HL Deb 13 July 1982 vol 433 cc196-9

7.12 p.m.

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, I beg to move that the Town and Country Planning (Minerals) Regulations 1982 be approved. At the same time I would speak to the Town and Country Planning (Minerals) (Scotland) Regulations 1982. Copies of both these regulations were laid before the House on 15th and 16th June respectively. The House may recall spending some time last year considering what was then the Town and Country Planning (Minerals) Bill. This was designed to encourage higher environmental standards at active and disused mineral working sites. That Bill formed the first part of the Government's implementation of the recommendations of the Report of the Stevens Committee on the Control of Mineral Working. The committee had been appointed in 1972 to study problems faced by the minerals industry and by the planning authorities in trying to work within a planning system which had been designed mainly to control urban development.

The committee published its report in 1976 and made a large number of important recommendations intended to benefit both the industry and local planning authorities. The previous Government welcomed the report and issued circulars in 1978 setting out their reactions to the recommendations and, in particular, which of these it was intended to implement. This Government have pressed ahead with implementation. Now that those measures requiring primary legislation have been enacted, we are turning our attention to some of the other Stevens Committee recommendations which our predecessors accepted and the regulations which are before the House today represent the beginning of the next stage in our implementation of the Stevens package.

Turning now to the regulations themselves, noble Lords will see that they are designed to revoke Regulation 10 of the 1954 Town and Country Planning (Minerals) Regulations, together with related enactments and the parallel Scottish provisions. Regulation 10 is the direct successor to regulations made in 1948. It is mainly a legacy from wartime contingencies but partly a transitional arrangement following the introduction of the new controls enshrined in the Town and Country Planning Act 1947. A developer who was caught in the middle of a development by the combined effects of the war and the substantial controls introduced by the 1947 Act was recognised to have a right either to complete the development or, if he was refused planning permission, to be compensated for the abortive expenditure he had already incurred.

The only logical end to a minerals development might be said to be the exhaustion of the mineral deposit which is being worked. Any extension to a pre-1947-Act working can be seen as an attempt to complete that development—and therefore as something to which the operator had a right before the passing of the 1947 Act. This is the view which Regulation 10 takes.

In detail, what the regulation provides is that if an operator applies for planning permission to extend a pre-1947-Act working into adjacent land, and if permission is refused or granted subject to conditions, the operator is entitled to claim compensation for three different things. First, he may claim for expenditure incurred on work which is rendered abortive either by the refusal or by the conditions imposed as the case may be (including loss by way of depreciation of value in respect of building, plant or machinery). Secondly, he may claim in respect of any contract for work which has to be abandoned. And, finally, if either of the above claims is successful, he may claim for any other loss or damage directly attributable to the refusal or conditions, excluding depreciation in the value of the land.

The Stevens Committee argued convincingly that the need for Regulation 10 was now past and recommended that it should be revoked. The 1978 Circular announced the intention to pursue this. The reasons are simple. It is perfectly proper to recognise that a new piece of legislation may adversely and inequitably affect the rights of some people and to provide a means of compensating them for their loss. It is quite unjustifiable to suggest that the availability of compensation should continue indefinitely. There certainly exist other potential cases in which the refusal of an application for permission to extend a pre-1947-Act working could lead to claims for compensation under this regulation. But, as Stevens pointed out, there has been ample time over the last 30 years for anyone affected in this way to apply for planning permission to resume or extend their operations and to claim compensation if they were refused. A number of claims have been made, but, in relation to England, the Government know of no claims lodged during the last six years and of no more than 22 claims received during the period 1954 to 1976. Of those 22 claims, 16 were made between 1957 and 1971 but they have not been pursued over the last 10 years or so. Similarly, there are no claims outstanding in Scotland, so far as we are aware. I can assure the House that any existing claims which may have been made but not yet settled will be unaffected by the revocation of Regulation 10.

In short, the Government's view is that the justification for this regulation has diminished over the last 30 years and that it is now time for its revocation. The Stevens recommendation to that effect was accepted by both the industry and by the local authorities who, as planning authorities, are of course responsible for paying any claims for compensation.

I should like to emphasis that the revocation of Regulation 10 will not affect the compensation of the 1981 Minerals Act. These two separate pieces of legislation deal with compensation for completely different things. Regulation 10 deals with compensation for refusal to grant a new planning permission for an extension of mineral working in certain limited circumstances. The provisions of the 1981 Act concern modifications and orders relating to existing workings and permissions.

Finally, it might be helpful if I say a very brief word about the form of the two sets of regulations which are now before the House. Dealing first with those applicable to England and Wales, Regulation I provides merely that they shall be called the Town and Country Planning (Minerals) Regulations 1982 and shall come into effect the day after their approval by Parliament. Regulation 2, together with the schedule, provides for the revocation of Regulation 10 of the 1954 Regulations and for the revocation of two other regulations made in 1957 and 1971.

The Scottish Regulations have exactly the same effect as those applying to England and Wales. However, because of consolidation which took place in Scotland, the regulations which these new regulations revoke are both contained within the same statutory instrument. I beg to move.

Moved, That the regulations laid before the House on 15th June be approved.—(The Earl of Avon.)

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede

My Lords, may I thank the noble Earl for explaining the regulations. We do not oppose or wish to delay the implementation of these regulations. Indeed, I should state that it is the earnest desire of the three local authority associations that these regulations come into force as soon as possible, and the order states that they shall come into force on the day after they have been approved by both Houses of Parliament.

Since the publication of the Stevens Report in 1976 and the then Labour Government's acceptance of the recommendations in that report in 1978, the intention of Government has been clear, and in effect operators have had a sufficient warning period to make any appeal for compensation before these new regulations come into effect. The circular issued by the Department of the Environment in 1978 stated: We accept this recommendation. It has been suggested to us that we should allow a period for operators to apply for extensions to those workings covered by regulation 10. We consider that the time which has elapsed from the time of the publication of the committee's report has provided a sufficient warning period. That was issued by the department some five years ago. The noble Earl has assured your Lordships that there are no outstanding applications, and one assumes therefore that there is no more compensation payable under these particular regulations. We support the orders.

On Question, Motion agreed to.