HC Deb 01 April 1963 vol 675 cc127-37
Mr. Corfield

I beg to move, in page 33, line 7, at end to insert: and in particular the Minister shall make regulations under this subsection with respect to any application which the local planning authority consider should be granted for permission for development inconsistent with the Greater London development plan referred to in section 25 (3) (or, as respects any period before that plan becomes operative, with the initial development plan referred to in section 25 (2)) of this Act. This fulfils an undertaking given by my right hon. Friend that we would bring forward a provision to ensure that where a borough council wished to give permission to a planning application running counter to the Greater London development plan, it should be submitted to the G.L.C. before approval is given.

Amendment agreed to.

7.30 p.m.

Mrs. Freda Corbet (Peckham)

I beg to move, in page 33, line 16, at the end to insert: (8) The Greater London Council, after consultation with the London borough councils and the Common Council, shall by regulations prescribe standards of plot ratio, density, car parking, daylighting and such other matters of a like planning nature in relation to applications for planning permission under the Planning Act as the Greater London Council shall think fit. (9) A substantial departure from the regulations to be made under the last foregoing subsection shall for the purposes of the Town and Country Planning (Development Plans) Direction 1954 be deemed to be a departure from the Development Plan. The Amendment seeks to ensure the provision, in regulations to be made by the Greater London Council, of common planning standards for use in considering applications for planning permission. The Bill makes no provision for co-ordination and consistency between the London boroughs for the day-to-day exercise of development and control. Only the broad policy can be laid down in the written statement on the Greater London Development Plan, and the drawback to this is that it is not susceptible to frequent amendment. Very important questions of standards arise, concerning such matters as car parking, plot ratio, and day-lighting, which are referred to in general terms in the written statement but which are not defined there. Further, they do not form part of the plan.

These matters are now kept under constant review and are amended from time to time by the planning authority, which is the London County Council. In the absence of any controlling provision in the Bill a number of different sets of standards could come into being throughout the Greater London area, with variations occurring on either side of borough boundaries. With 33 authorities operating in a continuous built-up area, all with more or less identical problems, this lack of co-ordination and the consequent possible multiplicity of standards would be likely to cause confusion and inconsistency. We could well forecast a plethora of appeals to the Minister, which the adoption of the Amendment would avoid.

In Standing Committee, on 19th February, the Minister agreed that such matters as car parking, plot ratio, density of population and daylighting, were objectives which should be the subject of common standards. He went on to say: Perhaps I ought to make it plain that we should expect the Greater London Council in its development plan to have a considerable written statement, and there is no reason why the written statement of the Greater London Council should not contain the common standards where it wishes to impose them, standards such as the London County Council already includes in its written statement. Sometimes they are not wholly common standards but are common to one area or another."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee F, 19th February, 1963; c. 325.] I have already explained that the difficulty with the written statement is that it does not form part of the plan. It is difficult to have it kept constantly up to date, and to provide that it can be easily changed. If the Minister adopted the Amendment he would find that it would be for the benefit of planning in the Greater London area.

Mr. Corfield

I am not quite sure that I fully understand the hon. Lady's argument. As I understand it, the written statement is clearly part of the development plan. That being so, if standards concerning plot ratio, density and car parking are regarded as sacrosanct in any area they can be written into the written statement and thereby given statutory force. As I understand it, the hon. Lady's Amendment would substitute, for an entry in the written statement, a series of regulations—the effect of bringing in regulations amounting to the same thing as a departure from the written statement of the development plan.

I cannot see what advantage the Amendment provides. If the Greater London Council is anxious, over any part of its area or over the area as a whole, to impose certain standards as to plot ratio, density, parking or any other of these important but nevertheless subsidiary factors, it is open to it to do so. It is to the great advantage of the public generally that matters affecting develop- ment and land use should be given publicity, and that an opportunity should be provided for members of the public to appeal and make their views felt. Where it is desired to have a rather rigid adherence to this type of standard the written statement of the development plan would seem to be the place to provide for it.

The Amendment introduces something half way between the written statement and the existing procedure, and provides for exactly the same powers as an inclusion in the written statement. I must, therefore, ask the Committee to reject the Amendment.

Mrs. Corbet

The point is that if these matters had formed part of the plan in the written statement—which they do not, because the County Council was careful not to make it so, in order to avoid complexities, and so that Amendments and changes could be made to keep it in line with the necessities of modern times—all the statutory procedure that is involved in an amendment of the plan would have to be gone through, which might involve inquiries, and so forth. That would be a lengthy business, whereas these matters require to be dealt with reasonably quickly.

I am told that this kind of provision would be for the benefit of the public rather than the developers. I can assure the Minister that I have been told on very firm authority that if he does not give his planning authority an opportunity to make these changes a very difficult situation is likely to arise.

Mr. Skeffington

The Amendments to this part of the Bill are very important ones, as the Parliamentary Secretary will have realised from the sustained debates we had on this group of Clauses in Committee. Hon. Members on my side felt that it was very ironical that one of the most valid points made by the Royal Commission about the set-up in the Greater London Area was the fact that there were nine major planning authorities and nine plans, and that the lack of proper co-ordination between them was one of the causes for confusion in relation to traffic and other developments in the Greater London area.

In our view that threw some responsibility upon the Minister, because he had duties under the 1947 Act and the amending Act of 1962 not only to review these plans, but to bring the authorities together, and, if necessary, co-ordinate their planning activities. Now, instead of having nine planning authorities we are to have 33, or 34— the City of London and 32 boroughs, and the Greater London Council with responsibility for making a general plan—so we shall also have a large number of separate plans for the London area.

As this seems to make a mockery of planning, and is certainly not the local planning arrangement outside London, we have sought to change the situation so that modern concepts of town and country planning shall not be departed from in this great area.

Our last desperate attempt to bring some sanity into this situation is our Amendment in Clause 24, to insert the new subsections (8) and (9). The first of those subsections would, broadly, enable the Greater London Council, after consultation, to prescribe certain common planning standards by regulation.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Peckham (Mrs. Corbet) said, the reason why we have suggested the regulations rather than writing in a detailed statement in the development plan itself is that this would be a much more flexible arrangement. Whether or not this is the right way to do it, it would be generally accepted by the House that there ought to be common standards for the whole area. Most of the area of Greater London Council will be a continuous built-up area. At the moment there are in the Bill no satisfactory arrangements to ensure that common standards for density, daylighting and other matters which my hon. Friend referred to will be the same throughout the whole area.

Because of the lack of adequate time I do not want to go into great detail, but hon. Members can imagine the kind of impact it will make, quite apart from the practical consequences, if very different standards are adopted by the boroughs. Up to now they have had only very limited delegated functions and they have not had the kind of policy decisions to make which the Bill gives them. Therefore, we think that matters referred to in the Amendment, such as standards for car-parking, the amount of density to the area, the provision for adequate day-lighting and provisions about height of buildings, all of which affect this great capital city not only in the inner boroughs, but right through the area, should be on a common pattern.

This is our last desperate attempt to bring sanity into what I can only regard as the Government's insanity and the chaos of its planning proposals. Unless there is a flexible planning arrangement for detailed standards, they cannot be altered except after considerable delay. It might be necessary to modify planning concepts in an area because of the building of a new road. It might be necessary quickly to modify densities or daylighting arrangements consequent on a development. Now, because in the County of London there is extremely effective planning organisation, with experts on it, it is often possible as developments go forward to undertake modifications and improvements in and near a major scheme.

That would not be possible under the arrangements of rigid statutory requirements written into the development plan. Because conditions are changing in this great city we want the flexibility which is suggested in the Amendment. It certainly will not be able to deal quickly with a changing situation if the provisions are written into a statement of the development plan. There is everything to be said for having regulations. All the escape clauses will be there. If anyone feels that the Greater London Council is operating them wrongly the Minister's residual powers will not be touched in any way. Flexibility will be there and can be used.

Another point which was referred to on a series of Amendments in Committee is that if the Greater London Council has general authority to prescribe regulations that will enable it to deal with the case of property on the boundaries of a number of boroughs. This is the sort of thing I described in connection with development at the top of Sloane Street, where three boroughs meet. That was possible because we had a planning authority with general authority to get the scheme agreed within the area of the three boroughs. I am not saying that that would be impossible under the Bill as drafted, but it would be jolly difficult—if I may use such an unparliamentary word. The two subsections in the Amendment would make it easier. The boroughs would lose nothing. The common standard would affect the look of the place as well as being for the convenience of the public.

7.45 p.m.

Mr. Corfield

I remind the House that, although the L.C.C. deliberately leaves these things out of the written plan, it is open to it, and will be open to the G.L.C., to write these standards into the written statement. It will be open to it to do so as part of the Greater London plan to which the boroughs have to conform.

I appreciate, of course, the force of the argument in favour of flexibility, but the plain fact is that the lessons of the last ten years or so show that the whole development plan is a much more difficult thing to fix, even for five years ahead, than most people thought five years ago. Therefore, the whole process of revision of plans will be in the pipeline permanently. There will be a permanent series of amendments and suggestions going through on the development plan as a whole, whether they are to do with a major new road which will affect standards of daylight and so on, or other matters. I do not believe that there is any logic in drawing a distinction between these standards and other factors which go into the development plan.

The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington) said that this was an effort to bring sanity in where there was insanity, but I cannot see anything more insane than to suggest that when we have the Greater London Council and the Greater London plan with the broad framework we should not plan the regions, whether they are sorted out in relation to London or anything else, as entities. The idea that we can do this without subdividing into regions is an illogicality. Not dividing out seems a wholly untenable proposal. I cannot see that inserting these provisions in regulations would give us anything which is not

in the existing system or would bring in anything desirable for the public outside the development plan.

Mr. Mellish

As my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington) said, this is a last desperate throw on the part of the Opposition. We believe that already the Government have planned this badly in the Bill. The hon. Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. F. Harris) attacked us earlier and said that he could not understand why we were supporting the Greater London Council and wanting to give it real powers. Being good democrats and knowing that once Clause 1 has become law, as it were, the Greater London Council comes into being, it was obvious that if we were to get any sense out of the Bill we must make it a really effective body. That is why we put forward Amendments on the subject of transport and thought it a tragedy to split up the powers among the London boroughs. The same argument applies in regard to planning.

It is not enough for the Minister at this late stage to try to make a mockery out of this Amendment. I agree that it would have made more sense if the Government had had more sense and had realised that the G.L.C. should be the planning authority with genuine powers over the whole area. If we are to have uniformity—I am not talking about drab uniformity, but really virile uniformity—over an area such as this, this is the only way in which it can be achieved. The Minister has a perfect example before him in which each borough has powers over street lighting. As a result, we have a complete hotchpotch of street lighting arrangements. That kind of thing could be prevented if Greater London Council were able to deal with the whole matter.

For these reasons, we shall certainly take this matter to a Division.

Question put, That those words be there inserted in the Bill:—

The House divided: Ayes 136, Noes 207.

Division No. 87.] AYES [7.50 p.m.
Alnsley, William Bence, Cyril Boyden, James
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton) Bradley, Tom
Awbery, Stan Benson, Sir George Brockway, A. Fenner
Barnett, Guy Blackburn, F. Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.
Beaney, Alan Boardman, H. Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics,S.W.) Castle, Mrs. Barbara
Chapman, Donald Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Pursey, Cmdr. Harry
Cliffe, Michael Jones, Dan (Burnley) Rankin, John
Collick, Percy Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Redhead, E. C.
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Jones, T. w. (Merioneth) Reynolds, G. W.
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Key, Rt. Hon. C. W. Rhodes, H.
Crosland, Anthony King, Dr. Horace Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Crossman, R. H. S. Lawson, George Robertson, John (Paisley)
Dalyell, Tam Lee, Frederick (Newton) Ross, William
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.) Short, Edward
Davies, S, O. (Merthyr) Lipton, Marcus Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Delargy, Hugh MacColl, James Skeffington, Arthur
Dempsey, James McKay, John (Wallsend) Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)
Diamond, John McLeavy, Frank Small, William
Dodds, Norman MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Snow, Julian
Donnelly, Desmond Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Sorensen, R. W,
Driberg, Tom Mallalieu, J.P.W. (Huddersfield, E.) Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Ede, Rt. Hon. C. Manuel, Archie Spriggs, Leslie
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Mapp, Charles Stewart, Michael (Fulham)
Edwards, Walter (Stepney) Mason, Roy Stones, William
Finch, Harold Mayhew, Christopher Stross,Dr.Barnett(Stoke-on-Trent,C.)
Fitch, Alan Mellish, R. J. Taverne, D.
Fletcher, Erie Millan Bruce Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Ginsburg, David Mitchison, G. R. Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)
Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C. Monslow, Waiter Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
Gourlay, Harry Moody, A. S. Thornton, Ernest
Greenwood, Anthony Morris, John Tomney, Frank
Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.) Moyle, Arthur Wainwright, Edwin
Harper, Joseph Mulley, Frederick Warbey, William
Hayman, F. H. Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon) Watkins, Tudor
Henderson,Rt.Hn.Arthur(RwlyRegis) Noel-Baker,Rt.Hn.Philip(Derby,S.) Weitzman, David
Hill, J. (Midlothian) Oswald, Thomas Willey, Frederick
Hilton, A. V. Padley, W. E. Williams, LI. (Abertillery)
Holman, Percy Pargiter, G. A. Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Houghton, Douglas Pavitt, Laurence Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)
Howell, Charles A. (Perry Barr) Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd) Winter-bottom, R. E.
Hunter, A. E. Pentland, Norman Woof, Robert
Hynd, H. (Accrington) Plummer, Sir Leslie Yates, Victor (Ladywood)
Hynd, John (Attercliffe) Popplewell, Ernest Zilliacus, K.
Janner, Sir Barnett Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Jay Rt. Hon. Douglas Probert, Arthur TELLERS FOR THE AYES
Mr. Grey and Mr. Irving.
Agnew, Sir Peter Corfield, F. V. Harris, Reader (Heston)
Aitken, W. T. Costain, A. P. Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)
Allason, James Courtney, Cdr. Anthony Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)
Awdry, Daniel (Chippenham) Craddock, Sir Beresford Hastings, Stephen
Barlow, Sir John Critchley, Julian Hendry, Forbes
Barter, John Cunningham, Knox Hill, Dr. Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)
Batsford, Brian Curran, Charles Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe)
Berkeley, Humphry Currie, G. B. H, Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)
Biffen, John Dance, James Hirst, Geoffrey
Biggs-Davison, John d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Hobson, Sir John
Bingham, R. M. Deedes, Rt. Hon. W. F. Hocking, Philip N.
Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel Digby, Simon Wingfield Holland, Philip
Bishop, F. P. Doughty, Charles Hooson, H. E.
Black, Sir Cyril Drayson, G. B. Hornby, R. P.
Bossom, Clive Duncan, Sir James Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Dame P.
Bourne-Arton, A. Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Howard, John (Southampton, Test)
Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan) Elliott.R.W.(Nwcastle-upon-Tyne,N.) Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John
Box, Donald Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn Hughes-Young, Michael
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John Errington, Sir Eric Hulbert, Sir Norman
Braine, Bernard Farey-Jones, F. W. Hutchison, Michael Clark
Brewis, John Farr, John Iremonger, T. L.
Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry Finlay, Graeme Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)
Brown, Alan (Tottenham) Fisher, Nigel James, David
Buck, Antony Forrest, George Jennings, J. C.
Burden, F. A. Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton) Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)
Butler, Rt.Hn.R. A. (Saffron Walden) Freeth, Denzil Johnson, Eric (Blackley)
Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn) Gamman8, Lady Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)
Carr, Compton (Barons Court) Gardner, Edward Joseph, Rt. Hon. Sir Keith
Carr, Robert (Mitcham) Gibson-Watt, David Kerans, Cdr. J. S.
Cary, Sir Robert Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, Central) Kerby, Capt. Henry
Channon, H. P. G. Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham) Kerr, Sir Hamilton
Chataway, Christopher Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.) Kimball, Marcus
Chichester-Clark, R. Goodhew, Victor Kirk, Peter
Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.) Cower, Raymond Lancaster, Col. C. G.
Clark, William (Nottingham, S.) Grant-Ferris, R. Langford-Holt, Sir John
Clarke, Brig. Terence(Portsmth, W.) Green, Alan Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry
Cleaver, Leonard Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G. Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)
Cole, Norman Gurden, Harold Lilley, F. J. P.
Cooke, Robert Hall, John (Wycombe) Linstead, Sir Hugh
Cooper, A. E. Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough) Litchfield, Capt. John
Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K. Hare, Rt. Hon. John Longbottom, Charles
Longden, Gilbert Panned, Norman (Kirkdale) Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm
Coveys, Walter H, Partridge, E. Storey, Sir Samuel
Lubbock, Eric Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe) Studholme, Sir Henry
Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Peel, John Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)
MacArthur, Ian Percival, Ian Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth Thomas, Peter (Conway)
Macleod, Rt. Hit. Iain (Enfield, W.) Pitman, Sir James Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin
McMaster, Stanley R. Pott, Percivall Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon
Macpherson,Rt.Hn.Niall(Dumfries) Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch Turner, Colin
Maddan, Martin Price, David (Eastleigh) Tweedsmuir, Lady
Maginnis, John E. Price, H. A. (Lewisham, W.) van straubenzee, W. R.
Marshall, Douglas Prior, J. M. L. Vickers, Miss Joan
Marten, Neil Pym, Francis Wakefield, Sir Waved
Mathew, Robert (Honiton) Quennell, Miss J. M. Walder, David
Matthews, Gordon (Meriden) Ramsden, James Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek
Mawby, Ray Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin Ward, Dame Irene
Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Robinson, Rt. Hn. Sir R. (B'pool,S.) Webster, David
Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C. Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks) Wells, John (Maidstone)
Mills, Stratum Roots, William Williams, Dudley (Exeter)
Miscampbell, Norman Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
More, Jasper (Ludlow) Scott-Hopkins, James Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles Seymour, Leslie Wise, A. R.
Nabarro, Sir Gerald Sharples, Richard Wood, Rt. Hon. Richard
Nicholson, Sir Godfrey Shaw, M. Woodhouse, C. M.
Nugent, Rt. Hon. Sir Richard Skeet, T. H. H. Woollam, John
Oakshott, Sir Hendrle Smith, Dudley (Br'nt'd & Chiswick) Worsley, Marcus
Orr-Ewing, C. Ian Smyth, Rt. Hon. Brig, Sir John
Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth) Spearman, Sir Alexander TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Page, Graham (Crosby) Stevens, Geoffrey Mr. McLaren and Mr. Rees.