HC Deb 25 October 1972 vol 843 cc1228-35

Lords Amendment: No. 271 in page 128, line 20, after "to" insert: section 178 of and Part I of".

The Minister for Local Government and Development (Mr. Graham Page)

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this we are to take Lords Amendments Nos. 272 to 283, 285 to 301, 306 to 308, 310 to 314, 437, 439 to 442 and 445.

Mr. Page

We now reach a group of Amendments about planning. The first group is a tidying-up group, a re-presentation with some improvements. The next group deals with the conservation of listed buildings, but I want to exclude that important matter from the group under No. 271.

Most of the Amendments under No. 271 are technical. They include presentational improvements, such as bringing together in Schedule 16 all the various provisions relating to planning, as well as a number of drafting points, the correction of minor errors, the avoidance of duplication and a number of provisions which vary from a basic allocation of functions between county and district planning authorities, which has already been determined by the House.

I fear that there are many Amendments in the group, but they are of the nature with which one is familiar with this kind of Lords Amendments.

Nos. 271, 272, 273, 274, 276 and 308 pave the way for others with the intention of bringing together in Schedule 16 all the provisions of the Bill which deal with the adaptation of enactments relating to planning. They provide for the existing Schedule 16, which deals with the Town and Country Planning Act, 1971, to be referred to and described as Part I of the Schedule and for the provisions brought forward from Schedule 29 to form the new Part II of the Schedule.

The main purpose—and this runs through all the Amendments—is to prepare for the movement of all these tidying-up Amendments into Part II of the Schedule and to pave the way for Part III into which it is convenient to bring together all the provisions for the obtaining of advice in connection with listed buildings and so on.

5.30 p m.

Amendment No. 274 is merely the correction of an error in a reference to the Town and County Planning Act. It is nothing more than drafting.

Amendment No. 277 enables a district planning authority, when preparing a local plan, to examine certain further matters which may be relevant to the plan where it considers it necessary, bearing in mind the extent to which these matters may already have been covered by the county planning authority's survey carried out in the course of preparation of the structure plan. This is no limit to the district planning authority's powers. In fact, it is an extension, and it will find it a useful reform to the planning law.

Amendments Nos. 278 and 279 are consequential partly on a substantive Amendment made at an earlier stage and partly on the Town and County Planning (Amendment) Act, 1972, an Act which during the course of the proceedings on the Bill has presented us with new problems which were not before us when the Bill was drafted.

Amendment No. 280 allocates to county planning authorities the continuing responsibility for street authorisation maps forming part of the old development plans which are preserved as local plans under the 1971 Act. A street authorisation map enables the local planning authority to define the line of a road in advance of development and so influence the layout.

Amendment No. 281 is purely technical to put right a rather inappropriate phrase.

Amendment No. 282 deals with the requirements that local planning authorities should advertise applications for permission for development affecting the appearance or character of a conservation area. The existing paragraph 21 places this responsibility on the authority by which the application falls to be determined. The Amendment provides instead that it shall rest on the county planning authority in national parks and on the district planning authority elsewhere There was a little ambiguity about this matter previously. I think the Amendment now puts the duties in the right places.

Amendments Nos. 283 and 285 are proposed for the better presentation of provisions which already appear in the Bill. It is a matter where two separate paragraphs could have been misleading and they have been combined into one.

Amendment No. 286 is to improve the drafting of the modifications dealing with which local planning authority is entitled to notification of a reference to a planning inquiry commission. We have taken the opportunity of making a slight reform in the law.

Amendment No. 287 deletes a provision in which powers under the 1971 Act relating to agreements regulating development or use of land, tree preservation and replacement and waste land are allocated to both county and district planning authorities. This is unnecessary, because in another Clause it is clear that "local planning authority" includes both the county and the district planning authorities. Therefore, it is a superfluous phrase which we seek to omit by the Amendment.

Amendment No. 288 inserts a brief description of the section of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1971, to which reference is made. This is merely for the convenience of those using this legislation.

Amendment No. 289 has the same purpose as No. 288—a convenient reference.

Amendment No. 290 seeks to replace in a positive way the description of the authority to exercise certain powers under tree preservation orders made by the Secretary of State. Previously it was in a rather negative form. This turns it into a positive form.

Amendment No. 291 is a drafting Amendment.

Amendment No. 292 is of some importance. Before giving a direction under Section 54 of the 1971 Act, the Secretary of State must consult the local planning authority and the owner and occupier of the building concerned. The Amendment identifies the local planning authority which the Secretary of State must consult. That is the new subsection to paragraph 26.

The Amendment deals with three different points. The second point concerns the new paragraph 27 which makes it clear that the local planning authority entitled, by virtue of the provisions cited in that section, to enter land and carry out works required by an enforcement notice or a discontinuance order, is the authority which served the notice or made the order. It is strange that this is not clear in the existing provisions. However, it is not and we have endeavoured to make it clear here.

Under new paragraph 27(A) we specify which authority is the local planning authority for the purpose of appeals from magistrates' courts to the Crown Court concerning notices relating to waste land.

Amendment No. 293 provides that operations or any uses of land straddling national park boundaries should be county matters. It is important to make that point clear. There are and will be cases where the consideration of planning functions over land which goes across a national park boundary will arise. We make it perfectly clear here that it is a national park matter for the whole of that land.

Amendment No. 294 seeks to adapt the interpretation of "local planning authority" for the purpose of compensation for planning decisions restricting new developments. This has been a difficult point in the past in practice when a local authority has withdrawn planning permission and has been required to pay compensation. In this Amendment and others we have tried to make it clear which authority has to pay the compensation.

Amendment No. 195 deals with an existing provision which relates to the identification of the local planning authority liable to pay compensation in respect of discontinuance orders and stop notices made or served by the Secretary of State. When the Secretary of State, with his default powers, serves one of these notices, local authorities are frequently in a difficult position as to who is liable for compensation if the notice is wrongly served or is set aside by the court later. The new wording provides for the positive identification of the local planning authority which will be liable to pay the compensation arising to be stated in the discontinuance order or the stop notice when it is served.

Amendments Nos. 296 and 297 are concerned with drafting.

Amendment No. 298 deals with compensation to be paid to statutory undertakers on refusal of planning permission. It is a long Clause, but there is nothing very much new in it. One of the new provisions is that the local authority which took the planning decision or served the enforcement notice on the statutory undertakers pays the compensation.

Amendment No. 299 relates to purchase notices concerning blighted property. As the House knows, the Secretary of State has to confirm these blight notices before they are effective. Before confirming the notice or taking any other action which he is required to take he has to give notice of his proposed action to the person who serves the notice, to the council on which the notice is served, and to the local planning authority in whose area the land is situated. The Amendment makes it clear to whom he should give notice before confirming the blight notice.

Paragraph 32A in Amendment No. 299 deals with compensation provisions applicable when a purchase notice is served under the Town and Country Planning Act, 1971. Paragraph 32B simply ensures consistency with the allocation of highway functions. Paragraph 32C substitutes a fresh definition of "competent authority" when the question of stopping up footpaths and bridleways arises.

Amendment No. 300 deals with the situation that formerly only county councils and county borough councils could be constituent authorities of a joint planning board. The revised provision enables the Secretary of State to establish a joint planning board consisting either of county councils or of district councils. Paragraph 35B of the Amendment is consequential on the substitution in relation to the administration of national parks. I am endeavouring to deal only with those matters where something new arises and it is not merely a question of repetition of the existing law.

In Amendment No. 301 there is a new paragraph 35A identifying the local authority for the purpose of the blight caused by proposals to construct trunk or special roads. Anyone who suffers from blight needs to know on whom to serve the purchase notice. Paragraph 35B in the Amendment is rather technical. Its effect is to make clear which local planning authority has a right of appeal to the High Court against certain decisions of the Secretary of State in respect of planning orders. Paragraph 35C provides for the interpretation of references to a local planning authority in Section 276 of the 1971 Act. The Amendment provides that the obligation on the Secretary of State to consult the local planning authority before exercising his default powers should be limited to consultation with one authority, although I give the assurance that he will consult more widely when that course is appropriate.

Amendment No. 306 ensures that the validity of any revocation, modification or discontinuance order or of any enforcement or stop notice should not be questioned in any proceedings on the ground that the wrong authority had taken the action. One might feel that that would be a little unfair for the person on whom the notice is served, but it is a reasonable provision because we wish these notices to take effect at once. If they are invalidated by a technicality, one is back to square one and perhaps a great deal of damage has been done to the environment in the meantime.

The purpose of Amendment No. 307 is to provide that the provisions of the paragraphs set out in the Amendment shall apply to Greater London. Amendments Nos. 310, 311, 312, 313 and 314 are purely drafting Amendments. Amendment No. 437 is consequential on the new planning arrangements. It avoids the need for the duplication of certain notices and identifies the authority to which certain applications should be made.

5.45 p.m.

Amendment No. 442 is consequential. It identifies the planning authority with which ecclesiastical authorities are to deal in the treatment of redundant churches. Amendment No. 443 is a drafting Amendment which removes ambiguity. Amendment No. 444 concerns the application of the audit provisions for the City of London. Amendment No. 445 deletes a reference to the Building Restrictions (War-Time Contraventions) Act, 1946, which now appears in another Amendment.

I apologise for the length of this group of Amendments, but they all have the purpose of putting all the planning matters which affect local authorities into one Schedule and taking the opportunity to tidy up some of the provisions, remove some of the ambiguities and put them in a form which will be convenient to those who use the legislation.

Mr. Arthur Blenkinsop (South Shields)

We all welcome the fact that the Minister has taken the trouble to go through the Amendments in some detail. It was right that he should do so, because we have been confronted with an enormous number of Amendments and it is not easy in a short time to work out how important they are and what changes, if any, they involve. We accept that they represent a series of tidying-up operations.

I should like the Minister to give us an assurance on one point. I assume that the Amendments do not make any change in the previous arrangements concerning where responsibility lies as between the two tiers of authority. On Amendment No. 299 the Minister referred to the provision dealing with the stopping up of highways and footpaths. I take it that that involves no change for local authorities. The words which appear in line 16 on page 6 of the Notice Paper suggest a change in the authority responsible for the diversion of highway. As many of the bodies concerned with this matter are not likely to be able to call on expert advice at short notice, I should like to have the Minister's assurance that this does not involve any major change in existing practice.

Mr. Graham Page

With the leave of the House, I give the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop) that assurance. At certain points we have said which local authority is liable for compensation, which local authority shall be consulted by the Secretary of State and which local authority shall be entitled to receive certain notices, but the functions themselves are not changed in any respect throughout these Amendments.

On the particular Amendment to which the hon. Gentleman referred the position is that orders under Section 209 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1971, which enable the Secretary of State by order to authorise the stopping up of a portion of the highway may contain a provision for the protection of highways other than the highway which is being stopped up or diverted. He may specify in the order which local authority shall be the highway authority for that other highway. Under the present provisions of the Section the Secretary of State may specify any local authority for that purpose. The allocation of highway functions outside Greater London requires that this provision should in future apply only to county councils, and that is what the Amendment achieves. It removes a discretion of the Secretary of State to choose who shall deal with the highway. Since we have allotted the highway function under the Bill to counties, he must in the order say which is the county which will deal with that other highway next to the one stopped up.

Question put and agreed to.

Subsequent Lords Amendments agreed to.

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