HL Deb 26 June 1968 vol 293 cc1426-540

4.20 p.m.

House again in Committee.

Debate resumed and the Question, Whether Clause 28 shall stand part of the Bill?


I feel almost shy in inviting your Lordships to divert your minds from these great matters to my Motion to leave out Clause 28 of the Town and Country Planning Bill. In the speech which the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, made nearly an hour ago, I thought, if I may say so without disrespect, that he made the best of a thin case—but the case is a thin one. He referred in justification to the expedited completion procedure, but he omitted to mention that that procedure is available only when the Minister is satisfied that it is urgently necessary in the public interest to grant the acquiring authority these special facilities and powers. Contrast that with Clause 28, which gives the local authority the power to make a general vesting declaration in an) case it likes without having to prove urgency at all.

Furthermore, I think the reference to the 1944 Act is really a red herring, because, in contrast to this sweeping power in Clause 28, the 1944 Act gave special powers for a short term of years to local authorities in very special circumstances at the end of a war and in the housing field alone, because of the amount of war damage that had been caused to houses and the absolute necessity of giving priority to house building at that time. Those powers, of course, are long spent.

Neither of those precedents justifies logically the extension of powers that it is proposed to grant here. I explained in my previous speech why the Land Commission Act likewise did not justify granting these powers in every case to a local authority. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, gave reasons why local authorities, in his view, might be able to speed up the payment of compensation to the owners whose land is being acquired. What he could not, of course, do was to give any guarantee that they would speed that up, and that really to my mind is the nub of the matter. There would be much less objection to the grant of these sweeping new powers if there were not a fear that the local authorities would be in no hurry to pay the compensation, they having got all they wanted themselves from the general vesting declaration.

I should therefore like to ask the noble Lord whether he would consider, for example, at a later stage of the Bill, including a provision that would require a local authority on the vesting date, at the request of at least owner-occupiers who were affected, to make a substantial payment in advance of the compensation which will be due to them. I cannot see any other way in which Parliament is effectively to safeguard the owner-occupier who has to buy another house against the risk that he may not receive compensation in time to enable him to pay for the new residence that he has to buy for himself. I am not going to press my Motion, and when it comes to Schedule 2 I will not move the Motion that I have down, but I trust that between now and the next stage of the Bill the Government will give consideration to what has been said, and will seek to find some way in which they can safeguard existing owners against hardship.


I should just like to say that I will study the noble Lord's remarks with care, and we can revert to this point at a later stage.

Clause 28 agreed to.

4.23 p.m.

LORD KENNET moved, after Clause 28, to insert the following new clause:

Compulsory purchase or appropriation of open spaces

"—(1) In paragraph 11 of Schedule 1 to the Act of 1946 (which applies special parliamentary procedure in the case of compulsory purchase of land forming part of a common, open space, etc., and is applied by section 73 of the principal Act to appropriation of land by local authorities under that section), in sub-paragraph (1)(b) (exemption where land is required for widening of an existing highway and the Minister certifies that it is unnecessary to give land in exchange), for the words 'that the land is' there shall be substituted the words 'that the land does not exceed 250 square yards in extent or is'.

(2) Nothing in this section applies to or affects an order made before the commencement of this section."

The noble Lord said: This new clause would change the procedure governing the compulsory purchase or appropriation of open space land. What it does not do is to give any extra power to local authorities or to any other bodies to acquire or appropriate public open space land. The present procedure which deals with the compulsory acquisition of open space land provides that it would be subject to Special Parliamentary Procedure unless the Minister gives a certificate. The Minister can certify either that equally advantageous land not less in area is being provided in exchange, or that the land is needed for road widening and that no alternative land is necessary. Before the Minister can give such a certificate there has to be publication of the proposal so that there is a chance for objections which the Minister can then consider and hold an inquiry if necessary.

While we are preserving the protection of amenity which the 1946 Act procedure applies, this new clause will ease the position of local authorities in extending the category where the Minister can give a certificate without the provision of exchange land to cases where the land does not exceed 250 square yards in extent. It does not mean that the Minister has to give a certificate in all such cases. He can still refuse ore. The authority, if it still wanted to press ahead with the acquisition, would then have to go to Special Parliamentary Procedure. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 28, insert the said new clause. —(Lord Kennet.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 29 [Grounds on which Minister may refuse to confirm purchase notice]:

LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR moved to add to the clause: ( ) Where planning permission has been granted in such circumstances as are specified in subsection (2) of this section and in accordance with the terms of the planning permission there is or is to be public access over that part of the land which is to remain undeveloped or to be preserved or laid out as aforesaid, the local planning authority shall bear the cost of the care and maintenance of that part of the land.

The noble Lord said: I beg to move to insert the new subsection standing in my name. This concerns the clause which has as I think its principal object the reversal of the decision of courts in the case of Adams v. Wade. I do not know whether it is necessary to go into the history of the matter, but the clause deprives the owners in certain circumstances of the opportunity of getting a purchase notice confirmed on land which is required by a condition of a planning permission to remain as open space. The reason why I am moving this Amendment is that I fear that otherwise injustice may be done in a certain class of case. The matter was raised in Standing Committee in another place, but the reply of the Minister of State there did not really convey, at any rate to my mind, that the Government had appreciated the point; and that is why I feel it is necessary to raise it again.

The point is this. The local planning authority may, quite properly, in relation to a planning application stipulate as a condition that certain of the land shall not be developed. The obvious example is where there is a housing estate and it is not desirable that every piece of developable land should be covered with houses. There is then the question, what will happen to that land? I certainly know one or two cases where the land concerned looks rather derelict. The clause takes away the power which certain developers thought existed of requiring the local authority to purchase such land. I am not objecting to the purpose of the clause in itself, but my Amendment is designed to say that where a condition of this sort has been attached to a planning permission, and where in accordance with the terms of that planning permission there is, or is to be, public access over part of the land which is to remain undeveloped, then there should be a duty on the local planning authority to bear the cost of maintaining that land.

In reply the Minister of State in another place said: If … one has a case where the access to the land is not merely restricted to the householders on the estate but is dedicated to the public at large, it is really up to the developer at that stage to get the local authority to agree to take over the land. This surely is what we want to ensure—that the law is framed in such a way as will direct the minds of the parties and of the applicant in particular at the outset to what provision is to be made for maintaining the land."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons Standing Committee G, 26/3/68, col. 683.]

That is no sort of answer; it is simply a statement of the problem. The applicant who is going to develop the rest of the land does not need to have his mind directed to the question of w hat is going to happen to the land which is not to be developed. If it is part of the estate itself and is to inure to the benefit of those who will be living on the estate then obviously the maintenance should call on the developer or on those who are buying houses from him. But there are other cases where the advantage of this open space will inure to the general public, and what the Minister of State said was that it is really up to the developer at that stage to get the local authority to agree to take over the land. But there have been cases where the local authority has not agreed to take over the land—in particular, the case where the county council, as planning authority, has stipulated that the land must remain undeveloped and the district council has refused to accept any responsibility for the maintenence of this land, which is really public open space.

My submission is that in such a case the responsibility for maintaining and caring for this new public open space should fall upon the public at large who are going to benefit from it, through the rates, and should not fall on the particular people who are either renting or who will be buying houses from the developer. That is the point of my Amendment. If, indeed, the point of it was not fully appreciated before I made this speech I shall entirely understand if the Government say they would like to think about it further, but I must stress that the reply made on behalf of the Government in Committee in another place did not reveal an appreciation of the real difficulty. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— page 25, line 19, at end insert the said subsection.—(Lord Brooke of Cumnor.)


The noble Lord and I are at one in agreeing that if the open space is to inure only to the benefit of the people living on the estate, then it ought to be kept up either by the developer or by the residents. I think the difficulty is localised to the other case where there might be a condition imposed by the planning authority that so much of the new housing estate should be left as a public open space, which suggests that it would be for the benefit of the community; in other words, the town as a whole. A developer who has planning conditions attached to his application has, of course, a right of appeal to the Minister against those conditions, and in a case like this no doubt he would use it. I do not know whether it is part of the noble Lord's case in moving this Amendment that appeals have been unreasonably rejected by the Minister or that developers do not know they have a right of appeal, or that conditions are ever imposed in such a way as to preclude appeal.

I would ask the noble Lord a little more about that. To cut a long story short, it would help the Government if he could let us know of specific cases where circumstances have arisen where developers needed protection against overhearing conditions imposed by the authority. At the moment I am not aware of them, but it would help if he could say in which of those three ways the trouble arises.


I am grateful to the noble Lord and I shall seek to respond to his invitation. It was not in my mind that developers did not know of their right of appeal, nor do I think that a developer in a case like this would take exception to the condition itself. In my view, he would accept it as reasonable that in a substantial estate part of the land should remain undeveloped. He would also acknowledge as reasonable that if the local authority is insisting on that from the planning standpoint for the benefit of the public, then the local authority, as representing the public, should assume the financial responsibility of maintaining the land and not leave that responsibility to the limited number of people who are living on the estate and who really have no greater enjoyment from this open land than the rest of the public in the neighbourhood. That is the difficulty. I will endeavour to respond to the noble Lord's invitation, and maybe we can talk about this subject further before the next stage of the Bill. I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 29 agreed to.

Clause 30 [New descriptions of land qualifying for protection as being affected by planning proposals]:

4.38 p.m.

LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR moved, in subsection (1)(a), to leave out the second "in force". The noble Lord said: I do not know whether it would be embarrassing to the Government if we were to discuss with this Amendment Nos. 32 and 32A. All three Amendments relate to different applications of the same point in different parts of the clause. This is a clause which deals with blight, and its main purpose is to modify Section 138 of the principal Act so as to enable that section to fit in with the new provisions of this Bill, particularly in so far as the structure plans and the local plans take the place of development plans, and the designation procedure is to disappear.

Putting this in its shortest form, Clause 30, as drafted, treats blight as starting at the moment when a structure plan comes into force for the district, or when a local plan comes into force for the district, or when a compulsory purchase order is confirmed or made by a Minister. But that is not when the blight starts, and we all know this from long experience. The blight will start the moment the local authority publish their structure plan or local plan, or the moment when the local authority or other public authority with compulsory purchase powers make a compulsory purchase order.

As I know that one or two noble Lords, when I spoke of blight the other day, thought I might be referring to some fruit disease, let me say that in this context "blight" means the loss of market value which immediately affects property when it becomes known that that property is liable to compulsory purchase for a public purpose at some uncertain date in the future. If any of your Lordships were living in a house which you owned, and you wished to sell it and move away to some other part of the country or to another house, and just before the sale took place some local authority announced that at some uncertain date in the future it was going to make a compulsory purchase order on a substantial area including your property—or indeed if a highway authority indicated that a new road was to run through your property—you would find your property instantly reduced in value by a substantial amount. Of course, that does not matter so much to those who can afford to hold on to the property until the compulsory purchase takes place, because then they will receive full market value unaffected by the new plan. But many people, particularly owner-occupiers, cannot afford to wait. The person whose job compels him to move to another part of the country has to sell his house there and then in order to be able to buy a new house, and he may suffer very severely in pocket through absolutely no fault of his own but through the mere chance that a public plan for some major re-development or road-making has been published at what is for him the most unfortunate time.

I welcome Clause 30 so far as it goes, but my Amendments indicate that it should go further. The blight will not start when the structure plan has been approved by the Minister and comes into force; it will start the moment the structure plan is published and everybody can see that some public redevelopment or roadmaking is to take place. Likewise with the local plan referred to in paragraph (b): it will not start from the moment when the local plan comes into force through being adopted by the local authority; it will start from the moment that the local authority first discloses its draft local plan. And likewise with regard to paragraph (c) and subsection (2) in the case of compulsory purchase orders. My experience is that the blight begins from the moment it appears on the local authority's agenda that the council is being invited to make a compulsory purchase order on a certain plot of land. That blight will continue, and it will continue unaffected by the action of the Minister in ultimately confirming the compulsory purchase order. It will, of course, be lifted if the Minister decides not to confirm it. But there is no material change in the amount of blight at the moment at which the Minister confirms the compulsory purchase order, as the Government's proposals would have us believe.

Here again, I am afraid, I must refer critically to what was said on behalf of the Government in Standing Committee in another place. I am quoting from column 701 of the Standing Committee proceedings. The Minister of State, in reference to certain Amendments then under discussion, said: This would alter the time from which the provisions applied from the date of the decision to the stage at which the proposals were merely being discussed. It would mean—particularly having regard to our proposals for greatly increased public participation in the formulation stage of the plans—an enor mous extension and intensification of blight." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Standing Committee G, 26/3/68, col. 701.] I simply cannot accept that last sentence. It would mean an extension of the time during which the blighted owner could obtain payment in full. But the blight is going to be there from the time when the proposals start being discussed.

While I recognise the point which was made by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, on an earlier Amendment, that in the draft stage the blight may be a bit more widely spread because of the uncertainty of precise definitions and boundaries, and may settle more deeply and over a less wide area when the plan finally receives approval, nevertheless that is no comfort at all to the person who has to sell his property shortly after the plan is first published, the person to whom this clause gives no remedy at all.

I do not know whether my proposals are the right way of dealing with this, but it is a serious matter, and I appeal to the Government, if my proposals are not acceptable, to find some other method of amending the Bill which will recognise that the blight starts from the moment when the proposals for compulsory acquisition by a public authority become publicly known. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 25, line 25, leave out second ("in force").—(Lord Brooke of Cumnor.)


I should like to support the noble Lord in the problem which he has put forward. I am not sure whether the Amendments that are down on the Paper are necessarily the right solution, but I am sure that it is a matter which is worthy of consideration. I know of a case in one of the major cities of this country where a local authority have prepared plans for redevelopment to provide a new road. In those plans some twenty houses are affected; but it is not proposed to deal with those houses for ten years or more. Nevertheless, those houses are in a sense blighted. Any owner of those houses will find it almost impossible to get a reasonable price for his house if he decides to sell in the intervening period. The question is, what is to be done. I recognise that the local authority have to make their plans and make them ahead, and this particular plan involves a large area and a large number of houses. It provides that some will be redeveloped in the first five years and some between five and ten years, but the particular houses I am thinking of are not to be developed for over ten years, and the poor owners have to sit there with the value very much depreciated waiting for the local authority to acquire them, waiting possibly ten or fifteen years. In the meantime, if they are forced to sell, they are forced to sell at a very much reduced price.

I would be grateful if my noble friend could give us some indication as to what remedy these people can have or how the Bill can be improved so as to enable any such owner to get the local authority to acquire such a house. I want my noble friend to give me a reply to this, because it is very important to quite a number of people—I think my noble friend should at least hear what I am saying. I was asking whether anything can be done in this Bill, for instance, to require the local authority to buy these houses at present-day value, even though they may not require to pull them down for many years. But to expect the owner to suffer any loss, should he want to sell within 10 to 15 years, seems to me utterly unreasonable. If the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, has that kind of case in mind, among others, then I think that this Amendment is worthy of serious consideration.

4.51 p.m.


The problem we are faced with arises out of the desire and intention of the Government, which I think is supported by all sides, to increase the degree of public participation in the planning stage. At any rate, that is the problem as regards the two Amendments we are discussing together now. If we open up local authority plans to general public discussion at an earlier stage we must expect a moderate form of blight to occur at an earlier stage. The whole point of opening them up is to enable the views of the public to be taken into account by the local authority, so that they may then change the draft plan if they find that the public do not like it, or if they are convinced after public argument, that it is not the best sort of draft plan.

The trouble about these Amendments is that if they were accepted when the local authority came to change the plan they would find that they were stuck with a number of houses under the amended blight provision of Lord Brooke which they did not then need because the plan had gone another way. This is a difficult problem. The essence of it is precisely this: that until the plans are in force—Lord Brooke's Amendment would omit the words "in force"—the proposals in the plan may be subject to modification. Moreover when the structure plan is at the formative stage, there may be discussion—that is, public discussion, with everybody in the town or city involved—on alternative courses (for instance what is to be the layout of a road, which can be a very big thing) which may collectively affect areas very much greater in extent than those which will eventually turn out to be the area where something is done, where the road does go and in that event the difficulties would be much greater.

If this Amendment were accepted, the difficulties which would face the local authority would indeed be substantial, because they would find they were bound by blight provisions perhaps over two or three times the area covered by their proposals. The particular difficulties are these. First of all, local authorities might be forced to buy properties which might never be required, thus dissipating public funds—that is, if the final plan goes another way. Secondly objections to a proposed scheme—that is, a draft plan, whether structure or local—could be prejudiced if so many properties were acquired that it ceased to be practicable to consider an alternative siting. We must take this into account. If a large number of people, in one alternative possibility in regard to a plan, claim their rights under this Amendment and get sales to the council because their property is blighted, the council may then be "lumbered" with a whole lot of properties which would make it impossible for them to look anywhere else; and this may defeat the whole purpose of the public consultation at the draft stage of the plan.

This is not to say, of course, that the Government are not worried about this problem, and have no sympathy for people whose property is going to be temporarily blighted during the discussion phase. It is a difficult problem, and has to be considered together with the general problems of blight and injurious affection. But this Bill is not a Bill to amend the compensation codes for blight, disturbance or injurious affection. Its only relevance to those codes is to adapt them to the new planning system, and this is what we seek to do. I contend that this Planning Bill is not the place to introduce the major revolution in the compensation codes which the acceptance of this Amendment would constitute.

The problem ought to be, and is being, considered in the light of all the ramifications of the compensation code, and in the meantime Clause 30, unamended, adapts the existing principles to the new development plan system. It does so, I think, with considerable sympathy towards the individual, by making the blight code available immediately on approval of the structure plan, rather than holding back its operation until the precise local plans are adopted. So the blight code covers the period between the adoption of the structure plan and the adoption of the local plan, which is really the only final one which will show what exactly is going to happen. I think that this is not too bad a place to leave the law, pending the review of the whole compensation code.

Turning separately to the third of the Amendments we are discussing, No. 32A, I would remind the Committee that all cases of hardship (and here I have in mind particularly the people to whom Lord Brooke referred, people who have to move because they have to change their job during the period between the publication of the structure plan or of any other plan and its adoption) in this field can be dealt with by the local authority, without the Amendment. The Minister does not, nor does he intend to, with- hold loan sanction in any case where a local authority can show that they are confronted by hardship which makes purchase under the blight code appropriate. After the Bill is through the Minister, in the circular which he will send out (and the more we debate the Bill, the longer and longer the circular will be, if all the things which are recommended go in it) will take the opportunity of making some general observations about this aspect of the operation of the blight code.

As to the review of the compensation code in general, as I say, this Bill is not the place for such a review. The Government have had the benefit of the advice of the Greater London Council and of the Chartered Land Societies on what ought to be done about the compensation code overall. We have found this advice useful and the matter is under study at the moment.

I think, therefore, that in answer to the question put by my noble friend Lord Silkin, whether anything can be done in this Bill to improve the situation in this respect, I should say, "No; I think that it ought not to be done in this Bill, but it can and should be done in the overall review of the compensation code which is under way".


Can the noble Lord explain in what way the review is "under way"? Is it merely a matter of discussion, or do the Government intend to introduce legislation on the matter?


The review is under way in Whitehall, inside the Government machine. It is too early to say whether it will result in legislation.


I do not know what the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, thinks, but I do not think the Government should get away so easily from this quite genuine difficulty. The Government urge that we should leave this problem on one side because, they say, it would be better tackled in conjunction with a general review of compensation provisions. But the Government themselves have imported into this Bill legislation concerned with the problem. They cannot blame me for raising the subject, because Clause 30 itself does so: it accepts that this problem of blight is one proper to be considered and dealt with in the context of this Bill. My contention is that Clause 30 is all right and good, so far as it goes, but that it does not go far enough.

The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, instanced a particular case of extreme hardship, and all the Government can say, so far as I can judge, is that these people must continue to suffer if they are compelled to sell their houses, and must continue to sell at a depreciated price until such time as the Government have reached decisions on compensation proposals in general.


I wonder whether the noble Lord will allow me to interrupt. I think this is really not a very fair account of what I said about the Minister's proposals with regard to his circular and to the powers already available to the local authorities. It is not a question of anybody having to go on suffering. This can be coped with without the statutory Amendment that the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, requires.


I was coming on to that point, but the Minister is quite justified in what he has just said. I should find it easier to form an opinion of whether there was hope of putting this right in future compensation legislation if I had seen the proposals put forward by the chartered bodies. I do not know whether they have been made public, but I certainly have not seen them, and we have the rather depressing news from the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, that the Government may not legislate in the end. So there really is no assurance that this matter is going to be put right by legislation, nor information available outside Government circles as to the proposals that are being considered for putting it right.

I hope the Government agree—I think they do—that this is a very real grievance. The noble Lord quite properly said that a local authority can act even though it is not statutorily compelled to do so. That is so, but it need not act, and certainly I have come across complaints in what seemed to me cases of unquestionable hardship—where the local authority had decided that as it was not compelled to purchase, it would not offer to purchase, and therefore the hardship remains. My case, and I think the case of the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, is that where there is hardship, totally undeserved hardship, that should not be allowed to rest on the particular individual who is hard hit but should be spread over the community. Indeed, that is what is accepted as regards any hardship arising after the publication of the structure plan or the local plan, but the Government are not prepared to accept that principle at earlier stages. Indeed, I thought the noble Lord partly revoked one of the arguments he was using when he said in the same breath that the local authority had, of course, power to make a purchase outside the statutory requirement, but that it would be extremely awkward for the local authority if it had to purchase all sorts of properties which, in the end, it might find were outside the action area or the finally decided upon line of the road.


If the noble Lord would be so good as to give way once more. I thought his worry was about the odd heuseholder who had to change houses. This is different from all sorts of property in a whole area.


I may be wrong about this, but I did not think the existing provision applied to all sorts of properties. I thought there were only certain types of owner who could, in respect of certain types of property, serve a purchase notice and insist on purchase by the local authority. I do not think we can settle this point this afternoon, but I do not think the last word has been said about it. I greatly hope that I may continue to have the help of the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, who knows so much about this.

I feel sure that the Government, in their hearts, while resisting these Amendments would like to find a solution which would not be too difficult for the problem which I am putting forward here. I am not especially enamoured of the wording of my Amendments, though they seem to represent the simplest way in which I could bring the point before the Committee. Maybe we can further examine this between now and the further stages of this Bill, but I must say very decidedly that unless the Government can come forward with a solution while the Bill is still going through your Lordships' House, I shall have to ask your Lordships to revert to this matter to see whether we can help the Government to a solution. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 30 agreed to.

Clause 31 [Extension of grounds of objection to purchase of claimant's interest]:

5.6 p.m.

LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR moved, in subsection (1), to leave out "fifteen" and insert "twenty". The noble Lord said: We are still in the field of blight in Clause 31, which we have now reached. Putting it briefly, subsection (1) of Clause 31 says that if a purchase notice is served a counter-notice may be served and backed on the ground that the authority concerned do not propose to acquire any part of the area or property for at least 15 years. I suggest that 15 years is too short a time. On the previous Amendment the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, quoted a case where a local authority had said that it would not be doing anything for ten years, but that it would do something eventually. It seems to me that it would be wrong if the local authority could resist a purchase notice on the ground that it would not be doing anything for 15 years, because 15 years is not such a very long time in relation to matters of house ownership and the like.

I hesitate to go into leasehold jargon, because we have so altered the leasehold law recently, but we all know that at any rate before the recent Act there was relatively little difference in value between a freehold and a leasehold with 50 years or more unexpired, but there was a very great deal of difference in value between a freehold and leasehold with only 15 years unexpired—and 15 years, as I say, is a relatively short period. I have not been able to discover any argument of principle leading the Government to insert the period of 15 years here. That being so, I suggest that 20 years would be a more appropriate time. It gives one a certain satisfaction and a certain relaxation if one is assured by the local authority that it has no intention to acquire your property for a period of 20 years, but 15 years strikes me as rather too brief an assurance. That is why I beg to move this Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 26, line 28, leave out ("fifteen") and insert ("twenty").—(Lord Brooke of Cumnor.)


May I ask the noble Lord whether he can explain further the point of extending the period. Is he not thereby increasing the period of uncertainty from 15 to 20 years, the period of blight, and is it not a little inconsistent with his previous Amendments? I should have thought he would have wanted the period a bit shorter. Perhaps he can explain this.


I will willingly respond, but I think it might be more helpful to the Committee if the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, were to give the Government's view first, because I stand by my Amendment.


I think I should leave the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, to answer questions which have been addressed to him as mover of the Amendment. May I say how glad I am that the Opposition are coming to meet us. In the House of Commons they moved that 25 years should be the minimum for these notices, and the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, has now come down to 20 years. I only wish that I could feel it right to come up to meet him at 20 years or 17½ years, but I do not think this would be a good idea, for the following reasons. What the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, did not make clear was that we are talking of a minimum number of years as to which a notice may be made. There is nothing in the Bill as drafted to stop a local authority from giving a notice which will be valid for 20, 25 years or any other period they wish. We are talking only of a minimum, or perhaps the normal, lengths of years.

I agree with the noble Lord that no matter of principle is involved. The point is that there used to be nothing except a "never" notice. The local authority could give to the person who was troubled with blight in his property a notice saying, "I shall never compulsorily purchase this property". "Never is not a very practical word in the management of human affairs, and the result was that this form of notice was hardly ever used. The Government concede that it would be a good plan to get a form of notice which would be used a little more often and would be able to give security, satisfaction and reassurance to people for a period of x years. The question is what should x be. After looking at this matter quite closely, I feel that 25 years, and even 20 years, is coming too close to "never". It is a very long time indeed in the life of a planning authority, and they cannot really be expected to guarantee not to do almost anything within 20 years. Fifteen years is a more reasonable time: they can have a certain amount of negative certainty about their own activities, looking ahead for 15 years. Therefore, although I agree that there is no point of principle, I feel that the Committee would be wiser to leave it at 15 years on the ground that it would be used more often and many more people would get the reassurance of this notice. I would remind the Committee that we are talking about the minimum period, and if a local authority feel safe in saying that they will not want to do anything on that part of its territory for a period of 15, 20, 25, 40 or 50 years, they will be free to do so under the clause as it stands.


I should like to ask how far the Land Commission will be bound by the same certificate as the local authority. I know that they have no planning powers, but they can acquire them through the Minister, if necessary over the heads of the planning committee.


In so far as the noble Viscount means "Can the Land Commission issue these notices?", I would say that their right to do so is not affected by the Amendment or the clause under discussion. If he means can they receive such notices from a local authority, I would reply that I do not think so.


If an authority give the certificate, is there anything to stop the Land Commission from doing the same thing and claiming that they were not bound by any decision of the local authority?


I take the noble Viscount's point. I think that it would save time if I undertook to write to him about this matter rather than to seek the information in my notes now.


If the noble Lord is going to write to my noble friend Lord Gage, I hope that he will send me a copy of the letter, since this is a very pertinent point. I am not suggesting that the local authority would grossly cheat, but an assurance from the local authority in whose area you own the property that they would not seek to acquire the property within 15 years may be misleading now that we have this other animal, the Land Commission, stalking around. They might easily step in for purposes of which the local authority were not fully aware.

It would prolong the proceedings if I were to get into an argument with the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, as to whether my Amendment should have said something less than 15, rather than something more than 15. I can point out to him that the Opposition in both Houses has been consistent, because in both Houses our Amendment has been for 15-plus. I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, agrees that there is no special sanctity about the figure 15. Likewise I cannot claim that there is any special sanctity about the figure of 20. I do not think I should have sufficient ground to seek to press this Amendment. We shall have to see how this works. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 31 agreed to.

Clause 32 agreed to.

Clause 33 [Miscellaneous amendments of Part VIII of the principal Act]:

5.17 p.m.

LORD MERRIVALE moved, after subsection (2), to insert: ( ) In section 138(3)(a) of the principal Act the words 'and the interest in question is the interest of an owner-occupier of the hereditament' shall be omitted.

The noble Lord said: The object of this Amendment is to amend the 1962 Act so that not only the owner of a property who is also the occupier shall be given protection under Section 138(3)(a) of that Act, but also an owner who does not occupy the property; that is to say, a landlord. At the moment only owners who occupy the premises can invoke the blight provisions. In the case of smaller properties this can lead to great hardship. To illustrate this paint, I should like to quote some extracts from a letter which I received dated June 6 of this year: The property with which I am concerned is a large Victorian house. In the early 1930s the owner converted the property into flats and lived in one of the flats. He died in 1949, leaving the property to his widow for life and then to his children in equal shares. The widow continued to live in the flat until she remarried about 15 years ago and her flat was let to a tenant. The whole property was then let off in flats until 1965 when the local authority stepped in and forbade any further lettings of any of the flats becoming vacant unless certain works were carried out to provide ready escape in case of fire. The cost of carrying out these works was prohibitive in so far as the life-tenant was concerned. After an unsuccessful application to the planning authority to change the use of the property to an office block, it was decided to put it on the market. Agents found a purchaser in March, 1968, but when his solicitors made the usual search and inquiries of the local authority they were informed that proposals for a new road and roundabout would substantially affect the property. At this point, of course, the proposed sale fell through. This is a clear case of planning blight, but no purchase notice can be served as the property is not owner-occupied. It may be many years before the property is required for the road and roundabout proposals, so in the meantime it must stand empty and deteriorating. I ask the Committee to accept this Amendment so as to avoid such cases of hardship.

In his reply the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, may say that this Amendment goes too far, since its effect would be that business premises also would be included. But would the noble Lord bear in mind that there would still be the limit of annual rateable value—which is at present fixed, I believe, at £750—so that there would not be a great flood of purchase notices in respect of expensive, large properties.

On May 22, in another place, at column 738 of Hansard, the Minister said in reply to a similar Amendment that an extension of the operation of the blight provisions to landlords of hereditaments would "place a severe burden on the acquiring authorities." He justified that remark by saying that there are not the same hardship considerations in their case as in the case of owner-occupiers. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, will agree, after hearing the case I have just outlined to him, that there should be the same hardship considerations, and that it would be better at times to place a certain burden on the acquiring authorities, than to perpetuate undue hardship and possible injustice. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 28, line 31, at end insert the said subsection.—(Lord Merrivale.)


Hard cases make bad law, and hard cases of which Ministers have received no warning in advance would, if they influenced the Committee, tend to make for hurried amendments. If the noble Lord had been kind enough to let me know his story about the combination of the fire escape and the blight—that is bad trouble, I agree I could have given some thought to what would have been the right thing for the person in question to have done, and what protection he would have had under the present law and under the clause as drafted. We could then have seen whether it would be advisable for the Committee to go so very wide as the Amendment which the noble Lord has put down.

The point of continuing to confine the blight compensation provision to owner-occupiers is that landlords are not, in general, liable to the same compulsion to sell as owner-occupiers may be. To judge from the correspondence which we receive in the Ministry, there is not a widespread feeling that they are being treated unfairly because they do not get the blight compensation in the same way as do the owner-occupiers. Even when they sell, the price is unlikely to be affected in the same way as the price paid for property to be occupied by the purchaser. For an investment, which is what a landlord's house is, is simply a financial transaction, and since market value would be paid in any case on ultimate acquisition—unless it is a slum; but that is another matter—a threat of future acquisition should not have the same damaging effect on the value of the landlord's house as it has on a house which people wish to buy to live in themselves.

Moreover, owner-occupiers are unlikely to try to sell their properties or businesses unless they genuinely wish, or —more likely in this case—have to move; whereas a landlord can choose his own timing. There is the exception of the odd hard case where he is in trouble with the fire escape, but he would be exceptionally foolish if he were to time his sale at a moment when his property was blighted. In the case of landlords it is all right in the end, because they get full market value compensation, and so it is up to them to hold on. But if they want to sell, the purchaser will know that in the end he will get full market value compensation, and that will be reflected in the price he is willing to offer.


I think my noble friend Lord Merrivale has raised a hard case, and now that the Government have had notice of it I hope that they will be able to give it consideration. I am sure that my noble friend will give them the fullest particulars to enable them to do so. I am rather shy of taking up a position here, because I rather suspect that the provision which my noble friend is seeking to amend was one introduced in Parliament by myself in 1959. But I am the last to maintain that one always gets things right.

If I may hang on this Amendment one thought of my own, also concerning Section l38(3)(a) of the principal Act which my noble friend seeks to amend, I wonder whether the Government would consider at the same time if paragraph (a) is really right in enabling the Minister to prescribe only one annual value, which I think is at present £750. For most purposes we recognise that, owing to the tremendous difference in the levels of annual values in the Greater London area, different limits should be prescribed from those for the rest of the country. I am inclined to criticise myself for not having taken that point at the time of the 1959 Act. I am not suggesting that that would solve the problem in the hard case adduced by my noble friend. But if that paragraph is being looked at to see how his case could be helped, I hope that the point I have just suggested may also be taken into consideration.


One is always very sympathetic with a hard case, but the hard case quoted by the noble Lord is not created by Section 138. It is a hard case created by the fact that, quite independently of that section, the local authority are requiring the owners to provide a fire escape which they are not in a position to provide, because of the cost, and are asking that no further letting should take place pending the provision of the fire escape. That has nothing to do with the possibility of acquisition, and I do not know whether the noble Lord can explain the connection between the provision in question and this requirement of the local authority. Such a requirement could arise at any time under any circumstances, and the owners would then be in exactly the same awkward position.


The point I was trying to make about this hardship case is that if she had lived there she could have benefited from the blight provisions. But she cannot live there because she cannot afford to carry out the modifications which are required by the local authority. I hope I have made my point clear. That is why I am saying that if my Amendment were accepted she would benefit by the blight provisions, and the purchase order could be made.


I am not so sure that she would, if she lived in only part of the premises and not in the whole.


That is a matter which one could go into, and I am quite sure that the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, has much greater experience and knowledge in this matter than I have. But I wished to bring this case before your Lordships, and I am very grateful to my noble friend for the support he gave to the intention behind my Amendment. If I understood the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, aright, he kindly said that he would look into this question to see whether something could be done. It seems to me that to some extent there is a case of injustice here, and if the noble Lord requires any further information I shall be very pleased to forward it on to him. Perhaps an Amendment could be put down at a later stage to make it possible for people in such conditions not to be adversely affected by the provisions of Section 138 of the 1962 Act. I should have been only too happy to give the noble Lord forewarning of the case I was raising. Have I an assurance from the noble Lord that he will look into this question or does he require further information from me?


The noble Lord has my assurance that I will look into the case he has told me about and, of course, the fuller the information he can give me the more helpful it will be.


I am most grateful to the Parliamentary Secretary, and I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 33 agreed to.

Clause 34 agreed to.

Clause 35 [New provisions restricting demolition etc. of listed buildings]:

5.31 p.m.

LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR moved, in subsection (2), after "would" to insert "materially".

The noble Lord said: We now come on to Part V of the Bill, which deals with buildings of architectural or historic interest. This Amendment of mine is little more than a drafting Amendment, but still it is more than a drafting Amendment. Subsection (2) of Clause 35 says that a person shall be guilty of an offence if he executes … any works for the … alteration or extension of a listed building in any manner which would affect its character as a building of special architectural or historic interest… As drafted, that means he is guilty of an offence if the works affect its character in the smallest degree. I am suggesting that that is not the sort of case about which the Government really feel concerned, and I do not think that we should make action of that sort a criminal offence. I suggest, therefore, that we should insert the word "materially", so that the criminal offence will be to execute or cause to be executed any works for the … alteration or extension of a listed building in any manner which would materially affect its character… I know that in the earlier legislation which is going to be repealed by this Bill the word "seriously" was included, and I believe that that has caused cer- tain difficulties. But I do not think that we should go from one extreme to the other, and I believe it would be desirable to make it clear that the truly marginal change is not to be regarded as constituting a criminal offence. What this subsection is surely aimed at is the execution of works which would materially affect the character of the building. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 29, line 40, after ("would") insert ("materially").—(Lord Brooke of Cumnor.)


It seems a small point indeed, but my advice is that would be better to leave the clause as it stands. It is true that the 1962 Act said "seriously" and that this gave rise to much doubt. People thought, "What is a 'serious' alteration affecting the historic or architectural character?"—and this was very much a matter of taste. But the word "materially" seems to me not very much better than "seriously". It is a very vague word; it is as vague as "seriously". Obviously there is no such thing as a spiritual alteration affecting the character of an historic building, so a material alteration must mean something different.

Suppose the owner were to replace two stones which had become eroded by two admirably-chosen, freshly-cut stones from the same quarry. This would be a material alteration; but unless the word were there it would not occur to anybody to question whether he had committed an offence or not, since it would not affect the character of the building as being of historic or architectural interest. I fear that "materially" might introduce confusions which cut both ways, and it would be better to leave the clause as it stands, simply with the words "affect its character". After all, there are many minimal alterations which can undoubtedly be done without affecting the character although they may affect the substance to a minor degree.


I venture to hope that my noble friend will be firm about this matter. It is extremely unfortunate in these cases that the position should in any way be weakened, and I think the noble Lord's Amendment does just that. The word "materially" would considerably weaken the efficacy of this subsection, and I hope that my noble friend will not accept the Amendment.


I thought the Minister's reply was rather disappointing. I should not have thought that "materially" was a vague word at all. To my mind, it is one of the most precise words in the English language. Something is material if it matters, and if it does not matter it is not material. If you replace two stones in a large building by two other stones, that does not matter if you are considering the character of the whole building, so that alteration would be immaterial. I find no difficulty at all in applying a precise meaning to the word "materially", and I should think it would be much better to accept the Amendment, which surely improves the subsection.


I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, for his support. He has expressed exactly what I should have wished to say. There is not a great deal in this, but my concern is that local authorities shall not start initiating prosecutions simply because the owner of a listed building has made some absolutely trivial alteration. I think that that would be a misuse of these powers, and I was seeking to guard against it. We have to think here both of the interests of the general public, to whom these buildings of historic or architectural importance are a source of pleasure, and of the interests of the owners, to whom they may often be a nuisance. I do not think one wants to put the owner into the frame of mind where he is terrified of doing anything, even when something cries out for repair, lest he may be charged with the criminal offence of affecting its character in some tiny way.

On the whole, I think I have got the best of the argument and the Government the worst, as so often, despite the support given to the Government by the noble Lord, Lord Faringdon. I also think that the courts would have no difficulty in interpreting sensibly the word "materially". Nevertheless, I accept that there is not a great deal in this matter either way. I want to get on, and therefore I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


This Amendment provides for the unlikely eventuality of the winding-up of the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments. The Bill as drafted requires owners of listed buildings which are going to be knocked down to let the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments come along and photograph them before they are knocked down. This Amendment simply allows the Minister to substitute another body for the Royal Commission if ever it comes to an end. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 30, line 32, after ("order") insert ("made by statutory instrument").—(Lord Kennet.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


This is a drafting Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 31, line 13, leave out from beginning to ("and") in line 14 and insert ("Sections 30 and 31 of the principal Act (building preservation orders)").—(Lord Kennet.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 35, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 36 agreed to.

Clause 37 [Purchase notice on refusal or conditional grant of listed building consent]:

5.40 p.m.


The Bill provides that permission for the demolition of a listed building may be revoked or altered. It does not at the moment provide for compensation to the owner for any expenses or loss of value that he may run into before the revocation or modification. It seems to the Government that the revocation or modification of one of these consents should give a right to serve a purchase notice on the local authority just as much as outright refusal does. This Amendment would confer that right. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 33, line 7, after ("conditions") insert ("or, by an order under Part II of Schedule 3 to this Act, listed building consent is revoked or modified").—(Lord Kennet.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


Amendment No. 39 is consequential. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 33, line 11, after ("works") insert ("or, as the case may be, was modified by the imposition of such conditions").—(Lord Kennet.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move Amendment No. 40 which is also consequential.

Amendment moved— Page 33, line 29, after ("conditions") insert ("or modified by the imposition of conditions").—(Lord Kennet.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


My right reverend Brother the Bishop of Winchester greatly regrets that he has had to leave for an important engagement and is unable to speak to the Amendment that stands in his name. In view of the assurances given to him by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, he asks that he may not move his Amendment and hopes that it may not prove necessary to move it on similar lines at the Report stage.

Clause 37, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 38 agreed to.

Clause 39 [Notice to enforce s. 35 control]:

On Question, Whether Clause 39 shall stand part of the Bill?


I apologise if I have not raised this point in the right place. It is concerned with appeals. In Clause 39(3) there is a reference to appeals against listed building enforcement notices. If noble Lords look at Schedule 3 they will find that one of the grounds for appeal is that the building ought not to have been listed. Would it not be more sensible if we had at the outset a provision by Statute for appeal against the listing of a building as being of historical or architectural interest? A number of people who own such buildings are going to find they are under new obligations as regards this Bill. Their buildings have already been listed, and the process of listing continues. If the Government recognise, as possibly they do, an informal right of appeal, though not a formal one, against having one's building listed as one of historical or architectural interest I think it would be helpful if they would make it clear; because I know there is some anxiety among certain owners of these buildings.

Up to now it has not mattered very much if a building one owned was a listed building. It is going to matter a great deal more as a result of this part of the Bill—which, let me hasten n say, I support. It seems to me, however, that there should be a proper right of appeal for an owner against having his building listed as one of historical or architectural interest. One ought not to leave him to wait until a listed building enforcement notice is served on him for some reason, before granting him the statutory right of making representations to the Minister that his property ought never to have been listed in the first instance. I do not know why there is no statutory machinery for appeal against the property being listed; but if the noble Lord, either here or at some other point in the consideration of the Bill, could clarify that matter about the right of an owner who thinks his property should not have been listed although it is listed, I believe it might be of considerable, help.


I am quite content to talk about this subject now and I sympathise with the noble Lord in his difficulty in deciding which clause was the right one at which to talk about it. There is no clause in the Bill which talks about it. In my view the system introduced under the 1962 Bill (which confirmed that in existence earlier) has been working very well. There has never been a right of appeal in the first place against listing these buildings. In the Government's view the right time for an appeal is when something happens which is going to deprive the owner of some value. Listing itself does not do that. The lists of buildings of architectural or historical interest are the basis of the whole system of preservation in this country.

The lists are drawn up by a staff of highly qualified and experienced people. It is a matter of judgment whether or not a given house is worthy of inclusion. Houses are included or excluded on the single criterion of architectural and historic interest and on no other criterion. It may be that the general social interest demands that thereafter they be demolished for some higher purpose. It may be that the owner wishes to demolish them and the local planning authority hold that the general social good requires that they be not demolished because they are so interesting. It is then that the owner has his appeal to the Minister. This is the real point where something touches him. The mere fact that he is on the list does not touch him in the pocket one way or the other. I think it should be left entirely to the æsthetic and historical judgment of the investigator whether it gets on the list or not.


I am not sure whether I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, said. At one time I know these buildings were listed in a somewhat mass manner, without discrimination. I agree that that was before this Bill came in. It did not have a great effect on the owner's pocket, but I think that now it will—perhaps not in relation to this particular clause; but this is the general effect of this conservation. It may put the owner to expense. I feel there is a demand that the owner should have some say in whether his house is listed or not. I am not taking up the matter on this particular clause; but I hope that the noble Lord will not rule out any machinery for making the owner's position clear and for getting an appeal lodged about it.


I should have thought that the listing of a building might affect its value in the opposite direction to that suggested by my noble friend. I notice that on the house agents' circulars and particulars of property to be disposed of it is very often stated that a building is listed as a building of architectural or historic interest. That, I suppose, is presumed by those who have to sell it, to add to its value. I should have thought that in many ways the mere listing of a building adds to its value. People like to possess a building which has architectural or historical interest.


I am inclined to agree with the Minister that the moment of the listing of a building is not the moment at which most owners would wish to launch any sort of appeal. The moment of the owner wishing to launch an appeal would be the moment at which he was going to be touched in his pocket. I should like to be sure that at that moment one of his grounds of appeal could be that his building was not, in fact, a building of special architectural or historical interest—that it was not a building of that character just because the Minister had said so and had put it on a list.


I am not sure that it is only when he first thinks he is touched in his pocket that an owner may seek to question whether his building really is of architectural or historic interest. Going back to Clause 35, I should have thought that he might do that if he thought some alterations were needed and found he was going to commit some criminal offence if he ordered the alterations to be carried out. I do not think that we need make heavy weather of this. Perhaps an opportunity can be created at a subsequent stage of the Bill for the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, who had no notice of what I was going to say to-day, to make a considered statement for the information of those who find themselves owners of listed buildings, whether they are on the list already or are put on the list later.

I quite agree that the experts who do the listing should not have their discretion interfered with, but I also should have thought that it stood to reason that if an owner seriously believed that a mistake had been made he should have an opportunity, and know that he had an opportunity, to make representations to the Minister to that effect and should not be expected to wait until he was served with a listed buildings enforcement notice or something of that kind. It is full information for the owners of these buildings that I am anxious to elicit.


I will do what I can to make a statement about that, perhaps at a later stage on this Bill. For the moment there are two points I should like to take up. The owner of any listed building can write whenever he pleases to the Minister, saying "I think this is a crummy old building, and I do not think it ought to be listed at all". The investigators will take account of his letter and the next time they are re-surveying the county or district they will visit the building and see whether they agree that it is a crummy old building and ought to be struck off the list. This could be done at leisure, because, in my submission, if the question of judgment on the building is all that is at stake it does not stop the owner from doing what he wants to do, if all he wants to know is whether the building is as good as the investigators said.

On the other point, there is nothing that a local authority can order the owner of a listed building to do, or prevent him from doing, on which he cannot appeal to the Minister; and on appeal he can always say, "In my opinion this building ought not to have been listed in the first place because it is a crummy old building." This is the point where it matters that there should be an appeal, when an obligation or loss of value is being imposed on the owner.

On Question, Clause 39 agreed to.

Clauses 40 to 43 agreed to.

Clause 44 [Compensation for loss or damage caused by service of building preservation notice.]

5.52 p.m.

LORD KENNET moved, in subsection (3) to leave out: and had begun to carry out works thereto which could not, in consequence of the notice, be continued without listed building consent".

The noble Lord said: This clause provides for compensation to be paid by planning authorities for any loss or damage caused by the serving of a building preservation notice. This is a notice giving an unlisted building temporary protection pending consideration of its statutory listing. The provision deals with compensation where the building is not listed in the event. If the local authority says, "Stop! do not do that; this building should be listed" and then it is finally decided that it should not be listed, the clause provides for compensation to the owner for anything he may have been forced to do in the meantime. As the clause is drafted compensation is payable only where work has been done at the time when the building preservation notice is served. This would exclude compensation in cases, for instance, where the owner has already, by contract, engaged a builder to carry out work and it is frustrated by the service of a notice and he is obliged to make a cancellation payment to the builder, but where the work has not begun. This Amendment seeks to remedy that slight injustice.

I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 38, line 23, leave out ("building") to ("shall") in line 25.—(Lord Kennet.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move Amendment No. 43, which is consequential.

Amendment moved— Page 38, line 31, leave out from ("the") to end of line 32, and insert ("necessity of discontinuing or countermanding any works to the building on account of the building preservation notice being in force with respect there-to").—(Lord Kennet.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 44, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 45 agreed to.

Clause 46 [Repairs notice as preliminary to compulsory acquisition]:

LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR moved, in subsection (1), to leave out "one month" and insert "two months". The noble Lord said, I hope that the Government may think this a sensible Amendment. We have just dealt in Clause 45 with the compulsory acquisition of listed buildings in need of repair, and in Clause 46 it is provided that before starting proceedings for compulsory purchase the authority must serve a repairs notice on the owner of the building. One month after they have served that notice they may start proceedings for compulsory purchase. It seems to me to give the owner or the occupier extraordinarily little time to comply with the repairs notice if he is thinking of doing so. It may, after all, be only the repairs notice that brings him up against the necessity of doing something. If he is away at the time, or if whoever is dealing with the repairs notice on his behalf is not very quick off the mark, 28 days may pass and it has not been complied with. The Government are seeking to say that in those circumstances a compulsory purchase order may be initiated straight away.

My Amendment is the very opposite to a wrecking Amendment. It is designed to try to secure what we all want to secure: that the owner or occupier shall himself do the necessary repairs. I submit very seriously that one month is a very short time. It seems to assume that there is no chance of his complying with the notice. I contemplate a case where the owner or occupier wants to comply with the notice because he sees that it is necessary to do so, and I think it would be reasonable, and would make the whole plan of this Part of the Bill work better, if a rather longer period than a month was specified before the compulsory purchase procedure could start. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 40, line 3, leave out ("one month") and insert ("two months").—(Lord Brooke of Cumnor.)


I should like to be sure that the Committee understand what "comply with" means in this context. It does not mean finishing the work within a month. It does not even mean starting the work. It means taking "reasonable steps" which could still include signing a contract for the work to be carried out or hiring an architect to advise what ought to be done. All the owner has to do is to show some sign of life within a month. I do not know whether with that explanation the noble Lord may think it unnecessary to extend the month to two months.


No I do not. The repairs notice may specify a considerable amount of work to be done. I doubt whether the question of compulsory purchase would arise unless there was a good deal of repair needed. I have little sympathy with owners or occupiers who let listed buildings deteriorate—I have been in one or two such buildings and I have been shocked at what I have seen—but it is by far the best solution if we can get the owner or occupier to put things right. I submit, in all seriousness, that if the repairs notice is a substantial document calling for a lot of repairs to be done, one month is rather a short time—particularly if the owner happens to be abroad at the time or away from home on business—for him to take the necessary steps to comply with the order. I suggest to the Government that this would work better if we had a longer period. I put this forward not in any way wishing to excuse the owner or occupier for not having done the work before, but rendering it more likely that the work will get done in the end and the compulsory purchase procedure will not be needed.


Can my noble friend say what "reasonable steps", as he calls them, might be?


It means the hire of an architect to estimate costs or to send contracts or something of that kind. But to shorten proceedings, if the noble Lord will withdraw his Amendment we will look at these two periods with a view to meeting him. I could not go further than that, because the only point of looking at it is to see whether there are any snags we have not thought of, but at the moment I do not know of any.


On that assurance I am happy to beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 46 agreed to.

Clauses 47 to 50 agreed to.

6.2 p.m.

LORD KENNET moved, after Clause 50, to insert the following new clause:

Directions by Minister to local planning authorities with respect to development affecting Conservation Areas

".—(1)The Minister may give directions to local planning authorities with respect to the matters which they are to take into consideration in determining applications for planning permission for any such development as is referred to in section 1(6) of the Civic Amenities Act 1967 (special provisions as to publicity for applications affecting Conservation Areas) and with respect to the consultations which such authorities are to undertake before determining any such application.

(2) Different directions may under this section be given to different local planning authorities; and any such directions may require an authority—

  1. (a) before determining an application to consult such persons or bodies of persons as the Minister may specify, being persons or bodies appearing to him to be competent to give advice in relation to the development or description of development to which the directions have reference;
  2. (b) to supply to any person or body, whom they are required by the directions to consult, specified documents or information enabling the body to form an opinion on which to base their advice;
  3. (c) to establish committees, consisting either of members of the authority or of other persons or of both, to advise the authority in relation to the determination of such applications as are referred to in subsection (1) above."

The noble Lord said: This Amendment seeks to take advantage of the Civic Amenities Act of last year, Section 1 of which requires local planning authorities to set up and designate conservation areas. The point is, I think, familiar enough to the Committee, so I will not describe it. What it does not ensure is that planning authorities get expert advice on applications, and the purpose of this Amendment is to repair that omission. It is all very well for a local authority to say that a certain area is a fine area which should be a conservation area. Somebody might wish to build on it. The authority might not be sure about whether the proposal to build would fit in with the quality of the conservation area—indeed, some of the smaller authorities with delegated powers might be incapable of judging. This Amendment would empower the Minister to make provisions about the kind of advice the authorities ought to take before determining such applications. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 50, insert the said new clause. —(Lord Kennet.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clauses 51 to 53 agreed to.

Clause 54 [References to a Planning Inquiry Commission]:


I beg to move Amendment No. 46. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, that it is purely drafting. May I, however, take the opportunity of saying how much I welcome these clauses dealing with the Planning Inquiry Commission. I think that they are a definite addition to the Bill. My only reason for moving this Amendment is that the word "prejudice", seems to me to imply an element of prejudgment, and the fact that technical or scientific aspects of development are of an unfamiliar character tends to create an atmosphere of puzzlement but not of prejudgment, and I suggest that a word like "jeopardise", may be better than "prejudice".

Amendment moved— Page 44, line 43, leave out ("prejudice") and insert ("jeopardise").—Lord Brooke of Cumnor.)


I think that the noble Lord's word is a great improvement.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


This Amendment would ensure that the Planning Inquiry Commission not only identifies the relevant considerations and aspects of matters referred to them but also investigates these considerations and aspects before assessing their importance. This simply qualifies and lends force to the procedure which must be adopted by the Planning Inquiry Commission. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 45, line 19, after ("identify") insert ("and investigate").—(Lord Kennet.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 54, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 55 [Procedure on reference to a Planning Inquiry Commission]:


This Amendment and the following one are drafting Amendments. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 46, line 14, leave out from ("application") to second ("or") in line 15 and insert ("referred under section 22 of the principal Act or the relevant appeal under section 23 of that Act").—(Lord Kennet.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move this Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 46, line 26, leave out from beginning to ("on") in line 27 and insert ("referred under section 22 of the principal Act or an appeal under section 23 of that Act").—(Lord Kennet.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR moved, in subsection (3), after "local inquiry", to insert "or local inquiries". The noble Lord said: This is an Amendment which on Second Reading the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, invited me to put down when we reached Committee stage so that the matter could be clarified. From Clause 54(3) I understand that the Commission may be charged with investigating proposals to carry out development for similar purposes on different sites. I appreciate that the Commission's task falls into three parts specified under paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of subsection (6), but when it has finished its task under paragraph (a) the Commission may still have alternative sites to which it should properly give consideration; and if these sites are at a distance from one another I do not see how it is sufficient for them to have power under Clause 55(3) to hold "a local inquiry". I would have thought it was obvious that they might have to hold two or three more local inquiries, according to the number of alternative sites they desire to investigate. I simply want to make certain that the Commission have that power and it is purely for that reason I move this Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 46, line 38, at end insert ("or local inquiries ").—(Lord Brooke of Cumnor.)


If doubt has arisen in the noble Lord's mind, I am sure it is bound to arise in less well stocked minds, and it might be convenient if I set out in detail that the Commission already have this power. If alternative sites come before a Planning Inquiry Commission as part of the matter or matters referred to it, then an obligation to hold a separate local inquiry under the duty imposed by Clause 54(6)(b) will arise in the case of each site so referred. There can be no question that the Bill, in Clause 55, already empowers a Planning Inquiry Commission to hold a local inquiry in respect of every single site referred to it. I can assure the Committee that a Planning Inquiry Commission will be able to hold such inquiries as are necessary to hear objections to any matter or matters referred to them. Amendment of the Bill will not in any way amplify their ability to do so.


I am very grateful for that explanation, and ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 55, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 56 [Delegation of planning functions to officers of local authorities]:

6.10 p.m.

BARONESS SEROTA moved, in subsection (1), to leave out "with or without restrictions or conditions". The noble Baroness said: On behalf of my noble friend Lord Kennet, I beg to move Amendment No. 51. I should mention that this Amendment really hangs together with three other Amendments on the Marshalled List, Nos. 54, 55 and 57, and perhaps it would be for the convenience of the Committee if I discussed them at the same time. Amendment No. 51 is a paving Amendment for the second Amendment. The effect of the words taken out by this Amendment is reinstated by the new subsection (3)(b), in Amendment No. 54. The change is thus purely a matter of drafting, and is aimed at avoiding unnecessary repetition later in the Bill. Amendment No. 54 contains the principal Amendments proposed to be made to this clause, and it may help the Committee if I give some explanation at this stage.

The new subsection (2) restates the power now in the clause for a council having delegated planning powers to delegate further to one of their officers, and adds a further power for such a council to delegate to an officer of the local planning authority. This is necessary, as many noble Lords are aware, to meet the common case where a district council is advised on planning control matters by an area officer of the local planning authority, who would in those circumstances be the appropriate officer to whom his district council should delegate. Delegation to an officer other than one employed by the delegating authority is made to require the consent of the employing authority.

Paragraphs (a) and (b) of the new subsection (3) restate provisions already in the clause. Paragraph (c) makes express provision for withdrawal of delegation either in general or in respect of a particular application. Paragraph (d) provides for the automatic withdrawal of authority delegated by a council to an officer employed by the local planning authority if that authority withdraw their consent to the delegation.

The new subsection (4) expands the present subsection (4) to cover the case of delegation by an authority to an officer of some other local authority for which provision is made in the new subsection (2). The new subsection (5) ensures that a determination of an application falling within paragraphs (a) to (f) of subsection (1) of this clause, made by an officer with delegated powers counts for all purposes as a determination of the delegating authority. This is so whether or not the determination is one which the officer is authorised to make by the terms of his delegation. All that is necessary is that the determination shall have been made by an officer to whom some measure of authority has been delegated under the clause. The prime object of this subsection is to secure that a person relying upon a determination of an application which could be delegated under the clause need not trouble to consider whether it is a decision by an officer or elected members of the authority. The subsection prevents the authority from disowning any such decision if they do not like it, or if it is called into question. If, by accident or by design, the officer has disregarded any condition or limitation set by the authority to their delegation to him, the officer's decision (once notified to the applicant in writing) nevertheless remains one by which the authority must abide. The question of the officer's conforming to the instructions of his authority is one between the officer and his authority, and no third party is affected by the raising or the settlement of that issue.

The new subsection states that an officer's determination which comes within the terms of the clause is to be treated for all purposes as a determination of the delegating authority. This equation of an officer's determination with one made by the authority is essential in order to provide a proper safeguard for officers to whom powers have been delegated. It means that a person aggrieved by an officer's determination will have to pursue the authority rather than the individual officer. I hope your Lordships agree that this in principle is the most appropriate course one can follow should such circumstances ever arise.

I should perhaps mention, in passing, at this stage that with this re-casting of subsection (5) the Amendment to subsection (6) (that is, the indemnity provision, which is the subject of a later Amendment in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Ilford and Lord Burden, to make it mandatory) now becomes unnecessary. For it gives local authorities a useful power in circumstances in which they would not otherwise have it to indemnify officers, but its application is now in relation to acts of the officer in the course of reaching and issuing a determination, and not in relation to the nature of the substance of the determination itself.

Amendments Nos. 55 and 57 are consequential drafting Amendments to subsections (6) and (7) resulting from the provision in the new subsection (2) for delegation by a delegate authority to an officer of the local planning authority. I hope the Committee will not feel that I have dealt at too great length with this Amendment. It is a new and important one, and I commend it to your Lordships' consideration.

Amendment moved— Page 47, line 15, leave out ("with or without restrictions or conditions").—(Baroness Serota.)


The Committee will be grateful to the noble Baroness for her full explanation of this collection of Amendments, and I, for one, certainly think that the clause is improved by what the Government propose. I have no doubt that my noble friend Lord Ilford will wish to speak on the point where this has an impact on his Amendment, No. 56. I have only one question to ask, and it is a question which I could have asked on the Motion, That the clause stand part; but as the clause is substantially altered by this series of Amendments, perhaps it would be more appropriate if I did it now.

We are here approving a considerable change in planning arrangements—this delegation of planning functions to officers of local authorities. In certain quarters some suspicion has been expressed about this change. It was recommended, if I remember rightly, by the Maud Committee on the Staffing of Local Government, and also in the Management Study Report, and I think it is a proper change with which to experiment, particularly if planning committees take advantage of the change to spend more time on, and give more thought to, the really difficult cases. This procedure enacted in this new clause should relieve them of a lot of work which has hitherto been in the nature of rubber-stamping.

What I want to be sure of, however, is that we shall not find we are opening the door to the delegation by local authorities of planning applications to officers who have no real qualifications to do this. I am not anxious about the local planning authorities, because I think that by now they have provided themselves with properly qualified planners and architects. But I am not so sure about all the district councils which may be enjoying delegated functions in the planning field. It is a little difficult, because we have to use the word "delegation" to cover the two kinds of delegation here—not only the delegation referred to in this clause of planning functions to an officer, but also the delegation with which we are already so familiar, where a county council, as planning authority, delegates some of its planning functions to a district council within the area.

What I want to know is what is the remedy if a district council is found to be delegating its planning functions under this clause to one of its officers who in fact has not the necessary qualifications. A great deal of damage may be caused in that way. Of course, if he refuses to grant planning permission, there is a right of appeal to the Minister, and the matter will be put right. But he may be the sort of man who rashly grants planning permission in cases where a better instructed official would be on his guard and would not issue an unconditional grant of planning permission.

I should think that the remedy would lie in the hands of the planning authority itself; that is to say, the planning authority could withdraw its delegation to that particular district council if it found this kind of thing was happening. But I think it would give a considerable amount of reassurance to those who have some doubts as to the wisdom of this departure from well-established procedures if it could be made clear on behalf of the Government that there is a safeguard against the powers in this clause being exercised in the direction of allowing officers to take planning decisions when they have not the necessary professional qualifications to do so.


The local authorities will certainly welcome Clause 56. It will enable them to deal more expeditiously than they can do now with planning applications, and indeed other applications as well. It follows the recommendations in Lord Redcliffe-Maud's Committee on local government management, and this proposal for delegation was actually one of the recommendations of the Committee on structure development control.

I have only one qualification to make, and that is the qualification expressed in my Amendment No. 56. The clause provides that where functions have been delegated to an officer and he becomes liable to third parties for something that he has done as part of his duty, honestly believing that what he did was right, the local authority may compensate him. I should have thought that the action of the officer is so safeguarded that really there is little room for discretion in deciding, or otherwise, that he should be compensated, and it would be much more satisfactory for the officer, and I think no less satisfactory for the local authority, if an obligation to compensate him was made, as my Amendment proposes to make it, compulsory on the local authority, and not discretionary.

I think that the local authorities are adequately protected by the last lines of subsection (6). They can only compensate the officer if they are satisfied that he honestly believed that the act complained of had been done in the discharge of those functions and that his duty required or entitled him to do it". If the local authority are satisfied with all those things, I should have thought that there was no field for the exercise of discretion on the obligation to compensate the officer, and it should be firmly placed upon the local authority. I think that that is what the local authorities themselves would desire. But, with that qualification, I should like to say again that this clause and the power of delegation, which is something of an experiment, will be very much welcomed by the local authorities.

6.23 p.m.


I wonder whether my noble friend can give me some indication as to what is the effect of the Amendment which she has moved with regard to the next Amendment which I was to move. Hers is one which appears to extend and enlarge the sphere of delegation of authority, whereas mine, on the contrary, is to diminish that authority in certain cases. I found myself very much in sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, in his doubts as to the capacity of certain officers in small authorities to cope adequately with such authority if delegated to them.

I am concerned particularly about the various powers which are mentioned under Clause 35 of the Bill and which are of themselves somewhat difficult and somewhat technical. That is the reason why I put down the next Amendment. The planning authority may delegate these powers to any officer. There is no provision in the Bill for limiting the skill required by the officers, and I very much wonder what will be the effect of this rather large change in the Bill.


In the points raised by Lord Brooke, which run through the comments made by other noble Lords, we are, I think, touching on what is the crux of local government; namely, member/officer relationships. This particular clause and the direction in which it leads us, towards greater delegation, is I think generally welcomed, but, as Lord Brooke of Cumnor has indicated, it also raises certain qualms in certain places. The decision whether or not to delegate is a matter for the authority. The Government take the view that the brake on hasty delegation to officers who are not fully qualified to carry out certain duties is that that delegation will react back on the authority and they will therefore exercise it with the greatest caution and greatest care.

As to the Amendment I have just moved, noble Lords will have noted that it requires the authority to stand by the decision of the officer and to accept that commitment. As noble Lords and Members of the Committee who have experience in this field will know, this in itself will act as a check on unwise delegation to officers who the authority feel are not able to carry out this particular responsibility. With regard to the second point which I think the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, raised—namely, on the position when an officer acting on behalf of an authority is delegated with power by a planning authority, and how the check will operate—in the last resort presumably the delegating authority will withdraw the delegation. This, I think, would be a harsh step and would be unlikely to happen in that particular form. But here a check and brake on these new developments is provided to prevent them from running away with themselves, if I may put it in that way. One hopes, as I am sure my right honourable friend hopes, that local authorities, in delegating these new functions to officers, will act within the general spirit of this Bill—a spirit which was welcomed generally on Second Reading and which should speed up the whole process of consideration of planning decisions.

With regard to the point made by my noble friend Lord Faringdon in relation to his Amendment, which we will deal with later, I would say only this at this stage. He, as a member of a sub-committee of the lamented L.C.C., will know better than most about matters of historical monuments. We ourselves called the subcommittee dealing with this the "Hysterical Buildings Sub-Committee." These matters raise the greatest anxieties and the greatest protests, and that is why in the case of the particular kind of applications he has in mind there is a need for further and special consideration. I hope I have managed to cover the points made on this Amendment. I would only stress again that there is every incentive to local authorities not to delegate to officers who will let them down. It is my view that the officers of local authorities will not let their councils down in this context. There will be a new working relationship to which authorities and officers will move together gradually, we hope in the interests of better planning.


Will the noble Baroness say something about my Amendment No. 56?


I apologise to the noble Lord. I felt that I was delaying the Committee too long on this particular point. The noble Lord, Lord Ilford, is anxious that it should be a mandatory, as opposed to a permissive, power; and I thought we might possibly deal with this question at greater length when we actually came to his Amendment. It is the view of the Government that the noble Lord's Amendment would alter the nature of the subsection of the clause, because at present it is designed to afford an enabling power so as to bring it within the powers of the local authority to indemnify an officer to whom they had delegated powers. The revised subsection (5) protects him by making his determination that of the authority, as I indicated earlier; therefore redress in connection with it could be got most effectively and conveniently from the authority and not from the officer himself.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


This is a drafting Amendment which I hope the Committee will deal with quite briefly. The provision in the 1962 Act for the submission of applications for planning permission cannot be pinpointed in any one section, and therefore it is better to deal with such applications under Part III of the Act. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 47, line 18, leave out ("section 17") and insert ("Part 111").—(Baroness Serota.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


This again is a drafting Amendment. The question for determination under Section 43 of the 1962 Act is not whether planning permission is required, but whether an application for planning permission is required. This Amendment brings the wording of Clause 56(1)(d) properly into line with the wording of Section 43(1). I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 47, line 29, leave out ("whether planning permission is required therefore") and insert ("if so, whether an application for planning permission in respect thereof is required having regard to the provisions of the development order").—(Baroness Serota.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I have already given my reasons for putting down this Amendment, and I shall move it without any further description in order that my noble friend may reply. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 47, line 34, leave out paragraph (f).—(Lord Faringdon.)


As my noble friend indicated a little earlier, the effect of this Amendment would be to exclude applications for listed building consent from the list of matters which local planning authorities may delegate to officers for decision. I think he was a little anxious to know whether this would conflict with the earlier Amendment which I moved, No. 54. That Amendment does not touch subsection (1), on which this present Amendment bites. As I understand the object of this present Amendment, the noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, raises the special case and here it could well be argued that special qualifications may be particularly neces- sary. The two Amendments do not in fact conflict, and if it were the feeling of the Committee that this Amendment should be made, the Government would welcome it.


If the noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, would like support from this side to show the feeling of the Committee, I am happy to support him.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move Amendment No. 54.

Amendment moved—

Page 47, line 37, leave out subsections (2) to (5) and insert— ("(2) A local authority to whom the function of determining any such application as is referred to in subsection (1) above is delegated under section 3 of the principal Act may delegate either—

  1. (a) to an officer of theirs; or
  2. (b) with the consent of the local planning authority, to an officer of that authority,
the function of determining all or any, or a specified class, of those applications.

(3) A delegation made by a local authority under this section to an officer of theirs or of another local authority—

  1. (a) shall be made to the officer by name;
  2. (b) may be made with or without restrictions or conditions;
  3. (c) may be withdrawn at any time by the delegating authority (either generally or in respect of a particular application), without prejudice to anything previously done by the officer thereunder; and
  4. (d) shall, in the case of a delegation under subsection (2)(b) above, be treated as withdrawn if the consent of the local planning authority under that paragraph is withdrawn.

(4) Where a local authority have under this section delegated to an officer of theirs or of another local authority the function of determining applications, and the officer so requests in the case of any application specified by him, the delegating authority shall themselves, instead of him, determine the application in respect of it, as the case may be.

(5) Where any functions have under this section been delegated to an officer of a local authority, any determination by him of such an application as is referred to in subsection (1) of this section shall, if it is notified in writing to the applicant, be treated for all purposes as a determination of the delegating authority.")—(Baroness Serota.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move the next Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 48, line 16, leave out ("that authority to indemnify him, the") and insert ("the delegating authority to indemnify him, that").—(Baroness Serota.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I do not desire to say anything more about this Amendment, which I hope the Government will be able to see their way to accept. It is desired by the local authorities; I think it is only fair to the officers concerned, and it means only a small alteration to the Statute. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 48, line 17, leave out ("may") and insert ("shall").—(Lord Ilford.)


I am sorry to disappoint the noble Lord, Lord Ilford, but I am afraid the Government are unable to accept this Amendment. I am not sure whether the noble Lord is aware that this subsection, as it stands, is fully precedented in earlier legislation, and its amendment in the manner he proposes would throw it out of line with similar provisions relating to officers of local authorities in other Acts.

In our previous discussion I touched on the point, and I hope I explained adequately—indeed, I hope I satisfied the noble Lord—that this Amendment would alter completely the nature of the subsection.

Subsection (6) of this clause is concerned rather with acts done by the officer in connection with the reaching of that determination: the exercise of powers of entry, for example; or what he may say or write in inquiring into or discussing the subject matter of the application. In the Government's view the local authority must retain a discretion as to whether they should indemnify officers where action is taken against them for such acts which could, for example, include the issue of a defamatory statement in a wholly reckless and unauthorised manner. The fact that the authority are protected by the words in the subsection: if they are satisfied that he honestly believed that the act complained of had been done in the discharge of those functions"— delegated to him under the clause— and that his duty required or entitled him to do it is not sufficient. I hope the noble Lord will not press this Amendment, because I am not sure that it would have the effect he desires.


On this occasion I find the reply given by the noble Baroness somewhat disappointing. It is hard to see why we should not alter "may" to "shall" in line 17. Surely we are presuming that the local authority will always indemnify an officer if they are satisfied that he honestly believed that the act complained of had been done in the discharge of his duty. That being so, why should we not say so, despite the fact that in previous legislation Parliament has, perhaps in-advisedly, said "may" rather than "shall". On the other hand, I perceive that the insertion of the new subsection (5) is helpful in this case. It would be natural for a person who felt that he had a cause of action to bring the action against the authority, rather than against the individual. If he won he would certainly have a greater chance of getting the money out of the authority than out of the individual.

I hope that we are not going to leave this in a state which gives some disquiet to local authorities and to their officers. We are authorising them to put considerable new responsibilities on those officers. I suggest that we owe it to those officers to see that they are indemnified. I am not sure whether my noble friend will think this a matter worth dividing about, but I hope that if not now then at some stage in the Bill's progress, we shall make it absolutely clear that local authorities really must do the decent thing towards their officers against whom an action is brought.


I regret that the noble Baroness has not entirely convinced me that my Amendment ought not to be adopted, but then Governments never do adopt the most obvious Amendments. However, I do not desire to pres it. Perhaps, as my noble friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor said, we may come back to it later. I am not going to press the Amendment now, and I beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


I beg to move Amendment No. 57.

Amendment moved— Page 48, line 24, after ("theirs") insert ("or of another local authority").—(Baroness Serota.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 56, as amended, agreed to.

6.42 p.m.

LORD MOLSON moved, after Clause 56, to insert the following new clause:

Planning control of road works

"Nothing in the principal Act or in any development order shall authorise the carrying out by a local highway authority of works within the boundaries of a road or highway or on land outside but abutting on the boundary thereof, being works which will involve a material change in the appearance of the road or highway, except with permission granted on an application in that behalf made to the local planning authority."

The noble Lord said: I beg to move the new clause standing in my name on the Marshalled List. I have been asked to move this Amendment by the Council for the Preservation of Rural England and by the Standing Committee on National Parks. The purpose of the Amendment is to establish planning control of road-works. This has for long been a vexed matter, and perhaps I may explain exactly how it comes about that road improvements escape planning control.

Under the Town and Country Planning Act 1962, Section 12(2), paragraph (b) excludes from the definition of development, and therefore from planning control, the carrying out by a local highway authority of any works required for the maintenance or improvement of a road being works carried out on land within the boundaries of the road. The Town and Country Planning (General Development) Order 1963, Article 3, grants permission for certain classes of development listed in Part 1 of Schedule 1 of the Order, and these include in Class 14: the carrying out by a local highway authority … of any works required for the maintenance or improvement of existing highways being works carried out on land outside but abutting on the boundary of the highway. This is a little complex, because it is first of all under the Act and then under the General Development Order made under the Act that both types of road works are equally free from control. But the nature of the freedom is different. Those within the boundary of the existing road are under the Act deemed to be no development at all, while those outside the boundary, although they constitute development, are a class of development which is given planning permission under the General Development Order.

The new clause which I am moving, and which has been drafted by Parliamentary Agents, would have the effect of dealing with both these types of exemption. I apologise for setting the matter out in such wearisome detail, but it is important to be clear exactly how it is that road improvements and development are both in fact excluded from planning control. I would ask the Government to consider whether it is really desirable that road development should be excluded from planning control. I want to explain the kind of case that we have in mind. Naturally, with my special interest in National Parks I am thinking of them particularly. At the same time, I would say to the Government, as an argumentum ad hominem—or in this case ad feminem—they insist that the Countryside Bill should set up a Countryside Commission and not a Countryside and National Parks Commission, and therefore the Government's view is (and I certainly welcome this) that they are desirous in the future that the beauty of the whole countryside shall be preserved, and not exclusively the beauty of the countryside in the National Parks.

It is indisputably the case that in many parts of the country the highway authorities are somewhat regardless of the importance of preserving the charm and beauty of the countryside and concentrate almost solely upon the matter of making traffic move more easily and faster. It is natural, because they are the highway authorities, that they should try to do their job. But it is extremely important that, when they are carrying out improvements to roads in accordance with the general policy that has been adopted by the Government and by Parliament, considerations of beauty and amenity are both taken into account.

This is a matter that has been raised before, and I know that any Amendment of this kind has been resisted. I think that in some cases the Amendment has been resisted rather regretfully and Ministers have expressed their general sympathy with the idea lying behind it. In the case of most parts of the country the planning authority and the highway authority are separate committees of the same local authority. The view has frequently been taken—and I admit the force of this argument—that it is not desirable and not possible to impose upon different committees of the same local authority a statutory obligation to consult each other. If the noble Baroness would say that this appears to be an insuperable objection to my Amendment but that the Government would be willing to issue a circular impressing upon local authorities the importance of ensuring close co-operation between the highway committee and the planning committee, that would go a long way to meeting the point which I am trying to make.

There are, of course, two National Parks where there is a park planning board, and there the authority which is concerned with the planning of the park is not a committee of the same authority as the highway committee. There, perhaps, the Government might take the view that, even if the full extent of this Amendment is unacceptable for the reason that I have given as regards the other parts of the country, they would accept, at any rate in theory, the desirability of ensuring that highway authorities do not widen and straighten roads in the Lake District or in the Peak Park or on Dartmoor or any other places of great charm and beauty without consulting the planning authority of the National Park. This is a matter about which we have been very much concerned for a long time, and this appears to afford an opportunity for putting our case for the preservation of the beauty of the countryside to the Government. I do not claim that my Amendment is perfect, but if I could have a sympathetic reply from the Government indicating that they are prepared to see how this end could be achieved, I should feel that I had not moved the Amendment wholly in vain.

Amendment moved— After Clause 56, insert the said new clause.—(Lord Motion.)

6.50 p.m.


I should like to support the noble Lord, Lord Molson. As he says, this is a matter which has for a long time given a great deal of trouble to the amenity societies up and down the country, and more particularly in areas of outstanding natural beauty, most of which have become National Parks under the National Parks Act. In the Lake District in particular, which I know better than anywhere else, there has been almost a continuous battle. It is true that in recent years the road authorities have been rather more sensitive to the importance of this matter, but, as Lord Molson has said, the job of the road engineer is really to make a good road, and not to concern himself necessarily, or indeed at all, with the materials which he is using or with the subsidiaries to the road. He is concerned with the materials purely from the point of view of durability and not from the point of view of whether they fit in with the local character of the countryside.

Only the other day I had pointed out to me in the Lake District that red sandstone, which is found outside the area of the Lake District proper and is quite antipathetic to Lake District scenery, had been used a great deal in the construction of some new walls in connection with a road improvement. This, in its way, was really a bit of vandalism which no sensitive architect of the kind who advises on and looks into problems from the point of view of the local planning authority can possibly be guilty of; and it is most important that, somehow or other, road authorities should be made to discuss these matters with those who are responsible for planning in these sensitive parts of England.

After all, the majority of the people who visit National Parks do so on the roads. Some of them travel through so fast that it is unlikely that they will notice what materials are being used for the purpose of road-building, and particularly the tops of walls which, in the Lake District, are often turned into crenulated, battlemented types of structure which are completely out of keeping with the natural beauties of the countryside. Many people travel through the Lake District so fast that they would not notice these things, but there are some who travel through quietly, even in motor cars, and many others who still use the roads on foot and are sensitive to problems of this sort which, as I say, have been greatly worrying those who are responsible for trying to keep these exceptionally beautiful parts of the countryside unspoiled. This is one of the areas most sensitive to this problem, and I hope that the Government will be able to give us some sort of satisfaction in respect of this Amendment.


Let me say at the outset that I am not totally unsympathetic to the purposes that lie behind the new clause that the noble Lord, Lord Molson, has just moved. If it were to be accepted however, the difficulty would be that most works of road improvement would require planning permission, and it would therefore involve going through the full procedures of notifying owners of land, consulting with other authorities and so on. The vast majority of road improvement cases, as I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Molson, would agree, are in fact covered by existing procedures. The remainder can, and should, in the view of the Government, be dealt with by co-operation between the highway and the planning authorities.

A little earlier this evening the Committee were discussing one feature of the development of local government; namely, the relationship between the elected members and their officers. The particular point that the noble Lord, Lord Molson, has raised touches on yet another issue which was discussed in the Maud Report; namely, the relationships between departments and the dangers of excessive departmentalisation. As the noble Lord himself said we have the highway authority and we have the planning authority "and never the twain shall meet." At some stages one almost thinks it is necessary to have a passport to move between one committee and another when one is an elected member. I assure noble Lords who support the purposes of this clause that my right honourable friend is only too anxious to emphasise the desirability of consultation and working together in schemes such as this, where both highway and planning committees are involved. Indeed, he hopes that one of the gains that we can well expect from the new development plan system that will result from this Bill is that local plans will normally be the starting point for all important proposals for dealing, by means of road improvement, with traffic. In future there should be an opportunity for such matters to be properly aired, irrespective of the degree of opposition to them.

Procedure by means of local discussion, local participation by local citizens, preferably with a local plan as its focus, is much to be preferred to any blanket obligation to apply for express planning permission for carrying out works of maintenance or improvement of highways. It is in this new machinery of planning, the participation of local authorities and local citizens, that we see the kind of development of joint consultation coming about that the noble Lord, Lord Molson, and the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, have in mind. We are sympathetic, of course, but I cannot accept the proposed new clause for the reasons that I have given.


I am most disappointed in the reply of the noble Baroness, because I feel it is not only the highway authorities who are concerned but the Ministry themselves who put through these road programmes without any consultation with the local authorities. I think it most important that these roads should be planned not by road engineers but by planners; and I hope that the noble Baroness will look at this matter further.


I should like to express appreciation of the tone of the reply of the noble Baroness, and I am glad to have an assurance on behalf of the Government that the Minister of Housing and Local Government hopes that, under the new procedure, there will be much more consultation than there has been hitherto. At the same time I agree with my noble friend Lord Burton that the reply did not go as far as one would have hoped. I should like to emphasise what was mentioned by my noble friend: that one of the difficulties about this matter is that the roads are subsidised, approved and supported by the Ministry of Transport, which is not there for the purpose of preserving amenities.

Although I know there has been a great improvement in recent years in co-operation and discussion between the two Ministries, I do not think that it can be said to be entirely satisfactory at the present time. I emphasise this point, and I would ask the noble Baroness to draw the attention of the Ministry for whom she is speaking at present to the fact that anything in the nature of a trunk road is mainly and primarily the responsibility of the Ministry of Transport; and that it is of the utmost importance that through traffic should, so far as possible, be kept out of National Parks and places of outstanding natural beauty. I may raise this matter again, not in any hostile spirit, on the Report stage, in the hope that by then the Ministry that she is speaking for will have discussed it with the Ministry of Transport in order to try to get something a little more explicit than the assurance she has given. But for what she has given I am deeply grateful, and therefore ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 57 [Limit of duration of planning permissions past and present]:

On Question, Whether Clause 57 shall stand part of the Bill?

7.1 p.m.


I understand that the object of this Clause 57 is twofold. First, it is to mop up a number of planning consents that have not been implemented for many years; and secondly it is to circumvent land speculators who in the opinion of the Government are deliberately withholding their land from development in order to raise its price. The theory is that if these speculators were threatened with the loss of their consent and the value that goes with it, they would be stimulated either to build themselves or to sell to somebody else who would build—and at a reasonable price.

I am trying to make it clear that if I thought these results would be achieved by this Clause, I should not be moving its omission because, as a humble sort of amateur town planner myself, I know what a nuisance it can be if, when you are trying to promote development of a certain area, and to promote the orderly development of services to go with it, there is an owner who has planning consent but who simply will not play. But I have considerable doubt whether these results will be achieved, even supposing that there are numbers of speculators of the type referred to by the Government. Incidentally, I question whether there are so many speculators of that particular type. I am aware, of course, that this clause has been considered both by the associations and by another place, and they are satisfied that it carries out these intentions, so it may be that my doubts are due to my own stupidity. If so, they ought to be easily resolved, and I shall apologise to your Lordships for wasting your time. But at least I feel that the point should be examined a bit further.

Under the present law the theory was, and to a large extent still is, that a planning consent is attached to the land and not to an individual. I know that in recent years this theory has been to some extent eroded, but it applies to the large majority of planning consents. It means that if a man sells his land, he sells with that the planning consent attached to it. If he dies, his heirs pay death duties taking that value into account. The consent can be revoked and the land can be acquired compulsorily, but in every case the value of that consent must be taken into account.

There is another point which I do not think has been mentioned in previous discussions, and that is that in built-up areas there is a procedure known as the "procedure of the certificate of alternate use". This means that if a local authority seeks to acquire vacant land in a built-up area, particularly a built-up area covered on a town map, even though the land may not have attached to it any formal planning consent it is deemed to have such consent, the nature of the consent being indicated on the certificate. In recent years my own authority were anxious to acquire for their own school purposes some playing fields of two independent private schools that went out of use, but here the certificate of alternate use specified "residential" as the alternative use, and we simply could not afford to pay for football and cricket grounds at the rate of from £15,000 to £20,000 per acre.

The object I have in mentioning all this is to try to discover how the present system will be altered, not only in theory but in practice, by this clause. It seems to me that in practice a great deal will depend on the notation appearing in the development plan or town map in which a particular piece of land is situated. If the map carries no notation, if it is what is usually called "white" land, I can see that the clause would have a very real effect, for the owner would know that unless he implemented his consent within the five years the local authority might, quite properly, refuse to renew it It can be a very powerful stimulus to building if that is what you want to see, and I say that because it seemed to me that in some of the instances quoted in another place the real intention was it might be a good way of extinguishing old consents "on the cheap", and that seemed to me a little more doubtful proposition. I think it would stimulate development, if that is what is wanted, but in an area which is covered by a town map (or what we are now going to call by different names, a local map, a district map, an action area map) it seems to me that quite different considerations would apply, for in these maps the local authority set out in considerable detail the pattern of the development they want to achieve.

Supposing that one of these speculators owned land in an area intended for residential development—which is just the sort of place where I would expect to find a speculator holding land—and supposing that he had this consent and did absolutely nothing for five years, and that at the end of that period he applied for renewal of that consent, I do not see quite what we in the local authorities could do about it. We want the land developed, we have said that we wanted it developed, and it does not make a great deal of sense, if you want land developed, to tell the owner that he cannot develop. If there was any doubt in the owner's mind about that, what would prevent him from applying, not in the fifth year but in the fourth year, or even annually; and in that event how could we deal with that sort of case? We must, I feel, renew his consent. Of course, the owner would run a certain risk; we might change our plans—though that is unlikely—and he might lose the consent to develop some particular building, such as an hotel or an office; but the only real risk, it seems to me, he would run would be of having his land acquired by the Land Commission or by the authority for some statutory purpose, but always, of course, at full residential value. I do not see that that is really much of a threat, and I do not think it would be a great stimulus to building.

I am sorry to speak at some length, but I feel that this clause is going to hit the wrong people. I do not think it is going to hit the speculators. I think they will be too clever. I think it is much more likely to hit the ignorant. I can see that a widow, having paid death duties on her husband's property and various assets, might wake up one morning to find that one of her supposed assets was missing. I can see there may be some complicated questions of valuation arising—and legal problems and administrative problems. We have just set up, at great expense, a Land Commission, with very formidable powers and with numbers of expert officials. That Commission could deal with these matters. I thought that one of their main tasks was to secure land for building. I cannot see why we cannot leave it to them.


It is right that my noble friend Lord Gage should have initiated a discussion on this clause, which makes a far-reaching change in the law. It is most important that everything to do with the clause should be clarified, and also that the Government should explain and justify their proposals. Having had something to do with planning, I understand the desire of the Government and of planning authorities to get out of the situation where large numbers of old planning permissions are lying about. In such a situation a planning authority is unsure—and the Minister when determining an appeal may be unsure—whether a permission should be granted or not because he does not know whether or not a number of outstanding planning permissions will ever be acted upon.

I should like to ask one or two specific questions. First of all, can I be assured that there is the normal right of appeal to the Minister against the condition specified in subsection (2)? Some people appear to have thought that there would be a right of appeal if the planning authority fixed some period other than five years, but that there would be no right of appeal if the authority fixed the normal period of five years. It stands to reason that there should be an appeal, whether the period is five years or longer or shorter, and what is the right period will depend on the nature of the development. It would help considerably if the noble Baroness could give us the assurance that in every situation the condition mentioned in subsection (2) is a condition which could be appealed against to the Minister.

I have in mind another type of case. A number of developers who are house-builders are most anxious about the effects of this clause. If the Government wish Parliament to accept it, then they should do everything they can to allay those anxieties. Supposing that I am a developer and I seek planning permission for an extensive development. Let me interpolate that, as I read subsection (3), this clause relates only to the date of detailed planning permissions, and outline planning permissions are not material to the clause. Supposing that the planning authority is disposed to grant the permission but says, as it may well say, that the development must be subject in its timing to the completion of a new sewerage scheme or an extension of a sewerage scheme. A public sewerage scheme is something over which the developer has no control. Indeed, the sewerage authority may not have control if the country is undergoing a period of economic stress and they are limited by Government restrictions as to the amount of work which they can put in hand. Supposing a planning permission is granted for a large housing development but the permission is subject to the completion of a sewerage scheme which will be needed to deal with all the sewage from this additional quantity of housing. And supposing that the sewerage scheme is not completed within the five year period, or whatever other period the planning permission extends to. What happens then?

As I see it, the planning authority could then say: "Sorry, we are not going to extend the period. You have had bad luck, but there it is. Your planning permission has expired, and in all the circumstances we have decided that we do not want houses built here. We want to keep this area as undeveloped land." That means that the builder has not only lost his expectation of having the use of that land for building, but he may suffer a serious financial loss in the diminution of value through the local authority five years later, released from the implications of the planning permission, deciding that it does not want to allow houses to be built there at all. That is an intolerable position in which to put a developer who in perfectly good faith has reasonably accepted the original condition that the development should not take place until the sewerage was made available.

What kind of effective safeguard have the Government in mind to deal with that sort of situation? No doubt the Government have substantial reasons for wishing to enact a clause of this kind, but we should endeavour so to frame the clause that it does not react inequitably on people who have been going ahead in perfect good faith. As the Land Commission has been set up largely to ensure that building land is available in the right places for developers, it is going to be very hard if under this clause perfectly honest would-be developers find that they have lost a planning permission because, through no fault of their own, they have not been able to begin the work within five years.


By his Amendment the noble Viscount suggests the deletion of Clause 57 from the Bill. One might have been more sympathetic had he suggested a longer time than five years for the duration of a planning permission. The noble Viscount will have knowledge of occasions when long periods of time have elapsed during which a planning permission has been in operation, and this has caused great embarrassment, not so much to the planning authority, as to the community in which development was to take place.

The pace of modern life is so great that so much can happen in five years. Could the noble Baroness, in her reply, tell the Committee what would happen in the following example? Five years ago the Parker-Morris standards of housing were not in operation. Therefore, if one had a planning permission to build twenty houses before Parker-Morris came into operation, and one did not build them within five years, or for seven, eight, nine or even ten years, one might find when one came to build that, because Parker-Morris was an accepted standard, one could no longer build twenty houses, but could build only seventeen or eighteen because they would have to be bigger. In those circumstances, is that the developers' risk, or would the community be expected to pay compensation? It seems to me that for reasons such as this a planning permission should be given a life, even in the simple field of residential development.

7.20 p.m.


If I may deal first with the points which the noble Viscount made when he moved the deletion of this clause, as I understood his argument he is more concerned with the consequences of the clause in terms of compensation than in terms of its other effects. The object of the clauses in the Bill dealing with time limits is to stimulate the bringing forward of development of land for which planning permission has been granted, and, consequently, to enable new allocations of land for development to be made against a reasonably certain background of what development is pending.

In all parts of the country the planning situation is obscured to some extent or other by the existence of unused planning permissions of relatively longstanding: the numbers vary from area to area, and in some parts of the country they may not constitute a real problem; but it is known that there is a real problem in some areas.

A planning authority, faced with such an accumulation of unused permissions is bound to be apprehensive of the effect of additional permissions and likely to adopt a very cautious attitude towards further grants. The effect of the time-limit system in reducing accumulations of unused permissions could well lead authorities to take a more generous line, as it will certainly enable them to take a more realistic one, in considering future applications.

As far as the compensation position is concerned, in the ordinary way it can be assumed that as a valuable planning permission nears expiry an owner will take steps to renew it or, if the attitude of the planning authority makes this unlikely, to begin the development by carrying out a specified operation, such as digging a trench, or putting a peg in the ground. It follows that if at the date of a notice to treat on compulsory purchase an owner still has time to protect his interest in this way, he will be able to claim compensation on the footing that the market value is unlikely to be diminished by the short period the planning permission has to run.

There is the possibility, however, that at the date of the notice to treat the expiry of the planning permission will be so imminent—such as the next day—that the owner might find it physically impossible to begin to carry out the specified operation, and the fact of compulsory purchase for some other use can be said to rule out the prospect of the market paying any regard to the chance of the permission being renewed. Clearly, at this point of time the market is unlikely to attach any value to the permission, because by not taking any steps to protect himself the owner has virtually abandoned it. Even so, the special planning assumptions in Section 16 of the Land Compensation Act 1961 admitting in certain circumstances the way in which the land is shown in the development plan, or the certificate of alternative development under Section 17, might still bring the owner the full value with the benefit of his planning permission. If these assumptions are not in his favour then he can always fall back on Section 14(3) of the 1961 Act which allows him the benefit of the "hope value" of such a permission being granted had there been no prospect of compulsory acquisition. I do not know whether that clears the noble Viscount's doubts.


It has been argued all along that as these planning consents would come to an end in five years, that would be a very powerful incentive. In theory that may be possible, but my simple contention is that if you put down on a man that you want a place developed, it does not help to develop it if you tell the owner that he cannot develop. That is what I think the clever speculator will cash in on. He will know very well that all this talk about the permission coming to an end in five years is mere "hooey"; that he has only to put in his application and, unless it is reviewed, the whole scheme of the local authority will go to "pot".

If I thought the clause would have the effect that the noble Baroness is saying, I would entirely support it, but my whole object—and I think I wrote to the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, on this point—was to try to prove that whereas it would work as the noble Baroness suggests in a white area, where you have a town map and disclose your intention with the utmost clarity it is not possible, if you are going to preserve any sense at all, to tell the owner that he cannot build when his planning consent has not been used at all.


I am sorry that I have been unable to allay the fears and doubts of the noble Viscount. I must confess that I find this an extraordinary difficult matter to follow, and it might be easier if we had a discussion about it in another way. I am sure my noble friend the Parliamentary Secretary will be only too happy to find a time of mutual convenience when we can discuss this subject in greater detail with the noble Viscount and try to assist him with the problem which he still appears to feel somewhat unhappy about.

If I may turn to the general points, I can give the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, the assurance that he asks for. The normal right of appeal against the conditions in subsection (2) will in fact apply. With regard to the case he cited, the safeguard which should meet the problem that he posed to us is surely to refuse permission rather than to impose a condition. I am advised that the imposition of a condition would in that instance be unsatisfactory. I do not know whether that clears up the point.


Perhaps we can get this matter clear. Let us suppose that we have land which is marked on the development plan or the structure plan for residential development. At the moment the sewerage provision is not satisfactory for a substantial residential development. I understand the noble Baroness to be saying that in those circumstances the right course for the local planning authority will be to refuse planning permission. That may well be so, but the Minister cannot dictate to local planning authorities, and a local planning authority may easily grant permission subject to a condition of that sort. The owner then has his land with full housing value, which can be added to his available stock of land, and he knows that he can use it as soon as the sewerage provision has been made. That condition having been attached to his planning permission, he naturally assumes that there is an intention to provide sewerage. Indeed, the land would not have been marked for residential development if there had not been an intention of that kind at some stage. Anyhow, the local planning authority has, rightly or wrongly in this hypothetical case, granted planning permission subject to that condition.

It appears to me that if we pass this clause unaltered, at the end of five years a developer may find that he has lost his planning permission and that the value of his land has been depreciated simply and solely through the fact, for which he is in no way responsible, that the sewerage authority has not got on with the job of providing sewerage. That seems very hard. There would not have been any difficulty under the law as it stands at present, because the planning permission would not have been granted with a limit of time, but under this clause the whole value of the planning permission would be lost to the developer through no fault whatsoever of his own. That seems to be a kind of injustice to which we should give further consideration. It might perhaps be met by the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Fiske, that a rather longer period than five years should be inserted here as the norm. But I should like to assure the Government that there are some potential difficulties here, and it is far better that we should anticipate them at this stage, while the Bill is still capable of amendment, than that it should become a Statute and they should only then come to light.


May I put this to the noble Lord, in the circumstances to which he is referring? Here is a bona fide case where land ought to be developed for housing, where the planning authority have agreed and they have given consent, but where it cannot be carried out because of some physical conditions of some kind, or within the five years. It seems to me that, within those circumstances, there is nothing in this or in any other part of the Bill to prevent a re-application for planning consent. It seems to me that if there is a re-application for planning consent in the conditions under which the planning consent was originally valid, that would apply in any of the cases to which this refers. There may be some planning consents here of which the noble Lord will be aware—10, 15 or 20 years old, lying about the place—which ought to be tidied up, which ought to be renewed or in regard to which somebody ought to say, "This still remains the sort of development that ought to be done in these particular circumstances." In those circumstances, I cannot see that there is any particular hardship, although I personally should like to see a right of appeal to the Minister given.


Before the noble Baroness rises to reply, may I add one word to that last comment? It appeared to me, in the hypothetical case which the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, put up, that there is this very simple answer. As the noble Baroness has said, and as I should have thought, it is unlikely that a planning authority would in the first instance grant permission subject to such a condition—that the work should not proceed until the sewerage scheme had been installed. But Lord Brooke makes the point, quite rightly, that the planning authority might make a mistake. If they did, and granted the permission subject to that condition, there is nothing that I can see, either in the present law or in the law as it will be after the passing of this Bill, to prevent the developer, as the five-year period runs out, from making his new application, and it seems to me quite inconceivable that in those circumstances the planning authority would refuse to renew the five-year period, or to grant the developer a further five-year period, because he has been prevented from developing through no fault of his own. If the planning authority were foolish enough to refuse him, it appears to me quite inconceivable that he would not, on appeal, get a favourable verdict from the Minister. It seems to me that the fears expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, in this case are unfounded.


I am very grateful to the noble Baroness for saying that this matter might be considered further. We have been discussing various aspects of the problem, and sometimes aspects which cut into each other. But, as I said, if you want to stimulate building it is no good saying that people may not build. Equally, I referred to the probability of administrative difficulties, and I think my noble friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor has given several instances of them. But I am very glad to feel that my raising this point was possibly justified, simply because it looks as if more thought ought to be devoted to it, and as the noble Baroness has suggested that that opportunity will be given I can only express my gratitude.


May I have your Lordships' permission to intervene for a moment to ask the Government whether they can make a statement as to how long we are going on to-night? It has been very difficult over these last days to get any concrete information. There was a time, not long ago, when the Government Whip used to make an announcement early on that we would stop at a certain time or at a certain clause, according to which was reached first. It is particularly important at the present time, when, as your Lordships know, the traffic arrangements are so difficult, that we should be in a position to make other arrangements. Some of us have to get some distance into the country, and it is really very tiresome at half-past seven to have no idea at all where one stands. I suggest that if we are going on in this way the Whips should try to make a statement fairly early on and tell us just where we are, so that we know we shall stop at, say, ten o'clock or half-past ten, or at a particular clause. I hope they are now in a position, or will shortly be in a position, to give us information on this point.


I hope we shall have a statement, and I should like to make a protest. I have been trying all the afternoon, informally, to get a statement as to how long the Government intend to sit this evening. I do not know whether they intend to sit until the Bill is completed, or whether they have some time at which they intend to adjourn. It really has been quite impossible, though I have done my best, to obtain any kind of statement from the Government as to what their intentions are.


We are arranging that a statement shall be made on this point within the next few minutes.

Clause 57 agreed to.

Clause 58 [Outline planning permissions]:

7.37 p.m.

LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR moved, in subsection (2)(a), to leave out "two" and insert "three" [years]. The noble Lord said: It will be perceived that Amendments Nos. 59, 60 and 61 are all on the same point—and it is an extremely important one. In Clause 58 we come on to what happens after outline planning permission has been given, and it is indicated in the clause that after the time when the outline planning permission is, as it were, converted into a detailed planning permission the developer will have up to three years to begin the development. Most strangely, however, and inexplicably, the clause as at present drafted says that after a developer has obtained outline planning permission he must proceed to apply for detailed planning permission within two years. If three years is considered the appropriate maximum period between the grant of detailed planning permission and the starting of the work, quite clearly the period between the grant of outline planning permission and the application for detailed planning permission should be at least three years and not two, as stated in the Bill. That is why I urge the Government very strongly to accept these Amendments.

In the case of a big development the task of preparing plans on which to base an application for detailed planning permission is a very large one. It may also be a very costly one. I hold no brief for developers who are just sitting on outline planning permission and doing nothing about it, but I submit that two years is an unreasonably short time to insist on as the period allowed between obtaining outline permission and applying for detailed permission. Not only is it too short if the scheme is a very large one, but also it may happen that the land changes hands. It is not uncommon for property to be sold with the benefit of outline planning permission; and its value is thereby affected. Under this proposal, the new purchaser will have much less than two years in which to submit his detailed plans for approval. The only effect of that will be that worse plans will be put forward, whereas what we are all trying to do is to encourage good planning.

I cannot help feeling that in fixing this period at two years the Government have overmuch shortened the period—indeed, I cannot understand this limitation to two years at all. I should have thought that three years, at the least, was the requisite period as between an outline planning permission and the time when detailed planning application must be put in. I hope that the Government will take the same view. I beg to move.

Amendment moved. Page 49, line 33, leave out ("two") and insert ("three").—(Lord Brooke of Cumnor.)


Having regard to the limitation proposed on the consent, that work must be started within a given period (which would imply that the main consent must have been obtained as well as the detailed consent), it seems to me that it is a matter for the developer then to get his plans in within the appropriate time. I would in those circumstances accept a longer period than three years. I do not mind what the period is. The answer is that he must start his development within a certain time. It is up to him to get his plans in sufficient time to get the necessary approval to start work on the appropriate date. I have sympathy with the point about whether it should be two years or three years on a large scheme. On a single how e or a small development the developer should be able to make up his mind within a couple of years as to what he wants to do: but, equally, there are many cases where speculators get outline planning permission with no intention to proceed, and simply hold back to sell at an inflated value. In those cases it is as well that there is some limitation. As the noble Lord knows, it is quite a regular practice to get outline consent merely to push up the price. That, surely, is the last thing that noble Lords on all sides of the Committee want. While there may be circumstances in which it is desirable to oblige the developer to go further than outline planning consent, I can see many cases where it will not be necessary at all. He must begin his work within the five years; and that is that.


I gather that there was some inquiry about how long we propose to go on with this Committee stage. I understood that agreement was made through the usual channels that we should go on this evening until about ten o'clock and finish the remainder of the Bill on another occasion.


That is acceptable to me. I understood that that was the arrangement. I should be prepared to go on a little after ten o'clock to finish the last one or two Amendments.


I can see that if we are almost at the end, we may finish; but there are difficulties with transport for those who serve us. I think that, considering all the circumstances, ten o clock is as late as we ought to go.


I am obliged to the Chief Whip for the statement that he has just made. It will be very helpful to some of us.


It is difficult for me to see why three years, rather than two, should be the right period for drawing up the detailed plans, and two years, rather than three, the right period for putting them into operation. I do not know whether the noble Lord's intention was to cut the period between the detailed application and the commencement of the work from three years to two years or whether his intention was that both periods should be three years. It seems to me rather evident that once a developer knows what he wants to do (when he seeks outline permission), the drawing up of plans in detail to do it is a smaller job than it may be to let all the contractors get in, get the materials ready, phase the work and get going on it.

I do not know what is the justification for the intense feeling shown by the noble Lord that it ought to be three years instead of two years. Within the period of five years from outline consent to starting work, it does not appear to me to be very important how you slice it: three years for the first period and two years for the second; or two years for the first and three years for the second. But I think we ought not to raise the five-year period to one of six years. I believe I am right in saying that as the Amendment is drafted it would have that effect, since three plus three equals six. Clearly, that would be undesirable.

If the noble Lord would like either to withdraw his Amendment, so that it stands at two years for the first period and three for the second, or, alternatively, if he would like to withdraw it now and recast it later so that it will be three years for the first period and two years for the second, I think that some approach of that nature would be acceptable. But I would advise the Committee against "upping" the five-year period to six years, which is what would happen as the Amendment is drafted.


I am not prepared to drop the view that I have been pressing on the Committee, that a period of two years between ob- taining outline planning permission and the application of the detailed planning permission is too short. As to the consequentials, I have not addressed myself to those in that Amendment. I was not questioning the period of three years for the second stage, between the granting of the detailed planning permission and the starting of the work. My argument was that, as the Government had decided that three years was a reasonable period (though it strikes me as quite a long period) to allow the developer between obtaining detailed planning permission and starting the work, it follows that two years was too short a period for what is in many cases a lesser task.

This is true not only in cases where the development is a large one; or in the sort of case which I mentioned, where the land may change hands with the benefit of outline planning permission, and the purchaser will have much less than two years to put in the detailed application. There is also the consideration that for various reasons—the state of the economy, facts which come to light about the site or the subsoil and so on—the developer may realise that he cannot get ahead as quickly as he had hoped. Yet preparation of the detailed plans for submission for detailed planning permission is a very expensive job. No developer wants to commit himself to that until he sees that he is drawing near the time when, with detailed planning permission, he can get on.

If the noble Lord had given me no loophole at all I should have felt inclined to press this Amendment, but he has suggested that perhaps some accommodation may be achieved and I should much rather get an agreed solution to this. I know that the case I am putting forward has the sympathy of people who are professionally concerned with these matters, who know far more about it than I do and who would not accept the noble Lord's view that it is reasonable that the first of the two periods should be so much shorter than the second. Perhaps this is another matter which we can examine further between now and Report stage. If that is so, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.


Before the Committee give leave to the noble Lord to withdraw his Amendment may I say that I am ready to meet him and discuss how to slice it within the five-year period.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 58 agreed to.

Clause 59 agreed to.

Clause 60 [Termination of planning permission by reference to time limit]:

7.48 p.m.

LORD MERRIVALE moved, in subsection (1), to leave out "twelve months from the date of the notice" and insert: five years from the last date on which the development could be begun by virtue of such planning permission". The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 62. The object of this Amendment is to extend an arbitrary time limit imposed by the Bill. As the Bill now stands, Clause 60(1) empowers a local planning authority to serve a notice that is a completion notice stating that the planning permission will cease to have effect if a development which is in hand is not completed to the satisfaction of the local planning authority within a period not earlier than twelve months from the date of the notice. There seems to me to be insufficient latitude in this provision. Surely a reasonable period depends on the size of the development, and I think that is the point which was made by my noble friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor when he spoke to Lord Gage's Amendment to Clause 57. He said that the right period would depend on the nature of the development. It could be quite impossible to complete very large developments in 12 months.

Replying to a similar Amendment moved in another place on May 22, it is reported at column 779 in Hansard that the Minister said that if a completion notice allowed only 12 months, and it was an unreasonable period as it concerned a very large development, it would not be confirmed by the Minister. Why, then, put such a powerful instrument into the hands of a local planning authority? For instance, the holder of a planning permission for a large project may not be in a position to start development until towards the latter part of the five-year standard period. I think that point was also made by my noble friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor. I should have thought that a period of time should be devised so that it was quite unneces- sary under normal circumstances to have to rely on an appeal to the Minister. What I am seeking, therefore, is that if the completion notice procedure is invoked, a developer is allowed not less than five years to complete the development from the last date on which the planning permission is valid. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 51, line 24, leave out from ("than") to end of line 25, and insert ("five years from the last date on which the development could be begun by virtue of such 31anning permission.")—(Lord Merrivale.)


I should like to support my noble friend's Amendment, and if it is not acceptable I hope that the Government will be able to suggest some other way in which we can ensure that justice is done. I appreciate the necessity for this clause. If we had no provision for completion notices it would be hard indeed to enforce the immediately preceding clauses. Nevertheless, there are many circumstances in which a period of 12 months for completion of a scheme is quite ludicrous.

I invite the Committee to think of this kind of case. A developer is going ahead with a large-scale development which may not be just the type of development which he thinks would be successful. He may have had to modify the layout, or the type of house or flat to be built, it order to satisfy the local planning authority and to obtain planning permission. It may be that the judgment of the developer was right and that of the local planning authority was wrong and in fact there is no demand for the type of house or flat that the local planning authority insisted that the developer should provide.

You may have another type of case, common, I should have thought, in present circumstances, where a developer has embarked on a large scheme for which he has planning permission and finds that the market has dried up. That may so easily happen in times such as we have experienced too often in the last couple of years when mortgage facilities have been difficult to obtain. It is always liable to happen at a time when economic conditions are such that confidence is shaken and people are reluctant to commit themselves to house purchases. This is a regular feature of the building industry, and members of the industry know perfectly well that their optimistic hopes of a strong consumer demand may be frustrated or have to be modified because of national or local economic conditions which slow down the demand for the type of house or flat which the developer, in accordance with his planning permission, is turning out.

It seems that under this clause, even though it is perfectly clear that the demand has dried up and that it would be financially impossible for the developer to complete his scheme because he is unable to sell the houses already built, the local planning authority may serve a completion notice requiring him to complete this scheme within 12 months, or some other period. I submit that the 12-month period is much too short, even with the loophole provided in the subsequent subsection that would enable a developer to make representations to the Minister before the completion notice was confirmed. I accept that there must be a completion notice procedure, but I beg the Government to try to devise it in a way that will be generally acceptable—as this is not acceptable—to housing developers; and in a way which in particular will give recognition to the perfectly genuine types of case which I have mentioned in the examples that I have given.

7.58 p.m.


Some of your Lordships may be aware that the terms of this Amendment are identical with one which was moved on Report stage in another place and was negatived. The noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, has voiced some of the points and questions that were raised at that time. As I understand it, the Amendment means that a developer served with a completion notice would have at least five years from the final date for commencement of the development in which to complete it before the planning permission ceased to have effect. I hope that I can calm the fear the noble Lord may have that the completion procedure can be applied to existing time limit provisions as soon as Clause 16 of this Bill has been brought into effect. As was indicated in another place, this is simply not so, and I hope the noble Lord is satisfied with that particular situation and will not be raising it again.

The main purpose of this clause is to provide a procedure whereby the planning authority concerned with the development in the area, which has been started within a time limit set by the planning permission but which looks as though it may never be completed, can clarify the situation by bringing to a head the question whether planning permission should be allowed to stand for that part of the development which has not been carried out. Clearly this calls for a period of compliance with the completion notice which is no longer than is necessary to give the developer, who is, after all, anxious to complete the development, time to go ahead and do so. I submit, and I hope that the Committee will agree, that 12 months is a reasonable basic period, and that a five-year period, as proposed in the Amendment, is quite unnecessarily long.

I would stress that 12 months is the minimum time and a planning authority can if it wishes specify a longer period. But in these circumstances we must, I think, allow a reasonably short period to cover a token start. Moreover the developer's position—and here I think is the point which concerns the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor—is fully safeguarded by the fact that a completion notice has to be confirmed by the Minister before it can come into effect and there is provision for the parties to have a hearing if they desire. The Minister is also empowered to postpone the date of the planning permission so that it ceases to have effect. In those circumstances, I hope that the noble Lord will not press this Amendment.


I thank the noble Baroness for her reply, and I would also express my gratitude to my noble friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor for his support, and especially for the examples he gave to your Lordships. I am grateful to him for agreeing that the twelve-month period is too short. As the noble Baroness referred to what was said in another place on a similar Amendment, I think she would agree that the Opposition were not wedded to the idea of a five-year period but only wanted a greater latitude. I am wondering whether the Minister would be willing to consider a lesser period than five years—say, three years. If the Minister would not be prepared to consider that, would he be prepared to consider a two-tier system—that is, a twelve-month period for development which does not exceed a certain figure and a longer period than twelve months for a large development in excess of this specific figure or cost? Before we go any further, I wonder whether the noble Baroness could say whether she is prepared to consider either of these proposals.


My noble friend has asked pertinent questions and I should like to add another before the noble Baroness replies. Whatever figure we have, whether it be twelve months, two years or five years, it seems to me that the clause should make some provision for the fact that the process of getting confirmation from the Minister, particularly if the notice is objected to, will take some time.

Let us suppose that the twelve months remains and that a completion notice is served. The developer, having taken cognisance of it, prepares his case for making representations to the Minister objecting to the twelve months, as he is entitled to do under subsection (3). Both the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, and I have some experience of ministerial decisions, and we know that they cannot be taken the very day the papers arrive in the Ministry. In these circumstances the developer will be in an extraordinarily difficult position during the period of weeks and months while the Minister is considering whether or not to confirm his application. Is he to work away with everything in motion, in the hope that he may be getting development completed within the twelve months and not lose the remainder of his planning permission, or is he to bank on the hope that the Minister will not decide to confirm the completion notice? It strikes me that there should be a fixed minimum period from the time the Minister gives his decision, whatever may be the fixed period inserted in subsection (1) of the clause. Perhaps that is another point which the Government could consider further at the next stage.


I am sorry to appear inflexible on this occasion, but I do so because it is the Government's view that there is sufficient flexibility in the clause as it is drafted. I had already mentioned that twelve months is the minimum period, and, if necessary, a planning authority can specify a longer period. In any event, the Minister has to confirm the notice, and he, too, can increase the period. The Government see no need to make here a change on the lines suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale. However, I have listened carefully to the points made and will take due note of them, and perhaps at the next stage we can come back to this point.


I am grateful to the noble Baroness for those extra remarks. I am not sure that I entirely agree with her about there being sufficient flexibility in the clause as it stands. I feel that if a twelve-month period is mentioned local authorities will be influenced by what is in the Bill. But I do not wish to take this matter further to-night, and I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 60 agreed to.

Clause 61 [New provisions as to what is "operational land" of statutory undertakers]:

8.7 p.m.

LORD ILFORD moved, in subsection (2), to leave out paragraph (b). The noble Lord said: This Amendment deals with a subject altogether different from the one that we have been discussing for the last half-hour. Clause 61 deals with "operational land" of statutory undertakers and lays down certain conditions on which land is to be treated as operational. Statutory undertakers are favourably treated as regards planning. They do not require consent for developing their operational land. Incidentally, they are also entitled to compensation, which we shall be discussing in a few moments.

I need not trouble your Lordships with most of the conditions, but subsection (2) states: The land shall not be treated as operational land for the purposes of the principal Act unless one or both of the following conditions are satisfied with respect to it, namely— I need not trouble your Lordships with the first condition in paragraph (a), but paragraph (b) provides: immediately before the statutory undertakers acquired their interest in the land, the land was used by other statutory undertakers for a purpose of the latter's undertaking. That is the position which might produce the most startling and unexpected results. If a statutory undertaker has acquired land from another, the first undertaker may develop it without getting planning consent for the purpose of their undertaking if it had been acquired by the statutory undertaking from whom they acquired it for the purpose of that undertaking. Perhaps I can make the position clearer by trying to think of an illustration. Suppose a Gas Board desire to erect a gasholder. A gasholder is an unsightly object, and one that certainly ought to be controlled with planning restrictions and requirements. Suppose that the Gas Board then acquire from the railways, land which was used by the railways for sidings or marshalling yards, or something of that sort. Because the railways use the land on their statutory undertaking, the Gas Board can use the land that they acquire from the railways for the Gas Board's statutory undertaking, and without getting town planning consent or anybody's permission they can erect a gasholder on a site which has previously been used as an open site by the railways. I am quite sure that that is not an arrangement which would appeal very strongly to your Lordships. If there is an object which should require planning consent, it is, as a rule, the objects which are employed by statutory undertakings; that is, gasholders, electricity pylons, and things of that sort.

What the Amendment proposes is to leave out altogether this provision that the statutory operational land of another undertaking can be used for purposes of an acquiring undertaking. I am sure that this is an Amendment which will appeal strongly to noble Lords who are especially interested in amenity preservation (I am sorry that my noble friend Lord Molson has left us), because this Amendment is really in the interests of amenity and not in the interests of local authorities. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 52, line 31, leave out paragraph (b).—(Lord Ilford.)


The noble Lord is perfectly right in saying that the Bill, as drafted, would on a transfer of the land permit the Gas Board to put up gas- holders without planning permission on former railway sidings. But his Amendment, although it would prevent that happening, would also prevent, for instance, the National Freight Corporation, which is to be set up under the Transport Bill, from carrying on railway development on operational land acquired from the railways. The former effect of the Amendment is desirable but the latter effect is undesirable. In other words, it goes too far. There are problems of definition here.


If I may interrupt the noble Lord, in his second case they could, of course, get planning consent from the planning authority.


So they could, I believe, in the former case. It surely is not any part of the noble Lord's purpose to prevent one statutory authority from continuing a business hitherto conducted by another on the same land, on the same terms. That is the effect of his Amendment as it stands. I agree with the noble Lord, though I think it is infinitely unlikely that the Gas Board, using this loophole, will go round surreptitiously buying up railway sidings in order to put up great big gasholders; yet it is a loophole, and if he will agree to withdraw his Amendment we will look at it between now and the Report stage to see whether it is possible to distinguish between the two classes of things, one of which, in my submission, we ought to have and the other we ought not.


May I just say in reply to the noble Lord that of course they could get town planning consent to erect a gasholder either on railway land or other land. There is nothing to prevent them from applying for consent. But in view of what the noble Lord has said. I am glad to withdraw my Amendment, and I hope that we may succeed in finding a formula which will satisfy us both.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clauses 61 and 62 agreed to.

Clause 63 [Restrictions on entitlement of statutory undertakers to compensation for adverse planning decisions]:

8.14 p.m.

LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR moved, in subsection (5), to leave out "half" and insert "tenth". The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 64. This Amendment and the subsequent Amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Ilford both deal with the same matter. Let me say at the outset that I should prefer a solution to be reached on the lines of my noble friend's Amendment rather than on the lines of mine. I say, quite frankly, that, not having his legal gifts, I should not have been capable of drafting an Amendment like his. I put down in my name what appeared to me to be the simplest possible Amendment to enable me to draw the attention of the Committee to the point at issue. I think, however, on the matter of principle, my noble friend is right and there should be no right of compensation for the statutory undertakers.


Will the noble Lord forgive me for interrupting? Would it not be better if he were to withdraw his particular Amendment at this stage, so that we could debate the real issue on the next Amendment, and then, if it is not satisfactory to the noble Lord, he will have the opportunity of putting the Amendment down again? It would perhaps save time.


I do not know that it would save time because I shall make a speech in either case. What I had hoped, if it is acceptable to my noble friend and the Government, was that we should debate these two Amendments together, because they are different ways of attacking the same problem. I was about to say that some of your Lordships may be familiar with this subject and those of your Lordships who are not familiar with the history will find it as difficult as Sanskrit.

The issue really is this. In 1944 a committee presided over by the late Lord Kilmuir recommended that there should be a right of compensation (I put this in brief and summarised terms) on the refusal of a planning application put forward by a statutory undertaker for the purposes of its business. The theory underlying that, as I understand it, is that it is not much use to a railway company (as they were then) or to the Railways Board if they are told by the planning authority that they cannot have a siding where they want it, alongside the main line, but that there is a con- vient site, from a planning standpoint, about three miles away to the left. The railways, the gas and electricity undertakings and so on, are performing a public service, and it was felt that they had not got the same choice of site for the development of their undertakings as the ordinary private person or private company had.

I doubt whether that distinction is valid. I doubt whether it is a greater hardship to the Gas Board or Electricity Board not to have its gasworks or gasholders or its generating station in exactly the Position it requires than it is for a limited company not to be allowed by the planning authority to extend its works in the position which, from an industrial productivity standpoint, would be the most convenient and economical position. Nevertheless, that is how it was, and the statutory undertakers were given, by law, a right of compensation on the refusal of planning permission in certain circumstances, which was not available to the general public or the people carrying on private undertakings.

All this came to a head over the gasholder at Abingdon, where the relevant Gas Board demanded to put up an enormous gasholder, which undoubtedly would have spoilt the skyline and the longer views of a very pleasant Berkshire town, and required enormous compensation if its application was not accepted. This looked to me to be in the nature of blackmail. I am sorry to say so, but I think it really was a case of blackmail, because a tremendously heavy burden was put upon the ratepayers of Berkshire if the planning application was not granted.

My view is that a planning authority should proceed to grant or withhold planning permission on the merits of the case, and should not be subject to being held to ransom if on good planning grounds—and it certainly had good planning grounds there—it refuses planning permission. However, the law was on the side of the Gas Board. Public opinion, regardless of political Party was absolutely solid against the Gas Board. What happened in the end was that a compromise was reached by which the Gas Board agreed to forgo half the compensation to which it would have been entitled under the law, the remaining half having to fall upon the ratepayers. This Bill, while I quite accept that it narrows the cases in which compensation could be claimed by a statutory undertaker, nevertheless leaves it as being the case that where a valid claim can be established the division of financial responsibility will lie, as in the case of the Abingdon gasholder, so that 50 per cent. of the notional loss through the refusal of planning permission will be carried by the applicant undertaker and the other 50 per cent. will fall on the ratepayers.

My first point on this—and here I know I am arguing against my own Amendment—is that I think it is wrong in principle that any cost in such cases should fall on the ratepayers through the decision of their planning authority. I think the planning authority should be absolutely free to make up its own mind and should not have to think of the cost in the case of a statutory undertaker in a way which it would not have to consider in the case of any other applicant for planning permission. Even if it were agreed—and I would not accept it—that there should be some entitlement to compensation, or (shall I say?) some incentive to the planning authority not to refuse planning permission lightly, I certainly would not accept that the division should be 50/50. That was the decision reached as a compromise under duress in the Abingdon case. The Gas Board could have demanded its pound of flesh, but it was content with half a pound. I do not think that we should be enacting in permanent legislation a financial division which, as I said, was reached under duress in that case.

I greatly hope that the Government, who have been heavily pressed in another place from both sides to re-examine this question of compensation, will tonight announce that they are ready to do so. If they were to do that, I should be very glad to withdraw my Amendment, and I am quite sure that my noble friend would not wish to press his Amendment. But I trust that I shall carry the Committee with me in saying that it is not acceptable to Parliament that so heavy a burden as compensation amounting to 50 per cent. should be placed by law on the ratepayers of a county or county borough simply and solely because the planning authority, acting in accordance with proper planning principles, has stopped a statutory undertaker from doing what it would wish to do for the purposes of its undertaking. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 55, line 20, leave out ("half") and insert ("tenth").—(Lord Brooke of Cumnor.)


I should like to endorse what my noble friend has just suggested. It probably would be for the convenience of the Committee if we discussed both these Amendments together; and perhaps if the noble Lord, Lord Ilford, would like to introduce his Amendment now, then I could say what the Government's attitude is and the debate might continue on the two Amendments together.

8.24 p.m.


I thought that we were going to discuss the two Amendments together. I am very grateful to my noble friend Lord Brooke for having put the case for this Amendment with so much force. I think we have in the drafting of the Amendment escaped the obvious pitfalls which were presented, and I hope that now we have it successfully on the Paper it is going to appeal to your Lordships. There is really no reason why a statutory undertaker should be treated so much more favourably than a private undertaker is. There is really no reason to differentiate between the two classes.

Having said that, may I say just a few words about the background to this Amendment. This story began, like my story, with a gas-holder, and the gas-holder at Abingdon aroused the most determined opposition from every force of organised opinion in the town of Abingdon. In response to the pressure put upon him, the Minister at that time agreed that the matter should be considered by an Interdepartmental Committee, and accordingly an Interdepartmental Committee considered it and they recommended, if my recollection is right, that the terms under which the Abingdon case had been settled—it was a 50–50 division—should be the terms upon which a statutory undertaker is required to pay compensation. That was not acceptable to the House of Commons, and further pressure was put by both sides on the Minister to go a stage further.

The Minister then introduced an arrangement by which the Department responsible for the statutory undertaking drafts regulations, specifying what types of development are to be subject to compensation and what types are not. That was not acceptable to the House of Commons, and further pressure was put upon the Minister to abandon the idea of compensation altogether. So the Government have gone step by step, rather unwillingly, in the right direction. I hope that this Amendment may be the means of inducing them to take the last final step and to decide that compensation ought not to be payable to the statutory undertakers at all.


I think I cannot do better than to quote to the Committee, which I believe the Rules allow me to do, remarks made about this matter by my right honourable friend the Minister on the Second Reading of this Bill in the House of Commons, because this really gives a history of how we come to the proposals in the Bill as it stands. He said: The reason why statutory undertakers were originally given this special position was quite simply that they were statutory undertakers. They are under an obligation to provide services to the public and they cannot, like a private firm in planning difficulties, go elsewhere, or start another business. They have to go on providing the service, and if the planning authority wanted to put up their costs by restricting their activities, it was thought right in the past that the planning authority should reimburse them. However valid these arguments were once felt to be, the climate of opinion has changed since. Planning must still pay sensible attention to the need to provide essential public services economically. On the other hand, any modern industrial undertaking must be prepared to conduct its business in a way which minimises ugliness, and to accept reasonable costs to make its buildings, plant and operations acceptable to public opinion". So it was to achieve that purpose, or as much of that purpose as appeared reasonable, that Clauses 61 and 63 were drafted—in order to redress the balance which the Government have recognised has until now been weighted too much against the local authorities and too much in favour of the statutory undertakers.

The Committee should not underestimate the very large extent to which undertakers' privileges will be taken away by these clauses as unamended and by regulations to be made under them. Most of the undertakers' planning privileges accrue to their operational land. These clauses as a whole narrow the definition of "operational land". They restore to the planning Minister a part in determining, with the sponsoring Minister, any questions as to whether land is operational, and they halve forthwith the compensation payable for adverse planning decisions on such land.

As regards Clause 63, which is the most important one from the compensation point of view, it is proposed to frame regulations so that the only kind of development that will qualify for compensation under Clause 63 will be development necessary to enable an undertaker to carry out a primary statutory function and in particular if the siting and design of operational considerations seriously limit the undertakers' freedom of choice. The Government's case is that with these restrictions in the definition of "operational land" and with the halving of compensation on what is left, we have gone far enough.


I hardly think the Government's answer is satisfactory. What the Amendment seeks to do is to reinstate the original clause, which was fairly simple, and abolish compensation. We now have a new and complicated clause which can lead to all sorts of argument as to whether or not this land is subject to compensation. The Government are laying themselves open to trouble in trying to determine which land shall or shall not be liable for compensation. I can see this argument dragging on for months, with counsel on both sides arguing the point at a public inquiry and then the Minister having to come to a decision that the local authority is liable as to 50 per cent. Meanwhile, all the time that has been wasted will either double the compensation or halve the value of it.

What is really happening is that the Government are admitting that the question of the payment of full compensation is oppressive and unjust, so they say: "We will make it 50 per cent. less oppressive and only 50 per cent. unjust". The claim is either right or wrong. We are arguing—and I do so with the full weight of my Association behind me, and I know this applies to all the planning authorities—that they should say "No, this is long since out-dated; it is high time the question of compensation was completely abolished". One might have expected the Government to have a little more courage and to say that there is no question of there being a "Dutch auction and its being 50 per cent. instead of 100 per cent. It is manifestly wrong, because the Government have agreed that it ought to be only 50 per cent. Therefore, they might as well go the "whole hog" and say that in future statutory undertakers will receive no compensation.

The position with regard to statutory undertakers has altered a great deal. When this was first thought of there were a number of statutory undertakers of different sizes, whereas now we have huge corporations which do not really need compensation if they are refused permission. If they are refused permission to operate in one place—shall we say in the case of the electricity or gas undertakings—they can look at the country as a whole and determine to put their operations elsewhere, which will not be any less economic. It is not like the old days, when it might have been harmful to a particular undertaker if he was not allowed to develop in a particular place.

I think the Government should look at this point again. Frankly, I would not go so far as to say that I would go into the Lobby on this particular point, but I hope we may ask the Government to look at it again and to decide that the new, complicated clause is in many ways less satisfactory than the old clause, and to wipe out compensation altogether.


I was deeply disappointed with the Government's reply. I had hoped that they would recognise that even with all the efforts that had been made in another place, public and Parliamentary opinion was still gravely dissatisfied with the solution they proposed. Why should the statutory undertakers have a special right to spoil the countryside, which nobody else has a right to do, and if they are not allowed to do so they can make the general public pay them compensation? It is an astonishing doctrine. If somebody is making motor cars or wicker baskets, or whatever it may be, and they are refused planning permission to extend their factory in the obvious economic direction, they have to accept that decision, and in the long run the customers have to pay more because the cost of production is not as low as it would have been had the company been granted permission to spoil the countryside.

But in this case the statutory undertakers and the Government say: "No, it is not reasonable that the customers of that undertaking should pay the whole cost by means of higher charges, due to the undertaking not having been allowed to behave in a way which nobody else is I allowed to do. The extra cost is to be shared: only half should fall on the customers and the remaining half should fall on the general public in that particular area." It may be a far from wealthy area, because these cases are more likely to happen in country districts, where the planning authorities are not so rich, than in the county boroughs where a penny rate brings in a very large sum.

I do not think we can leave things as they are. Unless the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, is prepared to say that he is willing to discuss this further with some of us, I shall seek leave to withdraw my Amendment but I hope my noble friend will seriously consider pressing his new clause. In order to clear the ground I ask, at this stage, permission to withdraw my Amendment so that my noble friend may move his Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

8.38 p.m.

LORD ILFORD moved to leave out Clause 63 and to insert the following new clause: 63.—(1) Except as provided by subsection (2) below, statutory undertakers shall not be entitled to compensation in respect of a decision mentioned in section 170(1)(a) or (b) in the principal Act (Right to compensation in respect of certain decisions and orders) where that decision is made after the commencement of this section. (2) Subsection (1) above shall not apply to compensation in respect of a decision made in accordance with section 159 of the principal Act refusing planning permission for the development of operational land, or granting such permission subject to conditions, where—

  1. (a) planning permission for that development would have been granted by a development order but for a direction given under such an order that planning permission so granted should not apply to the development; and
  2. (b) the development is not specifically authorised by statute (within the meaning 1513 given to that expression by section 58(3) of this Act).
(3) Section 119 of the principal Act (compensation on refusal of planning permission or its grant subject to conditions) shall not apply in relation to planning permission for the development of operational land of statutory undertakers.

The noble Lord said: This is one of the major issues in connection with this Bill. I understood the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, to say that the regulations are being redrafted. I see that the noble Lord is nodding his head, and I would certainly wish to consider the redrafted regulations before I take a decision to divide the House. If I may be allowed to consider the regulations I would be prepared to withdraw my Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Leave out Clause 63 and insert the said new clause.—(Lord Ilford.)


I am not quite clear of the terms of the proposal which the noble Lord, Lord Ilford, has just put to the Committee. With regard to the regulations which are to be drafted under Clause 63, I doubt whether they are in a sufficiently advanced state for it to be possible to discuss them at the moment, but I gave some outline of them in my previous speech.


May I express the hope that the noble Lord will not so easily withdrawn his Amendment? This case does not rest on the regulations; it rests on the abolition of compensation, and the fact that we might pay 50 per cent. on quite a considerable number of cases would certainly not be satisfactory to me. And we might get into an argument on regulations which would get bogged down on the main question as to whether or not any compensation should be paid.


I understand that the regulations are not in a sufficiently advanced state to be considered by anybody, so that I think my proposal to postpone consideration of my Amendment until we have had an opportunity of seeing the regulations really falls to the ground.


May I support the plea that has been made, that this Amendment should not be withdrawn at this stage without knowing what the regulations may contain? Apart from all the difficulties about the regulations there is, it seems to me, this central fault, in the Government's clause; that it compromises upon this question of compensation.

I would put it in this way. If a statutory undertaker is denied planning permission, or if a planning permission which has been granted is revoked, it is then either right or wrong that compensation should be paid. It is arguable one way or the other; either that it is right or that it is wrong. If it is right to pay compensation, then clearly it ought to be paid compensation in full. If, on the other hand, it is wrong that compensation should be paid, then no compensation at all should be paid. What cannot be right is to say "We will pay you 10 per cent.—or one-half—of the compensation which may be assessed". The Government have got themselves into this difficulty, and I understand how it happened. It is due to the compromise reached over the Abingdon affair, a sort of patched-up job. But it is quite wrong that that patched-up job over Abingdon should be written into a Statute and become the law of the land.

The Government are having the worst of all worlds at the present time, because they are conceding that full compensation should not be paid, but in conceding that they are also conceding that some compensation should be paid. It would be a great pity, I think, if this Amendment were withdrawn at this stage. I would urge the noble Lord, Lord Ilford, to press this Amendment, because this is one of the most important Amendments we have been considering to-day—and, indeed, during the earlier stages of the Committee. I hope that this Amendment will not be withdrawn on the rather uncertain assurance we have had from the noble Lord.


I hope the Committee will not take the advice of the Liberal Party on this. We have three proposals before us. We have the Government proposal that there should be compensation, and that it should be 50 per cent. We have the Opposition Amendment that the compensation should be 10 per cent. and we have Lord Ilford's Amendment that there should be no compensation at all.


The question of 10 per cent. is now out; it is withdrawn.


I know, but we have had this proposal before us. The 10 per cent. proposal has been withdrawn, but I think that it would be desirable for all parties to have an opportunity of thinking again, and I would respectfully suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Ilford, that he should withdraw his Amendment, and that the Government should give a definite undertaking that they will reconsider the whole question. There is great force in the argument that either full compensation is paid or nothing is paid. There is still greater force in the argument that statutory undertakers should not be treated differently from any other proposed developer. Why should a statutory undertaker who is refused permission to develop be entitled to no compensation at all, as against the private developer who is equally refused a similar type of development? I think this is a matter which ought to be considered again, and we shall have an opportunity on the Report stage. It would be a great pity if we sought to divide the House to-night on a matter of this kind, which deserves and requires a good deal of consideration.


I was pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, having advised the Committee not to accept my noble friend's advice, nevertheless supported my noble friend's argument.


I should like, if I may, before this debate ends, to say a word or two in defence of the undertakers, who have been attacked by the noble Lord, Lord Ilford, and the makers of gas, who have been attacked by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor. It seems to me that the reason why we have these ugly gasometers is that people need gas, and we ought to look sympathetically at those who provide it and, if possible, direct some of our energies to providing a beautiful gasometer. Nobody has yet succeeded in doing that, and it is a great pity. If that were done, there would be no need to spoil the countryside, as at Abingdon. Meanwhile, all I have to say to the Government is to condole with them. Solomon managed to keep the opposition quiet by threatening to halve the baby. They have not been so successful.


We have had weighty representations from all sides of the House on this point, and I think it would be quite wrong for me to go charging ahead. After what has been said, and at this stage in the consideration of the Bill, I should like to say to the noble Lord, Lord Ilford, that if he will agree to withdraw his Amendment the Government will look at this whole question again, though without, of course, any commitment to being able to effect what would be regarded as an improvement, I am persuaded, by most sides of the House.


In the light of what the noble Lord has said, I shall ask leave to withdraw my Amendment to-night, but I, too, desire to safeguard myself about the future, and if we fail to reach a satisfactory solution to this problem I shall regard myself as quite free to divide the House in other circumstances later. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 63 agreed to.

8.48 p.m.

LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR moved, after Clause 63, to insert the following new clause:

Review of footpaths

". It shall be the duty of the local planning authority to review the footpaths existing in their area and in the light of that review to consider applications for, and where expedient to initiate, the creation, diversion or closure of any footpath"

The noble Lord said: I beg to move to insert this new clause because I want to seek to impress upon the Government the importance of taking seriously the report of the Footpaths Committee, commonly referred to as the Gosling Committee. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, will recollect that in the Government White Paper on Leisure in the Countryside it was said: In the Government's view a more radical reform may well be needed to provide a legislative framework which would permit the development of a system of footpaths and bridle ways, some based on existing routes but others newly created, which would be more suited to modern needs. I have repeatedly said in your Lordships' House that I think this is overdue. There are a great many footpaths which have passed out of use because with changes in population and habits people no longer wish to tread these paths. They are technically rights of way but in fact nobody ever goes over them.

Alongside that there are places where in these modern times it would be very desirable to have a footpath and yet none exists. If your Lordships doubt that, I would respectfully commend you to read an interesting article on this subject in the current issue of that extremely attractive magazine the Countryman, which makes the point that in certain places you find that a delightful walk along a ridge-way is suddenly brought to a halt because for a space there is no footpath, and then the footpath starts again a little further on. There may be an intricate pattern of unused footpaths in the neighbourhood, but nowadays these are, as it were, closed from the point of view of the ordinary member of the public, some of whom, I am glad to say, but not so many as I should wish, get about the country on foot. Yet they find that they cannot take full advantage of the walks which they would like to be able to complete.

I take it from that statement in the Government's White Paper that the Government share the view that the time is ripe for a general review of footpaths in order that their pattern may, in the term which is, I know, popular with the present Government, be "modernised". Those that are of little use could be got rid of, and those which are urgently needed could be created afresh in recompense.

The Committee presided over by Sir Arthur Gosling went on to say in paragraph 22, having recommended that the creation and diversion and closure of footpaths should become planning functions, We also recommend that planning authorities should have the power and duty to initiate changes in footpath patterns where they are needed, and, equally, power to consider applications for changes both from users and from landowners. In the context of my new clause I would ask your Lordships particularly to have regard to the next sentence in the Gosling Report: The effect of these recommendations would be a useful step towards making footpaths less of a Cinderella among the cares of local authorities, and would encourage forward planning of them as an integral part of the wider and more responsible use of the countryside by the public. Surely, that is acceptable to everybody.

In paragraph 27 the Gosling Committee made a number of suggestions—I know that I shall be taken to task if I describe them as "recommendations"—for improving the machinery in these matters. I understand from the debates in another place that those suggestions are not acceptable to the Government. I think it is only reasonable to ask, if those are not acceptable, what alternative proposals the Government have for going forward here.

I am quite sure that part of the reply to my new clause will be that it is not customary to single out particular subjects like this and make them the statutory duty of the local planning authority. I do not mind whether it is or not. What I am anxious to do is, by some means or other, to secure that local planning authorities, having now, thanks to the Gosling Committee, been given responsibilities here, should exercise those responsibilities. That is why it appeared to me to be desirable to consider for insertion in this Bill a clause making it the express duty of the local planning authority to review the footpaths existing in their area and in the light of that review to consider applications for, and where expedient to initiate, the creation, diversion or closure of any footpath.

I greatly hope that the Government may be able to give a forthcoming reply, because I believe that this is a genuine public need. I believe that the idea is acceptable both to people who walk in the countryside and to the farmers, and I think that, led by vigorous action on the part of a planning authority, we could give a great deal of satisfaction to everybody. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 63 insert the new clause.—(Lord Brooke of Cumnor.)

8.54 p.m.


I should like to support my noble friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor in moving the insertion of this new clause. He is someone who cares a great deal about walking. I have seen him on the Pennine Way at about the highest point, which is the top of Cross Fell. But I am not thinking just in terms of those footpaths; I am thinking in terms of footpaths in the neighbourhood of villages. As we know, the pattern of those footpaths was built up in the past in order to serve the needs of the people of the time, particularly before the advent of motor cars. In many neighbourhoods there is a pattern, a network of footpaths leading to what was the village school. Frequently as a primary school has been improved and rebuilt it has been moved to another site. As a result, there is a pattern of footpaths leading now to where there was once a school, and the children going to school now follow different routes.

Since in many districts, with the increase in motor traffic, the actual carriageway of the roads has been extended so that it goes from hedge bottom to hedge bottom, there is nowhere at all for children to walk to school. I give that as one reason why I think it should be a duty placed on the local planning authority to ensure that the footpaths at any time are in fact such as serve the needs of the people of that time. I would commend my noble friend's Amendment to your Lordships to-night.


I, too, should like to support Lord Brooke of Cumnor. As a farmer, I like to see people in the countryside, and I like footpaths; but I like footpaths to be used and I do not like them not to be used. This is a problem. I will give an illustration. In the neighbouring parish to mine, of Repton, the council quite properly signposted all the footpaths and stiles, but anyone going there to-day would find all the signposts down and, apart from the two nearest the village, the footpaths are not used at all. I feel quite strongly about this matter and I support the Amendment.


With respect I think that this Amendment is slightly misconceived. It imposes a positive duty on local planning authorities. I do not quite know how they are to carry it out. I listened carefully to the extracts from the Report which were read by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, but I heard nothing about initiating a footpath. Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to see a local planning authority initiating a footpath, but I do not think there is any particular means of doing it known to the law, except by walking over it long enough to get your footpath that way. No doubt Lord Brooke will explain to us just how a local planning authority would initiate or create a footpath. Would it be done by walking at the double? Perhaps it might be achieved by means of an appropriate dance. I do not know why it is supposed that a local planning authority can initiate or create a footpath, or how they would be able to do it.

With the greatest respect, I find this proposed new clause much more appropriate to a Bill about highways or other matters affecting the Ministry of Transport than to a Bill about planning. It seems to me to have nothing to do with planning. I cannot see what the point of it is in this Bill. I should have thought that if it was going to be dealt with at all, one of the first things one would have to consider would be whether powers over footpaths such as are here proposed should in fact be exercised by the local planning authority, normally, I suppose, the county council or the other authorities referred to as local planning authorities, or whether it should not be the affair of rather more small and intimate bodies. Parish councils have been much concerned with footpaths in the past and I am not sure that they would like it very much if the local planning authority descended on them one day in order to create a footpath over their parish land. And in a further stage I should have thought that district councils might be interested in this kind of thing. I do not think that the machinery, whatever it may be, has been thought out sufficiently, and I say so with great respect to the noble Lord, who knows an immense amount about this kind of thing. I am sure he will tell me exactly how one creates a footpath and why the local planning authority have been selected for this particular duty. I am not talking about the diversion or the extinction of a footpath; I am talking about its creation.

9.2 p.m.


I have great sympathy with this Amendment, as obviously have others of your Lordships who have supported it, but I am afraid I must agree with my noble friend Lord Mitchison that it is not really viable as the law at present stands. Of course, in the National Parks there are powers for the creation of footpaths, and they have been used; but they certainly do not exist in other parts of the country. It is, of course, already the duty of the local planning authorities to provide on a map the footpaths and rights of way which exist. We were discussing that on the Countryside Bill, and the Government provided, perhaps under some pressure, the means by which those facilities may be improved. But this proposed new clause assumes all sorts of powers on the part of the local planning authorities which at the present time do not exist.

This is a very complicated problem. It is true that in many parts of the country there are footpaths which have not been used for a long time and which have more or less gone into desuetude. On the other hand, one can never be sure of that, and it would not be right to stop up a footpath just because it had not been walked for some time. I have myself known cases where, for one reason or another, footpaths have not been used for years and then have suddenly become very useful and very much used.

Obviously, the proposals in the Gosling Report need very careful consideration. Many of them are very valuable, but it is hardly feasible that they should be introduced, as it were, by a side wind in the shape of this new clause put into this particular Bill. So, while I have much sympathy with the motive which has moved the noble Lord to table this clause—and no doubt the Minister will explain this in much more detail—I do not think that it is viable.


We are now just about halfway through this Committee stage at 9 o'clock on the second evening, and while nothing could be further from my thoughts than in the least way to hustle your Lordships, or suggest that anything has been wrong about the speed so far, I expect some of you will share my feelings that where clarity permits, celerity should also have a claim on our attention.

The noble Lord said in introducing this Amendment that he had special regard to paragraph 22 of the Gosling Report, particularly to sub-paragraph (5) of it, which says: Planning authorities should have the power and duty to initiate changes in footpath patterns and to consider applications for changes both from users and landowners. The Government did, I think, make it very clear on the Report stage in the House of Commons that these recommendations are accepted. This is beyond doubt. Local planning authorities can consider the footpath pattern as a whole under the new planning system, and if they think it desirable they can put forward proposals in the form of a local plan. This, of course, must be subject to all the normal provisions for publication, consultation, objection, and so on. But where they have done so, there will be a background against which local authorities—who will all have adequate powers when the Countryside Bill is enacted—may consider individual closures, diversions and creations of footpaths.

I would remind the Committee that the Minister may direct the local planning authority to survey their area, examining matters which may be expected to affect the planning and development in the area; and that I am advised would include footpaths. So the Minister can, if necessary, give a direction to examine the whole pattern, including the initiation or creation (with or without dances), of a footpath where there is none at present. So I would advise the Committee against accepting this Amendment, not because I do not think that local authorities ought to do it but because it might be going rather far to impose on them a duty to approach it in this way in every single case. I think it would be better to keep it as it is, with powers for the Minister to direct them to take action if he has any special reason for thinking that they are not doing so.


I am grateful for the support that my new clause has received, and I am glad also that the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, has mentioned the provisions of the Country-side Bill, because it seemed to me that his noble friend Lord Mitchison had not studied it. I have no intention whatever of pressing this Amendment. What I am seeking to do is to request the Government to take steps to make their words in the White Paper Leisure in the Countryside a reality. I must say that from the proceedings in another place I was left in some doubt as to whether the Government were wishing to do no more than pay lip service to the importance of these matters which the Gosling Committee had underlined.

I still wonder, even having heard the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, to-day, whether the Government have any interest at all in accepting the view of the Gosling Committee that footpaths should become less of a Cinderella among the cares of local authorities. The noble Lord did not say that it was going to be the policy of his Minister to urge local planning authorities to act in the way suggested in my new clause. It is quite enough for me if that is done by Government pressure rather than by statutory enactment, because it might be getting things slightly out of proportion if one inserted a statutory enactment of this kind when there are so many other matters to which the local planning authority ought also to have regard. The statements which have been made by the Government in Parliament since the appearance of the Gosling Committee have given many people the impression that the Government have no special interest in this subject and are simply inclined to treat it with delaying tactics. I am seeking to fight against this attitude. I am seeking to secure that the local planning authorities will take seriously their powers and responsibilities in respect of footpaths. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Inglewood. He expressed succinctly a view which is widely held in the countryside that in this matter our arrangements are out of date and that it would be to everybody's advantage if they could be modernised.


I am most grateful to the noble Lord for giving way, since he was kind enough to mention me. I should like to remind him that the Pennine Path, upon which I gather he has ventured on at least one occasion, was created by this Government.


I have been on the Pennine Path on more than one occasion, and I have frequently paid tribute to the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act of 1949. I should have thought that my words and behaviour throughout to-day's proceedings have shown that I was not seeking to raise Party issues in this Bill, but to get on. I am anxious to get on with the completion of the Committee stage and to get on with the matter of footpaths. If the Government will assure me that it is their desire also to see that the local planning authorities get on with this matter and that the Minister will seize oppor- tunities to encourage local planning authorities to get on with it, I shall be content.


I will indeed. It is the view of the Government that local authorities should get on with this matter, and we will keep it under constant review. Certainly if local authorities do not get on with it, farmers will in clue course insist that they do. If there are not enough footpaths, then people will walk where there are not any footpaths and the farmers will hate it.


I am grateful to the noble Lord for what he has said. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 64 [Expansion of building below ground to constitute development]:

On Question, Whether Clause 64 shall stand part of the Bill?


This clause uses certain words which appear in the 1962 Act, which is the sheet-anchor upon which this Bill is based. The words are in relation to the alteration of a building which does not materially affect the building's external appearance. The Committee will note the words "materially affect". When earlier the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, sought to amend subsection (2) of Clause 35 so that the words alteration … which would affect its character as a building would read alteration … which would materially affect its character as a building", the Minister resisted that Amendment saying that the word "materially" would be unsatisfactory as being vague, and he used other epithets which I do not remember. I have always understood that what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, will put down his Amendment to Clause 35 for the next stage of the Bill, if only for the fun of seeing what new arguments the Minister can bring forward for resisting it a second time.

My main purpose for speaking on the Question, That the clause stand part is to ask why there appears here to be a reversal of Government policy since the passing of the 1962 Act. The clause says that the extension of a building below ground shall constitute development for planning purposes, although the 1962 Act said that it was not development for planning purposes if the work did not materially affect the building's external appearance. I can well understand that the extension of a building below ground would require permission under the building regulations because undoubtedly questions of damp and drainage would apply in such cases. But here we have the case of an extension of a building below ground, which presumably cannot affect the building's external appearance. Why is there this change of policy since the passing of the 1962 Act, which said that if the development did not affect the building's external appearance it did not come within the ambit of planning? I am afraid that I did not give notice of raising this question, and the Minister may be unable to give me an answer now. But it is a question to which I think noble Lords would like an answer at some time.


I would suggest to the noble Lord that there is a great deal of difference between altering the character of the building and altering its external appearance. While I think the word "materially" is necessary when it is a question of the external appearance, I entirely agree with the Minister that it is a mistake to use it when it is a question of the character of the building.


In order to save time, I suggest that I write to the noble Lord on the two points he has raised.

Clause 64 agreed to.

9.15 p.m.

LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR moved, after Clause 64, to insert the following new clause:

Publicity for planning applications

". On receipt of an application for planning permission the local planning authority shall cause notices to be displayed for not less than 14 days in conspicuous positions in the vicinity of the land concerned, summarising the proposed development and publicising the procedure whereby representations or objections can be made to the authority and such other relevant information as the Minister may prescribe."

The noble Lord said: May I say, by way of interpolation, that I think the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, is pessimistic if he takes the view that we are only halfway through the Committee stage of this Bill. This may be so arithmetically, if one takes the number of Amendments; but unless he is going to make protracted speeches on a number of his later and somewhat technical Amendments I should like to encourage him. There are three or four more matters of substance, but I think a great many of the later Amendments are likely to go through very swiftly.

I am moving this new clause because I do not think we should take a Town and Country Planning Bill through without giving fresh consideration to this matter of publicity for planning applications. I know that this clause is a cock shy. This sort of idea has been discussed on various occasions in the past. But it seemed appropriate to bring it up again now, in view of the special emphasis in this Bill, and particularly in Clauses 3 and 7, on publicity, and the constant stress which the Government have rightly laid on the importance of associating the general public more closely with what the planners are doing. It is one of the defects of the situation that has grown up over the last twenty years, that the "we" and "they" distinction has gone deep into people's minds. And whereas planning has in my view been of immeasurable benefit to this country, despite some mistakes, planning and planners are still looked on with a widespread suspicion, largely springing from the fact that the general public do not quite know what it is all about, and from the associated fact that things happen suddenly which they feel they should have been given a chance to know about earlier so that they could express a view.

The noble Lord, Lord Fiske, is present, and he and I were members of the Town Planning Committee of the London County Council many years ago. I am sure that he at that time, as I did on occasion, had to give attention to complaints that the Council, as planning authority, had granted planning permission for some local development without informing adjoining owners who were very seriously concerned and who would have liked an opportunity, if not to object, at any rate to express a view as to the planning application.

There are two ways of giving this publicity. One is by circulation of information—though I am not at all sure that we want any more paper circulating in connection with planning. If we seek a solution by requiring a planning authority to circularise everybody who may be concerned with a planning application, we shall be requiring them to send out a colossal amount of paper, some small part of which will be effective for its purpose, but most of which will go straight into the wastepaper basket. I know that the wise local planning authorities have distilled, out of their experience, systems by which they inform certain classes of potentially interested people of planning applications which they receive, and I give them credit for that. Some planning authorities do it better than others.

The alternative method of informing people is by some means such as that indicated in this new clause, that is to say, when a local planning authority receive an application for planning permission they should cause this fact to be notified to the neighbours and to passers-by, by notices affixed to the land or building concerned. I think it is fairly obvious that such a notice should give a broad indication of the type of development proposed and should also inform people of their rights to make representations or objections if they wish so to do, where they should send those representations and within what time. My new clause seeks to cover all those points.

Because this has not been done in the past, do not let us rule it out as something which is unthinkable in the future. I am convinced that in course of time we shall come to a plan of this sort. It may be a more eclectic plan than that contained in my new clause here, but this is a very simple method of ensuring that the public are more closely associated with the planning machinery. A person has only himself to blame if he takes no notice of information which is posted up near his house, or on the road along which he walks, saying that the local planning authority will shortly be considering a proposal to make some change that will affect the neighbourhood.

I can myself see practical objections that might be taken to this clause, but my principal purpose in moving it is to seek to bring home the point that it is not enough by Clauses 3 and 7 to seek to associate members of the public more closely with the making of structure plans and local plans. The complement of that is to seek to associate the public more closely with the day-to-day working of the planning machine; and the obvious way of doing that, it seems to me, is to take this course—it is far simpler than the circulation of many letters to everybody concerned—whereby notices of planning applications are posted up on the land or building concerned, so that everybody who wishes to react to them can do so and nobody can say, "Oh! Once again the planners have been up to their tricks behind our backs". It is that sort of comment which, above all, we want to avoid. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 64, insert the said new clause.—(Lord Brooke of Cumnor.)

9.24 p.m.


One must, of course, have the greatest sympathy with any Amendment having the purpose which the noble Lord has just so eloquently outlined, but there are problems in going about things in this way. And let me say that I shall come in a minute to a description of another way to go about it. The effect of the noble Lord's Amendment would be tremendously broad. The Committee will remember, I expect, that there are 400,000 planning applications a year in the country, and the effect of this Amendment would be quite simply that there would have to be posted 400,000 site notices a year in the country. And the correspondence arising out of those 400,000 notices—what shall we say it will be? An average of 3 letters per notice, 10 per notice or 20, plus five telephone calls and two visits? The total goes up into the millions. All this would have to be taken into account by the local authority. It is for that reason that the Government conceive that a better approach than the total one of the noble Lord is a selective one.

In the first place, the citizen and property-owner are going to know what general changes are likely to take place in a given part of their town; because of the new development plan procedure they are going to be consulted while the planning is in draft. In the generality of cases they are not likely to be surprised if a development of one sort or another is proposed. They will already have had their say in settling that this part of the town should be used in such a way and another part in another way. They will not be surprised. If they do not like the details that they see, then they should have thought about it before and should have objected to the general proposal.

But there are other sorts of development where I think it is important that one should go further than the mere general knowledge that the citizen will have through the discussion of the development plan. The Government intend to introduce Amendments to various provisions which will impose on applicants for permission to undertake certain "bad neighbour developments"—which I shall list in a moment—a requirement to post site notices, as the noble Lord's Amendment suggests. And not only "bad neighbour developers", but also local authorities who publish in the newspapers, as they have to, notices of applications under the Civic Amenities Act relating to applications for planning permission which would in their opinion affect the character of a conservation area, will also have to put notices on the site.

I should not like to give the impression that that is the end of the possibilities. I will remind the Committee of what bad neighbourhood development is. Anybody who makes a proposal to set up any of the following must put a notice on the site where he is applying for permission to do so: a public lavatory, plant for the disposal of refuse, plant for sewage disposal, a slaughter-house or knacker's yard; and, to change the theme, a theatre, cinema, music hall, dance hall, skating rink, swimming bath or gymnasium, a Turkish or other vapour or foam bath, and so on. If you want to develop these you must put up a notice on the site and not only in the newspapers. Again, in the conservation areas or affecting the conservation areas, we propose in future that a duty is to be laid on the local authority to put up a site notice.

Development that is not in accordance with a development plan is dealt with in a special way involving a tremendous publication to be quite sure that everybody knows about it. This is because of the very point that if the citizen gets the impression that a given part of his town is to be developed in a certain way and somebody applies for permission to develop a particular site in that part of the town in a way which is at variance with the development plan, he shall have a good opportunity of knowing what is afoot. I hope that with this reminder of the special provisions that already exist and with this indication of what the Government propose to do in introducing further provisions about site notices for particular classes, a selective approach, the noble Lord will agree that all the ground that ought to be covered is covered and that his original proposal for 400,000 site notices a year and all the correspondence, 'phone calls and inquiries that arise out of that might be going needlessly far and creating an amount of trouble for everybody which would not be commensurate with the social benefits to be gained from it.

9.30 p.m.


I am grateful to the Government for accepting the idea behind my Amendment, at any rate in part. Your Lordships may remember that I indicated that I thought perhaps an eclectic form of this publicity proposal might be adopted in due course, even if we did not go so far as my new clause would indicate. I am glad to hear that the Government are disposed to use this system of publicity by means of local notice for planning applications referring to certain types of development. I am not so sure that the list of bad neighbours which the noble Lord read out is really comprehensive enough if we are to apply this method. I can think straight away of certain kinds of development which deserve to be given publicity by local notice just as much as a proposal to construct a public lavatory does.

I am not quite sure—perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, can help me—whether the Government are proposing to introduce the Amendments in this Bill. He said that the Government had in mind to amend the law in certain respects. I think it would help to send us all home more happily at 10 o'clock if we knew that these desirable changes are coming at a later stage in the Bill. I am a little reluctant to let go of something without an assurance of that kind, because though we have Town and Country Planning Bills every two or three years we do not have them in every Session, and I should be sorry if this were to be long delayed.


It may be in this Bill, or I shall be able to tell the House on Report when it will be.


That goes barely far enough to help me.


If I might refine on my last statement, we can remove some hypotheses; it will be in this Bill.


I shall be grateful to the noble Lord if in this Bill we can have the Amendments which are desired. I hope that the noble Lord has not received any information to lead him to change his last assurance, but I should like to give him time to consider the matter. I hope we shall have Amendments to this Bill at a stage which will give us sufficient time to consider whether the list of proposed bad neighbour, or semi-bad neighbour, developments is extensive enough. I am grateful for the progress which we have made as a result of this new clause of mine, and I beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

9.33 p.m.

LORD NUNBURNHOLME moved, after Clause 64, to insert the following new clause:

Condition as to colour of buildings and structures on agricultural land

". The development specified in paragraph 1 of Case VI of Schedule 1 to the Town and Country Planning General Development Order 1963 shall be subject to the following further condition or limitation:—

"The exterior of any building or structure erected pursuant to this permission shall be of such colour or colours only as are approved by the local planning authority "."

The noble Lord said: I do not feel that the three new clauses in my name on the Marshalled List need much explanation. They are all designed to help to maintain the beauty of the countryside. I may take the three clauses together? Amendment 67A should be necessary only in extreme cases, such as at Long Marton in Westmorland where a silo of shiny metal has been erected, towering over the Saxon church 150 yards away. This shiny silo is an eyesore. I have full particulars of this erection and photographs, should any noble Lord like to see them. I may say that this silo is 80 ft. high There are many such instances in the countryside.

It has been suggested that old oast houses et cetera are the industrial agricultural buildings of their age, but they were built of material which conformed to the buildings in their area and they have mellowed with age. Colouring can do much to improve new, unsightly buildings, and I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, favours my view. There is a grant payable by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food for the improvement of buildings which include the cost of colouring.

My new clause, Amendment 67B is the natural follow on to 67A, because when the colour begins to fade, the trees will start growing and so provide a natural screen. With the modern farming attraction for pulling out hedges and cutting down trees, the face of the countryside is becoming bare. Trees sheltering farmhouses and buildings used to be the natural feature of the landscape. My Amendment is intended to encourage farmers to replace the hedgerows and to plant, I hope, some forest trees in their shelter belts and screening belts and not just plane trees and conifers. There are quick-growing indigenous trees, like poplars and willows. This new clause to me is a "must" for the improvement of the countryside. Amendment 67C is a tightening up clause, which I think is self-explanatory. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 64, insert the said new clause. —(Lord Nunburnholme.)


I support what has just been said on these three important Amendments. The amenity societies with which I am connected have been concerned about these problems for a long time, and they would welcome the Government's acceptance of these proposals. They have been considered by the National Trust and the Council for the Preservation of Rural England, and they are very much in line with the work on which these bodies have been engaged over many years.

The noble Lord referred to a particularly objectionable silo recently erected in Westmorland, my own county, and a very beautiful part of England. He might have mentioned that this is by no means an isolated case of a silo being erected in beautiful countryside. The Long Marton one is a piece of vandalism, one of the worst which has occurred for many years in that part of the country, because it is right up against a rather beautiful little church of great historic importance. In the counties to the South of the Lake District, just outside the National Park, other silos, equally objectionable, have been erected in the post-war period, and from some parts of the National Park the view is ruined. It is an ironic reflection that while so much of the pastoral beauty of our English countryside has been built up by farming operations, some farmers seem to be bent on destroying the very beauties they have created.

Earlier this afternoon we had some reference to what happens when a road engineer gets to work oblivious of the importance of what has sometimes been described as visual amenity. The whole movement for safeguarding the beauty of rural England is concerned with visual amenity, and in a planning Bill it is difficult to make provision for this. I think that these new clauses are especially important because they make a distinct advance in that direction. You can do so much in the kind of way the noble Lord, Lord Nunburnholme, has in mind. I therefore very much hope that the Government will accept the Amendments, and that they will be put into operation.


When the noble Lord, Lord Nunburnholme, first drew my attention to his Amendments and said that I might be interested to speak in his support, he did not tell me that in his first sentence he was going to make an attack on a particular development in my old constituency which has also been referred to by the noble Lord opposite. I was going to say in support of the noble Lord that I was sorry he had not drawn his Amendment more widely, and I still say it, because the proposals that he is suggesting should be carried out in connection with Class 6 under the General Development Order 1963 are equally appropriate, if not more so, to Class 8. I would ask the noble Lord to consider expanding this when it comes to the next stage.

I should like to come back to the particular instance later, but, speaking generally, I would say with regard to his second Amendment, No. 67B, that screening by trees is often quite the most effective way of ensuring that a building, if not of too great a height (it may well be that the standard silos which we have in mind now are really too high in this regard) is brought more into keeping with its surroundings and made much less obtrusive. As a people, we are sentimental in our thinking about trees but most unpractical when it comes to doing anything about them. It is a pity that that should be so in many contexts, and not least in planning.

I submit that with regard to the problems of planning in rural areas and on the perimeter of big villages and country towns one of the most important problems is how to design and site new industrial buildings so that they are in their nature and scale in keeping with their surroundings; and even though the silos to which we have been referring are agricultural buildings, it is really splitting hairs to try to treat them differently from many buildings associated with other industries. The easiest and surest way of dealing with this problem, is by the intelligent planting of trees. You have only to go to Germany or to Holland to see good examples everywhere of the layout of new industrial buildings and new large farm buildings, well sited and screened with trees. But in this country we all too frequently pay lip service to landscape planning and landscaping (I believe that is the jargon; it is a horrible word) which means nothing except that an eminent signature is added to the bottom of a plan to impress the local planning authority when they come to give consent, but has little result beyond that.

With regard to the particular instance which was cited at the beginning of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Nunburnholme, I think it may be—here I speak subject to correction—that the type of building to which he was referring is more than 40 feet high and therefore comes under different controls from those to which he was referring under Class 6 of Schedule 1. If I am right and it does fall outside Class 6, then I believe it is a fact that the local planning authority already have powers to lay down a number of conditions, including, I believe, the condition of the screening of the buildings with trees.

But, having said that, I should not like noble Lords to think that the answer is already there, because trees will grow only to a certain height. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Nunburnholme, will not think I am being over-critical, because much of this has just emerged during the debate. But since this is such a very real problem it has been referred to this evening. I hope that whatever the outcome of this discussion here this evening, the noble Lord may look at it again before the Report stage, and perhaps become convinced that he should in fact have a wider and a more detailed Amendment on the Paper on that occasion. It would clearly be wrong for us to persuade ourselves this evening that there is no problem here, when noble Lords on both sides of the House have represented that there is a real problem here and that as yet we have no real remedy.

9.46 p.m.


When the noble Lord, Lord Nunburnholme, asked me to speak on this question I was rather interested because I think it is the most important part of the whole Bill before us to-day. It raises one of the most interesting issues: the question of whether we are going to regard the countryside as something to be left completely alone as most beautiful, or whether we can add to its beauty, or conversely, destroy its beauty by putting up unnecessary objects in this way. This is a question that has been thought about by people for as long as we have had a country. I think that in very old days somebody found out that on the thin chalk grounds you could tear off the turf and get a picture. And so we get places like the Vale of the White Horse, which has been venerated as a work of art for a long time; and there have been many other chalk pictures made in the hills since then. Whether they are really artistic, whether they mar the country or improve it, is a matter worthy of consideration. We must admit that when something like the Vale of the White Horse has been in existence for so long it becomes a landmark and a monument, and in a way it becomes beautiful.

Your Lordships will remember that in the middle of the 18th century Capability Brown set out on a campaign of altering the country to make it beautiful. He put avenues and ponds all over the place, which caused a great deal of discussion at the time, when he did away with these old gardens that had been preserved since Elizabethan days and altered all these country places. But now I think that what is left of Capability Brown has improved the countryside: it has made it a better and a more beautiful place. There is not much of it left. I have not always been in favour in my mind of the works of Capability Brown, his avenues and ponds, and so forth, but just after the last war I stayed with some friends in a house which had been occupied by the Poles and which I had known before the war. I was rather surprised that I was distressed to see that the Poles had blown up all the Adam buildings, the bridges which formed the decoration of the landscape.

As we know, there is another way in which the country has been altered in our time. It has been altered because people like bringing things back and putting them up. Perhaps the first people to start that were the boys in Wiltshire who had a war with the people in South Wales and won, and took their stone circle back and put it up on Salisbury, which is called Plain. This, of course, has been added to in further generations and is now preserved as a monument of distinction. A great many other things have been brought back from different countries and put up on top of the hills. I can think of many, and I dare say that some of them have added to the beauty of the place. But I think that some of them have fallen rather flat, like Cleopatra's Needle. I do not think I have ever seen anybody looking at it. Of course, that came over in the days when people were very "hot" on finding anything they could and bringing it back. They had a passion for collecting things and bringing them back. There is even a true story of a sailor who climbed over the Parthenon and knocked one of the marble noses off the frescoes and took it back to decorate his garden path. I think that has been going on for a long time.

We come to the real question: is the countryside better left alone? Is it marred when it is decorated, or is it improved by something which has grown in on us, like the old oasthouses in Kent and the various farmhouses like the Westmorland farmhouses, and so forth, throughout the country? This year we have had four weeks of the most wonderful sunlight I have even seen in the Isle of Man. The Island is filled with tourists, and what has interested me has been that they did not like the casino and various other attractions, but they adored our countryside. It struck me that the boys and girls going over there loved the real country; and that is what they want to-day. They want the Merrie England which we imagine lives in the countryside. They do not want it spoilt in any way. It is escapism because they are so afraid of the future.


I hope the noble Lord, Lord Nunburnholme, is gratified by the spread of interest which, at so late an hour, his speech and his new clauses have aroused. I was not absolutely certain on which side the noble Lord, Lord Strange, was speaking, but I trust that having made reference to Stonehenge he would be against those people who recently have daubed that 3,000 year old monument with red paint—and I think the noble Lord, Lord Nunburnholme, would be also, if I read his new clause aright.

As my noble friend Lord Inglewood said, there are real problems here, and they are problems to which we ought to address ourselves. I do not think we should turn a blind eye to them. I had a somewhat similar problem when I was the responsible Minister, in connection with the broiler houses which at that time were exempt from planning control. It appeared to me, for all one might say about farming being an industry with which the authorities should not interfere, that nevertheless it could not be maintained that people should be absolutely free to put up these colossal broiler houses, exempt from any planning permission. We made a new Order and they are now under planning control, although I am sorry to say that a number still survive from the days before that control. I do not know what line the Government will take on this, but I dearly hope that they will come forward with some practical proposals which will achieve the aim which animated the noble Lord, Lord Nunburnholme, when he put down these new clauses.


May I first correct a possible misapprehension. I should not like it to remain uncorrected on the Record that I am in favour of a Ministry of Agriculture grant for the painting of agricultural buildings. I am not sure whether I heard the noble Lord, Lord Nunburnholme, aright, but if so, let me reassure him.

These points are of importance in two ways. First, in my opinion they go to the heart of the matter. It is beyond doubt that the painting of agricultural buildings can, other things being equal, do a great deal to improve their appearance. The same building in the same position may look a great deal better if it is painted in the right colour rather than in the wrong colour. Likewise, the judicious planting of trees can work wonders in weaving a new agricultural building into the countryside in the best possible way. On the other hand, they are of great importance because there is no doubt that they bring agriculture and agricultural buildings one step further under planning control.

At the moment, agriculture and all its works are free from planning control, except for buildings of more than 5,000 square feet—as the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, mentioned—and buildingS and silos more than 40 feet high, and buildings within 80 feet of a highway. These are still large limits, and it was many years before even those limits were imposed on agricultural buildings for the purposes of planning consent. This would be bringing it down to detail. To plan the colour of a building and whether trees should go round it would be a large step towards bringing farmers under the same kind of restraints as are accepted by industry, commerce and the private householder. So we should not tinder-estimate the importance and difficulty of the step we are being invited to take.

Then there is the question (and this, I am afraid, is for the moment the determining point) that the first two of these Amendments are drawn in such a way that what they amend is the General Development Order—the G.D.O., for short—and it is constitutionally and legally and Parliamentarily untidy and highly undesirable to amend an Order by means of a subsequent Statute. The right way is to have an amending Order. When this Bill has been passed, the General Development Order (which gives people the right to do this and that without planning permission) will in any case have to be revised, following the enactment of the new Bill, and all the things that have been said in the House to-night on this question of painting of agricultural buildings, of planting of trees round them, will be taken into account by the Government in deciding what amendment to the General Development Order shall in due course be laid before both Houses of Parliament.

I should like to wind up with a word about the particular case mentioned by more than one noble Lord. I am not absolutely certain that I know the full details, but if, as I think may be the case, this is a matter of planning permission having been given for silos over 40 ft. in height, the position is that, as the existing law stands, that planning authority, like any planning authority who have given permission for anything later impose alterations on the building—and alterations could include painting in any colour they chose—and would have to pay compensation to the owner for having thought of it so late; they would have to pay his costs.

This brings me to the last point. The other Amendment, No. 67C, although it does not amend the G.D.O., would have the effect of allowing planning authorities to give owners directions about buildings, about alterations to be made, after they have been put up and when the owner may have had no reason to expect that any direction was coming, without any liability to pay him compensation for so doing; and this also would be a major change in the compensation code.


May I ask the noble Lord when the new Order will be put on the Table? Will there be a special Order in Council, or how exactly do the Government mean to introduce it?


I cannot, as one never can, give a precise date, but it will follow as the night follows the day that upon the passing of this Bill there must be an amending Order to the General Development Order. It will be subject to the Negative Resolution procedure; that is to say, the Order lies on the Table, and if any noble Lord or Member of the House of Commons wishes to oppose it he can do so.


Following on what the noble Lord, Lord Nunburnholme, has said, may I add how much I welcome the information that the Government are contemplating amendment of the General Development Order following the passage of this Bill. I do not think that either the noble Lord, Lord Nunburnholme or anybody else can be blamed for putting down clauses of this kind, because it is only a Bill that we can amend. When the Order comes along it is not capable of amendment. It may well be that he or I, or others, having heard the Government's intention, may wish to bring forward one or two new clauses on Report designed purely and simply to bring to the notice of the Government the necessity for making certain further amendments in the G.D.O. That is the only course open to us. I hope the noble Lord will not think we are being stupid or obstructive if we do that. But I feel sure that the right field for this is by amendment of the General Development Order and not by seeking to amend an Order in a Bill.


I should like to thank noble Lords who have supported me in these new clauses, and in view of the assurance which the noble Lord, Lord Kennet has given the House, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

House resumed.