may arise.

The Clause deals with the provisions to cover the running down of sites and with the circumstances of a condition attached that the use of a site as a caravan site shall be "terminated in due course." That is the expression used in subsection (1). Subsection (4) provides that it shall not be a ground of appeal that the condition attached to the licence is unduly onerous in that the condition has the effect of terminating its use. In that subsection, there is no repetition of the words "in due course "

It is possible that the contrast between the two expressions may be thought to have rather wider consequences than the Government intend. What I think the Government have in mind is that in cases of this kind it shall not be open to an appellant to say that it is unduly burdensome upon him that the condition provides that the use of the site shall be terminated in due course. I think the Government intend that within that limit there can be an appeal. In other words, if the date proposed for the termination of the use is a specific date and is thought to be too near at hand, or not to provide for a sufficiently long interval, I think that the intention is that the choice of date should be appealable and open to argument.

We have put forward the Amendment because we think that there is just a chance that if the wording is left as it is, the contrast between the words "terminating its use" in subsection (4) and the words "terminated in due course", which appear twice earlier in the Clause, may be thought to carry the sense that it should not be open to argument on appeal that the date mentioned in the direction was a date which did not give sufficient time to the appellant.

Sir K. Joseph

My right hon. Friend feels that the proposed words are unnecessary because subsection (4) is entirely governed by subsection (3), in which the conditions are limited to those connected with the termination in due course of the caravan site. The word "terminated", therefore, is amply qualified in the way required, but it seems to my right hon. Friend that there can be no harm in repeating the words.

In advising the House to accept the Amendment, I stress that, under the Clause as drafted and as amended, magistrates will have power to vary a condition on the ground that it would terminate the use of the site at once, or too abruptly. That is already the position and will remain the position if the Amendment is accepted, but since it does no harm, I hope that the House will agree to the Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Graham Page

I beg to move, in page 12, line 46, at the end to insert: (5) Except as provided by the foregoing provisions of this section no conditions shall be attached to any site licence for an existing site for the purpose of securing that its use as a caravan site will be terminated in due course but nothing in this subsection shall prevent a local planning authority, if of opinion that the use of an existing site as a caravan site should be terminated in due course, from exercising their powers under section twenty-six of the Act of 1947. In the earlier Clauses, it has been made clear that an applicant for a site licence requires specific planning permission, even though he may have an established right and even though there may be an existing site being used as a caravan site. In fact, my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary said that the whole intention was that every existing site should be subjected to a survey.

The Clause deals with existing sites and with the case where a local authority desires to run down existing sites and eventually to terminate them as caravan sites. Such sites may have already been substantially developed as caravan sites and considerable money spent on developing them. The power of a local authority by a site licence to run down sites and eventually to terminate them leaves the owner of the site without an appeal to the magistrates. Subsection (4) prevents an appeal on those grounds.

Therefore, in the earlier subsections there is a restriction on the local authorities' power that they must not put those conditions into the site licence unless there are directions to that effect in the planning permission. Those directions are described in subsection (1) in these words: may issue with the permission a direction. It is not clear whether a planning permission issued with directions is the same as a discontinuance order under Section 26 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, but undoubtedly it will have the same eventual effect. The directions will be directions that in due course a site will cease to be a caravan site. Therefore, the owner is deprived of an established right and of something which he has acquired over a time and which is of value, but deprived of it not by a discontinuance order under Section 26 but by directions attached to a planning permission plus conditions in a site licence.

If it were done clearly by a discontinuance order under Section 26, then Section 27 of the 1947 Act would come into play and the site owner would be entitled to claim compensation, if he had suffered loss by reason of the use being discontinued. But mere directions attached to a planning permission obviously do not come within the words of Section 27 and would not give him the right to claim compensation, even though he had suffered severe loss.

It is the intention of the Amendment to make sure that in those conditions an owner will be entitled to claim compensation if he has suffered loss. It is only fair that the man who has an established right, and who would in the ordinary way, if he were ordered to discontinue the use under existing planning law, have the right to compensation, should not be deprived of that right by some form of procedure and the use of directions instead of a discontinuance order.

Mr. H. Brooke

I understand the apprehensions of my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) and I hope that I can still them. He and I and probably the whole House are at one in what we want to do. Clause 17 does not and cannot apply to an existing use which has unlimited planning permission, or which is entitled to unlimited planning permission because of its existing use rights. If a planning authority wishes to close down a site which has an unlimited planning permission, then its proper course is to do so by means of a Section 26 order with the appropriate compensation. It cannot on the sly, as it were, use Clause 17 for the purpose.

Clause 17 makes it abundantly clear that requiring a further reduction in order to terminate the use of a site may be imposed only in the circumstances which are described in the Clause, that is, where a short-term planning permission has been granted expressly for that purpose. Nothing in Clause 17 in any way affects the power of a local authority at any time to require the use of an existing site to be terminated by means of a Section 26 order.

The Clause will operate only in a situation where a site needs to be run down, and the owner of the site will have had his opportunity to establish his case for compensation if he has had an unlimited planning permission. In those circumstances of a short-term planning permission, directions such as those described in subsection (1) may be given so as to enable the site to be run down, without hardship to the people on the site.

I trust that my explanation has been clear. I have examined the Clause as carefully as I can and I am advised and I believe that there can be no dubiety about its meaning. I appreciate what my hon. Friend has in mind, but I am advised that it is not necessary to add the subsection in order to secure it.

Mr. Graham Page

Having regard to my right hon. Friend's assurance, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.