HL Deb 21 May 1963 vol 250 cc140-66

2.11 p.m.

Order of the Day for the House to be again in Committee read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD MERTHYR in the Chair.]

Clause 24 [Local planning authorities]:

LORD SILKIN moved, after subsection (7), to insert: ( ) The Greater London Council, after consultation with the London borough councils and the Common Council, shall prescribe standards of plot ratio, density, car parking, daylighting and such other matters of a like planning nature in relation to applications for planning permission under the Planning Act as the Greater London Council shall think fit. ( ) Before a London borough council or the Common Council grant permission on an application involving a substantial departure from the standards to be prescribed under the last foregoing subsection, the application shall be referred to the Greater London Council, who may give to the referring council directions as to the manner in which the application is to be dealt with.

The noble Lord said: I beg to move this Amendment standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Latham. This Amendment falls into two parts. The first part provides that the Greater London Council should prescribe standards of plot ratio, density, car parking, daylighting, and so on, of a planning nature, which world be applicable throughout the Greater London area. The second part provides that before a borough council makes any substantial departure from these standards it should refer the application to the Greater London authority for their observations. I do not think there can be any serious dispute as to the desirability of having common standards for the whole of the Greater London area. It would be ridiculous if you had each borough council adopting its own standards in the various respects that I have set out in the Amendment: for instance, daylighting, plot ratio, facilities for car parking, and so on.

I mentioned density, but that does not mean, of course, that there must he a uniform standard of density throughout the County of London. I hope the noble Lord who is going to reply does not interpret my Amendment in that way. But there should be a common principle of density; that is to say, that in similar areas there should be similar densities. Obviously, density will vary from place to place throughout the Greater London area. There will be some places where the density will be high, others where it will be low. The same might apply to some of the other items mentioned in respect of which it is proposed to lay dawn standards. But the general advantage of having standards for the whole of Greater London cannot be denied. As I have said, it would be absurd if you had one London borough adopting one standard and an adjoining borough adopting another. I think that that principle has been accepted in another place.

The question in my Amendment is really this: what is the best form for getting these principles carried out? My Amendment proposes that the Greater London Authority should itself lay down these standards after consultation with the borough councils; that they should be flexible and capable of being altered as is the present system to-day—the London County Council frequently changes, as circumstances dictate, the standards in these various respects; that they should be capable of being altered without any great legal or constitutional difficulties. As I understand it, the Government take the view that these standards should be laid down in the written statement submitted by the Greater London Council as part of the Greater London plan, and that the statement can be reviewed from time to time as the plan itself is reviewed. I think I have stated what is the real issue.

The objection to the latter course is this. Once you have these standards laid down in a written statement, and you make it part of the plan, it can be altered only at the next general review. Any departure from the standards involves a departure from the plan itself. So if, for instance, somebody wanted to put up a building which was rather higher than the height laid down in the standards, this would be a material alteration of the development plan, which would require to be dealt with by the Minister and would probably involve a public inquiry. That, I submit, is making heavy weather of what might be a relatively unimportant matter. If somebody wanted to build to a somewhat higher density, it may be, than that laid down in the standard, it might be thought that that would be something to which in the special circumstances of the case no objection need be taken. But if it formed part of the development plan itself, and were incorporated in the written statement, the planning authority—neither the borough council nor the Greater London Council—would have the power to depart from it; it would be a matter which would have to go to the Minister for determination. In a relatively simple case to which no objection would he taken there might not be a need for a public inquiry, but if there were any objection it would be in the Minister's discretion and I think that normally he would hold a public inquiry.

It is because we feel that this procedure is an unnecessary one, unnecessarily complicated, time-consuming and expensive, and inflexible and rigid, that we want to give the Greater London Council the power to lay down these standards and to be able to alter them from time to time as circumstances dictate. We also want the London boroughs to be required to inform the Greater London Council of any application which departs from these standards, so that there can be discussion between them and, in proper cases, a departure can be made.

So, as I understand it, unless the noble Lord who is going to reply tells me otherwise, the difference between us is simple: whether these standards should be laid down in a written statement and should form part of the plan which, as I say, would be unduly rigid and restrictive and would lay itself open to the objections that I have set out; or whether it should be done by way of laying down the standards by the Greater London Council, which would be flexible and could be changed from time to time as circumstances dictated, and where it would normally be unnecessary to trouble the Minister or to hold a public inquiry. It is for these reasons that I am moving this Amendment. In another place the Minister promised to consider the matter, but in view of the haste with which the Proceedings were taken there, he never found the opportunity for making a statement as the result of his consideration. I hope that the result of that consideration may be favourable this afternoon, and that the noble Lord will be able to say that he accepts the principle of this Amendment, even if he finds that some words may need altering, in which case should be very happy to withdraw the Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 34, line 18, at end insert the said subsections.—(Lord Silkin.)

2.20 p.m.


The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, has put a reasoned case in favour of his Amendment. I believe that the London County Council do in fact treat matters in this way. Anyway, they keep outside the development plan these matters of plot ratio, car parking, densities and so on. Therefore, it might be supposed it would be convenient to the Greater London Council to pursue the same method. This Amendment would in fact make any departure from the proposed standards prescribed in the first paragraph of the Amendment equivalent to a departure from the plan, but the standards would not be subject to the procedure of publication, inquiry and approval to which the development plan itself is of course subjected. The noble Lord thinks that this might be a convenience, but I think we are bound to ask ourselves if that is really right.

As the noble Lord himself said, he realises that the Government did take the opposite view. This matter has been gone into very carefully. We feel that these matters which are mentioned in the noble Lord's Amendment are very important ones, and if they are to be formalised at all—and we agree that they should be prescribed; we entirely agree that there must be common standards in these matters, at any rate within practical possibilities, within the Greater London area—they should be included in the development plan written statement. The effect of that would of course be to give such formalisation statutory significance. In that way, as a result, the machinery of publication and right of objection would enable those affected to express their views, as can be done for any other development plan provision. The noble Lord has argued that this would be too rigid and too complicated; that it would not be possible to make changes. But I would point out to him that amendments to the London plan in general are in the pipe-line, so to speak, all the time. It is a continuing process. The plan is being considered continually; and they would not have to wait for a five-year review before changing any particular standards if that were to be agreed upon. Such an alteration can be made by amendment of the plan at any time.

We do feel that these standards have a great impact, for instance, on the cost of development and on land use, and they should not be varied very often or lightly. Therefore, when they are, we think it is appropriate that they should be scrutinised just as carefully as any other development requirement. An individual departure does not necessarily mean that that departure would have to go to the Minister for his decision. It could be quite a simple departure from the plan, as the noble Lord said; and, if it is not substantial, it could be settled by the Greater London Council and the local borough in consultation together. We do not think, therefore, that there would be a whole string of needless public inquiries foisted upon the public purse. On the other hand, we do think that as in the Bill all the normal planning procedure is to remain in operation, and people are to be given opportunities of raising their objections in respect of many matters in the Bill, it is better to continue that throughout also in respect of standards. We feel that they are so much part of the general development plan—and that the facilities for changing them when necessary are there—that people should really be given the opportunity; and we think they have the right to be able to express their views when there is any considerable change from the standards.

Therefore, on consideration, or on reconsideration, we are not really able to accept the noble Lord's Amendment in favour of the other course, although we appreciate that he is trying to cut out any deadweight, so to speak, that there might be in the process. We feel, on balance, that this is the right course; that people will have advice, and they should have advice, in such charges; that it will not lead to an undue quantity of public inquiries, and that it will not lead to a stratification or stagnation of the plan, which will be adaptable from time to time as may be agreed between the Greater London Council and the local authorities. I hope that, with that explanation, the noble Lord may feel it unnecessary to press his Amendment.


I am really rather surprised by what the noble Lord says. He seems to be unaware that the procedure which he is now proposing must inevitably entail very considerable delays and be complicated. It has been the practice of the L.C.C. for many years to vary standards as and when it has seemed necessary for such variations. There is, of course, a right of appeal to the Minister. But the necessity to make variations rapidly and quickly has been found to be present. Indeed, I would suggest to the noble Lord that no objection has ever been made to this course, and it has been a way in which the Council has avoided that rigidity and that slowness of action of which it is sometimes accused, I think unjustly. I do suggest to the noble Lord that he should take this back and reconsider it. We have a system working at the present time. You can judge from its work how well it functions, and I see no reason at all to introduce another system, and one which is inevitably—and I repeat, inevitably—extremely complicated and dilatory.


I want only to say that I do not think the noble Lord really appreciates what is involved in going to the Minister and applying for a review of the existing plan. He seems to think that these reviews are always in the pipe-line, and that it is simply a matter of going to the Minister and getting a reply by return of post, and so on. I can assure him that every review is a matter not of months but of years. It takes a very long time before you get a decision from the Ministry on any review of a plan. I have known cases where it has taken more than two years. I think he really underestimates what is involved, and the difficulties there will be if the Greater London authority, wherever in the light of experience it thinks it necessary to change its standards, has to go through the procedure of putting this change through the pipeline. As my noble friend has just said, this has been going on for years and years.

The other day I referred to my chairmanship of the Housing Committee. I was also chairman of the Town Planning Committee for five years. We frequently changed our standards, and there was never any difficulty about it. The thing worked quite smoothly: nobody ever objected. It was done after full consultation with the metropolitan boroughs and the public had every opportunity of expressing their dissatisfaction with the standards. They could appeal to the Minister; and that was a much quicker process than a review of the plan. This is not a matter we can argue about at great length. I feel, in the light of the arguments put forward, that it is a matter which ought to be reconsidered to see whether we can devise something much simpler than going through the machinery of having a review of the plan itself with all the consequent delay.


Naturally, I listened very carefully to the noble Lord, and also to the noble Lord, Lord Faringdon. I do not think we can say this is a matter of principle. We want to get the thing right, and I should like to reconsider this point. I cannot accept the noble Lord's Amendment; but I think he has said sufficient for me to take up this matter and see which side has the better arguments. I should like to do that and to come back at the Report stage and tell noble Lords the result.


I am grateful to the noble Lord. I hope he will give me the opportunity of a discussion about this matter if he is still of the same mind before the Report stage; otherwise we might very well have simply a repetition of the Government's argument. But, having said that, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment, with thanks to the noble Lord for the reconsideration.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 24, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 25 and 26 agreed to.

Clause 27 [Supplementary provisions as to development plans]:

2.33 p.m.

LORD CHAMPION moved, after subsection (3), to insert: (4) The London borough councils and the Common Council, before preparing their respective local development plans or any proposals under Clause 26(3) of this Act, shall consult with the Greater London Council, and before submitting the said plans or proposals to the Greater London Council shall give that Council an opportunity to make representations with respect to the plan or proposals, and shall consider any representations so made.

The noble Lord said: In moving this Amendment I have to refer first of all to Clause 27(3), which reads: The Greater London Council, before preparing the Greater London development plan or any proposals under section 26(1) or (2) of this Act, shall consult with the London borough councils and the Common Council or, in the case of any such proposals, with such of those councils as are affected by the proposals, and before submitting the plan or proposals to the Minister shall give to each of those councils an opportunity to make representations with respect to the plan or proposals and shall consider any representations so made. It will be seen that in the preparation of the Greater London plan, or when proposals are made to alter that plan under the quinquennial review, the Bill makes provision for the boroughs and Common Council to be consulted by the Greater London Council. They are to have the right to be consulted at the formative stage of the Greater London Council's preparation of the development plan or initiation of any proposals to vary that plan. My noble friends and I think that this is the right way to do it, so far as the Greater London Council's plan is concerned; but we also think that this Bill should make provision for the converse right, the right of the Greater London Council to be consulted by the borough councils when they are in the process of formulating their plans.

Under the provisions of the Bill the functions of the Greater London Council in relation to local development plans are limited, as the noble Lord knows, to making observations when forwarding, the plans, as transmitting agents, to the Minister. The Greater London Council, it is true, will have the right to require the boroughs to reconsider any provisions in the local development plans which, in the Greater London Council's opinion, involves a departure from the Greater London Council's development plan itself; or to veto any such provision, if the boroughs agree. In the event of any disagreement over the use of this veto, the Minister, of course, will have to be brought in, and he will take the final decision. Those powers given to the Greater London Council in relation to the boroughs' development plans are not inconsiderable powers, but they are very much in the nature of negative controls. We feel that it would be preferable if provision were made here for a more positive and constructive rôle to be played by the Greater London Council.

The noble Lord, Lord Hastings, speaking on the Second Reading of this Bill, said that the Greater London Council will be a very different body from a joint board with advisory consultative or co-ordinating functions. They will be a body with very wide and real powers. I gathered from that part of the noble Lord's speech that the Greater London Council would be in a much stronger position, from the advisory consultative or co-ordinating point of view, than a joint board (and that, I believe, is in the mind of the noble Lord), and also that these functions would, in fact, be an inherent part, though only a part, of much wider powers than those which a joint board, possessing all the powers we have been talking about up to now, would have. It is because the very functions mentioned by the noble Lord are not made available to the Greater London Council by this Bill that we propose this Amendment.

The object of the Amendment can be summarised as follows: it would enable the Greater London Council to play a constructive part in the preparation of a borough's development plan; it would ensure that such plans are properly co-ordinated with those of adjoining authorities. That is essential in this continuous built-up area which the Greater London Council will cover. The Amendment would enable the Greater London Council to ask the boroughs at a very early stage to consider some proposal which they might have in their mind and which, although not a departure from the Greater London Council's development plan, might nevertheless be undesirable from the wider and more regional point of view.

It would also, as I have said before—and I stress this—give the Greater London Council powers in the converse direction to those that we are giving under this Bill to the London boroughs. It would enable, too, the Greater London Council to consider any novel point that might be in the boroughs' minds at a very early stage—for we have to remember (and it was mentioned in the reply to the previous Amendment) that the Greater London development plan is expected to be a very general one in character. We want this Bill to give to the Greater London Council strong powers to see that sensible interlocking and effective plans are made by the boroughs that cover the central area—to use the words that were used by the Minister in another place. Instead of a development problem between the Greater London Council and the borough being resolved by the Minister after all the procedure has been gone through, it would be much better for such a problem to be tackled at an early and formative stage in the preparation of the borough's development plan. Our Amendment would not prevent boroughs from insisting that their proposals go forward to the Minister, but it would insist on the maximum of consultation between the boroughs and tint council: that upon the Council must fall the task of ensuring that London as a whole has a sensible development plan and that the boroughs' development plans both interlock with one another and fit into the overall plan. For these reasons, I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name.

Amendment moved— Page 37, line 41, at end insert the said subsection.—(Lord Champion.)


The noble Lord, Lord Champion, has naturally drawn attention to the fact that the Greater London Council has to consult the borough councils in respect of the Greater London development plan before sending it to the Minister, and he reasons that it would be only logical that the reverse should happen when the borough councils are making their plans and that these should be submitted formally to the Council. The reason why we thought it right to make the Greater London Council consult the borough councils over its Greater London plan before sending it to the Minister is that, if there was no such provision in the Bill, it would be possible, although perhaps not likely, that the Council could make its overall plan without consulting the borough councils and without taking into consideration what they may have to say about it.

When we consider that the borough councils are going to be controlled by the Greater London plan and will be responsible for the development plans in their own areas, it is only common sense that they should see the Greater London plan in advance and be able to make observations upon it. The development plans for the London boroughs will not be going straight to the Minister. They will be going, in any case, to the Greater London Council, which will be able to get anything contrary to the Greater London plan deleted or altered in the borough plan. We think it unlikely that the borough council would go far with its local plan without consulting the Council on an informal basis. We think it better to leave matters like that and to encourage early informal exchanges rather than to write specific requirements into the Bill. When the Greater London Council and the borough councils are in the saddle, and if this arrangement does not work out as expected in any particular instance, the Minister can deal with it by regulation under Section 10(2) of the Planning Act. So that, in order to correct things, this Amendment is not necessary.

The matter really comes down to a question of whether formal or informal consultation is preferable and likely to be the more effective. The noble Lord will realise that formal consultation will mean discussion in full council and that these technical matters can be dealt with much more expeditiously and effectively by informal consultations. We feel that things can work as they are without any difficulty and without leading to the production by the boroughs of plans which are going to be thrown out by the Council, and thus wasting time.


There seems to me, little between the two sides on this point; indeed, both seem to want exactly the same thing. The noble Lord, Lord Hastings, said that he expects the kind of consultation which my noble friend has asked for in his Amendment. But the informal consultations to which the noble Lord refers may not take place. Evidently the noble Lord thinks, as we do, that it is highly desirable that they should take place before the London Development Plan is crystallised and before a certain amount of amour propre has perhaps become involved; and therefore it is easier to discuss the matter in advance. If it is not put into the Bill, as suggested by the Amendment, we may always find a case where the informal discussions have not taken place. As the noble Lord desires this to occur, it seems to me that he might easily accept this Amendment, and with advantage.


I do not think I can accept the Amendment. As I said, the Minister has power to deal with this situation. But, as the noble Lord said, there is little between us, and I do not mind reconsidering this point to see whether it is really desirable to put in statutory consultation or not. I do not feel very strongly about it, and I should like to find out first whether other people do. If I may consider this, I should be willing to do so.


I would ask one question about this statutory consultation. Would it not be the case that it would have to be formal consultation, and therefore would have to wait until the appropriate committee of the local authority met? As heard only to-day, a prominent builder has called attention to the delay which arises over applications for planning permission. I hope that the Government will bear this in mind and make certain that there will be informal consultation, because formal consultation might result in a delay of anything up to six months when committees do not meet frequently. I am glad that the Government are going to consider this matter again. I hope that they will bear in mind that anything written into the Statute requiring formal consultation is likely to slow down even more the already slow process of obtaining planning permission.


What the noble Lord says is quite right, and that is why we are rather reluctant to put it into the Bill. It seems to me that noble Lords opposite have been arguing in opposite directions on the last two Amendments. On the last Amendment, they wished to have matters speeded up, and the effect of this Amendment would be to cause delay that we are anxious to avoid. It is clear that these are matters easily balanced one way or another.


The noble Lord twits us with being a little inconsistent on these two Amendments. I have quoted before the words of Emerson: A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines". We are perfectly consistent about these two Amendments, which deal with two different points. I am bound to recognise the force of some of the arguments used by the noble Lord and by the noble Lord, Lord Molson. We do not want to clutter up this machine with too much formal consultation. On the other hand, we did want to make sure that at the appropriate stage the Greater London Council should come into the consultations. If that can be done informally, all the better. The noble Lord has also reminded us of a power which the Minister has to deal with any difficulties which might be seen to arise in the regulations he may make under another clause of the Bill. In the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment, and look forward to any proposal that may be put forward on the Report stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 27 agreed to.

Clause 28 [Buildings of special architectural or historic interest]:

2.51 p.m.

LORD FARINGDON moved to add to subsection (2)(b): and with copies of any applications for planning permission received by the borough council or the Common Council affecting any building included in any supplementary list of buildings of architectural or historic interest compiled or approved by the Minister".

The noble Lord said: This Amendment is intended to help an object which is, I think, of interest to all Members of the Committee, be they Londoners or not, because I am sure all of us are interested in the preservation of our national monuments and fine buildings, which, alas! are disappearing only too rapidly, not only in London but all over the country. Most of your Lordships will probably be aware that the really crucial matter in the preservation of historic buildings is the speed with which the authority is informed of their danger.

Historic buildings have been put by the Minister on two lists. There is what is called the statutory list, which was the earlier list to come into existence, and on which the most obviously important buildings of this city are included. There is also what is called the supplementary list. As I say, the most important buildings will be found on the statutory list, but the fact that a building is on the supplementary list and not on the statutory list is not necessarily an indication of its lesser importance. Its importance may not have been noticed at the time when the statutory list was being drawn up, but discovered later, and it has been put on the supplementary list. I would add that the procedure of putting a building on the supplementary list is much simpler and depends entirely on the Minister.

All that the Amendment suggests is that (as has happened in the past) the borough councils and the Greater London Council shall be informed of the buildings which are on, not only the statutory list but also the supplementary list. I suggest that this is of great importance in protecting our city: for if you do not inform the authorities concerned of the buildings which are on the supplementary list, it may well be that irreparable damage will have been done before the planning authority knows what is happening. In fact, the same procedure takes place in an authority, be it a borough or the central authority, in order to obtain preservation; that is to say, a building preservation order is applied and the owner may apply for a compulsory purchase order against the authority. That order can be put on any building, whether it is listed or not; but, none the less, the really essential thing, I suggest, is that the authority should be informed in time of the threat. To this end, I have put down this Amendment, so that the buildings on both lists will be circulated to the appropriate authorities. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 40, line 44, at end insert the said words.—(Lord Faringdon.)


I hope the Government will give sympathetic consideration to this Amendment. Its purpose, as I read it, is only to bring to the attention of the local authorities a list which has been compiled under the direction of the Minister; and that there should be the fullest information given in good time, before any decision is taken, would seem merely to be making more effective the procedure of having the list prepared.


The noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, has put the case for this Amendment very clearly and, I would add, very fairly, and I think we are all well aware of the contribution he has made, and is making, in this field in London. I think it is also fair for me to remind your Lordships that the clause in the Bill, as it now stands, was strengthened with the Government's approval in another place. As originally drafted, the powers which the G.L.C. are going to have under the Bill were only to run in certain prescribed areas, and not, as now, over the whole of the Greater London area.

I think I might also add by way of introduction that we feel it right that the Council should additionally be informed of planning applications affecting listed buildings—that is, Grade I and Grade II buildings in London—as well as receiving formal notices under the 1962 Act, and we propose, as my noble friend Lord Hastings mentioned on Second Reading, to provide accordingly in the regulations to be made under the Clause 24 machinery which we discussed at some length yesterday evening. I should also like to mention that it is our hope that the G.L.C. will take over the historic buildings section of the L.C.C., which, as I am sure we should all agree, possesses a unique blend of scholarship and practical experience in this field. I am convinced that we have been right to give the G.L.C. concurrent powers with the boroughs in this field, as is now done under subsection (2), I think it is, of this clause.

The noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, supported by a doughty preservationist, if I may so term him, in my noble friend Lord Molson, wishes to go a stage further and to include the supplementary list buildings—namely, the Grade III buildings—also under this umbrella. I am not quite certain as to how I should advise your Lordships on this matter. I should like to remind the Committee of the factual postiion here. On the whole, despite what the noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, said, Grade III buildings are those which are considered in the main not to be of sufficient merit or importance to justify being brought within the requirements of Section 33 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1962. They are not listed in any legal sense, and the supplementary list is purely an administrative creation. Despite what the noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, said—and I have a great deal of sympathy for what he is saying here—they are, on the whole, of relatively lesser and rather more local interest than Grade I and Grade II buildings. For these reasons, I have some doubt as to whether we should by Statute automatically involve the Greater London Council in matters affecting the preservation of these buildings. Of course, if needed by the borough concerned, as it might well be, the Greater London Council's advice on such buildings could well be sought.

Having said that, I should like to add a further word—and I hope that it may go some way towards reassuring the noble Lord. As I am sure he well knows, a certain number of Grade III buildings in London have recently been promoted to the statutory list. They are, for the most part, Victorian buildings or groups of less important Georgian houses. Where there is a group, although the individual building may not be of great merit, the group itself is sometimes of the greatest importance to a street scene. I am willing to give the noble Lord an assurance that if the London County Council consider that there are groups of buildings at present in Grade III on the supplementary list which should be promoted to the statutory list, then the Minister is willing to consider sympathetically the possibility of upgrading them. Given that assurance, and given the fact that we have already in another place enlarged quite considerably the scope of this subsection, I would suggest to the noble Lord that he should not press this Amendment.


I think we ought to press this matter a little further. One of the dangers about all this is that often the public never get to know of the applications involving buildings of this kind until it is too late and permission has been given. The noble Earl, no doubt, has his own experience of this. Over and over again we have found that an application for the demolition of a building in the supplementary list has been granted, though the building is worth preserving and of importance, and, if attention had been drawn to it, might well have been upgraded. No publicity is normally given to these applications for permission to demolish: they are dealt with by the local planning authority in committee, often en bloc, in large numbers, and the decision to allow an application is given without any opportunity for the public to make representations. This would be one way at least of giving some publicity to the matter.

If the borough councils were required to notify the Greater London Council, in many cases the Greater London Council might take the view that no harm would be done if the application were granted. On the other hand, if they felt that some step ought to be taken, it would give an opportunity, a breathing space, for some publicity and action to be taken. Therefore, while appreciating that the Government have somewhat modified their view as compared with the Bill as originally drawn, I do not think that as drawn, it goes far enough, and I believe this is a matter which ought to be reconsidered by the noble Earl.


The noble Earl seems to have been convinced in the course of his speech by his own eloquence. He started by saying that he was in some doubt as to what to advise your Lordships to do about this. He finished up by advising your Lordships completely certainly, what to do about it. It can have been only his eloquence that convinced him. It certainly cannot have been his logic, because his argument, as he developed it from the logical point of view, surely points entirely towards supporting my noble friend's Amendment. If he had been able to maintain that the Grade III list was solely a list of relatively unimportant but quite attractive buildings, then he might have carried your Lordships, including myself. But when he comes out and tells us that in point of fact in recent times some of the Grade III building have been promoted to the statutory list, he makes it quite clear that Grade III is not an absolute but a purely relative term and, therefore, continually changing, as tastes change, as buildings get older, as certain buildings disappear, and others become rarer examples. That surely means that, as we know that the statutory list cannot be modified from week to week—it must take some time to keep it continuously up to date—it is more than ever essential that the local councils should be made aware of what is on the Grade III list. So I hope your Lordships will pay more attention to the logic of my noble friend's case, rather than to the eloquence of the noble Earl's case (not that my noble friend Lord Faringdon does not have equal eloquence at his command also), and will support this valuable Amendment.


My noble friend the Minister of State gave us one reason for resisting this Amendment, which was that the Government have already gone some distance in another place and put in an Amendment to include provision for other historic buildings. I would say to my noble friend: let the Government not weary in well doing. If they admit that in their original Bill they did not go far enough, and they took one step forward in another place, let them not hesitate here to take another step forward. Let my noble friend not show himself more indifferent to the importance of historical buildings than his colleagues in another place.

I should like to advance two special reasons why this modest Amendment should be accepted. Anyone who has had to deal with the preservation or listing of historic buildings comes up against two problems—the problems of date, and the problems of locality. As regards date, during the last few years, and largely as a result of the activities of Mr. John Betjeman, people have come to perceive architectural merit in many buildings which only 30 or 40 years ago were not regarded as of any value at all. Opinion is constantly changing, and buildings which were wantonly and thoughtlessly destroyed only a short time ago are coming to be regarded of interest. Therefore, there may well be many buildings in this supplementary list which at a future time, when taste has changed or developed, will be regarded as being sufficiently important to be in this statutory list.

The second argument is one of place. It often happens that there are buildings of some merit in particular parts of the country where there has been recent industrial development and where there is not a great deal of wealth, which are considered to be of interest and are appreciated in that area, although they would not be regarded as anything at all outstanding if they were in more happily circumstanced parts of the country. That is a problem with which we have always had to deal. It may well be that in the case of Greater London there are some buildings which cannot possibly be regarded as of great architectural importance, and yet they are of charm and interest to the people who live there. Therefore, for those two reasons, the fact that opinion is changing and new styles of architecture becoming appreciated, and because you cannot lay down the same standard to apply all over the country, I hope the Government will change their minds on this particular point. It is not holding up development; it is not giving some absolute protection to these buildings: it is ensuring only that before a decision is taken the fact that the building is on the supplementary list should be made known to the Council.


I hope the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, will have been moved by the extremely cogent arguments which have been put forward by noble Lords who have supported this Amendment, and whom I thank very much indeed for their support. I appreciate that the Government have done a good deal for the protection of historic buildings in the process of developing this Bill. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Molson, said, let them not weary of doing good, and let them accept this rather modest Amendment, because in actual fact the noble Earl—if he will forgive me for saying so—is not quite correctly informed.

The truth of the matter is that there is not very much difference—and I could prove it to him with photographs—between buildings on the statutory list and buildings on the supplementary list. In particular, buildings are either like those to which the noble Lord, Lord Molson, referred, which have particular value on account of the arid circumstances in which they find themselves, or form those groups of which the noble Earl himself spoke, coming for the most part on the supplementary list. This I do know from experience and, therefore, I urge once again that the noble Earl should return, as my noble friend Lord Walston suggested, to the opening of his speech and make that, rather than his closure, the dominant note.


I am very happy to respond to that invitation and return to the opening words of my speech, which were that I was in some doubt as how to advise your Lordships on this particular Amendment. I still am and my doubts, if anything, have been deepened by the discussion, and I should very much like to have a further opportunity of looking at this matter in the light of the arguments which have been advanced. I was very struck by two arguments which have been advanced; one is that there is a pretty narrow and uncertain frontier between some Grade II buildings and some buildings on the supplementary list, and the other is the argument advanced by my noble friend Lord Molson that the standards vary on this throughout the country and, of course, in London; and indeed also in Greater London, where the standards are rather high, there is a very large proportion of good buildings which find themselves on the supplementary list, of which the noble Lord is well aware, and this is an important point here.

I am certainly not able to advise your Lordships to accept this Amendment, because I think there would need to be consequential Amendments if one were going to accept the substance of it. I should hope, however, that the noble Lord would agree to withdraw this Amendment if I am prepared, as indeed I am, to have another look at this whole problem. And, of course, I have been greatly influenced by the argument that the Government should never weary of well-doing; and, knowing that this Government never weary of well-doing, I am prepared to have another look at this particular Amendment.


I must say that I do not quite understand the answer. First of all the noble Earl says he had doubts about it and that when he looks further into it he seems to have increased doubts, and then he goes on further to say that if it is withdrawn he will look at it again—but, of course, he could not accept the Amendment as it is or the whole substance of it. I do not really know what we are able to rely upon, except that he will look at it again and come back.


I think the noble Earl the Leader of the Opposition is making rather heavy weather of what has been, I should have thought, an extremely well-tempered debate on an important issue. I think he can rely on my word on this matter. I have said that I am prepared to look at this matter again, as indeed I will, in the light of the arguments that have been advanced in your Lordships' Committee this afternoon.


I think that all Members in this Committee take the words "to look at it again" as being a semi-acceptance, subject to reconsideration; and in the light of that, and with the knowledge that the noble Earl himself has a considerable interest in this matter, I optimistically beg leave to withdraw this Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 28 agreed to.

Clause 29 [Miscellaneous modifications of Planning Act]:

3.15 p.m.

LORD CHAMPION moved, in subsection (1), to leave out "68(1), 71,". The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 146 is a paving Amendment for No. 147, and the Government have an Amendment on the Order Paper, No. 147A, which also has a bearing on this very point we are now making.


Could we deal with them together?


The noble Lord has indicated that it would be an advantage to the Committee to take them together, and with that I am of course in complete agreement. Sections 68(1) and 71 of the Planning Act to which the Amendments refer relate to the acquisition of land in comprehensive development areas for the purpose of securing the development of that area or because it is expedient in the public interest that the land should be held together with the land so acquired. These Amendments seek to give the Greater London Council the same unfettered power—and I stress the word "unfettered"—to acquire land compulsorily or by agreement as is conferred by the Bill on the London boroughs. I say "unfettered power" because subsection (2) of this Clause 29 restricts the power of the Greater London Council in such a way as to prevent their compulsorily acquiring land for the purpose of development or redevelopment except in the cases where the Minister thinks it expedient for them to do so, after the Minister has consulted with the Greater London Council or the borough or boroughs concerned.

Subsection (3) relates to the acquisition of land by agreement and provides that the Greater London Council must seek the consent of the borough, the Common Council or the Treasurers of the Temples before exercising this power. If the consent is withheld, the Minister's consent must be sought. In connection with the necessary consent of the boroughs et cetera, subsection (3) imposes no time limit on those bodies within which consent must be granted or withheld.

We all know that to-day land is a highly competitive market and the delays inherent in this procedure of obtaining consent and so on may very well militate against acquisition by agreement on reasonable terms. This power of acquisition by agreement is one which we say the Greater London Council will certainly need, and will need in a form where it can be used without unnecessary delay. Acquiring what the planners call "non-conforming industry" is one example where this will be important, for this is a function which the boroughs will have to leave to a great extent to the Greater London Council because that Council are to be closely associated with the problem of re-locating industry. If the non-conforming industrialist does not want to go out of business he will want to know pretty quickly where it is going to be possible for him to set up his industry again and get the whole thing going.

If the Minister who is to reply to me says that the re-location of industry is more likely to arise in the sphere of a London borough than in the sphere of the Greater London Council—which is really a summary of what Mr. Corfield said in another place in answer to a similar Amendment—I am bound to say here, to forestall the Minister, that the number of cases where an industry will move to within the borough boundaries will be very small indeed in London. There might be some cases in the outer boroughs and so on, but we do know the difficulties in this closely built-up central area of London, and the problem of re-locating industries within a borough would he very difficult indeed in those particular areas.

The London County Council, of course, have great experience of this problem and have great resources at their disposal. They deal with an area of some 117 square miles, but even that Council have found it necessary to go outside their own area in order to solve the problems of relocating the industries displaced by their own development. In addition, the L.C.C. have started industrial estates within the county to serve the county as a whole, and these industrial estates have been set up without any reference to the sort of boundaries which will be set up under this Bill in the new London boroughs. Great development is required, and I believe that plans are in preparation, or have already been prepared, for the redevelopment of Knightsbridge, the South Bank and the Elephant and Castle areas; and in that redevelopment the Greater London Council will clearly have to pay a tremendous part. But it seems to us that the Government's proposals in relation to the acquisition of land will to some extent hamstring the Greater London Council in the task they will have to perform in this relocation of industry and the rest.

Further to these arguments, I must add that the Greater London Council will be the overspill authority for rehousing London's overspill population. I will not make much of this point, because the Government themselves have recognised this overspill, both for the rehousing of people displaced from development areas and for slum clearance, and have recognised the necessity for giving the Council power to acquire land outside the Greater London area. That, of course, is the purpose of the Amendment No. 147A, and I can say straight away that that Amendment goes quite a long way towards meeting the points I had proposed to make in Amendments Nos. 146 and 147. But his Amendment does not go far enough. It relieves the Greater London Council of the necessity for going through the tortuous procedure of first seeking the consent of the borough or, failing that, of the Minister, before the Council can acquire by agreement the land of an industrial commercial undertaking incidental to removing that industry outside the area of the Greater London Council.

In this connection, perhaps I should mention the fact that the L.C.C. have in being an industrial centre which has proved remarkably effective, because it can offer guidance and help to industries seeking guidance in tackling the problems caused by planning in London—the problems of movement, of relocation and the rest. That London County Council industrial centre not only helps industries which want to remove in total but also industries which, for one reason or another, wish to expand but are nevertheless tied to the London area. The L.C.C. have also in use special industrial estates and unit workshops which it can use to meet this problem of the expanding industry within this London area. We presume that the Greater London Council will be able to take over this industrial centre, but we also say that its effectiveness will be greatly diminished if it comes to be regarded as concerned only with moving firms from within the G.L.C. area to outside it, and not with tackling the problem as a whole; that is, shifting industry and helping industrialists both within and without the Greater London Council area.

I recognise, and I have already said, that the Government are making a considerable step forward in their Amendment No. 147A. It will enable a step to be taken in the right direction. The only question I have to ask is: is it logical to stop just there; to stop at the provisions the Government are making for the expansion outside the Greater London Council area? Surely, for the reasons that I have advanced the Government should take another step and relieve the Greater London Council of the necessity for going through the procedure which is contained in Clause 29(2) and (3) for the acquisition of land for its essential development purposes. Because we regard this as being of some importance, I have taken some little time over it. It is a technical matter, but I move this Amendment, hoping that the noble Lord will accept it. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 41, line 20, leave out ("68(1), 71,").—(Lord Champion.)

3.26 p.m.


There is one difference between us, I think, on these two Amendments. The noble Lord, Lord Champion, said that the Government Amendment did not go far enough, but I am constrained to say that the noble Lord's Amendment goes too far. The noble Lord said, quite rightly, that under the Bill as it is now the powers of compulsory purchase will be exercised by the borough councils, and by the Greater London Council—and incidentally this refers to purchase by agreement as well—only after consultation with the borough council. If the borough council disagreed, then the Minister would settle the matter, and that, so far as we are concerned, is a fundamental aspect of the Bill. The reason for this is that the borough councils will be the main land-holding authorities in the new organisation.

As the noble Lord said, these purchase powers are directed to securing the redevelopment of land and are widely used in particular to buy up non-conforming industries. We come back to the main argument made by my right honourable friend in another place, Mr. Corfield. The borough councils will be on the whole more likely than the Greater London Council to have a use for any land so bought. They will need some for redevelopment for housing. As the authority receiving all and dealing with most planning applications, they will be more likely to know when a firm is on the move or hoping to move. We think it would be wrong to have the two authorities—that is to say, the London borough and the Greater London Council—competing with each other for purposes of buying up these non-conforming industries, except in the case which we have put down in the Government Amendment which relates to industries definitely moving out of Lone on and thereby helping towards the general objective of planning, and in particular enabling the Greater London Council to organise overspill operations, either in New Towns or expanded towns. Therefore, we agree that this is a very useful power that the Greater London Council should have, to be able to purchase without consent, so that it can seize the opportunity when it arises and when a firm is moving out of London altogether. Of course, the quicker this can be done the better, and sometimes the opportunity is not there for a very long time.

But when we come to industry which is being relocated within the Greater London area, we feel that this is a job which is particularly the affair of the London borough. When we come to the next Amendment, or the one after that, which noble Lords are moving, also in relation to the distribution of industrial estates, I shall have more to say on that particular point, but I do not think it really arises on this Amendment we are discussing now. But we consider that the London boroughs should retain their powers in respect of compulsory purchase and purchase by agreement, except in this one instance in which we feel that the Greater London Council should be authorised to exercise the same powers, and without consent. Otherwise it is a principle of the Bill that the Greater London Council should purchase land only by consent of the borough councils, and if there is any disagreement then the Minister can decide between them.

The noble Lord's Amendment would not only give to the Greater London Council the comprehensive powers to buy anywhere in Greater London without consent, but it would also have the effect of striking out subsections (2) and (3). In the Government's view, these subsections are fundamental to the Bill, especially as we wish to limit the powers of the Greater London Council. Under our proposed Amendment we are extending the Minister's power under subsection (2) to authorise the Greater London Council to buy in certain instances—one is thinking there, of course, of areas of comprenhensive development. We do not want to lose that, and we certainly wish to retain the principle that it should be the London boroughs who will have powers of compulsory purchase and for purchase by agreement. For these reasons I am afraid that, whereas on the previous three Amendments we had not only a friendly discussion but were able to reach a certain measure of agreement, in that we are going to look at matters again, in this case (although I hope the discussion has remained friendly) I am certainly not able to agree with the noble Lord's Amendment.


I recognise that the noble Lord has dug in his toes or his heels (whichever happens to be the appropriate part in this connection); but, of course, when we put down our Amendment we had no Amendment No. 147A on the Marshalled List. That has considerably affected the whole matter. To that extent, I feel disposed to withdraw the Amendment. I cannot wholly agree with the noble Lord when he says that our proposal would inevitably bring the boroughs and the G.L.C. into competition over the purchase of land, and perhaps would drive up the price. In other Acts there are many instances where concurrent powers have been reposed in two authorities and they have led not to competition but, rather, to co-operation—I would instance housing, which we discussed last night. But because I feel that the noble Lord has gone so far to meet us in his Amendment No. 147A, I do not propose to press my Amendment at this stage. I should like to use the old threat of returning to it on the Report stage, but in the meantime I seek leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved, That the House do now resume.—(Earl Jellicoe.)

On Question, Motion agreed to, and House resumed accordingly.