§ PUBLICISING OF INDIVIDUAL APPLICATIONS.
§ (1)A person submitting a planning application to his local planning authority shall before doing so obtain from the owner or owners of the land specified in the application written consent to the erection on that land of a notice of a kind specified in this section and shall submit that written consent to the local planning authority together with his application.M
§ (2) Not later than seven days after the receipt of such application and consent it shall be the duty of the local authority to erect on that land in a position conveniently visible from the nearest public right of way a notice indicating that a planning application has been 117 submitted in respect of that land and that particulars of that application may be obtained at the offices of the local planning authority.
§ (3) The Minister may by regulation prescribe he size of such notice, the size of the lettering and the wording of the inscription.
§ (4) The local authority shall not determine a planning application until a period of not less than seven days has elapsed since the erection of the notice.
§ (5) If the planning application is called in by the Minister or is the subject of an appeal to the Minister or to a person appointed by him the Minister or the person appointed by him (as the case may be) shall not determine such application or appeal without first satisfying himself that a notice in respect of the application has been displayed in the manner prescribed by this section.
§ (6) Not less than one month and not more than forty days after the final determination of the application the local planning authority shall enter on the land and remove the notice.—[Mr. Macaonald.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ Mr. Speaker
With this new Clause I propose that the House should discuss new Clause No. 12, Notice of planning applications: (1) Upon receipt of an application for planning permission the local planning authority shall cause notices thereof to be displayed for not less than 21 days in conspicuous positions in the vicinity of the land which is the subject of the application and such notices shall state the name and address of the clerk to the authority and that written representations may be made to him concerning the application and the names and addresses of the councillor or councillors of the ward in which the land is situated and such other information as the Minister may prescribe.
(2) The local planning authority or their delegate under section 53 of this Act, as the case may be, shall take into account such representations as aforesaid, if any, before determining the application provided that they are received within the period stated for this purpose in the said notices.
§ Mr. A. H. Macdonald (Chislehurst)
I beg to move. That the Clause be read a Second time.
I cannot truthfully say that it has been a lifelong ambition of mine to move this Clause, but it has certainly been my ambition for 10 years—ever since I first went on the planning authority of my local authority and discovered, to my amazement, there there is no necessary requirement for the people affected by every proposed development to receive an advance notification when a town planning application comes forward. My amazement has not diminished with the passage of years, but has increased.
118 In very many cases a development begins, and the first thing that neighbours, and people further away, hear about it is when the building starts going up. When they get in touch with the town hall, they find that planning permission has been given and that nothing can be done. An opportunity should be available for representations to be made. We have been told on many occasions that one of the objects of the Bill is to increase the participation of the ordinary citizens in the decision-making of town planning, so it is perfectly reasonable that those affected by a proposed development should have an opportunty to make reasonable representations to their planning authority. I am conscious that in no sense is it the business of the planning authority to arbitrate—its business is to determine whether or not an application should be permitted —but there should be reasonable opportunity for representations to be brought forward.
I could quote many examples from my correspondence but I will confine myself just to two or three to indicate the kind of grievance that may arise when no advance notification is given to those neighbouring the development concerned in a town planning application. I draw these examples from my own constituency because they are known to me and I have been able to check them. I would not like the House to suppose that I was wasting its time by putting forward merely a constituency point. I could quote examples from outside my constituency, but I think it proper to put forward cases that I am satisfied are genuine.
The first case is that of a lady from Chislehurst who wrote complaining that a development took place next door to her. The first she knew of it was when a bulldozer arrived on the site. As the site is on a slight slope and her house is lower than the development site, all the earth from the bulldozer rolled into her garden. When she telephoned the people of the town hall they told her that planning permission had been given. The building went up on the site. The lady writes:We now have about four inches between, so it is impossible even to get to that wall of the garage should repair ever be necessary. …I have no wish to take sides in the matter. The representations of the lady 119 might on examination prove not well-founded. That, however, is by the way, because whether her representations were well-founded or not, she had no opportunity to put them forward. That is what I might call a standard case.
There is the case of a gentleman from Sidcup who wrote observing that a notice for sale had appeared on a property on the other side of the road to him. This is an old property standing in a fair amount of ground, and he feels, I suspect correctly, that there may be substantial development on the site—perhaps a fairly tall block of flats. He wants to reassure himself that the development will not unduly affect his present amenities. So this poor man is reduced to going minutely through the town planning applications listed each week in the local Press. He lives on tenterhooks lest he should overlook an item and development take place of which he has no knowledge. It seems most unfortunate that a man should have to spend his time in that way. If a notice appeared on the site, as I suggest, his anxiety might well be allayed.
The third case is that of a gentleman from Blackfen who had a vacant site at the end of the garden. Suspecting that development might take place, he went to the offices of the local authority and found that an application was in. He examined the plans. The plans were for an old people's home. He saw that they had no injurious effect whatever on his property, and went home with peace of mind. Some time later the development took place. The gentleman looked over his fence and thought that the development did not seem to be quite in line with his memory of the plans he had seen. He writes that, in fact, different plans have subsequently been approved:… it is obvious that the original plans were changed although … no announcement either publicly or to the owners of adjacent property was ever made. …The' final example seems to me to be the most extraordinary of all. It concerns a property in North Cray, in my constituency—a semi-detached house. Behind and to the side of this property planning permission was given for a development. To get access to the 120 development it was necessary to tear down half of a semi-detached house. This was included in the planning permission. The man living in the other half had no knowledge whatever that all this was going on. Further, I am amazed to discover that he has no statutory right whatever to be informed either by the council or by the developer that half the house in which he lives is to be torn down. The council informed him, but merely as an act of grace; there was no statutory requirement.
There are existing methods of giving publicity to town planning applications, but my contention is that a notice on the site is the only satisfactory method. I will deal with the existing methods because I do not consider that any of them fully meets the situation.
A method which I am glad to say my local authority adopts is to issue a sheet once a week, or every so often, giving brief details of the planning applications which have come in. Local organisations, residents' associations, political parties, and tenants' associations may apply on payment of an annual fee to receive the lists as they are prepared. It will be appreciated, however, that not everyone is or wishes to be a member of a residents' association or a political party.
There is also the difficulty of where the line should be drawn and of deciding which is and which is not a bona fide residents' association. To give an absurd example, suppose my wife and I formed the "79 Oakdene Avenue Residents' Association". Clearly that would be a farce, but how can a local authority distinguish between those which are and those which are not proper residents' associations to which such a notice should be sent?
A method which is quite widely adopted by local authorities is to issue lists of planning applications to the local Press, but the local Press is under no duty to print all or any of the applications. It may be imagined that in any given week some "hot" news may come in and the Press, in finding room for an important item of news, would be tempted to cut out some of the small print of the applications. Not everyone is a close student of the local Press.
121 Another method which is good so long as it works is for the man who is proposing the development to tell the man next door what he has in mind. When neighbours are on good terms that is excellent; the difficulty arises when they are not on good terms. On those occasions the neighbour is the least likely to be told of the development by the man next door.
The fourth method is for lists of planning applications to be displayed at the town hall, the local library or at similar civic buildings. The first three methods I have described are good although they do not go quite far enough, but the fourth method is definitely bad. This is what not to do because no citizen lives his life going every week to the local library to look at lists of town planning applications in terror that the man next door will build something overlooking his property.
Citizens do not live their life in that way; yet when a development takes place and the citizen concerned protests too late, he is told by the local authority that he could have found out about it if only he had looked at the lists. That produces a feeling of outrage similar to that to which my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council referred when he introduced proposals for a Parliamentary Commissioner. A list of that kind is the façade rather than the reality of democracy.
The local authority may issue a circular to residents in the locality. I quote from a letter I received from the predecessor of my hon. and learned Friend:In the Department's Circular No. 21/61 planning authorities were asked to make publicly known, by direct notification to persons affected or by local publicity, any application for development which would be of wide general interest.This is an entirely subjective test and places the responsibility on the local authority to determine what is and what is not of wide general interest. Clearly, a monstrous block of flats is of wide general interest, but a small garage may be of no general interest at all, though it may be of tremendous importance to the man next door to it.
I care nothing for a subjective test made in this way, which places the responsibility on the local authority. In my 122 view, a notice appearing on the site is the only adequate way to ensure that those affected, or who are likely to be affected, by the development may have proper notification beforehand and an opportunity to make representations.
To save the time of the House, I will demolish some of the objections which I suspect my hon. and learned Friend will bring forward. He can then cross them out of his brief and we can see what he has left. He may argue that it is the responsibility of the councillors on the local authority to represent the interests of the people of the area. That is excellent in theory, but in my local authority, the London Borough of Bromley, there are 70 members, and the town planning committee has only 23. Therefore, not every one is represented on the town planning committee.
Because there are so many applications, the town planning authority is unable to deal with all of them and it has split into sub-committees of seven. Even that has proved too many and panels of three have been appointed. Some planning applications are considered by only three councillors. I do not criticise my local authority for doing that, for it has a large number of applications, but not every councillor is in a position to make representations.
My hon. and learned Friend may suggest that some of the representations which are made prove groundless or frivolous, or even spiteful, but in my knowledge and experience some will prove well grounded. I think of one application which came before us and which we were minded to approve. Then a letter came from the man next door and we discovered that, although the plan attached to the application was entirely accurate so far as it concerned the site, it was inaccurate because the next door property was appreciably nearer than the plan suggested. I give that as an example of a kind of reasonable representation which may be submitted.
I accept that my proposal would involve a measure of delay, but, since once a planning application has been made the resulting development may be there for 50 or 100 years, it does not seem unreasonable to allow a week or two for people in the area to have an opportunity to make their views known. There is also the question of cost. I understand that there 123 are 400,000 town planning applications a year. To put up notices on every site would involve a measure of expenditure. This, of course, cannot rest on the developer for we have to remember that the purpose of giving notice of the development is to give an opportunity for anyone who objects to do so and this may prevent the development being carried out.
If the developer had to put up a notice he might be tempted to hide it behind a bush where no one would see it. The responsibility must rest on the local authority. I have had discussions with people in my district and with the Chislehurst Residents' Association. They accept that they should bear the cost. Because this is something they want, they are prepared to pay for it. That is a reasonable attitude.
In some cases under our existing arrangements there is an obligation to notify people of proposed developments. This is so where we can define certain categories. So far so good. But if we accept, as we must, that in some categories it is proper for people affected to be informed, how can we say that it is possible to draw a rational line between those who ought to be informed and those who need not be informed? As I have tried to show, even the smallest development may be grievous for the amenities of the man next door.
I shall take another minute or two now to refer briefly to the text of the new Clause. In the main, it is self-explanatory. The House will note that I have asked that written consent should be obtained from the owner of the land. I suspect that, in practice, this will prove to be a time-saving provision. If a would-be developer has to obtain written consent from the owner of the land before he can put in his application, this will save the time of the town planning authorities in considering applications which in the event turn out to be abortive because developers cannot obtain ownership of the land and cannot, therefore, proceed with the development they want.
As regards regulations, I have suggested that the Minister should have power to prescribe the form and size of the notice. I hope that in such regulations he would require a simple statement on the lines of the familiar "To let" or "For 124 sale" notice, not a close typescript giving details of the application. It should be a simple wording with which people would become familiar, so that they would be alerted to approach the offices of the local authority.
Next, I have suggested that there should be a period of between 30 and 40 days before the notice is removed. I regard this as necessary in order to provide for the possibility of appeal against the development. The notice ought not to be taken down too soon. I have had constituents complain to me that they thought that a scheme had been cut and dried by the local authority and then, suddenly, the whole thing was thrown into the melting-pot again so that they ought to make further representations. So long as the notice is on the site, they will be aware that the matter is open and that representations are possible. That is the reason for the period of between 30 and 40 days.
I am sorry to have taken so long, but this is a matter which has been burning in me for the last 10 years, ever since I went on the planning committee of my local authority. I am aware of the objections, but I hope that my hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State will accept at least the principle of my proposal.
§ Mr. Speaker
I remind the House that we have many new Clauses and many Amendments to consider. It would help the House if they were moved with reasonable brevity.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Lubbock
I promise that I shall not say more than a few words, but I wish to support the hon. Gentleman the Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Macdonald) in his admirable proposal which he put forward in an admirable speech, which, I am sure, convinced both sides of its merits. I shall not give a great many examples, but I confirm that my experience is parallel with that of the hon. Gentleman.
Time after time, at one's advice bureaux, people come and say, "Here is something which is very harmful to the amenities of the area where we live and to our own property in particular. We knew nothing about it until the builders arrived on the site and the development began. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that, so long as we limit ourselves 125 to the means which he described, people will inevitably not be aware of development which is about to take place. They do not all read the Orpington and Kentish Times, which circulates in his constituency and in mine and in which one can find quite long lists of planning applications submitted.
In my view, the Kentish Times is to be congratulated on the public service which it does in devoting space to these applications. But there is a host of them in small print, and it is quite possible for a householder, watching the lists to ensure that nothing is proposed which might affect his property, to miss the particular issue, or not to see an application which is of great significance for himself. He might be away on holiday at the time when notice of the particular application appeared in the local paper, with the result that he would have no knowledge of it.
The hon. Gentleman's proposal would be both simple and inexpensive compared with the means adopted now. If the number of applications is as large as he says, notices in the prescribed form could be mass-produced and be no more expensive than, for example, the 30 m.p.h. speed limit sign which is already in use in large numbers. The Minister should not, therefore, object on grounds of expense. Moreover, as the hon. Gentleman said, the proposed procedure might well result in some saving because abortive applications would not have to be considered if applicants had to obtain the consent of the owner of the land in the first place.
Here is one case from my constituency which upset me greatly. Adjacent to the property of a lady living in the village of Farnborough it was proposed to erect an electricity line. The proposal went through and the work began, but she happened to notice that the poles were being put much closer to the boundaries of her property than the position shown in the original plan. Being a lady of some spirit, she objected vigorously to the workers who were putting up the poles and said that they did not correspond with the original plan.
After considerable trouble with the local authority and the Ministry of Power, we succeeded in having the application by the electricity board recon- 126 sidered. The matter has now gone all the way through the London Borough of Bromley and the Greater London Council to the Ministry of Power, so that it now lies on the Minister's desk for him to see whether the position of the line ought to have been varied or the original line ought to have been adhered to.
If that lady had not noticed what was happening—if, for example, she had been away on holiday at the time—the scheme might have gone through in the altered form and there would have been nothing she could do about it. I am happy to say that the Minister of Power is giving full consideration to the objections which she has made, but the matter might well have gone the other way. That is an example showing the need for a procedure of the kind described by the hon. Member for Chislehurst. If the electricity board had been compelled to put a notice on the site that it intended to vary the route of the line, my constituent would have known at once and would have been able to take action much earlier.
I am sorry to take more time, but I must mention one other example. A constituent of mine living in the village of Cudham was surprised to find that a building was being erected by his neighbour adjacent to his boundary, and this building came within six feet of his cesspool. We are still fairly primitive in some parts of my constituency and we do not all have main drainage, I do not have it myself. My constituent had always thought that there was a rule that one did not erect buildings within 20 feet of a cesspool, and he went round to the local authority to ask how it happened that his neighbour was putting up an extension to his house which came within six feet of his cesspool.
The local authority said, "We are very sorry, but you are too late. It is within all the byelaws. There is nothing we can do about it. The health inspectors have been out and they say that it is quite within the regulations. You will have to put up with it".
As a result of the erection of that building, not only is my constituent hemmed in by a large structure at the side of his property but all the water now comes off that building and flows into his cesspool, with the result that it has to be emptied very much more frequently than in the past. As the hon. 127 Member for Chislehurst knows, charges for the emptying of cesspools in the London Borough of Bromley are increased almost without limit. I sometimes think that the matter ought to be referred to the National Board for Prices and Incomes.
Because my constituent knew nothing of the proposal, he could not go down and argue with the town planning department before it actually happened. Now, he has this large building next door to him, which everyone says is within the building regulations, and he has no power to do anything about it
Those are two cases out of many dozens which have come to my notice during the past year. The Minister of State ought to accept the hon. Gentleman's proposal, which offers a sensible and reasonable way of making sure that that kind of thing happens no more.
§ Mr. MacDermot
This debate alarms me in its projected length. As Mr. Speaker said a moment ago, we have a great deal of work to get through.
The subject matter of the new Clause was discussed at considerable length in Committee, and I do not wish to have to repeat all the arguments I put forward there. I have not heard a new argument in principle in the two speeches so far. They were all put in Committee, and I would refer hon. Members to the OFFICIAL REPORT for the answer to any of their arguments which they feel have not been answered sufficiently here.
I think that there is a case to be looked at, but, with respect to my hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Macdonald), I think that he has greatly exaggerated. What he proposes is utterly unworkable. The first subsection of his Clause would practically bring development in this country to a full stop, because it would mean that no one could make a planning application for land which he or she did not own without the consent of the owner. This would mean that my hon. Friend's own authority, or any other housing authority which was not a planning authority, that wanted to put in a planning application in respect of undeveloped land would not be able to do so unless the owner of that land consented to their doing 128 so. It gives the owners of land an absolute veto on development.
I think that my hon. Friend voted for and supported the Land Commission Act, which gives the Commission considerable powers to put in planning applications and apply for compulsory purchase orders for land. All of this would be rendered nugatory by the new Clause. If my hon. Friend has been cogitating on the matter for 10 years, I am surprised that he has not thought out a little more carefully the implications of the new Clause.
What my hon. Friend is saying is very simple—that no one should be allowed to apply for planning permission to do any kind of development unless the application is brought to the notice of every person who might in any way be affected by it, and then there is a sort of litigation. I see my hon. Friend shaking his head, but what is the point of telling a neighbour that the application is in unless the neighbour is to have some rights to be heard? The neighbour will say, "This is a farce. What is the point of writing in a statutory right for me to be notified if I cannot make representations to anybody?" Therefore, in effect the planning authority would become judge in litigation between quarrelsome neighbours, for it is particularly with quarrelsome neighbours that these sort of difficulties arise. This is not my conception of what planning is about.
Before we had town and country planning anyone was entitled, subject to the laws of nuisance, to do what he wanted on his own land and erect what buildings or carry out whatever other developments he wanted on it. That has been altered by planning law. We have set up planning authorities with qualified staffs whose job it is to apply planning control and to give or refuse permission according to accepted planning principles. They are democratically elected bodies, and are responsible for what they do.
Agreed, there are classes of development which, of their nature, are such that they will affect the character of an area, or otherwise affect a very large number of people, and where it is right that people should be given an opportunity for representations. In Standing Committee—and this covers some columns of HANSARD—I set out the very numerous and full provisions covering that kind of case. I have undertaken that when we 129 review them I shall be willing to look at any additions to those classes which may be proposed.
To try to turn the whole of our planning machinery into a kind of quasi-judicial organisation for listening to disputes between neighbours would be very time-consuming for the staff, who are busy, expert staff, and would involve a great deal of additional cost. What could well come from it? If there is an empty plot of land next-door to a house, it is 100 to I that the owner of the house will object to its being developed. He would prefer it left empty, particularly if it gives him a view. But the planning authority must decide on planning principles whether it is right that that piece of land should be developed. Why should it be compelled to receive representations—for this would be the result of the procedure suggested—when it must know already that the person next door would prefer that the development did not take place? Therefore, I would strongly resist anything as universal as is suggested.
One of the criticisms made in Committee was that in these special classes of development one needs additional procedures for safeguarding the public. I said then, and repeat now, that we need to look at these criticisms. The form of notice required by law is just notification, usually in the local press, by a formal announcement, which is not read, except by professional bodies who find it worth their time to study such notices. There is in at least some of these cases, if not all, a case for extending the provisions about putting up notices. This is something we shall have power to do under a general development order.
I undertake that we shall look again at these provisions under the general development: order to consider improved notification by a notice on or near the site. That dispenses with the need for the owner's consent. If he will not consent to its going up on his land, it is stuck on a lamp post nearby or something like that. We shall consider an extension of that, and also to look again at any particular cases hon. Members draw to my attention which they think should be added to the special classes requiring notification. I invite them \o write to me if they wish.
I am certain that to adopt the suggestion in the new Clause and make 130 it apply universally to every one of the 400,000 planning applications a year many of which are over quite minor matters, will involve an incredible waste of time of skilled staff, who are in short supply, and to very little benefit.
§ Mr. Murton
I believe the Minister to be peculiarly intractable tonight. He says that the proposals should not be put into effect either in the form in the new Clause suggested by the hon. Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Macdonald) or in the form suggested by my right and hon Friends and myself in new Clause 12.
It is not sufficient to deal with this planning problem through Ministerial circular, which is how it is done at present. The Minister says that the proposal would cause difficulty. If the clerks of local authorities were to comply with the circular to the letter of the law, there would indeed already be not much difference in the amount of work undertaken, than if the Clause were accepted but they do not always avail themselves of the guidance which the Minister gives in that circular.
One can judge from the feeling which has been aroused in the House on this question that it is a major issue affecting our citizens. It is a cliche to say that every man's home is his castle, but it is true that everybody is peculiarly sensitive —quite rightly so—to the effects which other people's development have on his home. The way to avoid litigation is to give the individual the chance to make representation when his neighbour does something.
I cannot see that this raises a quasi-judicial problem because the council or officer delegated under Clause 53 has only to read the representations put in. If he does not agree with them, all he has to do is to say so. That means that the aggrieved neighbour will at least know that his representations have been considered and are understood. It is much better to provide that a notice should be displayed upon the property in a prominent manner than that a neighbour should find out by chance—by rumour, for example, or from his councillor—that there is something afoot.
Under new Clause 12, councillors would have a part to play in the system. Of course, councillors are busy people 131 and many wards are very large. But if these notices were displayed prominently, anyone failing to read them would have only themselves to blame if ultimately some development took place. I cannot see what extra work and difficulty there would be. If a notice were put on property stating that a person wished to apply for the erection of a garage, it could conceivably affect the next door neighbour but not the whole street.
On the other hand, a proposed development could affect a whole street. In my local authority, if there is a major project it is the council's policy to circularise the owners of adjacent properties so that they may know what is to happen. They are invited to state their views. The hon. and learned Gentleman must not be so intractable over this point. If he cannot go the whole way on the issue, let him give an undertaking that he will do something about it and not just hide behind his remark about the quasi-judicial position.
§ Mr. Murton
But on his own admission the hon. and learned Gentleman will only do it in the case of major schemes. We want the individual to have the right to know what is going on in his road and that is the least that the Government should give to the people.
§ Mr. E. Rowlands
We discussed this matter very fully in Committee, where I exhausted my own personal examples. I am sure that my hon. and learned Friend will be glad to know that. I, too, am surprised that, once again, he has taken a hard line on the issue. He says that he will consider whether classes of application should have to be notified but, as he admitted in Committee, these cover only a small area of planning by comparison with the sort of cases we are considering here. There is need for additional forms of notification where the individual is concerned with individual planning applications.
My hon. and learned Friend says that he has heard the arguments before. We certainly had them in Committee. In new Clause 9 we have tried to meet some of the points he raised then. In particular, we have tried to meet that 132 objection—although I think new Clause 12 does it better—about a quasi-judicial element which would be foreign to our legislation.
I liked the idea, put by the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) in Committee and now again in new Clause 12, that we should bring local councils into this process. This gets over the argument about the serving of a written notice and about the quasi-judicial proceedings which would have to follow. New Clause 12 suggests that, after the notice, individuals who wish to make certain representations should do so in the normal way through their local council.
I see no great principle in this simple proposal that would shake town and country planning. It is argued that there are thousands of applications and that this proposal would cause delay. But the mere fact that there are thousands of applications shows the importance of the matter. In the vast majority of cases, individuals are affected and come into contact with planning only on these small matters. We should not lose the opportunity of the Bill to provide some additions to the safeguards to the individual whose property may be affected by planning applications.
§ Mr. Frederick Silvester (Walthamstow, West)
I want to take up the Minister of State's challenge, not once more to go over the arguments which were put in Committee, but to read something which he said in Committee and to develop my argument from that. One of his strongest arguments in Committee was that people should not be given the impression that they had a right which they did not possess. He said:We must draw a distinction between the objection which is merely an objection based on one's own private property interests and the objection which is on grounds of real planning policy which involve planning principles."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee G, 30th April, 1968; c. 1205.]But I suggest that that is not a real distinction. For most planning authorities, the applications come in fairly thick and fast and are decided upon very local matters, one of these being the extent to which the planning authority receives representations against them. The rights the hon. and learned Gentleman talks about are rights which arise not so much 133 on grounds of law, but on grounds of chance—lor example, whether someone happens for some reason to have heard of a planning application. We may say that there is a right or not, and may set it down in statute. But it is not a proper decision for us to take to allow procedure to continue in which a right may happen to some man but not to another merely through the operation of chance.
The Minister of State has made some concessions and I understand that he is willing to look at the circumstances set out in c. 1186 of THE OFFICIAL REPORT of Standing Committee G. But they cover only a limited range at the moment— things like the disposal of refuse, slaughter houses, knackers' yards and Turkish baths. He may have in mind some extensions but these are not the sort of planning applications most of us are talking about. We are talking about minor things which may nevertheless have a major influence upon the people who happen to live next door.
The hon. and learned Gentleman's major objection—and we sympathise with him—has always been that we would gum up the works by this proposal and that the whole machinery would grind to a grisly halt. But in new Clause 12 we have tried to provide machinery—simpler than that proposed in new Clause 9— which is pre-eminently simple. It does not involve long and complicated participation of third parties in planning applications. It provides a simple machinery whereby they might get to know what was going on. At that point, they could write to their councillor, who would then make their representations known. If those representations were groundless, the council would treat them as such and award the application on straightforward grounds of planning principle. It may be that neighbours will have a genuine point to make and they will be able to make it in a written application.
We are not seeking to extend it. There is no suggestion in this Clause that we should involve them in questions of appeal. While that has been mooted, it would be going much too far, and would take things to absurd lengths. This is a much simpler procedure, and seems eminently reasonable. It is certainly worth a try. If the Minister were to argue, as he did in Committee, that it would snow- 134 ball and demand more participation, then that is a time for him to argue that it has gone far enough and should be stopped. Let us deal with the specific problem that most of us are facing with a specific remedy. I cannot see why he cannot go that little bit further and accept new Clause 12, if not the rather more extensive new Clause 9.
§ Mr. Tony Gardner (Rushcliffe)
I appreciate that my hon. and learned Friend is pressed for time, but we are now discussing the right of an individual to protect his rights and property against encroachment by another private individual.
§ Mr. Gardner
I hope to quote a simple case in a moment. We assume that an individual has the right to defend himself. I am not suggesting that there is an existing right in law, but here we have an individual seeking to defend his rights against encroachment. We must find time to discuss these problems. I appreciate the concession that my hon. and learned Friend made when he said that he would look at the extension in certain directions, but I hope that he can be persuaded to go a little further. All of us who have been in public life know that this area of planning causes more trouble than anything else. I would suggest that the costs of this procedure would not be greater when one remembers the costs incurred by local authorities already.
I want to mention one simple case that occurred recently in my constituency, when a constituent purchased a very nice bungalow in a quiet residential area. He did so to get away from the hurly-burly of the town centre, and paid a great deal of money for the bungalow. Shortly he discovered that works were going on on the site next door. Upon inquiry he found that a two-storey block of flats was being erected. He protested vigorously, but he had not a leg to stand on, because he had protested too late.
Having given up the struggle, he went away on holiday for a fortnight. When he returned he discovered that on top of the second floor, to which he had objected, a third floor was being erected. While he had been on holiday there had been an application for a variation of the consent, and a third storey was going up, 135 with picture windows looking straight into his bedroom, only a matter of feet away. At this stage he came to me, and of course there was nothing that I could do. One would not dream of criticising the local council, because it was acting expressly within the law. Indeed, if it had changed its mind, it would have been involved in very expensive compensation.
I must accept my hon. and learned Friend's argument in relation to subsection (1) of the new Clause. We do not want to bodge up the machinery by spreading out the time-scale for planning applications. We are talking about a period of seven days and a fairly simple procedure. While I appreciate that many of these planning applications are small items, there are larger items, more exceptional, which cause considerable public outcry. The cost of this will not be very great. As I have suggested it will be largely overcome by taking into account the existing costs to which local authorities are put.
There is a distinction to be drawn between the wealthy organisation and the humble individual. If it is a wealthy organisation, or community association, then clearly it will have its own contacts with the council, it will have people scanning the council minutes and watching notice boards. The ordinary individual does not have such opportunities. There is a case, in justice, for the small individual to be distinguished from the large organisation. Whatever the difficulties are about this new Clause, I ask my hon. and learned Friend to reconsider his earlier reply in the context of the flood of inquiries and complaints which we all get as Members of Parliament. If he will accept something like this, he will become a national hero overnight.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Graham Page
I congratulate the hon. Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Mac-donald) on raising this matter. I do not congratulate him on his drafting or upon his arguments, but he has certainly given us a very good debate on an important subject. The House cannot disregard the demand from the public that those affected by planning applications should be enabled to make their voice heard in some way before the local planning authority. We as individual Mem- 136 bers cannot disregard this demand: we have it every week. Every Member gets correspondence on this when development is affecting a constituent or is to take place.
The Minister cannot disregard this demand, as has been shown by the weighty pleading in the house. It is a matter of particular importance in the future having regard to the power of the local planning authority to delegate its functions in dealing with planning applications. This will make the public feel that not even their own councillor knows anything about it, but that it is in the hands of an official. They will not know anything about it, and will feel that the council knows nothing about it. It will not necessarily be true, but this will be the general feeling of the public in future when powers are delegated.
There is no doubt that it is desirable that people should be made aware of planning applications and able to make their voice heard. Is it practical? How can the notice be given? If subsection (1) of this new Clause is not quite practical, does it really matter at this stage? There is a very practical one in new Clause 12. If the Minister likes to substitute one for the other when it gets to another place, that will be all right. We want to see this in the Bill now. We want an assurance that this will happen, and that the Clause will be tidied up later.
At present, one way that the public is notified, if it is one of those harmful types of development coming within Section 15 of the Act, is when there is a Press notice, and in this case I acknowledge that the Minister has given an undertaking to look at this again, and perhaps extend Section 15 to make the notice more effective. This is not enough. It does not meet the case of the ordinary development in the ordinary street.
Then there is Section 16 of the 1962 Act, where notice has to be given by service upon the owners or agricultural tenants, if either of those is not the applicant for planning permission. Otherwise neighbours are not likely to know about a development until it starts. It may be that the requirement of notice on the land on every occasion is impractical. Notice in the vicinity of the land, on the lamposts in the street, is one of the most effective ways of telling people what is 137 happening. I do not think that it can be denied that it is impractical to let members of the public know.
Secondly, having been informed, what are they to do with the information? If they use the information, will they "gum up" the works of planning? I am not using the Minister's words, but that is, in effect, what he suggested—that if the neighbours or anyone else were allowed to make representations it would make planning impossible. I do not think that that is so. Written notice to the local planning authority of the objection and warning one's local councillor and putting him on his guard to see what is happening on behalf of his constituents is always necessary with an obligation such as we mentioned in new Clause No. 12, that the local planning authority shall consider the representations before coming to a decision.
I do not suggest a hearing or litigation between the parties. I merely suggest that those affected by planning applications should have the right to make representations to the people who have to decide them. Nor do I want to produce property rights. This is where the hon. Member for Chislehurst went wrong. He argued too much for the protection of property rights which do not exist. There is no right to a view. There is no right to privacy. Those are not legal rights. We should not use town planning law for that purpose. Certainly we should use it for the protection of the amenities of a district and of a community, even if the community is only a road, but not necessarily for the protection of individual rights of property.
It is rather a legalistic argument to try to distinguish between the rights of the individual property owner and the rights of a neighbourhood. We can leave such matters to the local planning authority to decide when it receives the representations. Do not let us lay down rules about this. Let people send in any objections they like, and let us leave it to the good sense of the local planning authority and the officer whom it appoints to consider these matters to
|Division No. 147.]||AYES||[8.24 p.m.|
|Alison, Michael (Barfcston Ash)||Bessell, Peter||Bossom, Sir Clive|
|AHason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Biffen, John||Bromley-Davenport, Lt. -Col. Sir Walter|
|Astor, John||Biggs-Davison, John||Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)|
|Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n)||Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel||Bruce-Gardyne, J.|
|Baker, Kenneth (Acton)||Boardman, Tom||Buck, Antony (Colchester)|
§ decide whether it is a good objection and whether development should be stopped because the neighbour objects to being overlooked. But let the neighbour make that representation and put forward his objections, and give him the opportunity to do it by giving him notice.
§ Although I should not be satisfied with the drafting of either new Clause No. 9 or new Clause No. 12, I want to see this provision in the Bill now and let it be tidied up later.
§ Mr. Macdonald
I assure my hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State that I was aware that this matter had been discussed in Committee, and I read the report of the proceedings there with great interest and attention. But I am not aware that it is wrong for any hon. Member to be assiduous in pressing something about which he feels strongly, however many times it has been discussed. Many reforms might have fallen by the wayside if the reformers had been faint-hearted.
Since both Front Benches have told me that my draftsmanship is no good, it is as well that I am not vain about my capacity in that respect, and I had better not say anything about it. However, I should like to say a few words about the principle behind what is involved in these proposals. This is nothing to do with litigation, quasi-judicial or otherwise. Citizens are perfectly well aware that it is councillors on local planning authorities who determine town planning applications. But they would like their views to be made known to those councillors before a decision is made. That is all that is involved in these proposals. I thought that that was what the Bill was about—local participation.
I very much regret that my hon. and learned Friend should suggest that this sort of thing was a waste of time. I cannot regard it as a waste of time.
§ Question put, That the Clause be read a Second time: —
§ The House divided: Ayes 109, Noes 152.
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Kershaw, Anthony||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Burden, F. A.||Kirk, Peter||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Clegg, Walter||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Rowlands, E. (Cardiff, N.)|
|Cooke, Robert||Lubbock, Eric||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Costain, A. P.||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Scott, Nicholas|
|Crouch, David||Macdonald, A. H.||Sharples, Richard|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Marten, Neil||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)|
|Dance, James||Maude, Angus||Silvester, Frederick|
|Dean, Paul (Somerset, N.)||Mawby, Ray||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Smith, John (London & W'minster)|
|Eden, Sir John||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Speed, Keith|
|Elliott, R.W.(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,N.)||Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Stainton, Keith|
|Emery, Peter||More, Jasper||Tapsell, Peter|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Eyre, Reginald||Munro-Lucac-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow, Cathcarl)|
|Farr, John||Murton, Oscar||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Fletcher-cooke, Charles||Nabarro, Sir Cerald||Temple, John M.|
|Foster, 8ir John||Onslow, Cranley||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Goodhew, Victor||Page, Graham (Crosby)||Tilney, John|
|Grant, Anthony||Pardoe, John||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)||Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Percival, Ian||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Peyton, John||Webster, David|
|Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Pink, R. Bonner||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William|
|Hill, J. E. B.||Pounder, Rafton||Williams, Donald (Dudley)|
|Holland, Philip||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Iremonger, T. L.||Pym, Francis||Wright, Esmond|
|Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Jennings. J. C. (Burton)||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter||Mr. Timothy Kitson and|
|Mr. Hector Monro.|
|Allen, Scholefleld||Freeson, Reginald||Newens, Stan|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Galpem, Sir Myer||Noel-Baker,Rt.Hn.Philip(Derby,S.)|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Gardner, Tony||Norwood. Christopher|
|Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||Garrett, W. E.||Ogden, Eric|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Gregory, Arnold||O'Malley, Brian|
|Barnett, Joel||Grey, Charles (Durham)||Orbach, Maurice|
|Beaney, Alan||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Orme, Stanley|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly)||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)|
|Blackburn, F.||Hamilton, James (Bothwetl)||Owen Will (Morpeth)|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Hamling, William||Page, Derek (King's Lynn)|
|Boardman, H. (Leigh)||Hannan, William||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles|
|Boyden, James||Harper, Joseph||Park, Trevor|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Parker, John (Dagenham)|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Haseldine, Norman||Pavitt, Laurence|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Henig, Stanley||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)|
|Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper)||Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret||Pentland, Norman|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow. Provan)||Hooley, Frank||Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)|
|Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,W.)||Horner, John||Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)|
|Buchan, Norman||Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Buchanan, Richard (C'gow, Sp'burn)||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Huckfield, Leslie||Robinson, w. 0. J. (Walth'stow,E.)|
|Carmichael, Neil||Hunter, Adam||Roebuck, Roy|
|Chapman, Donald||Hynd, John||Rose, Paul|
|Coe, Denis||Irvine, Sir Arthur||Shaw, Arnold (llford, S.)|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Jay. Rt. Hn. Douglas||Sheldon, Robert|
|Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)||Kelley, Richard||Silkin, Rt. Hn. Jotin (Deptford)|
|Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)||Kenyon, Clifford||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Kerr, Russell (Feltham)||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey||Lawson, George||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Dempsey, James||Lee, Rt, Hn. Frederick (Newton)||Slater, Joseph|
|Dewar, Donald||Loughlin, Charles||small, William|
|Diamond, Rt. Hn. John||Loyn, Alexander W. (York)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Dickens James||MacDermot, Niall||Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)|
|Doig, Peter||Mackenzie Gregor (Rutherglen)||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Dunnett Jack||Mackintosh, John P.||Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley|
|Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)||McNamara, J. Kevin||Swingler, Stephen|
|Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)||MacPherson, Malcolm||Symonds, J. B.|
|Eadie, Alex||Mallalieu,J.P.W.(Huddersfield,E.)||Taveme, Dick|
|Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Marks, Kenneth||Thornton, Ernest|
|Ellis John||Marquand, David||Tinn, James|
|English, Michael||Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy||Urwin, T. W.|
|Evans, loan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)||Mavhew, Christopher||Varley, Eric G.|
|Fernyhough, E.||Mendelson, J. J.||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Millan, Bruce||Walden, Brian (All Saints)|
|Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Miller, Dr. M. S.||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Milne, Edward (Blyth)||Wallace, George|
|Fowler, Gerry||Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|Fraser, John (Norwood)||Moyle, Roland||WatKins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)|
|Whitlock, William||Winnick, David|
|Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Willis, Rt. Hn. George||Woof, Robert||Mr. J. D. Concannon and|
|Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)||Yates, Victor||Mr. Harry Gourlay.|
§ Mr. Murton
On a point of order. Would you agree, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that we should have a vote on new Clause 12 which was coupled with new Clause 9?