HL Deb 16 December 1971 vol 326 cc1308-19

4.33 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Report be now received.

Moved, That the Report be now received.—(Lord Sandford.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Clause 3 [Amendment of provisions relating to approval of structure plans and local plans etc. by Secretary of State]:

LORD SANDFORD moved Amendment No.1:

Page 5, line 15, at end insert— ("( ) An examination under subsection (3)(h) of this section shall constitute a statutory inquiry for the purposes of section 1(1)(c) of the Tribunals and Inquiries Act 1971, but shall not constitute such an inquiry for any other purpose of that Act.")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 1. It was always our intention that the Council on Tribunals should have general oversight of the new procedure on the new examination in public of structure plans. This is the Amendment which in the course of the Committee stage I said I should be introducing to make this point clear. If your Lordships wish me to elaborate on the Amendment or the form that it takes I am of course willing to do so, but I shall be elaborating on this and a number of other points in a short speech at the Third Reading. I have brought out that the purpose of the Amendment is to ensure an appropriate role for the Council on Tribunals, and in that sense I commend it to your Lordships. I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

LORD GREENWOOD OF ROSSENDALE moved Amendment No. 2: After Clause 8, insert the following new clause—

Recovery of costs of works for preservation of unoccupied listed building in cases of urgency, and rights of appeal.

"The following new subsections shall be inserted at the end of section 101 of the Act of 1971 (which provides for works for the preservation of unoccupied listed buildings in cases of urgency)—

(2) Where the period of notice under subsection (1) above has expired a local authority may recover from the person who is the owner of the building any expenses reasonably incurred by them in that behalf.

(3) An owner of a building on whom a notice under subsection (1) above has been served may, at any time within the period specified in the notice, appeal against the notice and may also appeal against the cost of any emergency work done by a local authority in accordance with the provisions of subsection (2) above.

(4) Any appeal under this section shall be made to a magistrates' court acting for the petty sessions area in which the building in question is situated.

(5) Where an appeal is brought under this section, any notice to which it relates shall be of no effect pending the final determination or withdrawal of the appeal.

(6) On an appeal under this section the magistrates' court may correct any informality, defect or error in any notice if satisfied that the informality, defect or error is not material.

(7) On the determination of an appeal under this section the magistrates' court shall give directions for giving effect to their determination, including, where appropriate, directions for quashing any notice or for varying the terms of any notice in favour of the appellant.'"

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 2 standing on the Order Paper, and in doing so I must apologise to the House for the fact that I was absent from the country during the Committee stage and was therefore unable to speak at that time. I am greatly indebted to my noble friend Lord Milner of Leeds and my noble friend Lord Kennet for their contributions to the debate. To-day, because of the rather circumscribed timetable within which we are operating, I do not propose to press our criticisms too far, but I do ask the Government to think again about the point raised in Amendment No. 2. It was at the time of the Committee stage Amendment No. 6, and its purpose was explained at that time by my noble friend Lord Milner of Leeds. Since that time my noble friend Lord Kennet and I have consulted a number of associations. My noble friend consulted the Association of Municipal Corporations, the County Councils Association and the Civic Trust, and I myself consulted the A.M.C. and the Urban District Councils Association. It appears that all those associations support the Amendment which my noble friend Lord Kennet and I have tabled. They would like to see the Amendment made. Indeed, the A.M.C. and the U.D.C.A. would like to see other Amendments made as well; but my noble friend and I selected this Amendment because it seemed to command the maximum support.

The last Government, as your Lordships will remember, toughened up the provisions for protection of listed buildings very much indeed, and made it much harder than it had been up to that time for what one might call "materialistic vandals" to benefit from their misdeeds. But there is at least one patent absurdity which remains and which this Amendment is intended to remove. If a listed building is falling down, the local authority can order the owner to do repairs to it at the owner's expense. If the owner refuses or fails to do so, the local authority can step in and do the work, but they cannot recover the cost from the owner of the building. I hasten to add that I am referring of course to emergency repairs like the restoration of doors which may have fallen off or windows which have been broken—emergency repairs of a kind which, unless undertaken, can result in serious and growing damage to the property.

When my noble friend Lord Milner moved this Amendment at the Committee stage the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, seemed deeply unhappy. He said, at column 774 of the OFFICIAL REPORT for December 7, 1971, that the Government had of course considered these points about conservation and that: …we came to the conclusion, regretfully…that with the pressure of legislation upon us, these particular proposals were not sufficiently urgent or free of complexity and controversy to be included in our programme at the moment.

It is very difficult to see how this matter is one of great complexity or highly controversial. This is, in the view of the associations we have consulted, an Amendment which urgently needs to be made. What is more, I think it is a dangerous excuse for the Government to make that because they are embarking upon some highly objectionable legislation they cannot find time to do something which commands general support. It is no consolation to me that we are having to postpone a discussion on the problems of historic towns like York in order to make it easier for us to have access to the Continent or to put up rents in Manchester, Birmingham and other parts of the country. I am sure that many of your Lordships would be much happier discussing the conservation of our historic towns than they would be discussing some of the controversial legislation which is taking up your Lordships' time. I understand that tomorrow the Secretary of State for the Environment is visiting York and, if I may suggest it, it would be a happy gesture on his part if he were able to tell the Lord Mayor and the people of York that he had been able to make, through the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, this small concession. It would he a gesture to the people of York, and a seasonal gesture on the part of the noble Lord to your Lordships' House.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for having canvassed all this support for a proposal which we support. I am attracted by his suggestion that this should be among the good news that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State takes with him to York tomorrow. But, quite honestly, the noble Lord has not added anything to the arguments adduced by his noble friend at the Committee stage, and I do not think I can add anything to the points I made in response to his noble friend which I thought convinced the Committee that we had good reasons for not accepting this Amendment at this stage.

The debate at that time moved forward to consider a number of other proposals which were advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Milner of Leeds, and which I thought attracted more attention and interest in the Committee than the proposals we have before us. They are necessary proposals but they are negative and protective. I thought that we spent time, properly, in discussing in Committee a number of purposeful, constructive measures for enhancing the conservation areas. These are things to which we are giving a good deal of attention, and to which we want to give more attention. I do not detract at all from what we said in indicating our general attitude towards these proposals from the Preservation Policy Group. We agree with these in principle hut, for reasons which I gave at the Committee stage, we do not feel that we can find time for them in this legislation at the moment.


My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord that I have not added anything to the arguments that were put forward on the previous occasion. Equally, I do not think the noble Lord has made a more convincing reply to-day than he did on that occasion. The other Amendments were rather more controversial than this one; they were a great deal more complex and were not wholly free from various constitutional undertones or overtones, whichever is the right word to use. This is so uncontroversial a proposal that I find it very hard to understand why the noble Lord is digging in his heels about it. My advice to the House would be to support this Amendment, and to test the opinion of the House in the Division Lobby.


My Lords, may I ask my noble friend a question on this Amendment? When he says "at this stage" is he talking about this stage of this Bill in this House, and that he may do something in another place, or is he referring to this stage of time which means that as he apparently supports this proposal some further legislation must be envisaged in the future?


My Lords, with the leave of the House, I will answer my noble friend by saying that what I meant

by that was that we do not find room in our legislation in this Session for this particular Amendment.

House adjourned during pleasure and resumed by the Lord Chancellor.

4.44 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 2) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 42; Not-Contents, 73.

Airedale, L. Garnsworthy, L. [Teller.] Sainsbury, L.
Ardwick, L. Granville of Eye, L. St. Davids, V.
Arwyn, L. Greenwood of Rossendale, L. Seear, Bs.
Avebury, L. Jacques, L. Segal, L.
Beswick, L. Kennet, L. Shackleton, L.
Brockway, L. Leatherland, L. Shepherd, L.
Buckinghamshire, E. Lloyd of Hampstead, L. Shinwell, L.
Collison, L. Meston, L. Silkin, L.
Delacourt-Smith, L. Moyle, L. Stocks, Bs.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Nunburnholme, L. Strabolgj, L.
Evans of Hungershall, L. Ogmore, L. Summerskill, Bs.
Faringdon, L. Phillips, Bs. [Teller.] Tanlaw, L.
Fletcher, L. Rea, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Gaitskell, Bs. Royle, L. Wootton of Abinger, Bs.
Aberdare, L. Effingham, E. Morrison, L.
Albermarle, E. Elliot of Harwood, Bs. Mowbray and Stourton, L.[Teller.]
Alexander of Tunis, E. Emmet of Amberley, Bs.
Amherst of Hackney, L. Falkland, V. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Amory, V. Ferrers, E. Oakshott, L.
Auckland, L. Gainford, L. Orr-Ewing, L.
Balerno, L. Grenfell, L. Rankeillour, L.
Beauchamp, E. Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.) Rathcavan, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Reigate, L.
Belstead, L. Harvey of Prestbury, L. Rochdale, V.
Berkeley, Bs. Howard of Glossop, L. St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]
Bessborough, E. Ilford, L. St. Just, L.
Bethell, L. Inglewood, L. Sandford, L.
Birdwood, L. Jellicoe, E. (L. Privy Seal.) Selkirk, E.
Boothby, L. Jessel, L. Sempill, Ly.
Brock, L. Kinnoull, E. Somers, L.
Colgrain, L. Lauderdale, E. Stamp, L.
Cork and Orrery, E. Lothian, M. Strange of Knokin, Bs.
Courtown, E. Lucas of Chilworth, L. Strathcarron, L.
Cranbrook, E. Macleod of Borve, Bs. Strathclyde, L.
Croft, L. Mancroft, L. Teynham, L.
Cromartie, E. Masham of Ilton, Bs. Thomas, L.
Daventry, V. Merrivale, L. Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, Bs.
Denham, L. Milverton, L. Vivian, L.
Ebbisham, L. Monck, V. Wakenfield of Kendal, L.

Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.


My Lords, I think, subject to the guidance of the noble Lord opposite, Amendment No. 3 falls, as the previous Amendment was not agreed to.


My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales that they, having been informed of the purport of the Town and Country Planning (Amendment) Bill, have consented to place their interests, so far as they are concerned on behalf of the Crown and the Duchy of Cornwall, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3ª.—(Lord Sandford.)

On Question, Bill read 3ª.


My Lords, it has been proposed, referring to Clause 7 of the Bill, that control of demolition—


My Lords, it is not perhaps my place to say, but my noble friend may wish to speak on the Motion, That the Bill do now pass. We have passed the Third Reading and it is now for him to move the privilege Amendment.


My Lords, I beg to move the privilege Amendment.

Moved, That the privilege Amendment be made.—(Lord Sandford.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

4.54 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill do now pass. I will get in the few words I have to say before worse befalls. I have one remark on Clause 7, which is that it has been proposed that control of demolition in conservation areas should apply automatically to all buildings in all conservation areas. This is, I suggest, going too far. Not all buildings in a conservation area will be of value to the character of the area, and it would be quite unreasonable to legislate to control the demolition of such structures. However. I am advised that a local planning authority may, if it wishes, use the provisions as they now exist in Clause 7 of the Bill to make a direction which shall apply to all the buildings in the area, if necessary specifying only the exceptions. I am sure that this is as far as we reasonably can go. That is all I wanted to say on Clause 7.

However, in moving the passing of the Bill I have to fulfil an undertaking which I gave at Second Reading and at the Committee stage to elaborate somewhat on the Government's proposals in relation to Clause 3 of the Bill which concern the examination in public of structure plans. Earlier this afternoon we were discussing long and short speeches, and although I have a number of things to say now I can assure noble Lords that that which occupied 26 paragraphs this morning now occupies a mere 12. The Town and Country Planning Act 1968 paved the way for the replacement of the 1947 system by two tiers of plans, structure and local plans. It introduced statutory provisions for publicity and public participation on both types of plan, including a duty on the local planning authority to consider representations. For local plans, which deal with the detail of individual properties and interests, it is clearly right that there should continue to be the right not only to object but for any objections not withdrawn to be heard at a public local inquiry—the public local inquiry with which we are all familiar.

This Bill provides for a new, different, more appropriate form of inquiry or, rather, examination into strategic issues involved in the new and different form of plan—the structure plan. When a structure plan is submitted to the Secretary of State it is his duty to consider it. It will be accompanied by an account of the publicity the authority has given to the proposals they put forward during the formative stages, of the consideration they gave to the views put to them, and of the extent to which these have been reflected in the plan. It will be followed up by objections which anyone has the right to make. Under the procedure we have in mind the consideration of the plan. of the information about the participation stages and of the objections will provide the source from which the Secretary of State will draw up the list of matters he considers should be examined in public. I think it can be seen that this proposed basis is a wide one. It should enable the Secretary of State to identify those key matters in a planning authority's strategy which have proved controversial during public participation: which appear to raise doubts which should be examined where necessary by testing major proposals against alternatives; or which seem likely to call for changes in the plan.

Some concern has been expressed in this House and during the consultations about the selection of issues for examination; but it hardly seems profitable to have an examination in public of those matters on which there is no controversy or doubt and about which there is general agreement. The examination will most profitably be concentrated on the "pinch points". It has been suggested that there should be some opportunity for views to be expressed about the list of matters that the Secretary of State has selected, so that these could if necessary be adapted or enlarged, and that there should be some way in which, as the examination proceeds, matters could be added which could not have been previously foreseen. This we are considering further to see what opportunities should be provided. As I have said, it should not be the actual objections but the key issues which they raise or relate to which should be the subject of the examination. The structure plan examination would thus not be the proper opportunity for objectors to elaborate orally the objections made in writing, as they do, and will continue to be able to do, at the local plan inquiries. But of course—and this needs to be stressed—all objections, even at the structure plan stage, will be considered by the Secretary of State; but there will be no right for the objector to demand the opportunity to elaborate his objection orally, as there is and as there will continue to be at the local plan inquiries. In this connection I should add that we intend to provide effective means of ensuring that objections are made in a written form and the grounds set out to a degree of detail which should preclude the possibility of doubt as to their purpose and the grounds for them.

It can be expected that among those invited to participate in the examination would be those who have objected to some element of the plan, but we wish to see them not as "objectors" but as embodiments of opinion which should be voiced on the strategic matters falling to be examined. We suggest that the procedures should encourage the grouping of views so that a concerted case can be presented covering similar interests relating to one issue. The greater the disposition to co-operate with others holding common interests, either through existing or through new groups, the more influential the voice of the amenity and other groups concerned will be, and the more readily they will be able to have, if they think fit, an appropriate, skilled professional adviser. Some objectors would thus be among the "participants". I say "among" because other participants could well be the supporters of a chosen strategy. The overall objective would be to secure as broad and representative a basis of opinion as will assist those conducting the examination to report on the matters before them. As to the examination itself, the clause provides for this to be held by a person or persons, and as we see it we need to provide for a panel—an independent chairman with other members who are versed in the area and on the issues to be examined: and, as appropriate, assessors. This panel would thus be able to discuss the matters before it with the planning authority and other bodies, to probe those aspects which have been seriously challenged or have given rise to doubts, and to assess worthwhile alternatives, and to make a report to the Secretary of State which will provide him with the basis for deciding a plan far more relevant to the structural issues than could ever be the case if the examination had been concerned with the detailed objections. The report giving an account of the outcome of the examination would be published, quite apart from any fuller material by way of transcripts.

It is, as your Lordships know, the intention of my right honourable friends to issue a detailed document as the basis for a further round of consultations with the organisations concerned. We are sure that we need to shape the procedure in consultation with them, and I should like to take this opportunity before the Bill leaves your Lordships' House to pay a tribute to the constructive way in which they have so far responded to our outline proposals.

There are many other points to be covered in these further consultations. I have concentrated on the selection of issues, on participants for the examination and on the consideration of objections, and on the sort of form and character which the panel could take. I felt that I owed it to the House to elaborate on these key points. I beg to move that the Bill do now pass.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Lord Sandford.)

5.3 p.m.


My Lords, I should like briefly to thank the Under-Secretary of State for having given this further explanation of the measure to your Lordships' House, and to say that we have listened with genuine interest during the discussions we have had, to the explanations that he has given us. I think perhaps it would be in keeping with the Christmas spirit but a little dishonest if I said that the noble Lord had wholly convinced me about the wisdom of some of the steps he is taking, and I am particularly sorry that he has not been able to meet us at any rate half way on the various questions about conservation areas. I very much wish that the Government would, in the near future, introduce a measure which would apply to all buildings in conservation areas, instead of as at present.

Also I confess that I am still far from satisfied about the new proposal coming from the Government about inquiries into structure plans. I am very doubtful indeed whether the new procedure will save time. I think it is probably right to say that in matters of this kind most of the time is taken up not by the actual inquiry but by the consideration which is given after the inquiry to what has emerged in the course of hearing the various points of view, and I do not think that will be reduced by the present proposals. What is more, I think the officers of the Department of the Environment will probably find themselves fully engaged in advising the Secretary of State on which particular "swarms of bees" to attract when a structure plan is coming up for consideration.

So although I am not wholly happy about the proposals put forward by the Government we do not propose to hold them up any further. However, may I put one last question to the noble Lord, concerning the further consultation which is going to take place. I am glad to hear that this is to be the case, but I was not clear from what he said whether this consultation was going to take place after the Bill has gone on the Statute Book or before it reaches its next stage in another place. If the noble Lord could advise us on that we should all be in his debt.


My Lords, with the leave of the House I would like to assure the noble Lord that consultations have already begun and are being continued, but I will certainly write to him and let him know further details about the timing, and so on.

On Question, Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.