HL Deb 21 October 1975 vol 364 cc1334-96

House again in Committee.

Clause 3 [Meaning of relevant development]:

Baroness YOUNG moved Amendment No. 11: Page 3, line 40, after ("single") insert ("or semi-detached").

The noble Baroness said: On behalf of my noble friend Lord Balfour, I beg to move Amendment No. 11. I think it would be helpful, in moving this Amendment, if we could find out the Government's intention on subsection (3)(b). It is quite clear from the Amendment of my noble friend that he seeks to widen the exemption of the single dwelling-house so as to include a semi-detached house; and it may well be that the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, will tell us that a single dwelling-house in fact includes a semidetached house. If that were the case, it would be useful to know because it would widen this exemption. Perhaps I might start, at any rate, by asking that question and we will see where we go from there.


I do not know whether the noble Earl has anything further to add to what has been said by the noble Baroness, but the answer to the question that she put is, "Yes". It is already included in the term, and the Amendment is unnecessary.

The Earl of BALFOUR

I am sorry to be a few seconds late, but I am very pleased to have that assurance, particularly since in Scotland we shall not have semi-detached houses that are divided horizontally as well as vertically: so that if two people separately can build a house, in semi-detached portions, this is a great comfort. I am sure that all the persons concerned will be pleased to have this assurance. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

7.48 p.m.

Baroness YOUNG moved Amendment No. 11A:

Page 3, line 42, at end insert— ("and (d) replacement development as defined in Schedule (Applications for Replacement Development Certificate) to this Act.").

The noble Baroness said: I beg leave to move Amendment No. 11A and to speak at the same time to Amendment No. 15C. One group of people who are very concerned about the effect of the Community Land Bill are those who are responsible for pension funds. It must be apparent that pension funds and also insurance company funds, which come from personal or life assurance policies, need to be invested. In many cases they are invested in land or property. Clearly, the money accumulates and something must be done with it. In order to maintain the value of the pension at the end, or indeed that of the superannuating fund, it is necessary that the value of the money invested should keep up as far as possible with inflation. It has been estimated that about 12 million people are covered by occupational pension schemes. That figure includes just single people and not wives and families. So we are talking about enormous numbers of people, and for their sake I hope the Government will sympathetically consider this Amendment because it is their long-term future and, quite particularly, their retirement that we are talking about, together with the ultimate value of the pensions that they may receive.

This particular Amendment and the new Schedule that goes with it are to a very large extent concerned with the future. Because of the continuing nature of the obligations of pension funds and of insurance companies, those concerned with the management of these funds must take a very long view in framing their investment policies. Generally speaking, they look to a property investment as having a life of at least 150 years. They are concerned not merely with the buildings which may be on a site or even on part of a site at the time the investment is made, but of course in the redevelopment or rebuilding of the buildings when those buildings become obsolete. It must therefore be clear that if pension funds are to continue to invest in industrial and commercial buildings, their right to renew and to replace the buildings on the land as and when the investment criteria demand it must be preserved.

Under the Bill as it stands renewal and replacement of existing buildings will fall within the definition of "relevant development". If it does, then any planning consent granted for such renewal would be suspended and the work carried out, if at all, after the Authority had acquired the land. Although the Authority would have the power and eventually the duty to acquire, the Bill as it stands, except for some of the transitional cases, provides no mechanism by which the landowner can oblige the Authority to make up its mind or, having done so, to act. Moreover, there would be no certainty that the pension fund investor successful in such a planning application would receive back an interest in the land. The Authority may undertake the renewal itself or have someone else to do it, or simply sell with consent for it to be done by the purchaser.

The Government have announced over the last few weeks that there would be a new category of development to be defined. This comes as excepted development. This development is to be outside the scope of the suspension of planning permissions and indeed outside the acquisition duty. One of the types of excepted development is described in the Annex, Annex A, as: rebuilding or enlargement of a building so long as the floor space in the building as rebuilt or enlarged does not exceed by more than 10 per cent. the floor space in the building before rebuilding or enlargement". I would be the first to acknowledge that this is a concession, an important concession and one that is appreciated. It therefore seems churlish to cavil at what is already a concession and ask for more. But the reason why I question the limit of 10 per cent., is that 10 per cent., which is excepted development, in effect becomes the maximum tolerance permitted, not as it is at the moment, the minimum tolerance. Those who are knowledgeable on this subject will say that in order to replace an obsolete building with the kind of up-to-date standards that would be expected by way of fire precautions and central heating and all things of this kind, it might well be necessary to go over the 10 per cent. tolerance, and therefore of course the excepted development would not apply.


I am sorry to interrupt the noble Baroness, but she said something I did not understand. In what way is the 10 per cent. currently a minimum level?

Baroness YOUNG

Perhaps I should explain it more clearly. At the moment, as I understand it, one can redevelop within a tolerance of 10 per cent. under the planning Acts without seeking further planning permission. If you wish to redevelop and exceed the area by more than 10 per cent. then you must seek a new planning permission. To that extent the 10 per cent. at the moment is a minimum. Under this Bill it would become a maximum, because no more than 10 per cent. is excepted development and therefore 10 per cent. is automatically a maximum.

The purpose of this Amendment is therefore to produce a more flexible and realistic test of what is replacement as opposed to new development and to have this concept written into the Bill rather than leaving it to regulations. It is, as I say, an Amendment which is concerned with something in the future, but as I believe it would make a great deal of difference to future investment of pension funds particularly, and to insurance companies, I hope very much that the Government will consider it. I do not necessarily expect an answer today. I should be quite happy if they would like to write to me about this, or consider it at a later stage. I beg to move.

7.55 p.m.


These Amendments are concerned with replacement development and although they refer to alteration and enlargement the main issue at which they are directed is clearly, as the noble Baroness said, the question of rebuilding. The concept of the right to rebuild within specified tolerances is already enshrined for valuation purposes within Schedule 8 to the Town and Country Planning Act 1971, as modified by Section 278 of that Act, where the tolerance is 10 per cent. on cubic capacity subject to a 10 per cent. increase in floor space in any given use. This floor space restriction was of course specifically introduced by the Administration of noble Lords opposite in 1963. This is a clearly defined and well-established tolerance and it is carried through both for acquisition and for valuation purposes by the proposed inclusion in excepted development of any rebuilding or enlargement up to a 10 per cent. increase in floor space and by the reference in Clause 25(3)(b) to development within Schedule 8 to the 1971 Act, because the 10 per cent. limit is also present in that Schedule.

The present Amendments are designed, as I understand it, to replace this tolerance by what I regret to say I can only describe as a rather vague and woolly definition of what is "reasonable". It is so vague that we have found it quite impossible to make any judgment as to what it would in practice achieve, except of course that there is no doubt that it would widen the limits at present in the Bill; and that is what I understand the noble Baroness intends. However, I would hope that the noble Baroness would accept that in any event it would be unacceptable to include this provision in legislation because of its vagueness. Indeed, one of the criticisms of the Bill which noble Lords opposite have made quite frequently is that the Bill is vague and unclear. I hope that at least we can avoid adding to that vagueness, if it in fact exists in the Bill at the moment.

In considering the issues involved it might be easiest if I separate two points: the planning issues involved in the attempt to widen the exclusion from relevant development, and the compensation issues involved in the proposed change in Clause 25. On planning, the Amendments are obviously framed with the intention of achieving maximum benefit for owners of existing buildings, rather than having any regard to the achievement of good planning. The point is that in urban areas an enormous amount can be achieved under the heading of replacement development with a small tolerance. We have already large urban buildings; substantial redevelopments can take place, and have taken place, within the 10 per cent. tolerances prescribed by Schedule 8 to the 1971 Act. The redevelopment of the buildings facing on to Victoria Street, which may not be everybody's favourite redevelopment, and is certainly not mine, is a case in point where the redevelopment took place—I am not concerned with who occupies the buildings; I am speaking about the facade. The fact is that the redevelopment took place within the 10 per cent. tolerance. So, obviously, very major redevelopments can take place within this, and for planning purposes it is important to be aware of that.

What, as I understand it, the noble Baroness is saying is that we should now go very much further than this and allow all "reasonable" rebuilding with enlargement normally to take place without public acquisition. The result of that would be, frankly, to drive a coach and horses through planning. Similar arguments apply to the Amendment which affects issues of compensation; that is, the Amendment to Clause 25. Again, the Government accept the compensation after the second appointed day shall include the value of the right to rebuild within Schedule 8 tolerances. Perhaps, in case there is any misunderstanding about this, I might emphasise that we must be clear that "current use value" means the value including the value of the right to put up a new building on the site, and that right to put up the new building includes the 10 per cent. tolerance. It has been my impression that there may have been some misunderstanding about this because of discussion about churches.

The Churches' worry, as I understand it, is not that they cannot rebuild a new church on the site but that nobody wants a new church on the site, so that is valueless. The fact is that in normal terms—in every case—the current use value will include the right to rebuild within the tolerances as I have said. In the case of large urban buildings, of course, such compensation may already be very substantial. What the Amendments are now proposing is that the owner of a building shall receive compensation determined on the basis of reasonable rebuilding, whereas I said that the definition of "reasonable" does not appear to be related to any concepts of good planning, whether or not the owner would ever stand the slightest chance of getting planning permission for this rebuilding within reasonable tolerances and, indeed, regardless of whether such development could even be justified in planning terms. The result would be to drive up the compensation payable by authorities to such an extent that it would never be viable for them to acquire a site in order to develop it in accordance with proper planning objectives. In the context of the Bill, and indeed in the context of proper planning generally, this must be wrong in principle.

The noble Baroness mentioned the case of pension funds. I am aware that the Amendment is introduced with pension funds very much in mind. I accept that it is true that in the past pension funds have tended to invest largely in freehold properties, but in principle there is no reason whatsoever why they should not invest in suitable leaseholds. It is my understanding that many funds have already invested in leaseholds and, indeed, in not exceptionally long leaseholds. Funds have been invested in leases of 99 years. What is important—and the Government fully accept this—is that where a pension fund invests in a leasehold they should be able to get an adequate return from their investment. Contrary to the mythology that has been put about, we intend that this should happen and are taking it into full account in considering both the length and the terms of leases that will be allowable. Therefore, there is no need to take rebuilding out of relevant development for this reason.

Secondly, there is the compensation argument. It is said that pension funds mut be able to receive compensation on the basis of the right to unlimited rebuilding in order to maintain the position of their investments. This is not accepted by the Government. The Government of noble Lords opposite introduced the 10 per cent. floor space limitation on the original right to rebuild, simply because in urban areas, and particularly in London, the right to rebuild within a simple 10 per cent. cubic capacity was proving too generous. This further limitation does not seem to have caused major problems for the pension funds, even though in London they have been living with this system for over 10 years. They know that planning permission will not be given for any rebuilding over and above this limitation. In other words, what is being asked for on behalf of the pension funds is, in effect, the removal of the limitation introduced by the Conservative Government and the substitution of a much more lenient limitation. Indeed, it may not be any limitation at all. In our view there is no justification for widening the limitation and I cannot accept that this Bill justifies such change. After that fairly lengthy explanation I hope that the noble Baroness will reconsider this Amendment.

8.5 p.m.


I do not know whether or not I am wide of the mark, but the noble Baroness included, I believe, Section 1 of her new Schedule in this Amendment. I should like to stress its importance and, if I may, to give the Committee one or two instances of what has happened to me. Please do not think that I do not agree with local government or that I am antagonistic towards it. I have been chairman of a county council, chairman of an education committee and chairman of goodness knows how many other things in local government. I should like to point out the importance of Section 1 of the new Schedule that has been put forward by the noble Baroness.

When I had to sell my own estate because of death duties 1 had a most beautiful cottage that was occupied by a poor old widow. Then I received an instruction that it was to be pulled down at once because it was unfit for human habitation. I said that I could not turn out the lady on to the street—anyhow, not until she was dead! Next, some Americans arrived at my door and offered me £10,000 for it. They wanted to take it to Carolina. That would have been lovely if they could have done it, but no, the cottage was to be pulled down at once.

I made two applications for the cottage to be put into order, both of which were refused. Then I let the farm to my son who is a working farmer. He made two applications, both of which were refused. I am making this point not because I am against local authorities but because I think it is quite unsuitable for them to have the authority to buy and sell land if they can take it over and then sell it at a higher price. This is what the Bill will allow them to do.

The next thing that happened was that they put a preservation order upon it. This was done by the old council who had not sent any of the papers to the new council. That finished it. I was so angry that I had to sell it at a loss. A builder bought it for practically nothing. It is now worth £30,000 to £40,000 and the builder's son is living in it.

In another case I wanted to put a new kitchen, lavatory and bathroom into a lovely cottage. Unfortunately, it is made of Tunbridge Wells stone. The same council said to me, "You can't do anything to the cottage unless you do the whole lot in Tunbridge Wells stone." I pulled down a wall which was made of Tunbridge Wells stone, so I tried that. But we found that we could not put in a damp course, so the whole project went by the way. I had to attend another meeting in that district where I met one of the councillors. I said, "You're a nice lot". He said, "What about?" and I told him. He said, "Oh, my Lord, they haven't tried that one on you, have they?" I said, "Yes, they have—very much so", whereupon he said, "My God!" He went straight back to the council. I do not have the remotest notion what he said to them, but within two days I received a telegram to say that I could do what I liked. So we go on.

I mentioned earlier that I had to sell my old home because of death duties. At that time it had 52 bedrooms. The people who bought it cannot live in it, although it has been reduced to 18 bedrooms, and they have asked whether they may build a small brick house in the garden in which to live. Their application has been turned down because my ancestors built 40 or 50 houses in that village, with no rent above a shilling a day, of Kentish ragstone. These people have been told that although the centre of the original mansion is of red brick the wings being covered with other stuff, they may not build a brick house in the garden because all of the houses in the village are of Kentish ragstone. I am going mad because of that kind of thing.

The muddle we shall get into on account of this Bill will be quite appalling, and that is why I make this point. The regional Councils are far too big to result in intelligent local government. Like the Greater London Council, they are completely out of hand. My other point is that we simply must have something like this to protect the unfortunate people who wish to improve their property. They must not be treated in the way I have been treated. I apologise if I have spoken too personally, but I thought that I should bring this situation to your Lordships' notice.


In response to the noble Lord, may I say that in so far as his first case was a criticism of the reorganisation of local government carried out under the previous Administration, I accept everything he said. In so far as the second case was an appalling example of how Members of your Lordships' House can" pull strings" with local authorities, I deplore it as much as he did. So far as the third case was concerned, I am afraid I thought that the council were absolutely right.

The Lord Bishop of LONDON

The noble Lord, Lord Melchett, caught me a little by surprise by making an unexpected reference to the churches in their relationship to current use value. If I heard him aright, I do not think he was correct in expressing the real grounds for our concern about this. Our concern is that when there is a redundant church its current use value as a redundant church is nothing. Therefore there may be a church standing on a valuable site, although if it is sold you can get nothing in respect of its value. In the London diocese we have quite a number of churches built of Kentish ragstone which after a hundred years are returning to the sand from which they came. They are redundant churches, and it would be a very serious thing for us if we were not able to develop the site simply because there was no value on the building which stood on the site. That is the reason for the concern of the churches about the current use value.

Baroness YOUNG

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, for his reply to my Amendment. I do not think the analogy he has given is an exact one. I entirely accept that the 10 per cent. floor space was introduced in the 1963 Act and has been used since then but, as I said, it is always open to somebody wishing to redevelop to apply for a further planning permission and to increase their floor space. Therefore, the difference between the situation as it exists now and as it will exist under the Bill is that 10 per cent. is the upper limit for the accepted development. I think the consequence will be that a certain amount of redevelopment will simply not take place at all. This would be unfortunate from everybody's point of view, and, therefore. I hope that the Government will look yet again at this matter.

The second distinction is that there is a difference between those (dare I say it?) developing in Victoria Street, or indeed commercial developers, and the type of people to whom I am referring, the pension funds, because the money that they are putting into land and property is not, as it were, their own money. It is somebody else's money and therefore it has to be looked after carefully and is a different proposition from a Government Department or somebody carrying out some commercial form of property development. So for that second reason I think this matter ought to be looked at.

I am quite prepared to accept that the drafting of this Amendment and the Schedule that goes with it to make it workable may be vague and wrong, and I entirely accept that it could be clarified and tightened up to meet some of the objections to it. But this is not an Amendment which I should lightly move if I did not feel that there was some real substance and grounds for fear on the part of pension funds that they will not be able to undertake the redevelopment that they think is right and so keep up the value of their investments. This is important, because so many people arc involved, and it would be a mistake to think that what was written into a planning Act in 1963 ought to be used on what the Government have called a major reform for land in 1975, as the same basis, because I do not think they are quite the same. I wonder therefore whether the Government would look at it again.


May I first say that on the question of churches, it was probably unwise of me to anticipate the debates that we shall have in a short time. I entirely accept everything that the right reverend Prelate has said, but the point I was making is that it is no good for the churches to be told that they can rebuild the church on the site where there happens to be a redundant church. It was from that position that I felt there might be a misconception about the basis of current use value for housing—where, of course, if you have a house which has fallen down it is very useful to be able to rebuild one on that site, assuming that anybody wants to live there.

Turning to the remarks made by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, we have given this careful thought and the figure of 10 per cent. at the moment for planning purposes is not either a minimum or a maximum. One has to have planning permission to redevelop both within and without the 10 per cent. tolerance. If I have it right, the 10 per cent. is there for valuation purposes and it is this conflict between the planning aspects of writing this into the Bill and the valuation aspects which make the framing of the Amendment particularly difficult. I have said that pension funds have nothing to fear and we shall particularly bear in mind, as the noble Baroness has said, that they are investing other people's money and also the importance, when they are investing in leases, that they should receive an adequate return on their funds. I will look at everything the noble Baroness has said and will see whether there is anything we can do to meet this point.

Baroness YOUNG

I am grateful for that offer and also for the point about leaseholds. This is a very important matter. The length of the lease is obviously extremely important to anybody investing in land or property and that is certainly a matter to which we shall return at later stages of the Bill, With that assurance I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

8.19 p.m.

The Earl of BALFOUR moved Amendment No. 12:

Page 3, line 42, at end insert— ("(1A) Where a particular class of development, which is not relevant development,

  1. (a) is subject to a compulsory purchase order. and
  2. 1346
  3. (b) becomes relevant development by regulation under this section, a person having a material interest in such development may then object to the compulsory purchase order.").

The noble Earl said: Where there is a change of development there is a problem under Clause 3(1), which reads: In this Act' relevant development' means any development except— and I will now read paragraph (c)— development of such class or classes as may be prescribed by the Secretary of State by regulations. Also I am a little concerned about Clause 25(3), which reads: For the purpose of assessing the compensation"— and then paragraph (d)— no account shall be taken of— (i) any change, …"— affecting development under paragraph 1 of Schedule 1 to the Bill.

What concerns me here is that a person may have had a compulsory purchase order served on him for, say, a statutory undertakings provision (or something like that) and then suddenly the order has been changed by the Secretary of State in respect of the class of relevant development, but by that time it is too late for the poor chap to appeal.

I am arguing in this Amendment that where a class of development which at the present moment is not relevant development and is subject to a compulsory purchase order, then becomes relevant development because the Secretary of State has changed his mind, the person concerned should then have a right to object to the compulsory purchase order, which he might not otherwise have bothered to do. This is very technical. Where the Secretary of State has changed his mind I feel that the individual person concerned should have a chance to object although he might not have tried to object before. I beg to move.


The noble Earl says that it is very technical, and I certainly agree with him if that was a reference to his explanation of the Amendment as well as to this Part of the Bill. I must confess, I am afraid, that I did not really follow what the noble Earl said in explanation. However, it may be helpful if I try to tell him what I think is the effect of the Amendment, and we can see whether there is any meeting between us. As I understood it, the Amendment was based on a misunderstanding. There is no power under the Bill to acquire land for exempt development, and here we are dealing with exempt development. It is specifically excluded in Clause 15(2). Secondly, where the land is being acquired for excepted development, then paragraph 1(2) of Schedule 4 specifically excludes the application of the modifications to compulsory purchase procedure in Schedule 4. This means that the normal compulsory purchase procedures will apply, and the owner will have the right to object as he would normally.

From what the noble Earl said, I think he was possibly talking about changes in the categories of relevant development. I do not think the Amendment of the noble Earl would necessarily affect that, but, on the other hand, changes in relevant development do not affect either compulsory purchase powers or compensation, so I do not think the point arises there either. I hope that with that explanation, the noble Earl will be satisfied.


I do not think that the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, has entirely followed my noble friend Lord Balfour. With the greatest respect to my noble friend, I am also not sure that this is quite the right place in the Bill to put this, but the point is a real one. As I understand it, what my noble friend has been saying is that there is at the moment, or there would be when the Bill became law and the necessary regulations were made, a kind of development which was specified as being in some form or another not relevant development. Therefore, as the noble Lord rightly says, there would be certain provisions in Schedule 4 which did not apply. It is perfectly true that if in the course of a compulsory acquisition the general development order, or one of the other development orders, was changed so that it became relevant development, an objection could be dealt with under Schedule 4 on the merits of the case. I think that is what the noble Lord has said so far.

But I do not believe that it would be possible for the Secretary of State to entertain any objection which arose on the grounds that because there had been in the period of time between the making of the compulsory purchase order and its confirmation, a change in the general development order, there had been a change in the compensation code which applied to that particular compulsory acquisition. I do not believe an objection would be able to be heard upon that matter, because it would be a matter of law, and something which only the tribunal dealing with compensation could deal with. It would be excluded by the terms of Schedule 4 to this Bill.

I think I am right in saying that my noble friend has said that where someone is put in that position, because there has been, in the middle of a transaction, a change in the law, he should have some sort of protection. If that is right, and if that is what he is suggesting, it seems to me possible that this might be a subject for the financial hardship tribunals, and should be drafted into that provision rather than being dealt with here. I think it is a real point, and one which at the moment the machinery of the Bill does not begin to cover.

The Earl of BALFOUR

My noble friend Lord Colville of Culross has put the matter much better than I. This is exactly the point. The law has been changed in the course of its procedure on a compulsory purchase order. That is it in a nutshell.


I take that point. I think this could arise on the borderline between relevant and excepted development, but I do not think it applies in this Part of the Bill, as the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, says, where we are talking about the difference between" exempt" and "excepted", where any change would not affect either the compensation code or the right to object to a compulsory purchase order. But I take the point. I am advised that in order for the Schedule 4 modifications to apply, the order must say that the land is development land. Any changes in relevant development after then would not affect the position of that land, nor would any changes in a general development order affect the position. I think the answer is that the order must apply to the piece of land, and the development for which it is being purchased. Any changes in the order are not going to affect that bit of land for that bit of development, although in future they might affect the land for a different development.


It may not affect the compulsory purchase order, but does it affect the compensation that would then be assessed on the basis of that compulsory purchase order? I think that is the missing link in the information that the noble Lord has been given.


I do not think it would affect the compensation. However, if I am wrong perhaps I can write to the noble Viscount and the noble Earl.

The Earl of BALFOUR

Perhaps we may leave this extremely technical point for the moment. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

8.27 p.m.

Lord MIDDLETON moved Amendment No. 12A:

Page 4, line 5, at end insert— ("( ) Relevant development shall not include a material change of use of land where the proposed use is, or will be, wholly or mainly by persons who participate in physical recreation on that land by means of organised games, sport or leisure recreation.").

The noble Lord said: The purpose of this Amendment is to ensure that when land is developed from, say, an agricultural use state to a sport or leisure use state, then that development should not come under the heading of relevant development. The meaning and interpretation of the term "relevant development" in this Bill will also have to be interpreted in like manner for the purposes of the Development Land Tax Bill. Therefore, it seems to me to be desirable to make exempt from public acquisition and taxation a material change of use that results in the use of land for physical recreation. I beg to move.


I should briefly like to support this Amendment, as one who started the playing fields movement some 50 years ago, and who started the counties movement at the same time, where thousands of acres have been given to recreation. We now find some encroachment. If this perfectly ordinary Amendment to safeguard that could be made, it would be a very wise thing to do.

Baroness BIRK

The effect of this Amendment would be to exclude from the definition of "relevant development" a material change of use of land where that use is wholly or mainly for sport or recreation. The intention of the Government is that development for the purposes of sport and recreation should not normally come within the operation of the land scheme. The only exception would be major developments such as major sports complexes which are clearly significant in planning terms, and thus ought to fall within the scheme. In any event, these are nearly always ventures in which the local authority is closely involved. But the normal run of recreational development should normally be able to go ahead without public intervention, and the category of excepted development is designed to cover just this sort of case.

There is really no difference between the Government and Opposition on objectives. It is simply a question of how those objectives are to be achieved. The view of the Government is that the right way to exclude development from the definition of relevant development is, in general, by the use of the regulation-making power in Clause 3 of the Bill. We have already indicated the intended scope of these regulations in Annex A to the Paper on the scope of the community land scheme. The two exceptions, of buildings up to 10,000 square feet in floor space and all material changes of use, taken together will except all but major recreational development from the land scheme. It is important to stress here that the Central Council for Physical Recreation and the Sports Council have declared themselves broadly content with this approach. Of course, there will be further consultations with interested bodies on the draft regulations.

The present Amendment is designed to write some exceptions into the Bill itself. This we do not feel is necessary or desirable, although I take very much the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Middleton. First, the power to make regulations has been put into the Bill precisely to cover this kind of situation. It would be wrong to ignore it and instead to write everything into the Bill. In this way we would do away with the flexibility, which is one of the reasons for doing a great deal of this by regulations. Secondly, it is important to get the exceptions right, and here the Opposition Amendment, if I may say so, falls down.

Take, for example, the case of a golf course. The Amendment would bring the course outside relevant development because it is a change of use of the land, but the building of the club house, so far as the Amendment is concerned, would still be within relevant development. I would not have thought this was the result that we want to achieve. Again the right answer is to leave the exceptions to the regulations; in this way there is time, in consultation with interested bodies, to get it right. The position of Parliament will be fully safeguarded as the regulations will be subject to approval in draft by both Houses of Parliament. If some of the exceptions were in the Bill and some in regulations, this could be even more confusing. It is true that the bodies which are concerned would be far more unhappy than they are with the present situation, in which they feel perfectly reassured at the present time.


I do not know what happens in other counties, but I do know that in Somerset and Avon it is almost unknown for the local authority ever to have to go to compulsory purchase in order to obtain, perhaps, a school playing field. I think the Government ought to be very careful, before they go relying on regulations, that they do not dry up the supply of land for playing fields. If something could be put in the Bill which is reasonably clear, then I think owners would be reassured and would continue to make land available. If, on the other hand, the Government rely on unpublished regulations, owners are likely to take fright and the supply is likely to be cut off.


I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her explanation that most recreational development will be covered by the Secretary of State's regulations in due course. As I understand the noble Baroness, it will become excepted development. I have no doubt that we shall be hearing other references to the term "excepted" very shortly. Much criticism has been levelled at this Bill on the grounds that there is so much uncertainty at present while we wait for the many regulations that will have to be made under Clause 3(1)(c). May I take this opportunity of asking the noble Baroness whether she can assure us that draft regulations will be available in due course for consultations with interested bodies. We can only hope that the regulations that will cover recreational use such as we have been discussing will be made available before too long. Would the noble Baroness like to reply to the question about consultation?

Baroness BIRK

Perhaps I could first reply to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton. The regulations will not be unpublished; they are Statutory Instruments and will be published. In many ways the situation will be far better than at the moment from the point of view of recreational development.

In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Middleton, consultations have already taken place. I feel very strongly about this point in any case. Perhaps I might just read something from the Central Council for Physical Recreation, which might reassure the noble Lord. The chairman of the Major Spectator Sports Division reported that at the recent meeting between my Department and the CCPR he had received a full explanation of the intention of the background document, and from what he heard it seemed clear that sport and recreation had very little to fear from the implementation of the Bill, which did not in any way change or override the existing planning rights of the national or local authorities in acquiring land for development purposes. Consequently, it was seen that the Bill should serve as an instrument to alert governing bodies and individual sports clubs to the need under the present law to safeguard their positions by watching carefully any attempts on the part of local authorities through their existing planning rights to acquire land. In short, the Bill supplements the existing planning system. I think that really does tic it up.

I would only repeat that I think one has to realise the disadvantages of trying to spell out everything in the Bill, because one might find one has left out something which perhaps in the near or distant future it becomes very important to include in the Bill, whereas with regulations it would be flexible. As well as what I have just read, the Sports Council is quite satisfied with this. I hope that with this explanation the noble Lord will withdraw this Amendment.


I gather from what the noble Baroness has said that the regulations are likely to be sympathetic to the provision of new golf courses, of which there is a great shortage in this country, both private and municipal. Can she confirm that?

Baroness BIRK

I do not think I ought to go out on a limb, or a club, for one sport or another. I was using it as an example. I think we can take it that the legislation is sympathetic to the provision of sport and the conservation of sport and recreational facilities.


I am most grateful to the noble Baroness. I think the Sports Council will be all the more satisfied if the regulations are forthcoming at a very early stage. In view of what the noble Baroness has said, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 3 shall stand part of the Bill?

8.38 p.m.

Baroness YOUNG

This is a most important clause in the Bill, and I feel bound to say, in moving a debate on Whether the Clause shall stand part of the Bill?, that a great deal of the difficulty the Government have found in answering questions and in dealing with this Bill has been due to the fears aroused because so much is left still to be determined by regulations which we have not yet seen, of which the noble Lord, Lord Middleton, has quoted very good examples, as has the noble Lord, Lord Hylton. I think these are very real fears, and I think they will have a consequent effect upon peoples' willingness to sell land, because they simply will not understand what the position is. We are, of course, grateful for the crumbs that have been put before us by way of the exceptions to relevant development, and of course the very short explanation that has been given in Annex A, which was circulated shortly before our Second Reading. Nevertheless, a memorandum is not the same as seeing the regulations.

It is important that we should know as much as we can at this stage as to what is to be included in the regulations, what advice the Government are to take on framing them. Apart from anything else, they are not going to be in the same category, as I understand it, as the exempted development in Schedule 1. Even if something is an excepted development it will still be possible for a local authority compulsorily to acquire it under Clause 15. It, therefore, is in a very different and a much weaker position. I think everybody should know where they stand on it.

I feel certain that my colleagues will return to subsection (1)(c), but I should like to press the noble Baroness much more on what is meant by subsection (1)(b). One of the great changes from the No. 2 Bill that we had in the House is the complete disappearance of the old Clause 4, which gave an exemption for single plots which were owned on White Paper day. That has all gone. I should like to be quite sure that subsection (1)(b) covers all the instances originally in the Bill under the old Clause 4; that is, the single plot, with all the detailed Amendments that were put into the old Clause 4 as to who might own it and to whom it might eventually be left or be sold.

I should like to be sure that any type of single dwelling is covered by this paragraph. We have already had the answer that a semi-detached house is covered by it. Does that mean that terraced houses are covered? Is a line of terraced houses owned by owner-occupiers also excepted from "relevant development"? If someone owns a single plot, can he sell it to somebody else, and that still be excepted? It does not seem to me that the Bill anywhere makes clear what this means, and as approximately 51 per cent. of the population are owner-occupiers it is essential that they should know where they stand.

It is essential because if we look at Clause 15, the powers of an authority to acquire, again the wording has changed from the No. 2 Bill, where, in the former clause, the reference was to, "relevant development", whereas in this clause we have." land which … is suitable for development," which of course is entirely different from "relevant development".

may be misunderstanding this, but it seems to me that the assurances which the Government have given are not nearly as sound as they would first appear. I should like a clear answer on this point, and I hope that the noble Baroness will be able to supply one.

8.42 p.m.


I should like to support my noble friend Lady Young on this. As it is the first time during this evening that I have contributed to the Committee, I should like to begin my remarks by thanking the noble Baroness and her staff for the lists of notes on clauses which she and her staff have prepared and sent to us. This is much appreciated, and it follows in line with what the noble Baroness said earlier this afternoon from our side and from this Bench:" We have tried to make this as comprehensible as possible. "I appreciate that, but I would point out what a different situation it is from the year 1968. I would draw your Lordships' attention to this particular year because it was the year in which the noble Baroness's previous noble friend on the Front Bench, the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, stood at the Box and introduced an important Bill, the Town and Country Planning Bill of that year.

When he introduced that important Bill to this House, I should like to remind the noble Baroness of the degree of trouble which he and the then Secretary of State, the present noble Lord, Lord Greenwood of Rossendale, took in informing Members of your Lordships' House and of another place on the intention of the Government on two important matters, both the Town and Country Planning Bill and other legislation. It is important to recognise the value of the consultation which then took place. We had certainly long but friendly discussions on those Bills which took place in that year. It is important to stress one further aspect in that the noble Baroness, in bringing before us the list of Amendments and the Schedules under which she believed we should discuss them and which were tabled at such a late hour this afternoon, introduced a somewhat difficult problem for your Lordships.

I turn from that to the essence of this clause. It is on the definition. It is a definition of "relevant development". I base my remarks largely on the terms used. We have recurring throughout the Bill the phrases, "relevant development", "exempt development", and "excepted development". I suggest that these are unfortunate choices of words. I take first the two, "exempt development" and "excepted development"; two English words as like, as one might expect, two peas—" Tweedledum development" and "Tweedledee development". The point is that they are similar except at their extremities. One is equipped with shoes, the other with boots, and they both kick. I believe that the terminology suggested by the Government is misleading and difficult for those who have to interpret and use the Bill, and I sincerely believe—though it is not for the Opposition to recommend terms—that the Government ought to think again about the respective terms they use. We believe that "relevant development" in this case is a bad choice; we believe that "excepted development" is a bad choice; and we believe that "exempt development" is a bad choice. We suggest to the noble Baroness that she "throws six" and starts again.


I do not know whether I should be allowed to make a third speech from the Front Bench, but it is a narrow point. The noble Baroness may know that when I am not occupied on debating the Community Land Bill in your Lordships' House I am doing so outside. One of the disadvantages of the method of legislating which the present Government seem to be so entirely devoted to—which is by introducing a White Paper and some years later producing legislation to implement it (or one year at least), and then subordinate legislation to follow—is that people get a little confused about what is to be the law at the end of it all.

The point that my noble friend Lord Sandys has made about the helpfulness of some of the ancillary documents which have been produced is entirely endorsed by me, and they have been very helpful to me in this House and elsewhere. However, I wonder whether, in the course of answering this short debate, the noble Baroness could help me on one specific point. In the White Paper there was an arrangement whereby building land, land owned by builders on White Paper day, was to be exempted from most, if not all, of the processes in the Bill. It accords with my recollection that it was not only land in the freehold ownership of a builder on White Paper day but land which was subject to a binding contract by the builder to buy on White Paper day; that too, was to be exempt from the processes of this Bill. And so it says in various learned commentaries and journals which have discussed this matter. Annex A to the document The Scope of the Community Land Scheme, produced for the purposes of your Lordships and, I think, for those in another place, does not mention binding contracts, and those who have all this time thought that land which was subject to a binding contract on White Paper day are now faced with paragraph (2) which simply refers to freehold ownership on White Paper day.

As we are talking, among other things, about what is going to be in the regulations, I believe that a number of people would be greatly aided if they knew whether it was still land subject to a binding contract or only land which has actually been transferred and was in freehold ownership on White Paper day. It is only a small point, but I suppose it has caused me, and a number of people who have come to talk to me, about five or six hours of consultation and discussion. I have no idea how many other thousands of people in Britain have been equally perplexed by the discrepancy, and I think perhaps even now it would be a very good thing if we could get it cleared up.

8.50 p.m.

Baroness BIRK

As this Committee stage goes on and on I begin to think that I was too generous in the way in which I handed out all these papers; perhaps we have been too helpful to noble Lords opposite. I will begin by answering the point raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, and, not being a planning lawyer, if I do not get it right I will write to him and let him know the answer. I think he used the word "exempted", but what he is I believe referring to is any case that is "excepted" and not "exempt".


I did, and I am sorry; I should have said "excepted".

Baroness BIRK

What is excepted from the scheme is the development and not the land itself, and we have to keep this in mind all the way through. I accept that it becomes confusing and this is understandable because the word "land" is used when we are talking about development. In the case of categories which depend on the ownership of land and buildings, ownership is to be taken as extending to being under a binding contract to purchase, which I think answers the noble Viscount's question.


That, therefore, should be interpolated into the paragraph in the very helpful Annexe—"Freehold includes land where there is a binding contract to purchase." I am very much obliged to the noble Baroness.

Baroness BIRK

If the noble Viscount will look at the general notes he will see there is a note which says: … any development carried out on land which was in the freehold ownership of a builder or of a residential or industrial developer on 12th September 1974. This exception"— not exemption in this case— will continue if the land is subsequently sold to another builder or developer. I hope that that is satisfactory and not only helps with the understanding of the Bill, but also helps the noble Viscount in his other, more remunerative, work outside.

I turn to the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Young. She and the noble Lord, Lord Sandys—and I will deal with these points together to save time, because the questions they asked are closely bound together—asked about relevant development and exempt and excepted development. "Relevant development", as the noble Lord pointed out, is the key definition which determines the scope of the land scheme, and it is intended to cover all development which is significant for the purposes of the scheme and where, when the full duty finally becomes operative, development should not he allowed to take place until the land is in, or has passed through, public ownership. This is the factor which determines the scope of the initial duty under Clause 17. I will not go further into that at this point because we will be considering the way it works out when we come to the later parts of the Bill, from Clause 17 onwards.

The definition in Clause 3 works by exclusion. In other words, it takes out of relevant development all development which is not significant for the purposes of the land scheme and which leaves all other development to fall within relevant development. The exclusions from relevant development are of two types. First, there is "exempt development", which is set out in Schedule 1 to the Bill. This is development which does not fall even within the acquisition power under Clause 15 and which is therefore unaffected by the land scheme. Given the objectives of the scheme, it is clear that this must be limited to relatively minor development.

When we come to excepted development, this is the category which covers the building, mentioned by the noble Baroness, of a single dwelling house and also any other development included in regulations made under Clause 3. What is excepted here is the building of the house. I hesitate to say that the noble Baroness was not clear about this, but it did not come over very clearly to me. In any event, it has nothing to do with excluding existing houses from acquisition, nor indeed did the former Clause 4. What is excepted is the building of a house. Clause 3(1)(b) covers all the circumstances of the old Clause 4 and goes much wider, because it covers any type of single dwelling, single detached, semi-detached, terraced or a self-contained flat.

Excepted development is development which will normally be able to go ahead without the land having to pass through public ownership and is therefore outside the general duty under Clause 17, the full duty under Clause 18, and all the provisions relating to the suspension of planning permission in Clauses 19 to 22, and no doubt we shall hear much more about that when we reach those clauses. This is, I think, the important point about which the noble Baroness was asking. Although excepted development is within the acquisition powers under Clause 15, there is a very strong presumption that this power will not normally be used, and in line with this, paragraph 1(2) of Schedule 4 specifically disapplies the changes in compulsory purchase procedures in Schedule 4 from any proposed acquisition for the purposes of excepted development. Excepted development will be defined in regulations subject to the Affirmative Resolution procedure, and, as I pointed out previously, these will be published and will be Statutory Instruments. The Government's proposals for what should be included in those regulations have now been made public and are contained in Annex A of the Paper Scope of the Community Land Scheme, but the precise definition of these will need further consideration in consultation with interested parties once the draft regulations are available.

The presumption with excepted development is that public acquisition will not normally be needed for such development. There will, however, be cases where it is right that authorities should intervene. An obvious example is where they could use their powers, perhaps buying by agreement, to facilitate recreational or small industrial development which would not otherwise take place. The powers would also be available for reasons of positive planning; here the authority would have to show that satisfactory development could not be achieved without public acquisition.

Both exempt and excepted development relate solely to development, and not to the land on which the development is proposed to take place. There will, of course, be nothing to prevent an authority from acquiring land for relevant development, even though there may be proposals for development which fall within excepted development. For example, an authority might want to buy land for a larger, more comprehensive scheme even though these were individual proposals for piecemeal development which would be within the excepted category. This is clearly essential if the necessary flexibility that the "excepted development" approach provides is not to lead to a highly undesirable distortion in the pattern of development.

Any development which is not excluded from relevant development by these exclusions will then fall within relevant development. But this definition must then be read in conjunction with the definition of "development land" in Clause 17(4) of the Bill, which defines development land as land needed for relevant development within 10 years. Only when all these definitions are satisfied will the development fall within the land scheme. I am sure that this is all quite simple and clear to noble Lords!

Several Noble Lords

Hear, hear!

Baroness BIRK

This is an important point and I thought noble Lords would welcome a full explanation of it, although we shall no doubt be discussing it at further stages of the Bill. The important point about the excepted part of the scheme is that there is the power to acquire but not the duty, and acquisition will be agreed to only in exceptional circumstances. Indeed, there may well be sale by agreement in some cases. If this is not so, then there may have to be a compulsory purchase order but there would always be an inquiry. As for the specific inclusion of the single dwelling house in the Bill, the point to which the noble Baroness drew attention—it being in the Bill rather than being put in regulations with the various other exceptions—we thought it right that this should be put into the Bill, because it was the result of a promise in the White Paper.

So far as the rest is concerned, once again, by putting it into the regulations we get the flexibility we consider desirable. Noble Lords have concentrated on the worry of restrictions, but they should also put their minds to the point that we may one day want to add to what is proposed now, and they would not want to constrict the future by writing everything into the Bill. If there are regulations, they can be added to. As I have pointed out, those regulations would have to be put before Parliament. It is surely better to have something flexible which can be added to, rather than make definite decisions now which would be binding for the future.

As to the situation of the owner-occupier with which the noble Baroness is very concerned, I would point out that we on this side of the Committee are also extremely concerned. The percentage of owner-occupation in this country has gone up progressively and has risen considerably more under successive Labour Governments than under Conservative Governments. As well as considering as we do that this is socially necessary, we must recognise that it would be very politically inept not to be conversant with this and very concerned about it. I feel that, as a result of consultations with outside organisations, and consideration of points put forward in another place we have now got the relationship between relevant development and exempted and excepted development right. I hope that the noble Baroness and noble Lords opposite will now be satisfied on this point of the Bill. If there are further points of detail, and points to be picked up which were raised on other clauses, perhaps we can save them for the clauses concerned when we reach them.


I think we are getting on rather well. When the noble Baroness started, I thought that we were doing particularly well, but she rather spoilt it when she read the last three pages of her brief. It is a great gain to have got rid of old Clauses 4 and 5, with all the qualifications and cautions which they contained, but, if I understood her earlier remarks aright, we have reached a happy position if she is correct in claiming that, like us, she is in favour of owner-occupation. I wish all her Labour colleagues in councils up and down the country were as much so, but it seems to me, leaving that to one side and to sum up for her, that we have now reached a position—and I hope that she will be able to confirm this—in which there is nothing in the Bill at present and will be nothing in regulations in the future to stand in the way of anybody who wants to build a single house anywhere and at any time. If that is the situation, it would be very helpful if the noble Baroness could say so roundly.

Baroness BIRK

As I understand it, that is clear, unless it came within the regulations made for agricultural land or specific recreational facilities, in which case I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Sand ford, would find that his noble friend Lord Middleton, who moved a previous Amendment, would take issue with him. On the question of the single dwelling-house, that is certainly in the Bill and I would go further and make it clear that exceptions include also up to an acre of ground and that this means that the small infilling plot of 10,000 square feet floor space and 15,000 square feet of industrial floor space also come within these powers. I must say that I feel there has been not only a great deal of panic but also a considerable amount of bogey-making in all this. It is absolutely wrong to behave as though individual houses are being snatched away from people or as if they will not be able to build homes for themselves. This is quite wrong. It is not in the Bill and it never has been.


Would the noble Baroness confirm that the single dwelling house will be excepted but not exempted?

Baroness BIRK

The single dwelling house is actually within the Bill; it is excepted. What would matter in a particular case would be planning permission, but the general permission to develop a single dwelling house is in the Bill now. Also, a small group of houses or flats is now within the excepted provisions. It is quite untrue that the owner-occupier of his own home is at any risk at all from the Bill.


I should like to make the point—because surely the only exempted development is that within Schedule 1—that therefore the single dwelling house which is not in Schedule 1 must be excepted and therefore liable to compulsory purchase.

Baroness BIRK

It is excepted, but whereas in the Bill it says that the other exceptions will be made under regulations, the Bill itself refers in subsection (1) to the building of a single dwelling house. It is specifically mentioned in the Bill and for the reason I gave. It is excepted. It is not exempt, but nevertheless it is there and written into the Bill, and I am sure the noble Lord will understand the point I have made about planning permission which applies today as well.

Baroness YOUNG

I feel that this has been a very useful discussion. Apart from anything else, we shall be able to read the noble Baroness's explanation and decide what it means. I am sure that this will throw a great deal of light for her noble friends who, I am sure, listened intently to what the legislation means and it will give a great deal of point to our later Amendments when we come to consider the individual's rights in compulsory purchase procedures and in other matters, in understanding which bit of development he falls into—relevant development, excepted development, exempted development or the development of the building plot for a single dwelling house.

The confusion is made considerably greater because we now have it quite clear that subsection (1)(b) replaces old Clause 4. It is not at all concerned with owner-occupied houses which are not excepted or exempted from the Bill; it concerns only the plot of land. If fears have been raised, they have been entirely justified. Nobody has been going around scare mongering. But in the original Bill any one who had a single plot, unless he owned it before the White Paper day, was not excluded from the provisions of the Bill. It would be entirely fortuitous as to whether or not the purchase of land was completed before this extraordinary date of 12th September 1974; an entirely arbitrary decision.

If one considers the Bill as a whole, it is perfectly clear that the proposals mean that increasing amounts of land will be brought into public ownership. Nothing which the noble Baroness, or any other Member of the Government Front Bench, has said can lead one to any other conclusion. Therefore to suggest that no one has anything to fear is of course untrue. We have added to that the fact that much of the Bill is very unclear and very difficult to understand. I am at least grateful that the exemption for building plots, as a result of Opposition activities, has been extended at least to include all of them—those post-White Paper day as well as those before White Paper day.


I wish to reinforce what my noble friend said. I do not wish to embarrass the noble Baroness, or cause her too much further anguish at this rather late hour, but I wish to ask her whether she is aware that when my noble friend Lord Middleton asked whether a house was exempted or excepted there was a moment's hesitation in verbalising. This is the point we find complicated on this side. I am sure that my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross will not mind my saying that he finds it difficult; indeed, all of us find it difficult to choose which it is, exempt or except. This will recur again and again. Thousands of people will be worrying about these two words. They are far too similar, far too close in length, and far too similar in size and in pronunciation. Anyone who is a student of the problem of speech will agree with me that there is a great problem here.

Clause 3 agreed to.

Schedule 1 [Exempt development]:

9.12 p.m.

The Earl of BALFOUR moved Amendment No. 13:

Page 51, line 7, at end insert— ("1A. Development falling within Schedule 8 to the Act of 1971 or in Scotland falling within Schedule 6 of the Scottish Act of 1972. 1B. Development falling within any of the classes specified in paragraph 7 and 8 of Schedule 3 to the Finance Act 1974 as read with paragraph 10 of that Schedule (but not already exempted by virtue of paragraphs I and lA above.").

The noble Earl said: I wish to explain briefly that this Amendment is an attempt to extend slightly in legislation some of the provisions of the exempt development. The clause which we have just been through refers to the development of, such class or classes as may be prescribed by the Secretary of State. … Although I understand that papers will be issued on what is included, the Secretary of State still completely has the right to change his mind. Paragraphs lA and 1B in my Amendment are intended to allow for cases where there is rebuilding or improvement of property, development not constituting new development which comes into the Schedules to the Acts of 1971 and 1972, and also in paragraphs 7 and 8 of Schedule 3 to the Finance Act. There are developments such as those involving the small shopkeeper. Bearing in mind changes that have taken place, such people as the small shopkeeper need some protection. He is a tremendous asset to the community, and we are concerned here with a rather important point. I beg to move.


Apart from any other objection, there is now general agreement in the Committee that this Bill is already extremely complicated, and I am absolutely horrified by the suggestion that we should introduce into Schedule 1 these two paragraphs which refer to other legislation, and which, I suggest, would reduce the Schedule almost to a state of complete meaninglessness. If the noble Earl wants to achieve his purpose, I suggest that he might translate this into language which ordinary people could comprehend, and not frame his Amendments by reference to the Act of 1971, the Scottish Act of 1972, and the Finance Act of 1974.


I should like to echo what the noble Lord, Lord Foot, has said. I am afraid that once again the noble Earl has caught me out, because I think I misunderstood the effects that his Amendments we reattempting to achieve, so I should like to study what he has said. Basically, however, we talked at some length on a previous Amendment about the problem of rebuilding within certain limits, and what I said about it then applies, if that is what the noble Earl is wanting to achieve here, in much the same way. We accept that there must be some rebuilding within the limitations of Schedule 8, but we do not think it would be wise to extend this any further than it is already in the Bill because of the problems on the two fronts, both on the grounds of planning and on the grounds of the compensation which will be payable when we come to the second appointed day. But, as I say, I had misunderstood what the noble Earl's Amendments were attempting to achieve when he first put them down, so I should like to look at them and at what he has said since, and perhaps we could return to this at another stage.

The Earl of BALFOUR

I wonder if I may add one other word and ask the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, whether he will have a look at this, too. For the first time in the discussion on the Bill I think I should declare an interest, though it is a very small one even now. Paragraph 2 of Schedule 1 says: The carrying out, on land which is used for the purposes of agriculture or forestry, of any building or other operations required for the purposes of that use, other than operations for the erection of dwelling houses"— that is fair enough; they are covered— or operations for the erection, improvement or alteration of buildings used for the purposes of market gardens, nursery grounds or timber yards …". I do not have a market garden but I have a tiny nursery, though that is almost immaterial. However, I feel that market gardens, certainly, are quite important food producers. When the noble Lord looks at the rest of it I wonder whether be will consider why these have been excluded, as I feel that they really come into the same sort of class as farming.


Here I am on stronger ground. We come to a discussion of this on, I think, Amendment No. 14A, which the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, and his noble friends will be moving, and it may be sensible if we discuss the point at that stage of the proceedings.

The Earl of BALFOUR

I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Earl of BALFOUR moved Amendment No. 14: Page 51, line 9, after ("agriculture") insert (",fish farming").

The noble Earl said: Very briefly, I want to include fish farming, which is now developing into quite a major food producer in this country. Again, I am wondering whether or not this is something that should be introduced as an exemption, because it is food producing. I beg to move.


I sense the absence of the noble Baroness from the Back Benches opposite as we come to discuss this Amendment. However, I can tell the noble Earl that it is not necessary. Agriculture is defined in Section 290 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971, and this definition is specifically included in Clause 4(1) of the Bill. The definition includes, … the breeding and keeping of livestock (including any creature kept for the production of food …)", and thus extends to fish farming. I hope that that reassures the noble Earl.

The Earl of BALFOUR

I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

9.18 p.m.

Lord MIDDLETON moved Amendment No. 14A: Page 51, line 11, leave out from ("dwelling. houses") to end of line 15.

The noble Lord said: Clause 3(1) says: 'relevant development' means any development except— (a) development of any class specified in Schedule 1 to this Act". One of our complaints when we looked at the No. 2 Bill in August was that although the Minister had indicated that agricultural and forestry development would be exempted development, and that the land on which it was to take place would not be liable to public acquisition, there was nothing in that Bill to say so. We now have an altered Clause 3 accompanied by this Schedule 1, which says in paragraph 2: The carrying out, on land which is used for the purposes of agriculture or forestry, of any building or other operations required for the purposes of that use", will be exempt development. I am sure that for this the agriculture industry would be duly grateful, were it not for the wording of the rest of this paragraph. If we turn to the definition, to which the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, has just referred, in Clause 4 of this Bill, we find that, agriculture' has the meaning assigned to it by section 290 of the Act of 1971"; that is, the Town and Country Planning Act 1971. In this definition "agriculture" includes "horticulture" and also the use of land, not only for fish farming but for market gardens and nursery grounds among many other uses. It therefore seems extraordinary and wholly inconsistent that when we go on to read the rest of paragraph 2 of Schedule 1 we see the words: … other than operations for the erection of dwelling-houses or operations for the erection, improvement or alteration of buildings used for the purposes of market gardens, nursery grounds or timber yards … and so on. This means that the erection of houses on agricultural land will not be exempt development. I should like later to refer to houses. It also means that what will also fall outside the category of exempt development will be certain forms of horticultural development even though they are agricultural development, as defined earlier in the Bill.

What seems to have happened is that the words in this paragraph have been lifted out of the Planning Acts. This paragraph is word for word the same as paragraph 4 of Schedule 8 to the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 and also was included in the 1947, 1951, 1954 and 1962 Planning Acts. But in the Planning Acts these words were used in connection with the payment of compensation for the refusal of planning permission in certain circumstances. We feel strongly that the definition is being wrongly used in this Bill in the context of the scope of public acquisition of development land. Surely the Government do not intend to leave general agriculture alone and yet to purchase sites for horticultural development! This Amendment seeks to treat horticulture in the same way as general agriculture. If the erection of buildings for general farming purposes is to be exempt, it seems quite wrong that buildings for market gardens and nursery grounds should not also be exempt.

With respect to houses that might be built on agricultural land, this Amendment admits the exclusion from exemption of the erection of farm dwelling houses in paragraph 2 of Schedule 1; but, having said that, the treatment of houses properly to be built for agricultural occupation seems in this Bill to be vague and uncertain. From the discussions we have just had on Clause 3, I suppose that a new farmhouse or farm cottages could be excepted under Clause 3(1)(b). If the Secretary of State decides to make an appropriate regulation, such a building could also be excepted under Clause 3(1)(c). I do not want to confuse the main purpose of this Amendment, but if some clarification can be made about housing I know that the agricultural industry will be most grateful. The main purpose of this Amendment is to remove what seems to be a glaring anomaly affecting horticulture. I beg to move.


We are concerned over this because, as my noble friend said, Schedule 1 hives off horticulture from agriculture. It is also complicated by the fact that it excludes horticulture from the exemptions; so that when people talk about this Bill being complicated, that is the first complication because it contains a double negative. In the last two hours three noble Lords who are not renowned for being stupid have come to me to say: "Why are you doing this? You are excluding horticulture from the Bill. "I try to explain that by this Amendment we are trying to include horticulture with agriculture. If agriculture has the protection which it has under the Schedule and under Clause 3, we think it wholly appropriate that horticulture should have the same protection. If the requirements of agriculture are important—and nobody should or would underestimate the necessity of agriculture and the importance that should be given to it in this Bill—then this applies equally to horticulture. Under the Bill as it is at the moment the small market garden buildings get less of a protection than large agricultural buildings. If we look at Schedule 1, at the beginning of paragraph 2, it says: The carrying out, on land which is used for the purposes of agriculture … If we try to find out what "agriculture" means, we turn to Clause 4, and we see that agriculture is defined as follows: "agriculture" has the meaning assigned to it by Section 290 of the Act of 1971 …". If we look at the Act of 1971 it says that "agriculture" includes "horticulture". So the very definition of "agriculture" which is included in Schedule 1 includes "horticulture". Yet, the same paragraph proceeds to exclude it. That is wrong, and I hope that the Government will agree that it is wrong.

If we go on a little further, we see that paragraph 2 of Schedule 1 exempts agriculture or forestry. It goes on to remove from that exemption buildings used for the purposes of market gardens, nursery grounds or timber yards. In that Schedule you have the fact that "forestry" is not excluded from the exemptions, but "forestry buildings" are. You have the situation where "agriculture" is exempted, "agricultural buildings" are exempted and "forestry" is exempted, but "forestry buildings" are not exempted. In other words, if forestry and agriculture are both to be exempted, and if you wished to put up a building under 5,000 sq. ft. in size, such as a cow shed or barn, you are entitled to do so. But if forestry is exempted and you wish to put up a building in connection with forestry of under 5,000 sq. ft., you cannot do so. I think this is an anomaly and I hope the Government will agree that it is.

The Earl of BALFOUR

Paragraphs 2 and 3 of Schedule 1 are almost identical, word for word, to paragraphs 4 and 5 of Schedule 6 to the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1972, which is almost word for word the same as Schedule 8 to the 1971 Act. Obviously, it has been taken from there, and I respectfully think that the draughtsman has got it wrong. That Schedule refers to development not ranking for compensation, and a few things like that.


I should like to support my noble friends Lord Middleton and Lord Ferrers. I believe this Amendment to be very necessary. I come from a part of the world where market gardening and agriculture take place side by side and are almost indistinguishable from one another because there is such a haze between the two. I should like to declare an interest, as I have already done, in that I am an owner. I believe it very misleading to suggest that horticulture is precisely definable. The Parliamentary draughtsman believes it is; but in our part of the world, in the Vale of Evesham, it is perfectly possible to have a cabbage farm. One can speak about a market garden holding and imagine something between one acre and 50 acres, but surely in this Bill, or indeed in other legislation, the words "farm" or "holding" are not necessarily defined according to their size in acres or hectares. For that reason alone. I believe it is important to bring horticulture into the same ambit as agriculture.

With regard to forestry, and the point made by my noble friend Lord Ferrers, there are many instances where enterprising small companies have set up saw-mills and other timber buildings with the intention of making forestry a manageable and satisfactory industry in quite small circumstances. This is not in opposition to the Forestry Commission but it is a private element of industry which is very badly needed by the farmer—for instance, to produce stakes, rails and every type of timber material which are so frequently needed in the countryside, made from home-grown materials. Perhaps here it is relevant to quote the Government's White Paper, Food from our own Resources. If the Government are still unconvinced by what my noble friends have said on this matter, I hope they will take into account what my noble friend Lord Balfour has said, because although he said he was going to add a few words, his words are usually long and particularly pertinent.

I do not think it should be left out of account, either, that glasshouses, with regard to horticulture, are not an insignificant matter. Your Lordships will remember that the Scilly Isles are included in the ambit of the Bill, and a very important horticultural industry exists in that part of the world, with very large areas of glasshouses producing a very valuable income. In some cases this involves the export of flowers, fruit and vegetables. Here is an instance of an industry where a vast amount of capital is tied up with a great deal of equipment and the expenses incurred over heating and constant repairs. They are extremely expensive buildings to erect and very expensive to maintain. It seems particularly unfair on a horticulturalist, shall I say, in the Isles of Scilly to exclude him from the situation, as against someone in Hampshire who runs a holding of a somewhat similar size which is a farm. It appears to me that the Government have made a mistake and I hope that by accepting this Amendment they will remedy that.


I too declare an interest. I have a farm, and connected with it is a small sawmills and small market garden. Under the terms of this Bill, it seems to me that I shall be exempted, as my horticultural operations arc connected with general farming, whereas my next-door neighbour, who has only a small market garden, will be caught by the provisions and will not be exempted. This seems to me to be an anomaly and to be very unfair.


I should like to support this Amendment and to ask the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, whom I do not think probably has ever indulged in forestry, whether he is aware that when one cuts down trees in forestry lands one is bound to plant others to take their place. Where is one to get them if there are to be, apparently, no nursery gardens? What is the point of taking part in forestry at all if there are to be no timber yards? As to nursery gardens, is this another attempt on the part of the Government to do away with the small man? The small market gardener is absolutely essential to the horticultural and agricultural life of the country.


I think the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, will remember that I raised this particular point on Second Reading and she said she would write to me, or maybe she said she would consider it, but at least she seemed very sympathetic. I hope therefore that she is prepared to accept my noble friend's Amendment. I should like to ask her two questions specifically on this subject. First, if I, for instance, take a chicken shed on a general farm, that I assume is exempt; but if, on the other hand. I live down the road on a small horticultural holding it is only excepted. I hope she will confirm that because it seems to me a bit of a muddle.

Secondly, I should like to ask about compensation. As I understand it, the effect of the exclusion of horticulture, its not being classified as "agriculture" in this sense, means in fact at the end of the day, I think after the second appointed day, less compensation for the horticulturist as opposed to the general farmer. If this is so, I cannot see the sense or indeed the fairness of it. It may be that noble Lords opposite will not mind paying extra money for their vegetables to make up for this discrimination against the horticulturist, but somehow I feel that their wives might not quite take that line.

9.37 p.m.


Perhaps I should start by replying to what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Somers. I am not a forester but I am a farmer and, as it happens, currently engaged in felling and replanting an area of trees. That applies to that question. He asked me whether this was—I think he said—another part of the Government's programme to do away with the small man. The answer is, no, it is not. He then asserted that there would be no nursery gardens and no more timber yards. The answer to both those assertions is that they are not the case at all. This does not affect the provision of nursery gardens or timber yards; we are talking basically about a compensation point here.

The noble Lord, Lord Stanley, asked whether a building on a farm would be exempt but a building on a horticultural holding be excepted. The answer to that is, yes. He then went on to say that this meant less compensation for horticulturists. I do not think that is so. I think that if the Amendment which has been moved by noble Lords opposite is carried we should be in the anomalous situation of giving far more compensation in regard to certain types of land than to others, but I will come to that point in a minute.

As I have said before, the definition of "exempt development" is used for two purposes in the Bill: to define the scope of the acquisition power in Clause 15—that is the first purpose—and, together with Schedule 8 to the 1971 Act, to set the level of current use value in Clause 25. So it has both the purpose of defining the extent of the power and setting what are the things to be included in the current use value when that is calculated. To take first the latter point, the current use value point, the definition used in paragraph 2 of Schedule 1 to the Bill is taken, as the noble Earl, Lord Balfour, said, straight from paragraph 4 of Schedule 8 to the 1971 Act. This definition has been used ever since 1947 to define what is included within the current use value of land.

I discovered during the proceedings of the Committee stage today that it is difficult to think of anything more calculated to upset noble Lords opposite than to tell them that something was in the 1971 Act. Indeed, the only thing that seems to upset them more is to tell them that their honourable friend Mr. Rossi agreed with something the Government had done—and they then immediately march into the Division Lobby against us. I have no doubt that, as it is agricultural interests which are being defended tonight, we are about to see another Division regardless of anything I have to say. The Government believe that it is right to stick to this definition, the definition taken from the 1971 Act, for the purpose of defining the level of current use value after the second appointed day. It would be strange if the bringing in of the second appointed day led to a raising of the existing value floor which has been in existence since 1947.

So far as the scope of the acquisition power is concerned—and this may be what is mainly concerning noble Lords opposite; I am not sure—there is always room for argument about the precise definition to be adopted; but whatever view is taken of the definition of "exempt development" it has been made clear that any agricultural development which is within the powers will be covered in the excepted development regulations and that compulsory powers will not generally be available for buying such development. What that means is that, so far as agriculture, horticulture and forestry are concerned, in practice it confers the power to acquire the land used for that development. Do not let us forget that it is the land which is to be developed in a certain way which matters and not the land itself because the power applies to the development, not to the land. In practice, it makes very little difference because either it will be exempt or excepted.

While it is true that the bulk of the development covered by the words that Amendment No. 14A proposes to admit could scarcely ever be the subject of acquisition by an authority the possibility cannot be completely ruled out. For example, an authority may be able to use their powers to make land available for a timber yard in or near an urban area. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Somers, is noting that I am saying that the authority might want to make land available for a new timber yard, not to close down one that is at present run by a small man. A large timber yard may be much more akin to an industrial than to an agricultural use. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, used the words "industrial development" when referring to timber yards.


No, I did not.


The noble Lord certainly used the word "industry" when he was talking about small timber yards. He agrees with me on that point, because I see that he is nodding.


Would not the noble Lord agree that agriculture is an industry?


Yes, I would: I am saying that this is an industrial development, not that it is not. That is a double negative which I know the noble Earl is not very keen on! For these reasons we think it best to stick to the wording in the 1971 Act which is well tried and well understood. The Government's intentions are that general farming operations and forestry proper should be right outside the scope of the scheme, and this is what paragraph 2 of Schedule 1 achieves. To widen the field to cover more intensive operations and ancillary developments like timber yards could mean that the acquisition power would not he available in cases where its use could be helpful and justifiable, and I understand that it would have unacceptable implications for the definition of current use value after the second appointed day.

9.43 p.m.


We are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, for what he has said but I do not think he has addressed himself to the arguments which were advanced. The arguments were based on one point—that horticulture has been deliberately excluded from agriculture. The noble Lord, Lord Melchett, based his argument several times in his last speech, and also in the previous Amendment of my noble friend Lord Balfour on fish farming, on what appears in the 1971 Act. The definition of agriculture which appears in the 1971 Act says that agriculture includes horticulture. If the noble Lord bases his argument on the 1971 Act, he must surely accept that that includes horticulture. With the greatest respect, he has not made one convincing argument why horticulture should not have the same protection as is given to agriculture.


Nor can I find anything remotely convincing in what the noble Lord has said. If he says that the reason why horticulture has been excluded, completely illogically, is on the ground that less compensation should be paid to horticulturists than to agriculturalists, I find this quite extraordinary. If it is a matter of assessment of the current use value, the fact that compensation and the matter of assessment of the current use value for horticulturists should not be on all fours with ordinary farmers seems to me to be quite extraordinary. I object to the noble Lord's remark about agricultural interests. We are talking about the nation's food production. Horticulturists produce a most important part of the nation's food. I should have thought that it was the duty of this Committee to ensure that this production is done economically and that horticulturists are not put under an unfair financial burden. They will be if this Schedule is left unaltered.

The noble Lord referred to the wording of the 1971 Act. I have already pointed out that the wording here is completely inappropriate in the context of public acquisition, and I find his arguments entirely unconvincing. I see no reason to withdraw my Amendment and I think that the Committee should decide.


I have carefully listened to my noble friend Lord Melchett and other speakers, and I must confess that I am not fully conversant with the intricacies of the Bill and its antecedents. But the simple question was put by a number of noble Lords of whether horticulture would be covered, and I did not understand my noble friend Lord Melchett to say that it would be so covered. I am sorry that I have to say this of my own people, but for the life of me I cannot see why horticultural holdings should not get the same treatment as agricultural holdings.


If I may interrupt my noble friend, I think he has picked up a misconception that was relayed in one of the remarks made by noble Lords opposite. The land is not affected; it is the development on the land that is affected. So horticultural land is treated in exactly the same way as agricultural land. What we are talking about is horticultural development or agricultural development.

Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.

The Earl of BALFOUR

I wonder whether I may just prove for one moment that this is not the case. If we go back to Clause 3(1)(a), it says, In this Act 'relevant development' means any development except— (a) development of any class specified in Schedule 1 to this Act, Let us now look at the middle of paragraph 2 of Schedule 1, which states, other than operations for the erection, … improvement or alteration of buildings used for the purposes of market gardens, nursery grounds or timber yards or for other purposes not connected with general farming operations". If that is not excluding it, I cannot see how more clearly I can show that we on this side of the Committee are right.

9.48 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 14A) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 62; Not. Contents, 26.

Aberdare, L. Falkland, V. O'Hagan, L.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Ferrers, E. Orr-Ewing, L.
Amherst of Hackney, L. Ferrier, L. Rankeillour, L.
Atholl, D. Gage, V. Redesdale, L.
Balfour, E. Gainford, L. Ridley, V.
Belstead, L. Glasgow, E. St. Aldwyn, E.
Berkeley, B. Gore-Booth, L. Salisbury, M.
Campbell of Croy, L. Gowrie, E. Sandford, L.
Carrington, L. Gridley, L. Sandys, L.
Clitheroe, L. Harvey of Tasburgh, L. Savile, L.
Colville of Culross, V. Hornsby-Smith, B. Somers, L.
Colwyn, L. Hylton, L. Stamp, L.
Cork and Orrery, E. Inglewood, L. Stanley of Alderley, L.
De L'Isle, V. London, Bp. Strathclyde, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Long, V. Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.
Digby, L. Lyell, L.
Drumalbyn, L. Mansfield, E. Stuart of Findhorn, V.
Dundee, E. Margadale, L. Sudeley, L.
Elles, B. Merrivale, L. Vickers, B.
Eliot of Harwood, B. Middleton, L. Vivian, L.
Elton, L. [Teller.] Northchurch, B. Young, B.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Gardiner, L. Maelor, L.
Birk, B. Goronwy-Roberts, L. Melchett, L.
Brockway, L. Houghton of Sowerby, L. Morris of Kenwood, L.
Champion, L. Kirkhill, L. Shepherd, L (L. Privy Seal.)
Crook, L. Lee of Newton, L. Stewart of Alvechurch, B.
Crowther-Hunt, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. Strabolgi, L. [Teller.]
Elwyn-Jones, L. (Lord Chancellor.) Lloyd of Hampstead, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Lovell-Davis, L. [Teller.] Wallace of Coslany, L.
Foot, L. Lyons of Brighton, L. Winterbottom, L.

9.55 p.m.

The Earl of BALFOUR moved Amendment No. 15:

Page 51, line 21, at end insert— (". Development for the erection or alteration of any building, which when erected or altered would be eligible for reduction in rates under sections 39 and 40 of the General Rate Act 1967 or in Scotland sections 22 and 23 of the Valuation and Rating (Scotland) Act 1956.").

The noble Earl said: This is the first of two Amendments of a similar nature that I have put down. The reason behind this Amendment is to try to exclude the development for the erection or alteration of buildings like churches, village halls, places for recreational or educational purposes, which at the present moment are normally eligible for a reduction in rates, certainly under the Valuation and Rating (Scotland) Act, and I believe and I hope I have got the correct sections applying to the English Act in the same field. Buildings like village halls have almost no rates levied on them, and certainly are eligible by law to a 50 per cent. reduction in most cases where exerciseable liquor is not consumed on the premises; also churches are exempt under the rating laws.

I feel this is important. I feel very strongly about this. Populations move from place to place and there are new town developments. I feel it is very important that buildings such as churches and church halls should be built without having to pay the development tax provided for under the Bill. They are being built for the benefit of the community, and this is to be a Community Land Bill. That is the reasoning behind this Amendment, although perhaps the drafting is not perfect. Nevertheless, that is the object of the exercise. I beg to move.

9.56 p.m.


The effect of the Amendment which has been moved by the noble Earl would be to take all development for the purposes of churches, charities and other institutions and organisations listed in subsection (5) of Section 40 of the General Rate Act 1967 out of the land scheme. It goes considerably beyond the special provisions for churches and charities which were announced by the Minister on 15th July in another place. It would include developments by such institutions and organisations as are mentioned in subsection (5)(b) and (c) of Section 40 of the General Rate Act 1967; namely, any other hereditament which is occupied for the purposes of one or more institutions or other organisations which are not established or conducted for profit and whose main objects are charitable or are otherwise philanthropic or religious or concerned with education, social welfare, science, literature or the fine arts; and (c) any other hereditament which is occupied for the purposes of a club, society or other organisation not established or conducted for profit and is wholly or mainly used for purposes of recreation. Such a definition as in subsection (5)(b) would include bodies whose purposes could go far wider than strict charities; for example, ones with the aim of changing the law in one way or another. They would therefore be regarded as too political to be treated as charities in the ordinary sense. Such a definition as is to be found in subsection (5)(c) would include clubs which are not truly public, since their rules are sufficiently exclusive to prevent their membership from being available to the general public, which, if I may say so, is at the heart of the concept of charity. I imagine that many noble Lords could identify some clubs in that category which, to be regarded as carrying out charitable purposes, would give their members cause for some surprise.

The special provisions announced for churches and charities acknowledge the unique services which these bodies provide to the community—and church halls would be excepted from what is proposed—and have been made in order to help them to make the change to the ultimate stage of the land scheme. We shall be discussing this matter if we arrive at that point in the course of this night; otherwise, the pleasure of doing so will have to be postponed until the morrow. It was never the intention of the Government that development by churches and charities should be completely excluded from the land scheme, since such an exemption would lead to the establishment of a particularly privileged class of land owners.

The Government have been willing to give special treatment to land in respect of which churches and charities had entered into commitments for development before they had any knowledge of the land scheme, but would not be prepared to prejudice the operation of the scheme by excluding permanently all developments that would be carried out at any time not only by churches and charities, but also by any of the large number of organisations that would be included under Sections 39 and 40 of the General Rate Act 1967. I hope that what I have said will not promote a discussion now on the position of the churches. In view of the explanation that I have given, I hope that the noble Earl will appreciate that the wide extension which he proposes would go far beyond anything that is reasonably contemplated in the provisions of the Bill.


Before the noble and learned Lord sits down, might I ask him about schools? How do they stand so far as the Bill is concerned?


Does the noble Lord mean church schools or schools at large?


Schools of any variety.


I think that I should like notice of "schools of any variety". Perhaps I can revert to the matter before I fall into some dreadful trap which I fear is being laid for me.

The Lord Bishop of LONDON

This is the second time that I have been taken by surprise during the course of this debate. I had not appreciated the significance of the Amendment moved by the noble Earl, Lord Balfour. However, I am grateful in a sense to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor for what he has said. Obviously I have to hold my fire, but at least the target at which I am to fire when my Amendment comes along is a little clearer than I had expected, or even feared, that it might be. Therefore, I think that I had better contain my remarks on this issue until my Amendment is called.


I fully understand that the restraint which has just been indicated is wholly without prejudice, and we shall look forward to the debate on the matter. As I apprehended, the answer to the question I was asked a moment ago is that church schools would be exempted, other schools would not.

The Earl of BALFOUR

I will, of course, need to study what the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said and I will make only one final remark at this stage, although I may wish to return to the matter on Report. Perhaps I should have used the words, "eligible for a reduction in rates of 50 per cent. or more" because I did not realise that my wording extended quite as wide as to clubs and the like, although I am reasonably certain that most such places would not be eligible for a reduction in rates in the ordinary sense, and I say that from my experience of local authority affairs. I was concerned with organisations run wholly for recreational and purposes entirely for the benefit of the community, such as libraries, squash courts and church halls; places used by the general public. At this point, however, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

10.7 p.m.

Baroness YOUNG moved Amendment No. 15A:

Page 51, line 21, at end insert— . All sites smaller than 2 hectares, outside the area of the Greater London Council or the areas of Metropolitan Counties. . All land owned by builders as stock-in-trade. All land for which a planning application for residential development has been made prior to the first appointed day.

The noble Baroness said: I will, with permission, speak at the same time to Amendment No. 15B; the two go together. The purpose behind these Amendments is to try to define those categories of development which we believe will come within the excepted category and will be defined in regulations, only to have them written into Schedule 1 and therefore to bring them into the exempted category from relevant development. The Committee has heard a great deal about the advantage of regulations—that they provide flexibility, that they can be altered at some future date and that they can be added to—but while they may provide flexibility, they create uncertainty, and they have already created a great deal of uncertainty because the regulations referred to in Clause 3(1)(c), which we have just debated, have not yet been defined and all we have is the paper, Annex A, setting out some of the proposed exceptions. I should therefore like to find out what the Government's intentions are and this Amendment is designed to include in Schedule 1 some of what I hope will be the kind of matters which will be included in the regulations. Under Amendment 15A I have included all sites smaller than two hectares—which I find slightly easier to think of than five acres—which is what the builders have asked for quite consistently throughout the passage of this Bill as being a site which would enable a great many smaller builders to continue in business as they have done for many years, and thus contribute in a very real way to the housing supply of the country. They are people who are well versed in being able to build on relatively small sites. The Amendment goes on to indicate that not only would there be sites smaller than five acres but also land that is currently owned by builders on which they are intending to develop. Amendment 15B adds to this exemption: Any material change of use in land or buildings". This is, of course, not extending the area at all but is allowing a change to be exempted from the provisions of relevant development and development which would be in accordance with a planning permission that had been inforce since 12th September 1974— Any development carried out on land which was in the ownership of a builder or a residential, commercial or industrial developer on 12th September 1974. The last point is also concerned with industrial development. The point of these last two exemptions would be not simply to help the builder who is building houses but to help industrialists. We are all very concerned about the position of the economy at the moment, and very strong representations have been made by industrialists on the difficulty they will find in expanding their factories once the Bill becomes law. A great many of my noble friends have already had representations made to them, sometimes couched in terms to the effect that the only future expansion will be overseas because of the difficulties of the Bill. This kind of minor increase in the exemptions is designed to help industrialists and I feel that it is worth consideration at a time of rising unemployment. I hope I have made clear the reasons for the Amendments. I beg to move.


In rising to support my noble friend on these Amendments, I shall confine my remarks to Amendment No. 15A. In my introduction to what I wish to say, I should like to explain on Second Reading I declared that I was a director of a development company. I declared my interest and I tried to convey to your Lordships the great powers given to the Government under the Bill to acquire land in circumstances which have never before been seen in this country. I appeared to be completely misunderstood by the Government. When the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, replied, she referred to me as stating that the present position was due entirely to the economy. She completely misunderstood my speech, in which I was trying to convey that this Bill was causing a great deal of uncertainty. We on this side of the Committee are trying to rectify that uncertainty and it is unfair to charge us with scare-mongering outside your Lordships' House. We are definitely trying to improve the Bill, much as we dislike it. I felt that I must say that as an introduction to my remarks on the Amendment.

What we wish to achieve by referring to all land owned by builders as stock in trade is to let the builders know that any land, about which they may have entered into contracts, or have owned prior to the appointed day when these provisions will come into operation, may remain in their possession. It is clear—and I am sure noble Lords will agree with me on this—that builders have to plan ahead. It is absolutely essential for them to plan four, five or six months ahead and if there is a feeling that the Government may take this land off them, that is bound to bring about unemployment and not achieve the development of any new housing at all. Clearly, it will not achieve what the Government wish to achieve with the Bill. Therefore, I strongly support Amendment No. 15A and I hope that the Government will give some consideration to it.


I should like to support my noble friend in these Amendments, because for many years I represented an area where we had new, young and enterprising industries coming in. Over the years, firms like Morphy-Richards, Klingers, ITT, the Telephone Manufacturing Company and the like started off as comparatively young firms in a new area after the war, without capital to go for the maximum until they had established their markets and got their exports. It was a very highly-rated export area for its size. However, these firms had the prudence to keep that extra area of land on which to expand and develop subsequently. At more than one of those factories I was privileged to open extensions during the period when I was a Member.

Bearing in mind that the Government are asking for expansion in industry and for people to endeavour to find more employment and the like there is here a very real deterrent to companies with these modest two hectares. It will be prudent to provide such an area of land if a firm is going into a development area or is setting up a new factory—possibly at Government request—in an area of high unemployment. Whereas, initially the plant would take perhaps only half the area, it would be prudent for a firm to plan for extensions. But there is a great deterrent in the suggestions made by the Government in the Bill. I hope that the Government will see their way, as an encouragement to firms when they increase production and when they have more export orders, to ensure that those firms have no fear that they will not be able to develop on land which they have acquired, and no fear of an alternative claimant coming along and jumping the gun on them, by applying to the local authority to develop on the land. Two hectares is not such a vast area.

Planning authorities at present frequently require a firm to provide twice as much space for car parking as for a plant or factory; and this means vast expense for the company. Bearing this in mind, I hope that the Government might reconsider these very modest five acres, which a prudent and expanding company would think it worth taking if it were opening up a new factory in an area.


The noble Baroness called this a very modest change in the Bill, and the noble Baroness, Lady Young, called it a minor increase in the provisions for exempt development. But I have to tell noble Lords opposite that the extensions proposed by these two Amendments are quite unacceptable to the Government, in particular in so far as the implications to the definition of current use value are concerned. The only exception to that general point is, so far as the current use value is concerned, reference to Schedule 8 to the 1971 Act in Amendment No. 15B, which is not unacceptable because this is already imported directly into Clause 25 by virtue of subsection (3)(b).

But it is not the intention that the definition of current use value should be the more generous one that is included in the Finance Act 1974, and it would certainly be quite unacceptable for value attributable to the hope of obtaining permission for, say, development on the site of up to two hectares to be included in current use value. So far as the acquisition power is concerned, the Government have made it clear that they consider it necessary for authorities to have wide powers even though the scope of the duty can be more constrained.

I have made the point before that exemptions carry with them two implications. One is the implication of the current use value of land; and, secondly, there is the implication of the power of the local authority to purchase the land. But the noble Baroness, Lady Horns by-Smith, seemed to me to be missing the point, which is the fact that the land is never exempt. It is no good adding in five acres or 3,000 acres to Schedule 1. The land is not exempt; it is the development that takes place on the land. Therefore it would make absolutely no difference to an industrial concern which buys land prudently—as the noble Baroness puts it—to develop in the future, because, presumably, it would not necessarily have planning permission or be applying for planning permission at that stage. So at that point the land would not be development land and the exemption in Schedule 1 would not apply to the land at all.

If the land fell within a large development scheme and the local authority intended to take the land in that development scheme into public ownership, whatever Schedule 1 said would not make any difference. The industrial concern would have to sell the land to the authority if the relevant procedures under the Bill were gone through. That is an important point. We are talking about two limited areas here. One is the limitations on the power of the local authority to buy development land, and the other is the implications for the valuation of the land when we come to current use value. The Amendment is quite unacceptable to widen this into that valuation.


Could the noble Lord explain this further to me? Is he saying that if it wants it a local authority has the power to take land from a development company which has acquired and owned that land? This is just the point which is causing so much uncertainty in the building industry at the present time. They cannot make their plans. If this is what the noble Lord is telling us it is just the sort of thing they fear, and it is causing a stagnation and a paralysis in the building industry. It is just this point, if I am right.

10.21 p.m.


If planning permission has not been granted for land the local authority can acquire it under this Bill, just as they can acquire it now for the purposes for which they have a duty to acquire the land. If the land is needed for roads, for example, they can acquire it now, so in that respect the position is not affected. Certainly, as the noble Baroness said earlier—something welcomed by all noble Lords on this side of your Lordships' Committee—more development land will be coming into public ownership. But the answer to the noble Lord is that if no planning permission has been granted and the land is not at that stage development land, and if either the local authority gives planning permission or it falls within a development plan or one of the other planning constraints which exercise themselves on the local authority's power to acquire, certainly the local authority could buy the land.

To return to the effect of this particular Amendment, to convert, as I think the second of the noble Baroness's two Amendments does, "excepted" development into "exempt" development completely undermines the whole basis of the Government's proposals for defining the scope of the land scheme. The absurdity of this approach can be most clearly seen by considering the proposals that two hectare sites should be excluded from the scope of the power. In suggesting this exclusion it is presumably accepted that it is reasonable for there to be public acquisition where large-scale development is involved. But in assembling a site of, say, 100 acres, an authority might well have to buy some quite small bits of land. Moreover, they might well be able to make such purchases by agreement without the use of compulsory powers.

The effect of Amendments Nos. 15A and 15B would be to make it impossible for authorities to use the Clause 15 power to achieve such useful land assembly schemes. The effect might be that an authority would be able to use the power in the Bill to buy most of the land they needed in this large 100-acre site, but would have to proceed under other powers (for example those in the Housing or Planning Acts) to buy a few scattered small plots. This makes no sense at all. There may be objections to the Bill in principle, but I hope your Lordships will not arbitrarily make the mechanics of the scheme inefficient.

The Government agree that rebuilding within the limits of Schedule 8 should be "excepted" development, but it must remain within the scope of the power. This is something we spent some time on earlier. A good deal of commercial development, as I said then, especially in Central London, takes place within the limits set by Schedule 8, and it would not be acceptable for this to be outside the power—that is, to be "exempt" development—even if it is thought that there would only rarely be a case for the use of the power in such instances.

As I have said, these Amendments are unacceptable to the Government because they would vastly increase the level of current use value and because they would, taken together, make major inroads into the broad scope of the acquisition power which is in our view an essential feature of the scheme.

10.19 p.m.

Baroness YOUNG

The reply which we have had is not altogether unexpected, although naturally it is disappointing. One of the extraordinary features of this Committee stage has been the unwillingness of the Government to consider anything. I think they have undertaken to look at two points in a rather half-hearted way, but that really is as far as we have got. I would not agree with the general thesis on Lord Melchett's second point. I do not believe that this would in fact make that great an inroad into the Government's desire for local authorities to acquire the maximum amount of development land. What I do think would be its effect is to make both house-building and minor industrial developments more likely, more effective, at a time when both are required by the country as a whole.

It is extremely short sighted of the Government not to look at these exceptions. Nobody is moving an amendment to take out Clause 15, to take out the power of local authorities to acquire, to go against the major principle of the Bill that the councils are to be enabled to acquire development land. But we are trying to identify areas where it seems to me that, keeping within the principles of the Bill, we would make it more workable and be helpful to builders to build houses and to industrialists, particularly industrialists with expanding businesses to get on and expand their businesses. That is what would be the effect of these Amendments. It is very disappointing that the Government do not wish to consider them. It was the noble Lord, Lord Henley, who said he thought that the Bill would be unworkable. A lack of consideration of any of the kinds of Amendments that would help it to work will hardly help the Government. At the end of the day it will be the ineffectiveness of much of this legislation from which the country will suffer. However, I will ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


We have reached an hour which may indicate, after the intellectual rigours of the day, that it would be appropriate for the House to turn to another matter which no doubt has its own rigours. Perhaps we can proceed tomorrow with this Committee stage. It is unfortunate that we have made so little progress. Perhaps it is a little ungallant of me to say so at this hour but, with great respect, I hope that we can press on with greater speed tomorrow.

Baroness YOUNG

My colleagues are anxious now to make one or two points on Schedule 1. We should be happy to conclude the business of the day after that. We do not want to go on after discussion of Schedule 1, but I think that would be a more sensible place to stop than to leave the Schedule incomplete. We could then go on to Clause 4.


If it is the wish of the noble Baroness to do that, then certainly the wish to prolong the matter may be less tonight than tomorrow—not that I am suggesting for a moment that anyone in the Committee seeks to prolong the matter. If it is the wish of noble Lords opposite, then let us deal with and put an end to Schedule 1.

On Question, Whether Schedule 1, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?

10.28 p.m.


This Schedule that we have been discussing has dealt with exempt development. I am bound to say that we have had "exempt development" and "excepted development" and that anyone wishing to muddle up anyone could not have chosen a better way to do it than to use the words "exempt" and "except" and then to throw in the word "excluded"; so that we have excepted development which is that which is exempt from development. Those words were ill-chosen; quite apart from the fact that one is defined in the Bill and the other is not. "Exempt" is defined and "excepted" is not. One of the worries of the agricultural community is the fact that they do not know, or are not certain, whether, if they were to build a building—for instance a cow man's house to enable them to carry on their profession—they would be able to do so without having it purchased by the local authority and then sold back to them, or whether the fact of not applying for planning permission would itself enable the local authority to turn around and buy the land off them or to buy the land off them and use it for other purposes. I think I know the answer to that, and if I am right in so thinking, I am a very lucky person. A great many people do not know the answer to it. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, or whoever is to reply, will be able to provide the answer perfectly clearly. I admit that anyone who would build a cowman's cottage or, indeed, three or four houses, would be nothing other than mad at the moment. So helpful has the Government's legislation been towards agriculture that, of course, that kind of building has now momentarily come to a halt. It is an important point which a lot of people do not know about. I think the answer is that it is excepted development. If that is the answer, I may well be told, "Oh! you will find that in Annex A". My reply will be, "That is fine, but where does one get Annex A from?" Your Lordships—some of you—are lucky enough to have been given it, others will have found it at the Printed Paper Office. But where does the average person find this? Exempted land is specifically defined in the Bill. Excepted land is not. That is a cause for a real confusion.


I should like to add a footnote to the Amendment which has been made to this Schedule. I do so in very great perplexity, because I wonder whether your Lordships have achieved anything. I wish to draw this to the attention of the Government when they come in due course to consider what they are to do in another place, if anything, about the decision that the Committee have reached.

Exempt development is sub-divided in this Schedule into three—and I may say that if this is to be followed by the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, he will need to consider it with some care, and I should be grateful if I could have his attention. The first of the paragraphs in the Schedule says: Development for which planning permission is granted by a general development order for the time being in force and which is carried out so as to comply with any condition or limitation subject to planning permission so granted. In paragraph 2 we have reference to the agriculture and forestry or building and other operations, which have now been dealt with by way of the Amendment. But I should like to ask the noble Lord this: are not the two as they were originally put into the Bill mutually contradictory, and have we not by means of this Amendment merely produced the same in paragraph 2 as was, in any event, the law under paragraph 1?

If one looks at the General Development Order 1973, planning permission is deemed to be granted by that Order for all the things that are set out in the Schedule 1. Class 6 of Schedule 1 allows with deemed planning permission—in other words development for which planning permission is granted—"The carrying out on agricultural land" of a certain size, "and comprising an agricultural unit of building or engineering operations requisite for the use of that land for the purposes of agriculture". It excludes dwellings. You have to comply with certain conditions. If you look at the definition of" agriculture" for the purposes of the General Development Order, it is not the one in the Town and Country Planning Act 1971, to which we have been referring, because under Article 21 of the General Development Order "agricultural land" and" "agricultural unit" have meanings respectively assigned to those expressions in the Agriculture Act 1947.

The Agriculture Act 1947 deals with it in this way: "In this Act the expression 'agricultural unit' means land which is occupied as a unit for agricultural purposes including a dwelling house" and so on, and in this Act the following expressions have meanings respectively assigned to them: agriculture includes horticulture, fruit growing and so on. I suggest to the noble Lord that the General Development Order attracted by paragraph 1 of Schedule 1 to this Bill allows development for the purposes of horticulture, because it is done under the attraction of Class 6 of the General Development Order. Exactly the same thing applies to forestry under Class 7, because there you have the carrying out on land used for the purposes of forestry building and other operations other than dwellings requisite for the carrying on of those purposes, subject again to two small conditions.

I cannot understand how the Bill could have been drafted in this way in the first place. It may be that I have wholly misunderstood it, but may I ask the Government and noble Lords opposite to please consider this, because I can see the most paramount difficulties arising under the two different attractions: first, regarding the General Development Order, and then Schedule 8 to the Town and Country Planning Act 1971, which appear to be mutually contradictory. If it is put back to the way in which it stands in the Bill—that is until we amended it just now—I can see the greatest possible confusion arising.

10.36 p.m.


I can assure the noble Viscount that I always find everything he says so fascinating that it is impossible not to listen to him, even at this hour of the night. There is some overlap, but I am advised that the two things do not overlap entirely. For example, paragraph (1)(a) of Class 6 in the General Development Order puts a limit of 465 square metres on a development. So I think the Government, in our usual careful and considerate way, have put both in. There is some overlap but not a great overlap, and it may be that even after the Amendment which noble Lords opposite saw fit to press, there is still a use for paragraph (2). But we do not know what another place will do with the Amendment.

The noble Earl again raised the question of "exempted" and "excepted". I am in a little difficulty in replying to this point, because if one says one finds no difficulty in distinguishing between the two it sounds as though one is pretending to be much cleverer than one is. But I certainly think it is simpler than permanently non-designated relevant development which we have lost as a result of the introduction of "exempt" and "excepted". The noble Earl also asked about the status of excepted development and how people would know what it was. Of course, it will be published in the Regulations. We have been over the ground as to whether Regulations are a desirable way of doing this earlier in the day and I do not think I should go into that again at this hour, except to say that the overriding advantage is the flexibility. We have on one or two Amendments today seen that some thought still needs to be given to the categories of excepted development, and we shall be able to do this because it will be included in Regulations and not in the Bill. With regard to the noble Earl's question about building a cowman's cottage, that, as he suspected, is excepted development. Indeed, if one could get planning permission for it, one could build ten cowmen's cottages, which would still be excepted development.


I wonder whether I might ask the noble Lord a question which also relates to the General Development Order, which is important here. The Committee will see that in Schedule I exempt categories of development are defined by reference to the General Development Order, and the General Development Order lists those developments that are normally and in most cases exempt from development control under the Planning Acts. In some places, such as, for instance, national parks, conservation areas or areas of outstanding natural beauty, and on some occasions when a particularly offensive or incongruous intrusion is threatened, an Article 4 Direction can be used. An Article 4 Direction is used to exercise tighter control over development than is normally used or generally applied. This is done to preserve or enhance the character of a place such as a national park or conservation area, or to ward off a specific threat.

Article 4 does this by bringing under control, exceptionally and locally, forms of development normally exempt from development control. I should like the noble Lord to explain how, in cases like these, such use of such exceptional powers for planning purposes does not have the effect of bringing exempted developments within the scope of this acquisition Bill. It would not, of course, be the purpose of an Article 4 direction to do this, to have any effect on the local authority's powers of acquisition or on a citizen's rights against acquisition. But at present I cannot be sure—perhaps the rest of the Committee can be but I cannot—that there is anything in the Bill to prevent this unintended and unwanted effect when an Article 4 direction is employed.


I am not sure that I know the answer, but I think it is that anything included in a general development order is exempt development—and I will soon see whether I am right. I was going on to say that an Article 4 direction would not bring those developments into the Schedule. That is what I suspected the answer was. An Article 4 direction, which will be a planning direction, will not have any effect on the category of exempt development. But if I may, as the noble Lord has raised this point rather late at night, I will check that what I have told him is right and if I am wrong I will write to him about it.


That is fine, but of course there is not much time for an exchange of correspondence. I am sure the Committee would be satisfied with that assurance tonight, but we must know not only that that is what happens but how it is that that is effective.


It is very difficult because, instead of the planning permission being granted by the development order, an Article 4 direction expressly requires permission to be granted on an application. Therefore, any permission that is granted under an Article 4 direction for something covered by it is not granted by the development order; it has to have a specific application. I should have thought that at the present moment paragraph 1 of the Schedule is not apt to cover it.


May I ask the noble Lord one question, because he was kind enough to answer my question but not in fact in the way I hoped? He kindly told me that any farmer who applied for planning permission for either one cottage or more would in fact find it as excepted development. The question which I intended to put to him was this. If a farmer applies for planning permission, could that in any circumstances trigger off in the local authority's mind the thought that here is a place for which planning application has been made, and could it result in the local authority buying that land off the farmer and either selling it back to him or, alternatively, using it for other purposes?


If it is excepted development it is within the scope of the power of the local authorities.


That means, yes?


That means, yes. But it is not quite as simple as that, because of course we have made it perfectly clear that we should not expect local authorities to involve themselves in excepted development except in exceptional circumstances where, there are good planning reasons for them to do so. I should also point out to the noble Earl that where they wanted to acquire land which was being developed for excepted development, the compulsory purchase procedures would be unaffected by the Bill and the position of the farmer would be as it is now.


Which, means that if he applies for planning permission he could find that land taken off him or used for other purposes?


Farmers lose land to local authorities at the moment.


That is not the answer to the question. Of course they do, but I am asking about a specific application. I am not trying to put the noble Lord in a spot; I genuinely want to know. If a person applies for planning permission, is it possible that he will find that his application will remove the possibility of his own building being put up, and he may find the land used for another purpose or he will have to buy it back at a different price from the price he is paid for it?


I think that in almost all circumstances and in almost all situations the answer will be, no.

Schedule 1, as amended, agreed to.


I beg to move that this House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.