HC Deb 20 May 1968 vol 765 cc61-73


(1) A local planning authority who propose to prepare a local plan shall take such steps as will in their opinion secure—
5 (a) that adequate publicity is given in their area to any relevant matter arising out of a survey of the area carried out by them under section 1 of this Act and to the matters proposed to be included in the plan;
(b) that persons who may be expected to desire an opportunity of making representations to the authority with respect to those matters are made aware that they are entitled to an opportunity of doing so; and
10 (c) that such persons are given an adequate opportunity of making such representations;
and the authority shall consider any representations made to them within the prescribed period.
15 (2) When the local planning authority have prepared a local plan, they shall, before adopting it or submitting it for approval under section 7(2) of this Act (but not before the Minister has approved the structure plan), make copies of the local plan available for inspection at their office and at such other places as may be prescribed and send a copy to the Minister; and each copy made available for inspection shall be accompanied by a statement of the time within which objections to the local plan may be made to the authority.
20 (3) A copy of a local plan sent to the Minister under subsection (2) above shall be accompanied by a statement containing such particulars, if any, as may be prescribed—
(a) of the steps which the authority have taken to comply with subsection (1) above; and
25 (b) of the authority's consultations with, and their consideration of the views of, other persons.
30 (4) If on considering the statement submitted with, and the matters included in, the local plan and any other information provided by the local planning authority, the Minister is not satisfied that the authority have adequately complied with subsection (1) above, he may, within twenty-one days of the receipt of the statement, direct the authority not to take any further steps for the adoption of the plan without taking such further action as he may specify in order better to comply with that subsection and satisfying him that they have done so.
(5) A local planning authority who are given directions by the Minister under subsection (4) above shall—
35 (a) forthwith withdraw the copies of the local plan made available for inspection as required by subsection (2) above, and
(b) notify any person by whom objections to the local plan have been made to the authority that the Minister has given such directions as aforesaid.
—[Mr. MacDermot.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. MacDermot

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

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Eric Fletcher)

The suggestion is that the two Amendments in the name of the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon), in line 15, after first ' plan ', insert: 'so far as it applies to the area of that local plan'. and in line 25, at end insert: 'and (c) if (here shall have been an inquiry or other hearing under section 6 of this Act, a copy of the report and recommendation of the person who held such inquiry or hearing and a statement specifying the recommendations or findings of that person which have not been accepted by the local planning authority and the reasons for non-acceptance.' should be discussed with the new Clause and that, if so desired, there should be a separate Division on the second Amendment.

Mr. MacDermot

Yes, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

I can deal with this new Clause much more briefly than I did with the previous one. It replaces, with Amendments, subsections (8) to (10) of Clause 5, dealing with publicity for the preparation of local plans. Subsection (l)(a) of the Clause requires publicity to be given to relevant matter arising out of a survey of the area under Clause 1. The previous provision referred only to relevant matter in the report of the survey. The new wording will admit of matter other than that previously included in the report associated with the structure plan.

The rest of the alterations parallel those that we have already discussed under previous new Clauses, and provide, in particular, that publicity is to be given to the opportunity for representations as well as to proposals, and that the Minister may direct an authority not to proceed towards the adoption of a plan if he is not satisfied that it has adequately complied with the necessary steps required to secure adequate publicity and the opportunity for participation.

As for the Amendments, it may shorten matters if I indicate that I shall advise the House to accept the first one, which will result in improved wording.

The second Amendment is misconceived, for reasons that I can explain if necessary.

Mr. Allason

We welcome the importance given to publicity for local plans by putting them into a separate Clause. Publicity for local plans is of even greater importance than is publicity for structure plans. Structure plans are fairly complicated, and are for experts, but local plans deal with the real guts of the matter, and everybody is interested in them. There is a strong feeling in favour of public participation in planning, and the proposed Clause is intended to ensure that everybody's rights will be safeguarded, so that a person may see what the local plan intends for his town or locality and will have an opportunity of objecting. This is what planning is all about.

Although subsection (4) has some reference to publicity it is really much more concerned with what happens when a local plan is put to the Minister. This happens under Clause 7, and it is rather complicated to have to read subsection (4) of the proposed Clause in isolation from Clause 7 as it now stands. Subsection (4) provides that the Minister may, within 21 days, direct a local authority not to take any further steps for the adoption of a local plan.

What happens if the local authority has already adopted the local plan? I cannot find any provision in the Bill to say that a local authority cannot adopt a local plan the day after it has been submitted to the Minister. It seems rather peculiar that there is a time limit on the Minister but not on the local authority.

I am glad that the Minister of State welcomes the Amendment in line 15, which means that it is not necessary for the whole structure plan to be adopted; the adoption of that part of the structure plan which refers to the area in question will be sufficient to enable the local authority to proceed.

As for the other Amendment, because of a later Amendment a local planning authority will no longer be the judge and jury in its own cause. That later Amendment provides that a local authority will not have a completely free hand to decide who shall be the inspector to conduct the inquiry into its local plan. Nevertheless, it still will be judge in its own cause, because there is no requirement that it should accept the decision of the inspector. If the inspector finds that the local plan is highly undesirable the local authority can still adopt it.

I do not suggest that local authorities will be in the habit of doing this, but for the protection of local authorities themselves it would be desirable to make it quite clear that they have not an absolutely free rein. A great deal of criticism has been expressed at the fact that local authorities have power to be judge in their own cause. If a local authority did not accept the findings of the inspector and proceeded against those findings, the Amendment would ensure that … a copy of the report and recommendation of the person who held such inquiry … and a statement specifying the recommendations or findings … which have not been accepted … and the reasons for non-acceptance would have to be submitted. Thus, if a local planning authority was judge in its own cause, there would at least be a court of appeal in that the Minister would be informed and could consider the matter further.

4.45 p.m.

Since local planning authorities have considerable interests—they take steps to dispose of their own land, grant planning permission for buildings on their land, and so on—this curb should exist in the Bill. When considering the actions that a planning authority can take, including the development or sale of its land, it is necessary, after such an inquiry or hearing, that there should be this type of appeal in view of the fact that certain steps may be to the detriment of the local community. Although an authority might consider it is acting in the best local sense, its actions might be detrimental and, without any sort of appeal, it might be heavily criticised at a later stage.

I trust, therefore, that the Minister will see the wisdom of having the sort of curb that the Amendment to line 25 would provide.

Mr. E. Rowlands (Cardiff, North)

The revised Clause is related mainly to publicising of local plans. This question of publicity and public participation was debated at length in Standing Committee and I raised on one Amendment at that stage the question of including in the publicising of the Bill the need to publicise financial arrangements, and particularly those involved in local plans.

At that time, my proposal was criticised and the Minister pointed out that such financial arrangements would be more involved with local than with structural plans. Finally, towards the end of our third sitting, a measure of agreement was reached about financial arrangements which related to local plans and it was agreed that they should be seen, that they should be publicised and that this information should be made available to the public at the beginning and upon completion of any plan.

At that stage, my hon. and learned Friend said: I should need to take advice on the matter before undertaking to write any legislative provision into the Bill or the Regulations. I will certainly consider how we would deal with that aspect."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee G. 27th February, 1968; c. 146.] I note that there is no provision in the revised Clause saying that local authorities should, by Statute, inform the public of the financial arrangements that have been made with, for example, a developer, in implementing local plans. Can we take it, therefore, that my hon. and learned Friend has decided to include this information in the regulations rather than in the Bill?

Mr. MacDermot

The hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason) asked what happens when a local plan is put to the Minister if the local authority has already adopted it. His question is misconceived, since the procedure is that a local authority has a resolution provisionally adopting the plan, and then that resolution must be sent to the Minister. A period must elapse—I have given an assurance that it will be not less than 28 days—before formal adoption and the Minister can consider the matter finally and even at that stage call it in.

The Amendment proposes that where an inquiry has been held … a copy of the report and recommendation of the person who held such inquiry … specifying the recommendations or findings … which have not been accepted … should be sent to the Minister at that stage.

This rests on a misunderstanding. After the phase of public participation in the formative parts of the plan, the planning authority finally determines its content. It then places it on deposit for public inspection—it will be required by Regulations to give notice of having done that—and then there is the period for the lodging of objections. At the same time, the local authority sends a copy to the Minister with a statement of the steps it has taken to comply with the requirements for public participation; so that it could not, at that stage, give a report of the local inquiry because it would not have taken place. Hon. Members should remember that there is, at that time, still a minimum period of just under 28 days to run to the end of the objection period.

We intend to make regulations requiring local authorities to send us copies of the reports made by inspectors—and, of course, they must have resolutions giving their reasons for rejecting any of the inspectors' recommendations. All of these matters would have to be sent to the Minister and there would still be adequate time for the Minister to call in the matter if he received representations urging him to do so and if he thought that that was the proper course to follow.

I again deplore, as I did in Committee, the use of the phrase about local authorities being judges in their own cause. We are saying that, within certain spheres, these are proper matters to be decided by local authorities. The whole shape of the Bill is delegation to local authorities of local plans subject to certain checks and safeguards. Those have been strengthened in the Bill. The basic idea still is that these are matters which local planning authorities are the right authorities to decide. We do not want to begin by creating hostility, doubt and suspicion about their ability to do this by saying that we are making them judges in their own cause—any more than the Minister is a judge in his own cause in connection with matters he must decide. We are trying to get a planning system with the right structure and the right degree of decentralisation.

It is not right, either, to talk in terms of the authority rejecting the inspector's decision. There is no decision by the inspector. That power is and must be with the planning authority. The inspector is an independent person investigating objections and making representations. The local authority must be free, as must any other democratically-elected planning authority to decide what it thinks is right at the end of the day.

We have written in safeguards to ensure that the authority will not be able to ride roughshod over objections. I am entirely with the hon. Gentleman in this, but the procedures which we now have require an independent inspector, in the early stages appointed by the Minister, who can inquire into objections and make representations. The planning authority must then consider those recommendations and decide what to do in each case. If it rejects any, it must give reasons. After all that, the Minister, if he thinks that the thing has not been dealt with properly, can still call the matter in for his own examination.

Therefore, I hope that all hon. Members will give their support to this basic principle of delegation and not derogate from it.

Mr. Lubbock

All the points raised by the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason) could have been dealt with in the Bill and not left until subsequent regulations. For example, he did not see how one could provide for the possibility that the Minister would not decide until 21 days from receipt of the statement, as he is entitled to do, in which time the local authority could have decided and it would be too late. The Minister of State said fairly that it was intended to prescribe 28 days for objections in the regulations. Will he take steps, when the Bill goes to another place, to have words inserted in subsection (2) to make this clear, so that people will not have to look elsewhere?

The same goes for the hon. Member's Amendment, which, as the Minister of State explained, is misconceived, because the inquiry or other hearing would happen after the statement had been submitted to the Minister under subsection (2) of the new Clause and not before, but it will have to be provided in the regulations that a copy of the report of such an inquiry should be submitted to the Minister, whatever he does with it. I am asking whether these two provisions —there may be others later—could not be incorporated in the Bill, instead of somewhere that it would be difficult to find them.

Mr. MacDermot

I hope that I have not exhausted my right to reply, since I should like to answer the point of my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. E. Rowlands). He raised this point in Committee, when I said that I doubted whether it could be properly embodied in the Bill. I confirm that view. It is a matter on which we can usefully give some administrative guidance. Fundamentally, the local authority must be allowed to act as the representative of its citizens. We agreed in the end that the whole basis of commercial negotiation would be impossible if the local authority were required to disclose details of current negotiations, but that it was desirable that the financial agreements eventually reached should be made known. They are, of course, available in the council minutes, but we had in mind more general publicity, which can be dealt with by administrative guidance.

Mr. Graham Page

I agree with the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock), that much of what the Minister of State said about the regulations should have been embodied in the Bill, but he can rely on support from this side in his desire to leave with local planning authorities the right to decide their own affairs when producing local plans. That must be so.

But let us consider the reality of this process. At the end of the day, the Bill will give the Minister power to refuse to allow planning authorities to adopt their local plan as they may wish to do. If that default power is to mean anything, the Minister must be wholly informed of what has gone on in the preparation of the plan and what objections have been made. If there are objections, they will be to proposals made by the local planning authority, to its draft plan. An inquiry will have considered those objections, the planning authority will have appointed an inspector, albeit someone approved by the Minister, but he will be the authority's inspector and will report to it. He will have no obligation to report to the Minister about his inquiry, but will be the servant of the planning authority.

Therefore, default powers are retained by the Minister to consider what has happened in the publishing of and inquiries into the local plan. He should have a full opportunity—and this should be provided in the Bill—to consider the objections put before the inspector if the local planning authority turns down the recommendations of the inspector upon those objections. I understand that the local planning authority will publish the facts—that is to say the survey, so far as it relates to the area of the proposed local plan—and its conclusions on the facts and its intentions with regard to a proposed local plan. That is in subsection (1).

The next step is for the local planning authority to prepare and publish its proposed local plan, the formal plan which has evolved from the survey and from its conclusions. At that point, no doubt, there will be objections—perhaps major perhaps minor—but, in almost every case, I should think that the local authority will have to meet some objections and that, in most cases, there will be an inquiry.

The Minister of State told us that the procedure will be for the local planning authority to report to the Minister about its proposed plan and the publicity which it has given to it before the inquiry, but this seems to put the cart before the horse and is the point which our Amendment tried to improve. The local planning authority should not only report what it has done about the publicity given to its plan, and not only report on the proposed plan which it is putting before the public as its idea for the local plan, but should also report the objections on it and whether it has turned down any of those objections.

Mr. MacDermot

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would agree that if those concerned have not done their publicity properly in the preparation stage, they should be made to go back and do it properly before they embark on the formal stages, and before the public get involved in the expense relating to the local inquiry. We must, therefore, have two stages—reporting to the Minister on the publicity on the informal stage and, when that is cleared out of the way, proceeding to the formal stages, on which there must also be a report.

Mr. Graham Page

I find nothing in the Bill about the second report, if I can put it in that way. First, there is the report by the local planning authority that it has carried out its publicity and has come to the conclusion that this should be the plan, and it submits a copy of the plan to the Minister. After that, there is nothing in the Bill imposing on the local planning authority an obligation to report to the Minister on the inquiry that has been held, the objections that have been made to the plan, and its decision on those objections.

Whether or not that should be in a separate subsection I should not like to guess, but it comes quite conveniently into subsection (3), and makes certain that the local planning authority has an obligation at some stage to report to the Minister what inquiry it has held, what objections were made, and whether it accepted or rejected those objections.

The Minister has said that he intends for this purpose to cause regulations to be made which will oblige the local planning authority to report the result of the inquiry. If he intends to make those regulations, let it be provided for in the Bill. This is such an important point, which has been raised by so many responsible bodies outside the House, that something ought to be stated categorically in the Bill. It should not be left to some regulations which may or may not come before the House, because they will be subject to the annulment procedure and will not require an affirmative Resolution—in which case it will be just luck if they are ever discussed by the House and the public are sure that the Minister will have the time, opportunity and knowledge to intervene if the local authority is going wrong.

Mr. MacDermot

I will consider that point. For the reasons I have indicated, the hon. Gentleman's own Amendment would clearly not be workable, but I will consider his request that this matter of regulations should be written into the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Division No. 145.] AYES [5.4 p.m.
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Hall, John (Wycombe) Prior, J. M. L.
Astor, John Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Pym, Francis
Baker, Kenneth (Acton) Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Quennell, Miss J. M.
Balniel, Lord Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James
Bell, Ronald Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter
Biffen, John Heseltine, Michael Rees-Davies, W. R.
Biggs-Davison, John Hill, J. E. B. Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Boardman, Tom Holland, Philip Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Bossom, Sir Clive Hordern, Peter Ridley, Hn. Nicholas
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Hutchison, Michael Clark Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey
Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col.SirWaller Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford) Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Russell, Sir Ronald
Bruce-Gardyne, J. Kershaw, Anthony Scott, Nicholas
Buck, Antony (Colchester) Kirk, Peter Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Bullus, Sir Eric Kitson, Timothy Silvester, Frederick
Burden, F. A. Lancaster, Col. C. G. Sinclair, Sir George
Cary, Sir Robert Langford-Holt sir John Smith, John (London & W'minster)
Channon, H. P. G. Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Speed, Keith
Clegg, Walter Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral) Stainton, Keith
Cooke, Robert McAdden, Sir Stephen Stodart, Anthony
Costain, A. P. Marten, Neil Tapsell, Peter
Crouch, David Maude, Angus Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Currie, G. B. H. Mawby, Ray Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow,Cathcart)
Dance, James Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C. Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Dean, Paul (Somerset, N.) Mills, Peter (Torrington) Tilney, John
du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward Monro, Hector Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
Eden, Sir John More, Jasper Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Walters, Dennis
Emery, Peter Murton, Oscar Ward, Dame Irene
Errington, Sir Eric Nabarro, Sir Gerald Webster, David
Eyre, Reginald Onslow, Cranley Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Farr, John Page, Graham (Crosby) Williams, Donald (Dudley)
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Page, John (Harrow, W.) Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Foster, Sir John Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)
Goodhew, Victor Peyton, John TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Grant, Anthony Pounder, Rafton Mr. R. W. Elliott and Mr. Humphrey Atkins.
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Bidwell, Sydney Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper)
Allen, Scholefield Binns, John Brown, Bob(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,W.)
Armstrong, Ernest Blackburn, F. Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)
Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.) Blenkinsop, Arthur Carmichael, Neil
Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham) Booth, Albert Chapman, Donald
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Boyden, James Coe, Denis
Barnett, Joel Braddock, Mrs. E. M. Concannon, J. D.
Beaney, Alan Bray, Dr. Jeremy Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)
Bessell, Peter Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Darling, Rt. Hn. George

Amendment made: Line 15, after first 'plan', insert: 'so far as it applies to the area of that local plan'.—(Mr. Rippon.)

Amendment proposed: Line 25, at end insert: 'and (c) if there shall have been an inquiry or other hearing under section 6 of this Act, a copy of the report and recommendation of the person who held such inquiry or hearing and a statement specifying the recommendations or findings of that person which have not been accepted by the local planning authority and the reasons for non-acceptance'.—(Mr. Rippon.)

Question put, That the Amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 114, Noes 156.

Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford) Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak) Perry, George H. (Nottingham, s.)
Davies, Harold (Leek) Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)
Dell, Edmund Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford) Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)
Dempsey, James Kenyon, Clifford Price, William (Rugby)
Dewar, Donald Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham) Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)
Diamond, Rt. Hn. John Lawson, George Robinson, W. O. J. (Walth'stow, E.)
Dickens, James Ledger, Ron Roebuck, Roy
Doig, Peter Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton) Rowlands, E. (Cardiff, N.)
Dunnett, Jack Lever, Harold (Cheetham) Shaw, Arnold (llford, S.)
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter) Loughlin, Charles Sheldon, Robert
Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e) Lubbock, Eric Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.
Eadie, Alex Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Edwards, William (Merioneth) MacDermot, Niall Silverman, Julius (Aston)
Ellis, John Macdonald, A. H. Skeffington, Arthur
Evans, loan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley) Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen) Slater, Joseph
Fernyhough, E. Mackintosh, John P. Small, William
Fletcher, Raymond (likeston) McNamara, J. Kevin Snow, Julian
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) MacPherson, Malcolm Spriggs, Leslie
Fowler, Gerry Mallalieu, J.P.W. (Huddersfield, E.) Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)
Fraser, John (Norwood) Marks, Kenneth Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
Freeson, Reginald Marquand, David Symonds, J. B.
Cardner, Tony Mendelson, J. J. Taverne, Dick
Garrett, W. E. Millan, Bruce Thornton, Ernest
Gregory, Arnold Miller, Dr. M. S. Tinn, James
Grey, Charles (Durham) Milne, Edward (Blyth) Tomney, Frank
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test) Urwin, T. W.
Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly) Moonman, Eric Varley, Eric G.
Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Moyle, Roland Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)
Hamilton, William (Fife, W.) Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)
Hamling, William Newens, Stan Walden, Brian (All Saints)
Hannan, William Norwood, Christopher Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) O'Malley, Brian Wallace, Georgo
Haseldine, Norman Orbach, Maurice Watkins, David (Consett)
Hattersley, Roy Orme, Stanley Whitaker, Ben
Hazell, Bert Oswald, Thomas Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)
Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn) Willis, Rt. Hn. George
Hooley, Frank Owen, Will (Morpeth) Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Horner, John Paget, R. T. Winnick, David
Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.) Panned, Rt. Hn. Charles Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.
Huckfield, Leslie Park, Trevor Woof, Robert
Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Pavitt, Laurence Vatee, Victor
Hunter, Adam Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)
Hynd, John Pentland, Norman TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Irvine, Sir Arthur Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.) Mr. Alan Fitch and
Mr. Joseph Harper.

Clause, as amended, added to the Bill.

Forward to