HL Deb 20 March 1967 vol 281 cc531-7

2.54 p.m.

THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF HOUSING AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT (LORD KENNET) rose to move that the Material Development Regulations 1967 be approved. The noble Lord said: My Lords, our Special Orders Committee reported that these Regulations are not founded on precedent and that they raise an important question of policy and principle, so I dare say the House would welcome it if I said a few words to explain what they are, what they do and what they do not do. They are, of course, the Regulations which will declare certain operations in, on, under or over the land not to be material development for the purposes of the collection of land levy; that is to say, they would exempt certain operations from levy.

I should like to frame them against the situation as it now stands. There are at present four provisions under which a given operation may not constitute material development. They are, first of all, the General Development Order itself; secondly, Schedule 3 to the 1962 Town and Country Planning Act; and, thirdly, subsection (2) of Section 12 of the 1962 Act. These three are there already, and if what builders or developers plan to do is covered by them it is not development, and so the question of levy does not arise. These Regulations add a fourth list of operations which are declared to be not material development for the purpose of assessing land levy.

I should like to give some examples of the kind of things which are to be exempted. I would ask the House to bear in mind that these are only some examples of one of the sets of exempt operations. There are three other sets already in force, which I will not mention. Under these Regulations, minor advertising, such as facia boards and so on, but not sites for hoardings, will be exempt. The construction of a timberyard on land used for agriculture will be exempt. So will the erection and maintenance of roadside stands for milk churns. So, for instance, will be the use of land as a caravan site in circumstances specified by the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960. Broadly speaking, this will cover all those who use caravans for their business, including travelling showmen and exempted organisations such as the Caravan Club, whose members seek their recreation in moving around the country in caravans and cannot reasonably be expected to plan their future stopping places.

The Regulations broaden and liberalise the provisions governing change of use so far as the collection of levy goes. Change of use within certain classes is already held not to constitute development. These Regulations say that change of use between certain classes will not constitute material development either, and so will not come into the question of land levy. The changes are from any one of the institutional uses in Classes XII to XVII to any other institutional use in that group of classes or to a dwelling-house, and vice versa. This is pretty large liberalisation. The rebuilding of dwelling-houses will not count as material development so long as the house as rebuilt is not more than 10 per cent., or 1,000 sq ft., larger than the original house. The alteration and enlargement of existing houses—so long as the altered, enlarged or improved house does not exceed the same tolerance of an additional 10 per cent. or 1,000 sq. ft., whichever is the greater—also is not material development.

Operations for searching, boring for and getting petroleum when they are licensed by the Minister of Power under the Petroleum (Production) Act 1934 are not material development. Buildings or other operations (except dwelling-houses) needed in connection with the use of land by persons taking part in outdoor physical recreation, or for the safety of those taking part or spectators—for example, club houses, refreshment rooms, changing rooms, and the like, for persons taking part—are not material development for the purposes of these Regulations. Use of land for recreation has to continue to be material development, because otherwise the Commission would not be able to use their powers of acquisition to get land for these purposes at all.

The construction of pipe-lines laid under the Pipe-lines Act 1962 is not material development; nor is the erection of any gate, fence or wall. I hope these Regulations may commend themselves to all sides of the House and that we shall pass them without further ado, because if we do not then all these things will be liable to land levy. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Material Development Regulations 1967 be approved.—(Lord Kennet.)

2.59 p.m.


My Lords, these Regulations, which the noble Lord has so clearly explained (though I think he was aware of the finicky character of some of them) are of course basic to the Government's policy embodied in its Land Commission Act for raising the price of land. As the Bill was in the Government's Election programme, and as the electors endorsed it, failing to realise its inevitable effects, the Opposition in your Lordships' House did not divide on the Second or Third Reading of the Bill, and it would therefore be inconsistent if we were to divide against these Regulations.

As I understand it, there is a three-fold importance of defining what is or what is not material development. First of all, the Land Commission can acquire only land which, in its view, is suitable for material development. Perhaps the noble Lord will correct me if I go wrong on any point. Secondly, the carrying out of a project of material development can give rise to liability to betterment levy; and, thirdly, in connection with the calculation of betterment levy, current use value has under the Act to be based on the assumption that planning permission cannot be obtained for what is material development. So we have these detailed regulations and definitions.

I only have one or two questions to ask, and one or two points to which I invite your Lordships' attention. I think I can justify the use of the word "finicky". For example, if one takes Paragraph 1(1)(h), defining what is not material development, it says: An advertisement announcing any local event of a religious, educational, cultural, political, social or recreational character, or an advertisement relating to any temporary matter in connection with an event or local activity of such a character, not in either case being an event or local activity promoted or carried on for commercial purposes". As I understand it, that means that an advertisement to advertise commercial bingo is material development, but an advertisement put up in a village to advertise bingo to raise money for an old people's tea is not material development.

I would invite your Lordships' attention also to the special generosity shown to certain developers in England and Wales under paragraph 1(1)(k), which excludes: An advertisement in the form of a flag which is attached to a single flagstaff fixed in an upright position on the roof of a building, and which bears no inscription or emblem, other than the name or device of a person or persons occupying the building". That seems perfectly sensible. The reason why I say it is generous is that in the corresponding Scottish Regulations apparently the use of a flag in those circustances will constitute material development. Whether this is a sideways hit at the Scottish National Party or not, I do not know.

When we come to paragraph 2—which is important to farmers—one realises that if the farmer or landlord puts up a cottage for a cowman he will be rendering himself liable to betterment levy, No doubt he will be extremely grateful in that they have exempted from the definition of material development, as the noble Lord said: The erection or construction and the maintenance, improvement or other alteration of roadside stands for milk churns. Then in paragraph 5 there are one or two differences between the English and Scottish Regulations. I am sure my noble friend, Lord Drumalbyn, will forgive me for making these comparisons so far as I understand the Government's intention, it is desired to have one main debate and only a shorter debate on the Scottish Regulations. Those of us who wonder whether there need be so many differences between English law and Scots law must be tempted to ask why paragraph 5(a) reads: the rebuilding, as often as occasion may require, of any original building used as one or more dwellinghouses …", whereas the Scottish Regulations say: the rebuilding, as often as the person having the right to rebuild may desire, of any original building used as one or more dwellinghouses. Whether those two phrases mean exactly the same thing, I do not know. If they do, it seems a pity that either the English Regulations could not be brought into line with the Scottish, or vice versa. Again, I should like to thank the Government for having been more generous to England in the proviso at the foot of paragraph 5. The English Regulations say: Provided that for the purpose of this paragraph the erection of a garage, stable, loosebox, or coach-house within the curtilage of the building shall be treated as part of the rebuilding or of the enlargement, improvement or alteration as the case may be. But in the Scottish Regulations that is further defined and cut down: a garage, stable, loosebox or coach-house within the curtilage of the building and required for any purpose incidental to the enjoyment of the building ". I cannot conceive why one should build a garage, stable, loosebox or coach-house within the curtilage of one's own house if it was not designed to be required for a purpose incidental to one's own enjoyment. Here again maybe there is some difference between North and South of the Border which I fail to perceive.

I should like to ask a more serious question about paragraph 6, which defines as not being material development The use as any number of separate dwellinghouses of not more than three adjacent buildings ". I presume that here the point is that someone may take three adjacent houses and convert them into a larger number of flats. If he owns the whole terrace he may well wish to operate a scheme that would develop a whole lot of adjacent buildings. I should like to know whether there is anything special or magic about the limitation to three buildings in that paragraph. I hope it is the case that the provisions of paragraph 13 are acceptable to caravanning organisations and to the Showmen's Guild. I understood from the noble Lord that it was desired to be generous towards those interests, and if these provisions have been discussed with those bodies, and approval obtained, your Lordships will be all the happier to approve them.

I think your Lordships will perceive that I do not think a great deal of the Regulations, but I accept that they are linked with the Land Commission Act, and that it is necessary for the operations of the Land Commission and for the betterment levy to be based on some definition of this kind. I will close by referring to the Prime Minister's "doggy" interests. Your Lordships will probably be pleased to note that under paragraph 3(2)(a) his Ministers are providing that it will not be material development if a shop for the sale of pet animals is turned into a tripe shop.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, is of course perfectly right in saying that these Regulations are an inseparable part of the Land Commission legislation. They are built right into it. In so far as he did not divide against that, he is logically not dividing against this. He is wrong in saying that the whole of the legislation and Regulations together are intended to put up the price of land. However, I do not think we need repeat the arguments we had at an earlier time. My noble friend who speaks for the Scottish Office will, I understand, say something about the apparent differences which the noble Lord has found between the English and the Scottish Regulations, and explain the background to that matter.

In regard to the particular examples about which the noble Lord asked me—and by the way, he did not give me warning, so I am not able to give him such full answers as otherwise I should have been able to do—I think the distinction between commercial bingo and charitable bingo is a perfectly obvious one. There are all sorts of distinctions made between the same activities undertaken for commercial ends and those undertaken for charitable ends. I am not sure that noble Lords opposite would really wish us to start taxing or raising a levy on an activity which is undertaken for charitable ends simply because it attracts levy or tax when undertaken for commercial ends. This is a distinction they have been rather strong in maintaining in this context.

As to why the conversion of three buildings only into any number of dwellings is not material development when to convert more than three buildings is material development, there is a whole lot of background to this; but I think it is easy to see that, after a certain point, if you go into big operations the conversion of buildings can become a large and profitable enterprise which it would hardly be right to exempt from the operation of this levy, since the levy is imposed on analogous enterprises in adjacent fields of housing and development.

On Question, Motion agreed to.