§ 3.45 p.m.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF HOUSING AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT (LORD KENNET)
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.
§ Moved, That the House do again resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Kennet.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The LORD ST. HELENS in the Chair.]
§ Clause 65 [Modification of transitory exemptions based on pre-1948 use]:
§ LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR moved, in subsection (1), to leave out "the commencement of this section" and insert "1st July 1969". The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 68, to which Amendments Nos. 69 and 71 are related. It is a small point, and I hope that the Government will be able to offer a satisfactory solution. Clause 65 deals with certain rights of long standing deriving from use before the appointed day of July 1, 1948. It is proposed to bring those rights to an end, which I agree is a sensible action to take at this stage. It seems to be most important that we should make clear in good time to all concerned that these rights are coming to an end unless they are exercised in one way or another very quickly. In another place an Amendment was moved which would have had the effect of continuing the rights for a further five years. I consider that that is too long, but I think that a specific date should he put into the Bill. One must look at the practical side of the matter. People are in the habit of getting advice from solicitors and professional men, and one can hardly expect those advisers to watch progress on 663 every Bill as it passes through Parliament, though it is unquestionably their duty to acquaint themselves with its provisions as soon as the Bill reaches the Statute Book so that they can inform their clients accordingly.
§ The phrase "The commencement of this section" is uncertain. In a later clause the Minister has power, by order, to fix a date for the commencement of this section and of other sections, but nobody can yet tell what that is. The bringing to an end of these long standing rights should in no sense be a "hole and corner" business. It should be stated on the face of the Bill when they will act. I suggest that the uncertain phrase, "The commencement of this section", should be replaced by the certain date "1st July 1969". I agree that I put down this Amendment at a time when I hoped, as indeed the Government hoped, that this Bill would reach the Statute Book before the Summer Recess. It now looks as though it will not do so and will not reach the Statute Book until October. However, my concern is not so much with the precise date as with the fact that precision should be given by the writing of a date into the Bill. In this way when the Bill reaches the Statute Book solicitors and professional advisers will be able to advise clients who retain these longstanding rights that unless they take action before a certain date which is publicly known, they will lose those rights. In moving this Amendment, I seek to remove that kind of uncertainty.
Page 56, line 20, leave out ("the commencement of this section") and insert ("1st July, 1969").—(Lord Brooke of Cumnor.)
§ LORD KENNET
Those who do not know as well as the noble Lord and I do what we are talking about may like to be reminded what these rights are. When the first comprehensive planning legislation was introduced by my noble friend Lord Silkin in 1947, people had rights to use land in certain ways, which was the product of custom and chance, very slightly—but only very slightly—mitigated by preceding planning legislation. People who have since 1947 been using their land in way x have had the right to revert to using it in certain ways only, which I may describe as X, if they were using it in those ways before 1947. 664 But all that was 20 years ago, and I should think most people have by now long since forgotten how they were using their land before 1948. It would be rather difficult, in certain cases, if there were any dispute about it, to find how they were using land. But I cannot imagine that anybody, who has refrained for 20 years from using his right to revert to what he was doing before 1948, is going to suffer very much by being deprived of that right either now or in 1969.
I hope that the noble Lord will withdraw his Amendment, on the ground that the Government are unaware of any cases which would justify it. Of course, the fact that this shadowy right to revert was going to be taken away became public knowledge when the Bill was introduced in December of last year. All you have to do to exercise your right is to commence something which counts as "works", and I think that if anybody wants to do it he should have had plenty of opportunity between then and the time when the Bill is likely to come into effect, without including the set date of July, 1969.
§ LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR
I am disappointed with the Government's reply. I know that I am not at liberty to quote speeches by private Members in another place, but examples were given to the Government in Standing Committee in another place of cases where there was likelihood of some of these 20-year old rights being revived. I cannot see any reason why the Government should not state a definite date when these rights will lapse. The phrase, "the commencement of this section" is entirely vague, because the Government have not yet given any indication as to when they will, by order, cause this section, or any other section of the Bill, when it becomes an Act, to come into operation.
It seems to me unreasonable towards professional advisers, as well as to their clients, if this is left in a state of uncertainty. I stress again, that we cannot expect solicitors to be following all the proceedings on a Bill while it is going through Parliament simply in order to safeguard a client against something that may happen the moment a Bill passes through your Lordships' House and receives the Royal Assent. I should have thought that, from every point of 665 view, it was far better, when a right of long standing was being terminated, to give well in advance a date when that right will lapse so that everybody shall know where he stands. If the noble Lord will not accept my Amendment, will he at least give an indication as to the date on which the Minister will announce that this section shall commence, because we expect the Government to take some action to remove the uncertainty to which I have drawn attention?
§ LORD KENNET
I cannot do so at the moment, but I will try to do so at a later stage. I think that the discussion now and the discussion in the House of Commons should serve the purpose desired by the noble Lord, of bringing to the attention of people the fact that there is this provision in the Bill. Of course, in so far as our words are heard outside this place, it is obvious that those who have these rights and are intending to exercise them would be well advised to do so before the Bill goes through, just as they would be well advised to do so before July, 1969, if the noble Lord's Amendment were accepted.
§ LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR
I am sure the noble Lord is trying to be helpful, but, with respect, it is unlikely that the proceedings on this Amendment will be widely reported in the national Press, and, to the best of my knowledge, the proceedings in Standing Committee in another place on what was then Clause 57 of the Bill and is now Clause 65 were not reported at all. Just as it is impossible to expect solicitors to follow everything that happens on a Bill while it is going through Parliament, so it is impossible to expect them to read the proceedings in Standing Committee and the detailed proceedings in your Lordships' House. However, if the noble Lord will make a statement, before this Bill leaves your Lordships' House, as to the date when this section is likely to be brought into operation, that will go some way to meet my request. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (LORD GRENFELL)
May I point out to the Committee that, if 666 Amendment No. 70 is agreed to, cannot call Amendment No. 71?
§ LORD KENNET
This Amendment substitutes a revised subsection (3) of Clause 65 for the subsection at present in the Bill. The existing subsection was complained about in Commons Committee as being difficult to understand. I hope that the present one is easier to understand, and that the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, and the Committee will agree with me that it should be carried in. I beg to move.
§ Amendment moved—
Page 56, line 31, leave out subsection (3) and insert—
("(3) In applying section 13(5), 6) and (8) of the principal Act (factors relevant for determining whether planning permission is required for resumption of use following the expiration of a limited planning permission) no account shall be taken of any contravention of previous planning control other than contravention of the provisions of Part III of the Town and Country Planning Act 1947; and accordingly—
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 65, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 66 agreed to.
§ 3.58 p.m.
§ LORD GRIMSTON OF WESTBURY moved, after Clause 66, to insert the following new clause:
§ Notification to parish councils to applications
§ ".—(1) (a) Without prejudice to sections 15 and 16 of the principal Act, a local planning authority shall not entertain any application for planning permission, unless either—
- (i) it is accompanied by a certificate signed by or on behalf of the applicant stating that he has given the requisite notice to the parish council (if any) of the parish in which the land is situated; or
- (ii) the parish council has notified the local planning authority in writing that for the time being no such notice is required and has not withdrawn such notification:
§ Provided that the local planning authority may notwithstanding the absence of such a certificate or notification entertain an application for planning permission if an authorised officer of the parish council or local planning 667 authority certifies in writing under his hand that the requisite notice has been given to the parish council.
§ (b) For the purposes of paragraph (a) above an authorised officer is an officer authorised specially or generally to give the certificate by the council or authority which employs him.
§ (c) Subsections (5) and (6) of section 16 of the principal Act shall apply to a certificate issued under this section as if it were issued for the purposes of the said section 16.
§ (2) (a) A local planning authority may make a scheme for defining the types or classes of applications for which no such notice as is mentioned in subsection (1) above is required.
§ (b) A parish council which accedes in writing to a scheme drawn up under the preceding paragraph shall be deemed in relation to the types or classes of applications defined therein to have made a notification in accordance with subsection (1)(a)(ii) above.
§ (c) Where a majority of parish councils in an area to which a scheme applies has acceded thereto in accordance with the preceding paragraph, the scheme shall become compulsory and the local planning authority shall inform the remainder of the parish councils in the same area in writing, and thereupon each parish council so informed shall be deemed to have acceded to the scheme on the day when such information would have been received by it in the ordinary course of post.
§ (d)(i) A local planning authority may revoke a scheme made under this subsection, and
§ (ii) if a majority of the parish councils concerned in a compulsory scheme notify the local planning authority in writing of their intention to leave it, those parish councils shall no longer be deemed to have acceded thereto:
§ Provided that—
- (i) no scheme shall be revoked within three years of the date when it was first made, and
- (ii) no parish council concerned in a compulsory scheme shall notify its intention to leave it within three years of the day when it became compulsory.
- (3)(a) Where a certificate has been issued by an applicant or authorised officer under subsection (1), a local planning authority shall take into account any representations made by a parish council named therein and received within fourteen days of the date upon which it was given to the authority and may, if they think fit, consider any representations received thereafter.
- (b) This subsection shall not prejudice any rights which a parish council may have by virtue of any other enactment.
§ (4) In the case of an application accompanied by a certificate or certified in accordance with subsection (1) above, a local plan- 668 ning authority shall within a reasonable time give to the parish council a copy of—
- (a) their notice to the applicant of their decision on the application, or
- (b) their notice to him that the application has been referred to the Minister in accordance with directions given under section 22 of principal Act.
§ (5)(a) Subject to the following paragraph of this subsection, this section shall come into operation on 1st July 1969.
§ (b) Notwithstanding the previous paragraph, the Minister may at any time after the passing of this Act make development orders prescribing notices and certificates required for the purposes of this section, but no such order shall be made so as to come into operation before 1st July 1969.
§ The noble Lord said: The object of this Amendment, in the name of my noble friend Lord Kinnoull, is to try to ensure that parish councils are notified when planning applications are sent in. I should like to stress that there is no demand here for consultation. What is required is notification, in order that a parish council may be aware of any planning application in its parish in order that it may, if it wishes, comment on that application to the planning authority. It is felt that there need be no delay here, because there would be perfectly simple mechanics whereby a question could be added to the planning application form, asking simply whether notification had been given to the parish council. On the answer, "Yes" being given, it would then be up to the parish council to communicate with the planning authority. The purpose of this new clause is an attempt to bring the parish councils to a position where they can of right give their views on planning applications. I beg to move.
After Clause 66, insert the said new clause. —(Lord Grimston of Westbury.)
§ LORD SANDYS
I should like to support this Amendment most warmly. We have already witnessed the debate on Second Reading, and have already read the details of the discussion which took place in Standing Committee C. Although we may be under a certain restriction about quoting speeches of private Members in another place, I hope that at a later stage of my remarks the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, will permit me to quote the remarks of the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, Mr. Arthur Skeffington. On 669 June 19, in Standing Committee C, column 8, line 33, reference was made to,the additional burden placed upon the applicant".This is a very important matter, because in fact there is very little additional burden placed upon the applicant when it comes to notification: it is merely a case of the architect or those responsible for preparing the plan providing an additional copy, be it a Xerox copy or any other, of the plan under consideration. I feel that very heavy weather has been made of this when referring to local authorities, and especially to the fact that there is difficulty in locating where the parish council is. Of course, immediate reference to the local authority concerned would divulge this information.
The Government's second argument for opposing this Amendment relates to the structure of local government and to the Royal Commission's recommendations for reorganisation. If I may now quote Mr. Arthur Skeffington's words in column 9, line 23, of Standing Committee C on June 19, he said:I do not know what those recommendations will be, nor whether the Government will accept them; but it is likely that within the next few years there will be very radical changes in the structure of local government. It may be that there will be an extended place for the parish council".Although there is the possibility of an extended place for the parish council, the idea of a nationwide voluntary scheme of notification has very little appeal among local authorities. The Rural District Councils Association has given it a very limited welcome, but by and large I would say it is true that local government as a whole is firmly against it. They look upon the parish council as something of a poor relation in this matter; and, moreover, it is looked upon as an amateur organisation from the standpoint of an entrenched bureaucracy.
Perhaps I may quote from my own experience in this matter. If I may be permitted, with the indulgence of your Lordships, I should like to quote as an example a case when this scheme would have been particularly useful. To save the blushes of the local authority, let me give it the fictitional name of "Caster-bridge". In this particular case I saw details of the town development scheme, which extended into several country parishes. The reply I received was: 670Our final proposals are with the Ministry for approval and are not available for public inspection".So not until a short period before the local inquiry was due to be held was any map available, despite the fact that the proposals involved an increase in the size of Casterbridge from 9,000 to 30,000 over a period of 15 years. There was no model or map, no publicity and no exhibit in Casterbridge Town Hall, and I was unable to obtain a copy of the town map giving details of the scheme since only one was available. It was a deliberate act on the part of the local authority, and I have very little doubt that there are many instances of a precisely similar nature which are taking place and which have taken place over and over again.
Coming on to the nature of this Amendment, it will be noted that it is split into four separate sections. It is, of course, the longest Amendment of all those listed. I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to subsection (2), which relates to a local planning authority making a scheme for defining the type or classes of applications for which no notice such as is mentioned in subsection (1) is required. This is a highly desirable suggestion, that schemes for defining applications where no such notice is required should be devised, and I think that this subsection should meet wit h very little opposition.
Subsection (3), which relates to representations by parish councils, says:Where a certificate has been issued by an applicant or authorised officer under subsection (1), a local planning authority shall take into account any representations made by a parish council named therein and received within fourteen days of the date upon which it was given to the authority and may, if they think fit, consider any representations received thereafter".The nub of the Government's case has rested upon the factor of delay which notification both of applications and of the results of applications will have upon the planning mechanism, and great stress has been laid upon the fact that the whole essence of the Bill is to simplify the planning procedures. I feel here that the case put forward by the Parish Councils' Association is a very strong one, in that only 14 days' notification is mentioned; and it is surely no matter that the Parish Councils' Association should feel any 671 sympathy for any parish which has failed to do so. After all, four months is the average time in which planning may be applied for and a reply may be received and a fortnight's delay or possible delay is very little in comparison.
Subsection (4) of this Amendment deals with notification of decisions, and in this case the question of notification is slightly different from consultation. In this matter great stress was laid by the Parliamentary Secretary during the Standing Committee, in his very reasonable reply to this question, on the difference between consultation and notification. What is being sought under this Amendment is a notification. One would hope that as time goes on the relationship between the planning authorities and the parish councils will mean that such notification will lead to a type of consultation. However, at this stage, in this Amendment as drafted, all that is sought is a notification. It was mentioned on Second Reading that many local authorities have very long and satisfactory voluntary arrangements with parish councils. This statutory notification has been sought by the Parish Councils' Association for eight years to my certain knowledge, and I feel there are strong reasons why this Amendment should be included in the Bill.
§ LORD KENNET
I beg to move that the House do now resume to hear a Statement from my noble friend Lord Beswick.
§ Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House resumed.