§ 11.17 a.m.
§ The MINISTER of STATE, NORTHERN IRELAND OFFICE (Lord Melchett) rose to move, That the draft Planning (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) Order 1978, laid before the House on 4th May, be approved. The noble Lord said: My Lords, the purpose of this order is to up-date the planning law in Northern Ireland following four years' experience in administering the Planning Northern Ireland) Order 1972. The 1046 opportunity is also being taken to include a number of planning provisions which have been introduced recently in the rest of the United Kingdom. The most important new powers are contained in Part II, and I would like very briefly to outline these. The demolition of certain buildings in conservation areas is prohibited without consent by Article 4, and grants to improve these areas are being put on a statutory footing.
§ In line with Great Britain, Article 7 abolishes the four-year limit on the service of enforcement notices against unauthorised changes in the use of land or buildings. The four-year limit will continue to apply where a change to use as a single dwelling-house is involved and to new operations, for example, building, engineering or mining.
§ Article 11 widens the scope of stop notices. The Department will be able to serve a stop notice to halt any unauthorised activity whether it consists of actual operations, a change of use, or failure to comply with a condition attached to a planning permission. My Lords, these are welcome changes in Northern Ireland's planning law. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the draft Planning (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) Order 1978, laid before the House on 4th May, be approved.—(Lord Melchett.)
My Lords, I am extremely grateful, and I am sure the whole House is extremely grateful, to the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, for explaining this order. I do not intend to keep him for very long, because I know he is extremely busy and has been extremely busy in Northern Ireland. Perhaps I could ask the noble Lord one or two simple questions, and I am trying not to be technical on any of them. Is Article 4 now in line with England, Scotland and Wales? Are we now bringing this Irish order up to the English standards? I wonder whether the noble Lord could answer that.
There is one other question which is worrying me slightly. Presumably within the area of the towns of Londonderry or the City of Armagh there must be conservation areas. Does this mean that, where the buildings have been severely demolished, they cannot be pulled down 1047 because they are under conservation or preservation orders, and they have to remain as they are? Some of them are probably rather dangerous, too. As regards Article 5 I should like to know what further expenditure it will entail. I have no further questions for the noble Lord. If he cannot answer my questions now, I should be most grateful if he could give me some information later in writing or otherwise.
§ Lord MELCHETT
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Viscount for welcoming the order. The answer to his first question about Article 4 is, Yes, it brings the law in Northern Ireland into line with the law in Great Britain. The English equivalent is Section 277(a) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971. As regards his second question, of course if a building is demolished by terrorist activity—which I imagine is what the noble Viscount was referring to—and certainly if any dangerous structures are left, powers are available for them to be removed, and removed quickly. That will not be affected by the order.
I confess that I do not have the information with me about the likely increased expenditure, if any, under, I think, Article 5 to which the noble Viscount referred. However, I imagine that, as this Article and, indeed, the order as a whole is simply updating the law, it is unlikely that substantial additional expenditure will be incurred. However, if there is any information available on that matter I shall certainly write to the noble Viscount and let him know.
§ Lord BROCKWAY
My Lords, I should like to say a word or two in welcoming the order. All of us who have been to Belfast recognise the need for new planning both for its general layout and for the appalling housing conditions which exist in that City. That is less so of Londonderry and hardly applies to Armagh, which is a very attractive city. I should also like to express my appreciation for what the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, is doing in Northern Ireland. From members of all Parties in Northern Ireland I have heard great appreciation of his work.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.