HC Deb 23 October 1968 vol 770 cc1468-72

Lords Amendment No. 78: In page 42, line 46, after Amendment last inserted, insert new Clause "G":

Mr. Murton

I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, in line 7, leave out 'seven' and insert 'fourteen'.

The new Clause requires the local planning authority to put into effect special publicity for planning applications affecting the service areas which are referred to in Section 1(6) of the Civic Amenities Act, 1967, but subsection (2) provides that The authority shall for not less than seven days display a notice on or near the land". I want to know why the period is only seven days. Section 1(6)(a) of the Civic Amenities Act, 1967, lays down that a notice shall be published in the local newspaper setting out details regarding the development application, which shall be available for public inspection from twenty-one days from the publication of the notice. Yet the new Clause provides only seven days.

I admit that the Minister will probably have drafted this new Clause before the imposition by his right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General upon the long-suffering British public of the two-tier postal system, which will mean that even at the 5d. rate no aggrieved person will have a chance of getting an answer back within seven days. If the land to be developed is in a comparatively isolated area, down a less-frequented side road, or for some other reason is not considered to be a threat to amenity, we suggest that 14 days at least are necessary.

I hope that the Minister will accept the Amendment.

Mr. Skeffington

I cannot recommend the House to accept the Amendment. The seven-day notice is an additional period. It has to be there to give warning or notice that a certain development is likely to take place. It is itself an additional period of delay before the person wishing to carry out the development can have his application for planning permission dealt with by the local authority.

As the hon. Gentleman said, under Section 1(6) of the Civic Amenities Act, 28 days must elapse from the receipt of an application before it can be considered. If his Amendment were accepted, it would be a period of 35 days. That seems to be an unreasonably long time to elapse before an application is even considered.

In the Clause, we have carried out the requirements about giving applications adequate publicity, for which we were pressed constantly. We have done it in various ways, at the same time not making for too long a delay before the developer can know that his application is being considered, and all the steps which may flow from that. Taking the best advice that we can, we think that this is an adequate period.

The posting of site notices is only one way in which developments are made known to people, but it is a new and important one. It will be noticed immediately in most cases, and we think that we have the balance right here. I could not advise the House to accept 14 days.

Mr. Graham Page

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman cannot accept the Amendment. It will not delay planning applications if the period of seven days is extended to 14. It is seven days within a period of a month. Neighbours arc not given sufficient time if the notice is exhibited for only seven days.

Think of the man away on holiday. Think of the man away on a job during the week, in which case there will be only one weekend in which he can see the notice, which is, after all, intended to let neighbours know about what they may think of as a harmful development.

We are dealing here not only with cases of conservation areas, but with Lords Amendment No. 132, which is the new Clause dealing with the display of notices. It is a very important Clause which was urged upon the Government both by the Opposition and by their own back bench Members. We joined in hoping that a Clause of this kind would appear in the Bill. Now it has appeared, and we welcome it, but we should get it right now that we have it there.

I hoped that the Government would accept this slightly longer period for the display of notices, so that the display was to some purpose and would be seen by neighbours and those who thought that they might be injured by the development.

Since we are discussing Lords Amendment No. 132 and the whole of the new Clause about the display of notices, perhaps I might address some remarks to the cases in which the new Clause will apply. I refer to subsection (1) and the very valuable procedure of posting site notices prior to planning applications. If I read that correctly, it is to apply only in cases where Section 15 of the 1962 Act applies. These are cases which are prescribed by the Minister. Up to the present, he has chosen to prescribe only the cases where harm is obvious.

Unfortunately, I have not the cases before me, but my recollection is that they are more objectionable features like public lavatories, knackers' yards, fish and chip shops, and that sort of development. In those cases there has to be publication of notices in the newspapers, and all the procedure under Section 15 of the Act applies. These were not the sort of cases which we had in mind when we were urging the Government to produce some clause for posting site notices. We had in mind the ordinary cases in which one neighbour might be intending to develop his land to the severe detriment of another, and that all those who might be affected should have a chance of making their voices heard, through their local councillor representing their ward, by the appropriate committee of the council. This is the kind of case to which we hoped this would apply. But it has been restricted—wrongly, I suggest—to those cases which, up to now, we have known as very serious cases in which the Minister has made an order.

12.30 a.m.

I had hoped that the new Clause could be quite independent of section 15 of the 1962 Act and that the procedure for posting site notices could apply to ordinary cases of planning applications—not the sort of case envisaged by Section 15 of the 1962 Act and certainly not only the sort of case which appears in regulations under that Section.

There is still time for the Minister to have second thoughts and to see that this clause and new Clause "M" can be applied to any sort of planning application where he thinks that the neighbours ought to be well informed before the application goes forward for consideration by the local authority.

Mr. Skeffington

With the leave of the House, I should like to make two points.

First, Section 15 is a good deal wider than the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) suggests. It covers all kinds of places of entertainment, for example. We will be looking into this matter. I give no undertaking, because I am in no position to give one now. However, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. MacDermot) at an earlier stage of the Bill, pointed out the practical difficulties of suggesting that site notices could be everywhere. Nevertheless, we will not close our minds to this matter; we will consider it.

Secondly, I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has given a general welcome to the new Clause. I feel that perhaps we should make at least one concession at this hour of the night. Therefore, I advise the House, when we come to it, to accept 14 days instead of seven days.

Question put and negatived.

Lords Amendment agreed to.