HC Deb 02 June 1960 vol 624 cc1665-70

  1. (1) The following provisions of this section shall have effect where an application is made to a local authority under section three of this Act for the issue of a site licence.
  2. (2) The local authority shall not issue a site licence unless notice of the application therefor has first been given by the applicant by advertisement in a newspaper circulating in the area of the local authority.
  3. 1666
  4. (3) Every such notice shall state that any person who desires to object to the issue of the site licence should send to the clerk to the local authority before such date not being earlier than fourteen days after the publication of the notice as may be specified in the notice two copies of a brief statement in writing of the grounds of his objections.
  5. (4) The local authority shall consider any such objections before deciding whether or not to issue a site licence and after making their decision shall communicate it to every person from whom they have received such objections.
  6. (5) Any such person who is aggrieved by the decision of the local authority may appeal to a magistrate's court.—[Sir C. Thornton-Kemsley.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Sir C. Thornton-Kemsley

I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.

As Clause 3 is worded, and as I understand it, if planning permission has been given by the planning authority to use land as a caravan site, the local authority in whose area that site is situated must automatically grant a site licence. My hon. Friends and I think that that action ought not to be automatic. The local authority can be a district council—quite a small authority—and certainly it will be an authority which knows the district and its requirements best.

We think that when an application is made to that authority for the issue of a site licence, it should not issue such a licence until it has advertised in a local newspaper the intention to grant a licence for the purpose of a caravan site. The Clause states the procedure which has to be followed by anyone who desires to object to the site licence. He has to send the objection to the clerk of the local authority. Any objections will then be considered by the local authority before it decides whether to issue a site licence.

In other words, we want to see that the local authority reaches its decision on behalf of the local inhabitants, and we require the local authority to advertise the fact that the application has been made. This will not delay it very much —four or five weeks at the most—but it will place the obligation on it to advertise the fact locally so that local inhabitants have an opportunity of objecting to the proposal to establish a site, if they desire to do so.

This does not mean that if there are objections the licence cannot be issued. It simply means that that will be taken as some evidence by the local authority of the feeling in the neighbourhood and that it will consider that evidence before it issues a site licence, instead of doing it automatically, as I understand it will under the provisions of Clause 3.

There is one minor point to which I should refer. We propose that any person who is aggrieved by the decision of the local authority may appeal to the magistrates' court. In Scotland that would be the sheriff court. We think that is desirable to provide an appeal to an independent, outside authority. It is no good providing for an appeal to the local authority which has to issue the licence. We think that would be contrary to the decision and certainly to the spirit of the Tribunals and Inquiries Act passed by this House in 1958. Therefore, we propose that persons aggrieved by the decision of the local authority shall be able to appeal to the magistrates' court. I hope that my hon. Friend will consider these provisions are fair and that the House will decide that this Clause ought to be included in the Bill.

Mr. C. Hughes

I listened carefully to the arguments adduced by the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Sir C. Thornton-Kemsley) in support of this new Clause and I find very little merit in them. It seems to me that, were the new Clause accepted, it would make it possible for frivolous and unsubstantial objections to be made which would delay the processes of the law. We must constantly bear in mind that the successful operation of the provisions of this Bill depends mainly upon the support of local authorities. After all, they are the elected representatives of the people. If they do not carry out their duties to the satisfaction of the electorate, the electors have a remedy as indeed they have in the case of Members of Parliament.

In addition, it seems to hon. Members on this side of the House that there are adequate safeguards to cover all the points made by the hon. Member, not only in this Bill but in other planning legislation. On reflection, I think that the hon. Member will realise that this new Clause is not really necessary.

Sir K. Joseph

I am a little shattered by what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for North Angus and Mearns (Sir C. Thornton-Kemsley) because, in the most gentle and friendly way, he has virtually torn up the principles on which this Bill is based. It is based on two main themes, that there should be single planning decisions about the location of caravans and a single procedure for appeal when an individual is aggrieved by a planning decision. Very quietly my hon. Friend is proposing to remove by this new Clause both those themes. Not only has he put that amount of dynamite under the Bill but also he has blown up the validity of local Government in those matters which I thought that hon. Members on both sides of the House treated as mature and sensible. I must apologise to the House for taking a little time to deal with such a substantial proposal as is here made by my hon. Friend.

He proposes that the local authority should have discretion to refuse to give a site licence although planning permission in any particular case has been granted. In effect, this would set up the double planning procedure, because an applicant would not only have to jump the hurdle of the planning application successfully but would have to jump the same hurdle for the local authority before getting a site licence.

During the Committee stage proceedings there was considerable argument submitted to my right hon. Friend that some provision should be put into the Bill requiring the consultation which my right hon. Friend asserted would, in practically every case, take place between the local planning authority and the local authority; that is, the authority considering planning on the one hand and the authority issuing the site licence on the other. My right hon. Friend agreed and in Clause 19 there is provision requiring the local planning authority to consult with the local authority which would have the control of the site licences before planning permission is given for a caravan site. I hope my hon. Friend will agree, therefore, that the local authority which would have responsibility for the granting of the site licence will be brought in before a planning decision is given. The second point is, even if the local authority were to disagree with the proposed granting of planning permission, why should that local authority be put in a different position regarding caravans than, for example, regarding housing? I apologise to the House for repeating an argument which was advanced a number of times during the Committee stage, but here we have a situation exactly analogous to housing, where a local planning authority gives or refuses permission and the local authority controls the size and quality of the housing by way of byelaws. It is the same pattern which we seek to reproduce here. We believe that the local authority should not be given the power to do the job of the planning authority. It will have been consulted by the planning authority anyway, but it should be given power, as is given in the Bill, to control by site licences the conditions under which caravans can be put on any site approved for planning purposes by the local planning authority.

My hon. Friend goes on to suggest that public notice should be given by advertisement. He rejected any argument that this might delay the procedure —I think somewhat airily—by saying that it might hold up things for a matter of five or six weeks. My hon. Friend cannot be seized of the size of this planning problem and the anxiety of my right hon. Friend that the existing delays, arising from the vast number of planning appeals to be dealt with, should certainly not be made worse and, if possible, should be reduced.

To open the floodgates and allow local authorities to be subjected to pressures from any person whether directly interested or not, would mean that local authorities would be under unbearable pressure, and secondly, it would make fantastic the delay in decisions on planning proposals. Besides—this is where my hon. Friend rejects the whole argument which I thought everyone had accepted about local government—on every local authority there will be a representative of the area where the public may be interested. It is the job of the local representative to be aware of the reaction of his "constituents" if I may so call them, to what is proposed. The representative might even have to be brave enough to decide in favour of a project which for one reason or another one of his constituents may oppose. I suggest that my hon. Friend's proposal is unworkable because of the delays, and wrong because it is a breach of the independence of local government.

As if this were not enough, my hon. Friend proposes, thirdly, to introduce the double appeal procedure which has led to all the trouble about enforcing planning decisions up to now. In this new Clause it is suggested that anyone who is aggrieved by the decision of the local authority may appeal to the magistrates' court. In the Bill we have retained appeal to the magistrates' court against conditions imposed in a site licence by a local authority. But in this new Clause I think my hon. Friend intends to give the applicant the right to appeal to the magistrates' court on a planning matter. It is this duality of appeal procedure which we wished to avoid and, after a great deal of discussion, this was achieved by Clause 28 of the Bill which puts all such appeals on these matters to my right hon. Friend. I apologise to the House and to my hon. Friend for dealing with this matter at such length, but I hope I have shown that it goes to the root of the Bill in not one, but three, ways. I hope that my hon. Friend will see fit to withdraw the Motion.

Sir C. Thornton-Kemsley

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion and Clause, by leave, with-drawn.