HC Deb 17 April 1962 vol 658 cc297-301

(1) It is hereby declared that for the purposes of the Town and Country Planning Acts anything done by any of the Boards—

  1. (a) in the exercise of the powers conferred by section eleven of this Act; or
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  3. (b) in the exercise of the powers conferred by section twelve of this Act so far as that section relates to pipe-lines which are not required for the purposes of the business of the Board other than the operation of pipelines,
does not constitute the carrying on by the Board of their statutory undertaking and, in particular, that land which is used, or in which an interest is held, by a Board exclusively for the purpose of exercising those powers does not constitute operational land.

(2) Without prejudice to the foregoing subsection and subject to the next following subsection, any development of operational land by a Board in the exercise of the said powers shall not for the purposes of the said Acts constitute development of operational land.

(3) The last foregoing subsection shall not apply to development if—

  1. (a) the development comprises development by the Board for the purpose of carrying on their statutory undertaking or is development for a purpose which includes that purpose; and
  2. (b) the development is such that so much of it as is exclusively referable to the exercise by the Board of the said powers cannot fairly be treated for the purposes of the said Acts as separate development.

(4) Any question under the last foregoing subsection whether part of any development can fairly be treated as separate development shall be determined by the local planning authority to whom application is made for permission for the development in question, or, where an application for permission for the development in question is referred to the Minister, by the Minister and the Minister of Transport; and where part of any development is so treated this section and the said Acts shall apply to the parts of the development in all respects as if they were separate development.

(5) If an applicant is aggrieved by a determination of a local planning authority under the last foregoing subsection, he may appeal to the Minister, and any such appeal shall be determined by the Minister and the Minister of Transport.

The provisions of the said Acts and of any development order as to the time and manner for appealing to the Minister against planning decisions of local planning authorities shall apply, subject to any necessary modifications, to an appeal under this subsection.

(6) The provisions of the said Acts as to the validity, and proceedings for challenging the validity, of decisions of the Minister on applications for planning permission referred to him under those Acts or on appeals to him under those Acts against planning decisions of local planning authorities shall apply to any determination of the Minister and the Minister of Transport under this section as if a reference to this section were included in those provisions.

(7) Before the vesting date, references in this section to section eleven of this Act and (in relation to that section) to any of the Boards shall be construed as references to section seventy-four of this Act and to the Commission.

(8) In this section "the Minister" and "the Town and Country Planning Acts" mean respectively the Minister of Housing and Local Government and the Town and Country Planning Acts, 1947 to 1959, or, in relation to Scotland, the Secretary of State and the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Acts, 1947 to 1959; and, subject to this section, any other expression in this section which is used in those Acts has the same meaning as in those Acts.—[Mr. Hay.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Hay

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

Our town and country planning legislation recognises the fact that statutory undertakings have responsibilities to the public in general. In recognition of that fact, the legislation contains special protections for the interests of statutory undertakings. These protections, however, do not differentiate between the activities of a statutory undertaking acting in discharge of its public responsibilities and the activities of the same undertaking acting, when it has the power so to do, in a purely commercial fashion. The purpose of the new Clause is to ensure that the special protections given to statutory undertakers apply only to development by the boards for the purposes of their business.

Clauses 11 and 12 empower the boards to undertake commercial property development and pipeline development respectively. Clause 74 empowers the Commission until vesting date to undertake commercial property development. That is the counterpart of Clause 11. In exercising their powers under these provisions, the boards and the Commission until vesting date will be acting as much in a commercial capacity as any private company operating in the same field would do. It is, we think, neither necessary nor desirable that these activities should enjoy the same protection as the operational activities of the boards.

Under town and country planning legislation, where a statutory undertaker wishes to develop operational land and the local planning authority refuses consent to the development, the undertaking may appeal against the refusal. Any such appeal is determined not by the Minister of Housing and Local Government alone but jointly by that Minister and the appropriate Minister for the statutory undertaking concerned. That is provided for by Section 35 and the Fifth Schedule of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947. If the appeal is then refused, or if it is granted subject to conditions, the undertaking can appeal to Parliament by means of a special Parliamentary procedure. If that last appeal to Parliament is un-vailing, the undertaking can then claim compensation. The compensation is assessed on the basis laid down by the Fourth Schedule of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, which provides a special formula for the assessment of compensation.

That, broadly, provides for compensation to be based on the expense and the decrease in receipts which the undertaking sustains because the planning consent has been withheld. The essential point, however, is that this formula for assessing compensation is in these circumstances much more favourable to the undertaking than the compensation formula which is normally applied to private people or private bodies. These protections refer not to operational development but to the development of operational land, which is a rather different kettle of fish. They might, unless the Bill otherwise provides, apply where a statutory undertaking was developing operational land for non-operational purposes.

Let me give an example. If the Railways Board planned, in reconstructing a station, to provide over it offices for letting, that would be development of operational land for non-operational purposes. It would be clearly wrong that a planning authority which wished to refuse consent to a commercial development by a statutory undertaking should be obliged, if it were to take that step, to pay compensation at a rate which was originally designed to compensate the undertaking for interference with its operational activities. We have, therefore, introduced the Clause to ensure that that possibility does not arise. If it did, it might well inhibit planning authorities when they deal with commercial development proposals which the boards may put forward.

The Clause excludes from the scope of the special protection developments undertaken by the boards for commercial purposes—that is, developments carried out under the powers conferred by Clauses 11, 12 and 74. The construction of pipe-lines required for operational reasons is expressly excepted from the effects of the Clause in case they are held to be constructed under Clause 12. This provision merely removes any possible doubt as the powers conferred by Clause 12 are not needed for the construction of what I will call domestic pipe-lines—that is, pipe-lines within the land owned by a board and for its own operational purposes.

The new Clause also provides for the splitting of what may be called mixed developments into the operational part or parts which will continue to enjoy the special protections of the town and country planning legislation and the non-operational part or parts which will not. I apologise for the fact that this is a somewhat complicated Clause and I regret that my explanation has been correspondingly complicated. Nevertheless I have done the best I can and I hope that the House will agree to add the Clause to the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.