§ PREPARATION OF LOCAL PLANS.
|(1) A local planning authority who are in course of preparing a structure plan for their area, or have prepared for their area a structure plan which has not been approved or rejected by the Minister, may, if they think it desirable, prepare a local plan for any part of that area.|
|5||(2) Where a structure plan for their area has been approved by the Minister, the local planning authority shall as soon as practicable consider, and thereafter keep under review, the desirability of preparing and, if they consider it desirable and they have not already done so, shall prepare a local plan for any part of the area.|
|(3) A local plan shall consist of a map and a written statement and shall—|
|10||(a) formulate in such detail as the authority think appropriate the authority's proposals for the development and other use of land in that part of their area or for any description of development or other use of such land (including in either case such measures as the authority think fit for the improvement of the physical environment and the management of traffic); and|
|15||(b) contain such matters as may be prescribed or as the Minister may in any particular case direct.|
|(4) Different local plans may be prepared for different purposes for the same part of any area.|
|20||(5) A local plan for any area shall contain or be accompanied by such diagrams, illustrations and descriptive matter as the local planning authority think appropriate for the purpose of explaining or illustrating the proposals in the plan or as may be prescribed or as may in any particular case be specified in directions given by the Minister; and any such diagrams, illustrations and descriptive matter shall be treated as forming part of the plan.|
|25||(6) Where an area is indicated as an action area in a structure plan which has been approved by the Minister, the local planning authority shall (if they have not already done so) as soon as practicable after the approval of the plan prepare a local plan for that area.|
|30||(7) Without prejudice to the foregoing provisions of this section, the local planning authority shall, if the Minister gives them a direction in that behalf with respect to a part of an area for which a structure plan has been, or is in course of being prepared, as soon as practicable prepare for that part a local plan of such nature as may be specified in the direction.|
|35||(8) Directions under subsection (7) above may be given by the Minister either before or after he approves the structure plan, but no such directions shall require a local planning authority to take any steps to comply therewith until the structure plan has been approved by him.|
|40||(9) In formulating their proposals in a local plan the local planning authority shall secure that the proposals conform generally to the structure plan as it stands for the time being (whether or not it has been approved by the Minister) and shall have regard to any information and any other considerations which appear to them to be relevant or which may be prescribed, or which the Minister may in any particular case direct them to take into account.|
|45||(10) Before giving a direction under the foregoing provisions of this section to a local planning authority, the Minister shall consult the authority with respect to the proposed direction.|
|(11) Where a local planning authority are required by this section to prepare a local plan, they shall take steps for the adoption of the plan.—[Mr. MacDermot.]|
§ Brought up, and read the First time.52
§ Clause follows that for this purpose in the Bill as it stands.
§ What he says is correct. A structure plan comes into effect when it is approved and to the extent that it is approved. It may be approved in part or in parts, and therefore different parts of it can come into effect at different times.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.53
§ Mr. Speaker
With new Clause No. 3, I suggest we take the Amendment to line 36, leave out from first ' to' to ' until' and insert' adopt such local plan '.
§ Mr. MacDermot
I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.
This new Clause and the next one similarly are intended to replace Clause 5 which has also been divided in the same way and for the same purpose.
Subsection (1) contains an important new element. It permits, but does not require, a local planning authority who are in the course of preparing the structure plan for their area, or who have submitted such a plan to the Minister but who have not yet received his decision on it, to get to work on a local plan and to start preparing that local plan for any part of their area. At present, Clause 5(1) enables work on a local plan to commence only after the structure plan has been approved.
The general feeling in Standing Committee was that this would be unduly restrictive, and that local authorities ought to be able to start work on their local plans while awaiting the Minister's approval. This could hold up, to the public disadvantage, useful work which has already been set in motion in some areas on an informal basis. The authority will not be able to put its local plan on deposit and take the formal steps leading to its adoption. But it will be able to carry out all the preliminary stages, including the publicising of proposals and the receipt and consideration of representations.
It may be that, in a few isolated instances, the Minister's decision on the structure plan will be such as to necessitate a different local plan from that which the authority has been preparing. In that case, it will have to start again. But the savings in time and labour that the new provision will permit are likely far to outweigh any isolated cases where the Minister's decision on the structure plan renders abortive the preparatory work on the local plan. I stress that the power given to the local planning authority under this subsection is a discretionary one.
The Amendment which we are considering with this is proposing, in effect, that the Minister should be able to re- 54 quire the local planning authority to prepare a local plan during this period and also to take the formal steps leading up to adoption and everything other than the actual adoption of the local plan. We feel that this would not be right and that, until the Minister has himself given a decision on the structure plan, he should not be in a position to dictate to the local authority what it should do by way of work on a local plan, having regard to the fact that there is an element of risk that that work might be abortive in the way that I have just indicated. Therefore, we think that it should be a matter for the local authority's discretion.
Subsections (2) and (3) of the Clause contain only drafting changes. I hope that the House will agree that they are an improvement. Subsections (4) and (5) contain no change from the provisions which they replace. Subsection (6) contains a consequential amendment flowing from the possibility that the local planning authority will already have prepared an action area plan under subsection (1). Subsection (7) adapts the provisions of what is the present Clause 5(5) to the decision that work may start on preparing a local plan before the structure plan is approved.
Subsection (8) is new. It enables the Minister to give a direction under Subsection (7) either before or after approval of the structure plan, but provides that no such direction shall require a local planning authority to comply with it until the structure plan has been approved. The principle here is that, although a local planning authority is put on notice and is enabled to prepare a local plan before the structure plan is approved if it wishes, the statutory obligation to prepare a local plan exists only after the structure plan has been approved.
Subsection (9) is reworded. It now requires the local planning authority to ensure that the local plan conforms generally to the structure plan. There was criticism in Committee of the provision that the planning authority should "have regard" to the structure plan in formulating its local plan. It was thought possible that a local plan could be prepared under this wording which was inconsistent with the structure plan. The wording which we propose does not go so far as requiring absolute consistency with the structure plan, which we think 55 would produce undesirable rigidity and could give rise to much argument. I hope that the wording achieves what is generally felt to be the result that we want to obtain.
Subsection (10) repeats Clause 5(7). Subsection (11) obliges a local planning authority to take steps for the adoption of any local plan that it is required to produce. The object of that is to avoid a new generation of "bottom drawer" plans arising by the failure of local authorities to complete the necessary statutory procedures.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Mr. James Allason (Hemel Hempstead)
The Minister is very wise to split the old Clause 5. We have a considerable length of Clause as it is, without anything about publicity in it.
There are three changes in the Clause which we welcome. The first appears in subsection (1), where it becomes permissive to start preparing a local plan before the structure plan has been approved. This was pressed in Committee, and I am sure it will be helpful. The second one occurs in subsection (7), where the Minister may direct that the local plan should be prepared for part of an area where the structure plan has been prepared but not yet approved. Again, this was suggested in Committee and will be helpful. The third one occurs in subsection (9), which provides that the local plan should conform generally with the structure plan. That again is a considerable improvement.
However, I have one or two criticisms. The first relates to subsection (7), which provides that the Minister may give a direction to prepare a local plan for which a structure plan is in course of being prepared. It seems rather extraordinary that an authority which has not a structure plan even prepared, let alone submitted to the Minister, should be able to go ahead with the preparation of a local plan on that. It is something quite new, and I feel that it should be looked at again. It is difficult to see how it can conform generally to the structure plan if the structure plan has not been prepared.
§ Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)
I was not a member of the Committee, so I am not an expert, but I thought that the 56 hon. Gentleman said that he approved of subsection (1), which gives a local planning authority power to prepare a local plan where it has not yet got a structure plan. Now he is saying that he does not like the Minister to take powers to issue directions in that sense.
§ Mr. Allason
There are several stages. First, there is the preparation of the structure plan. Then it has to be submitted to the Minister. I am sure that the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) has read the report of the proceedings in Committee. If he has, he will remember that the Minister of State said that up to two years might elapse between the preparation of a local plan and its submission to the Minister and the Minister approving it. In other words, there may be a period of two years after the structure plan has been prepared and submitted during which it will not be possible for the authority to start preparing a local plan unless the Amendment is accepted. There is all the difference between a structure plan which has been prepared and submitted to the Minister and one which is merely in the course of preparation and not yet completed.
Then, as regards subsection (11), the Minister said that he does not want to see a number of local plans hanging about. However, all that subsection (11) says is that the local planning authority shall take steps for the adoption of the plan. What is meant by the phrase "shall take steps" is a little vague. Steps can be taken which do not end up by going through the doorway. There can be an item on a council's agenda for the adoption of the local plan, but that does not mean that the council will adopt it. I would say that just putting it on the agenda would be taking steps for the adoption of the plan. I wonder whether the words are entirely happy.
I turn now to the subsection (8). The Minister has explained that, having given directions under subsection (7) that he would like a local plan prepared, nevertheless, under subsection (8), the local authority need not comply with these directions. These seem funny directions to give. Is it desirable for the Minister to take power to give directions and to give an exemption in the following subsection from complying with those directions? The directions are to prepare a local plan ahead of the adoption of the 57 structure plan. Consequently, we have put down an Amendment, and here I formally beg to move—
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member may not move his Amendment. It has, however, been selected for discussion with this new Clause.
§ Mr. Allason
The Amendment is to leave out the words "comply therewith" and substitute "adopt such local plan". It would then read:… but no such directions shall require a local planning authority to take any steps to adopt the local plan until the structure plan has been approved by him.This seems to be more sensible. If the Minister gives directions to prepare a local plan, surely it should be optional whether a local authority adopts such a local plan, but it should be incumbent upon it to go through the motions of looking at the Minister's proposals. The Minister does not give directions for fun. He gives them because he is anxious that a particular local plan shall be prepared. He is saying, in effect, "Let us get on with preparing it". Without this Amendment, subsections (7) and (8) do not hang together.
§ Mr. Lubbock
I am not sure whether the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason) has read his own Amendment very carefully, because it says:leave out from first ' to ' to ' until'".Therefore, the words "take any steps" are also intended to be left out. It does not alter the sense of the Amendment, and I think that I understand what he is trying to get at.
§ Mr. Allason
I apologise. The hon. Member is correct. It does have the same effect. I misquoted it.
§ Mr. Lubbock
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. It does not seem to alter the sense of his Amendment, but it would now read:… but no such directions shall require a local planning authority to adopt such local plan until the structure plan has been approved by him.I listened to the hon. Gentleman very carefully and I was grateful for the explanation which he gave for his concern about subsections (7) and (8). However, at the beginning of his speech he said that he wholly approved of subsection (1). I understand that was inserted in 58 response to representations made in Standing Committee. The hon. Gentleman explained that there was a distinction between the case where the structure plan had been prepared but was in the course of getting approval from the Minister and the case where the structure plan was in the course of preparation.
I should point out that both in subsection (1) and subsection (7) provision is made for the two alternatives. We have decided in subsection (1) that the local planning authority does not have to wait for the completion of its work on the structure plan before going ahead with preparation of a local plan if it thinks it desirable. It appears to me that the provisions of subsection (7) are analagous where the Minister can give a direction if the structure plan has either been prepared but not yet approved or, alternatively, is in the course of preparation. It seems unsatisfactory in a single Clause to have different provisions in two subsections. It would be impossibly confusing.
What is a local authority expected to do in the intervening period between a direction being given under subsection (7) and the date of approval of the structure plan, between which times it does not have to take any steps to comply with this direction? In moving the Clause the hon. Gentleman said that this would act as a kind of warning order. I am paraphrasing him, not quoting directly. If he expects a local authority to get on with the preparation of its plan, notwithstanding that he is saying it does not have to take any steps to comply with the direction, some happier wording might have been devised.
The kind of issue in this direction is that, soon after approval of the structure plan, he will come back to the planning authority and say, "We gave you a direction a couple of years ago. We want to know what you have been doing about it", and the local planning authority will be able to reply, "But, Minister, under subsection (8) we did not have to take any steps to comply with this direction until you had approved the structure plan, and we have only had a couple of months to do this work". There seems to be a conflict here, and I would be grateful if the Minister would clear it up before leaving the new Clause.
§ Mr. MacDermot
The first point raised by the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason) was that it seemed odd for the Minister to give a direction about the preparation of a local plan while the structure plan was in the course of preparation. It is the same point that I made before, to which the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) alluded just now. This is intended as a procedure whereby the Minister gives a warning to the authority that it will be required to produce what will probably be an action area plan for a particular area which is being considered. This will be useful knowledge to have when it is preparing its structure plan, or the part of it for that area.
For example, one might have a new system applying to an area round a conurbation. Let us suppose that it has already been agreed and decided that there shall be, under overspill arrangements, an expansion of a town situated in a county somewhere outside the conurbation. The Minister could say, "When the new structure plan is approved, we will want an action area plan for this area where there is to be an expanded new town".
Passing on to further points, we do not think it is right that the Minister should be able to compel a local planning authority to start preparing that action area plan in advance of the approval of its structure plan. We think it is more than likely that in most cases planning authorities will be glad of the warning and will make a start. The reason we do not think it right to be able to compel a local planning authority to start on the formal procedures is that this involves the public, and it would not be right for the Minister to be able to involve the public in formal action about the plan until the authority has the assurance that it is properly drawn in conformity with the structure plan.
It cannot have this assurance until the structure plan, or that part of it, has been approved. We envisage that the local authority, if it so wishes, can make a start on the preparatory stages of the action area plan, including public consultation and receiving representations, 60 but that the formal procedures for its adoption should await the approval of the structure plan.
That fits in with the requirement of the Bill, namely, that in cases where the authority is acting not as the result of a direction by the Minister but purely on its own initiative it will not be able to start its formal procedures and put the plan on deposit for public inspection until it has received approval of the relevant part of the structure plan.
It is said that it seems strange to give directions and then exempt an authority from having to comply with them. That is not quite the picture. This provision enables the Minister to give a direction well in advance of the time when the local planning authority will be obliged to comply with it. In our opinion this will be for the convenience of planning authorities, and we feel that the procedures can be made quite clear to them without giving rise to any confusion.
I was asked about the wordstake steps for the adoption of the plan.I am not quite sure what wording it is suggested should be put in their place. We cannot have wording which would provide that the Minister can require an authority to adopt a plan, which would be the effect of the Opposition Amendment. An authority might say, "This is a matter for us to decide", and it would be within its rights, at that stage, to reject the plan itself.
What the subsection intends to do— and I believe that it will achieve its object—is to see that when a local authority has gone through all the stages of public consultation and has received representations it does not, at that stage, say, "Everybody seems agreed about this; we need not bother to go through the formal procedures for adoption." That could lead to another generation of bottom-drawer plans, and that is one of the things that we are trying to avoid under the new system.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.