HL Deb 29 January 1991 vol 525 cc642-98

House again in Committee.

Clause 17 [Land of interested planning authorities and development by them]:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 110: Page 25, line 13, after ("concerned") insert ("or where there is concurrent jurisdiction").

The noble Lord said: I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 111, 112 and 113. The purpose of the amendments is to deal more effectively than is proposed by the Government with what is perceived as the problem of deemed planning consent; that is, planning consent given by a local authority to itself for developments on its own land. That has always been a contentious matter, and in many cases, more for emotional reasons than for any real reason.

Local authorities are sensitive about the issue and feel that they should not be thought to be exceeding their reasonable powers. In the amendments we seek to provide procedural controls which would make it clear to the public that justice is not only being done but is seen to be done.

Amendment No. 110 is a precursor for the following amendment. It deals with the issue of concurrent jurisdiction between more than one council. Amendment No. 111 is consequential upon it. Perhaps I may speak to Amendment No. 113 before Amendment No. 112. The significance of Amendment No. 113 is that it puts forward proposals which are in line with the ministerial statement made by Mr. Michael Spicer on 25th July 1990. It is proposed that applications for deemed planning consent should be widely advertised; and that they should be determined in public by a committee of the authority other than the committee submitting the application. In other words, if a report were submitted by an operating committee which needs the land, a separate committee should determine the application. That would cause some difficulty when a council has chosen to set up, for example, a lands and planning committee to deal with estates matters and with planning control. It would have to find a way around that problem. It may be difficult but it is not impossible.

It may be thought that the requirement is redundant because all local authorities are supposed to behave reasonably. There is a general requirement that an authority should act reasonably when determining any such application. It is no bad thing to put that requirement on the face of the Bill.

I shall return to Amendment No. 112 which gives the Secretary of State broad powers to set up a code of practice for the handling of applications for deemed planning consent. The amendment does not set any limits on what the Secretary of State might do, except to say that "it" should do so, after consultation with such persons as appear to it to be concerned".

We have here a modest and reasonable way to deal with the supposed problem of deemed planning consent and to ensure that justice is seen to be done. That is better than taking a sledge-hammer to crack a nut. I hope that the amendments will find favour with the Government and the Committee. I beg to move.

Baroness Blatch

Amendments Nos. 110 to 113 form a package intended to improve Clause 17. While I disagree with the terms of these amendments, I recognise that there is no appreciable difference in objectives between the noble Lord and myself. We both want development by local authorities or on their land to be sensibly regulated, but not in a way that will hinder them in carrying out their statutory functions. We both want safeguards to increase the accountability of local authorities and to demonstrate their probity.

I believe Amendment No. 110 is simply unnecessary. New Section 316(3), when read with Section 316(6), already establishes that the regulations to be made may provide for the application of one "interested planning authority" to be determined by another. Thus, the regulations may provide for a district council's applications to be determined by the county council and vice versa.

Amendment No. 111 would prevent the regulations from prescribing that applications for local authority development or on local authority land shall be made to the Secretary of State. It is most unlikely that we shall want the regulations to so prescribe. But we should like to keep the reserve power to do so as an ultimate sanction, and in this respect Clause 17 is in identical terms to the longstanding existing power in Section 316 of the 1990 Act.

Amendment No. 112 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, provides for a code of practice and for regulations to be made in accordance with it. In my view such a code of practice is unnecessary. The regulations to be made under the new Section 316 will set out in some detail the procedures to be followed. We shall consult the local authority associations and other representative bodies about the regulations before we make them. They will he accompanied by a circular giving guidance from the department, as happened in 1976.

The mechanism provided by this amendment is rather odd, for the regulations to be made would have to be in accordance with the code of practice issued by the Secretary of State after consultation. This would mean that the regulations made by statutory instrument in accordance with parliamentary procedures would be subservient to an official code of practice. I believe that to be inappropriate from a constitutional point of view.

Turning to Amendment No. 113, the regulations will require applications to be fully advertised and determined by a committee, sub-committee, or officer not responsible for managing the land or buildings concerned. We would ensure that committees take these decisions in public by making an order under the Local Government Act 1972.

The proposal that a code of practice should include a general requirement on authorities to act reasonably is misplaced. Whenever authorities determine planning applications, including their own, they are under a duty to act fairly. I have explained why I consider these four amendments are necessary, although I understand why the noble Lord tabled them. I invite him in the light of my comments not to press them.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I am grateful for that response. I am interested in the comments about the constitutional issues for a code of practice. I thought that it was we on this side who were constantly pressing for more effective codes of practice. When we introduce one that has rather more powers than is usually expected, the Government turn round and object to it. Oh well, you cannot win them all!

I am reassured to learn that it is the view of the Government that these precautions which are designed to protect local authorities from unjust speculation about their motives or procedures, are unnecessary rather than undesirable. I am reassured to learn that we are on the same side on these matters and that we look towards the same objective. On that basis, I am happy to beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 111 to 113 not moved.]

Clause 17 agreed to.

Clause 18 agreed to.

Lord Ross of Newport moved Amendment No. 113ZA: After Clause 18, insert the following new clause:

("Definition of engineering operation: floating structures

.In section 55(3) of the principal Act (meaning of development) there is inserted— (c) the placing of a structure in a lake, pond, river or other inland water involves an engineering operation notwithstanding that the structure is not fixed to the land except by means of ropes, cables or other mooring devices." ").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I wish to speak also to Amendment No. 252A which stands in my name. This amendment returns to the issue of fish farming which was debated at a rather late hour on the first day of the Committee stage of the Bill. As I understand it, there are three categories of fish farming, each requiring a separate reform of planning law to secure a satisfactory degree of control. First, there are land-based fish farms which usually consist of ponds or tanks constructed in river valleys. Those fish farms already constitute developments under the terms of the planning Acts. The reforms which the County Councils Association and the Select Committee on Agriculture in another place would like to see, require changes to statutory instruments rather than to primary legislation. That is a somewhat controversial matter which was raised in the Chamber in the previous debate. This kind of control should be brought within primary legislation rather than be left to statutory instruments. Nevertheless, that is the situation at present.

The second category of fish farms are those situated in inland waters. The fish are controlled by means of moored cages or other floating structures. They are the subject of disputed interpretation. It is not clear whether the installation of those cages or structures constitutes development. Amendment No. 113ZA, which seeks to insert a new clause after Clause 18, would make it clear that these operations constitute development.

The third category of fish farming is marine fish farming that is undertaken in estuaries or other coastal waters. Those waters lie outside the jurisdiction of local planning authorities and are administered by the Crown Estate Commissioners. The Commissioners have a conflict of interest in that they are responsible for exercising control over development of the foreshore and coastal waters, but they have an incentive to maximise that development and the income which they derive from the licences which they authorise.

Amendment No. 252A seeks to insert a new clause after Clause 26. It would rectify this anomalous situation by extending the jurisdiction of the ordinary planning authorities to a mile offshore, thus giving them control not just over marine fish farming but also over other activities such as the dredging of aggregates from the seabed. That can have a major impact on the environment of the locality. I say amen to that from my knowledge of what goes on in the Solent off the Isle of Wight.

I am aware that a great deal has been written on this subject of fish farming within the past year or two. In March 1988 the Scottish Wildlife and Countryside Link published a discussion paper which made various recommendations. That body is concerned particularly with the situation in Scotland, which is the major area for fish farming. I have just dined with Scottish colleagues in another place and I wish to put it on record that I am not trying to be anti-Scottish. However, the fact is that a major part of the fish farming industry is situated in Scotland.

The Scottish Wildlife and Countryside Link produced an update in October 1990 which dealt with marine salmon fishing in Scotland. I shall return to observations on that document in a few moments. The Select Committee on Agriculture in another place considered the whole question of fish farming in the UK and published its findings on 23rd May last year. The committee made certain recommendations, some of which fall within the remit of the amendments I propose and some of which do not. The Select Committee suggested that planning permission should be required for the creation or extension of fish farms in national parks. I understand that the Government have accepted that proposal. However, they did not go along entirely with the idea that local authorities should exercise planning control over other matters concerning fish farming. But they wished to strengthen the body which they set up to control the affairs of the Crown Estate Commissioners.

In 1988 the Scottish Office conducted a review of the consultation procedures of the Crown Estate Commissioners. In December of that year the Secretary of State announced the establishment of an advisory committee to serve the Crown Estate Commissioners. That committee was required to consider contentious cases that encounter objections from one or more of the relevant statutory bodies and to introduce an independent element into the decision making process. The chairman and vice-chairman of that committee were appointed six months later. A year after the announcement of the setting up of the committee it has not met to discuss proceedings.

The noble Lord may be able to bring us up to date and say that the committee has met. When I had a meeting with the Nature Conservancy Council—some months ago, I admit—the matter was raised. It was a subject of great controversy that the committee had not even met despite requests by the Nature Conservancy Council and the Highland Regional Council for cases to be referred to it.

The Select Committee in another place wanted to strengthen the role of that advisory committee. It suggested that there should be a local authority member who would exercise an effective right of veto giving the planning authorities and the Crown Estate a broadly equal locus in the planning process.

The committee should also have a specific remit to take environmental factors into account. Again, as I understand it, in the Government's response—which was published only on 12th December last—that has not been taken on board.

I think that I am right in saying, however, that in the case of Scotland an amendment has been made recently to the general development order to clarify the law and ensure that buildings, works and uses associated with freshwater fish farming now come within planning control. I do not believe that that is the case in England and Wales. Why cannot that be extended to the rest of the United Kingdom?

I have said enough on an issue which should be debated more widely. I am a great believer in the Select Committee procedures of the other place, having served on one of the committees. I have to acknowledge that the Select Committee did not say at the time that the planning laws should apply to fish farming wherever it takes place, although it said that that might have to come. On the other hand the local authorities in this country, and certainly in Scotland, believe that that should be the case. They are very unhappy. That view is supported by the Select Committee. The role of the Crown Estate Commissioners is causing considerable concern. I do not believe that the matter can be left as it is for very much longer. I commend the amendment to the Committee.

9.30 p.m.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

I have doubts about the amendment. I am sorry that today I seem to be saying "No" to everything. However, as I understand it the amendment would mean that any fish cage would become an engineering work and be subject to planning control. If that is the case I have a feeling that mooring any boat—dare I say a lifeboat, in which I have an interest—or even the erection of a pig arc could come under the restriction.

It may be that I am wrong or the noble Lord could redraft the amendment to avoid that. As the noble Lord said, the Select Committee did not approve this particular measure.

Lord Moran

I, on the contrary, should like to support the amendments. As the Committee will know, I moved an earlier amendment which related to fish farming itself. The amendments which the noble Lord, Lord Ross, has put forward are more limited in that they are directed at controlling the structures involved in fish farming.

I suggested earlier that the whole question of the relationship of planning to fish farming was in a state of considerable muddle. I hope that in the time that has elapsed since I moved the earlier amendment the Government have addressed themselves to the problem and will be able to clarify the position as it is now or as it will be. I think that it needs tidying up. Personally I believe that anything that we can do to extend the operation of planning control to all forms of fish farming would be highly desirable and in many cases necessary.

Baroness David

I, too, had my name to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Moran, which was moved late on the first day of Committee. If the Government do not give a warm response to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Ross, perhaps he and the noble Lord, Lord Moran, can get together with the Government and come up with a proposal that is acceptable to everybody. It seems to me that this is an area which needs some action.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

As the noble Lord, Lord Ross, indicated, his two amendments cover fish farming in both inland waters and fresh waters and in a marine context. The first amendment, Amendment No. 113ZA, would bring within planning control fish tanks and cages in inland waters which would normally at present be exempt from planning control because they are simply attached to the land by a mooring rope or chain.

The issue of floating fish tanks and cages in England and Wales has been considered in the context of the recent report of the agriculture committee on fish farming in the United Kingdom. The committee recommended that in national parks all fish farm proposals should require planning permission, whether land based or using floating structures. In their response, which was published last December, the Government announced that they would withdraw permitted development rights for fish farming in national parks. However they were not convinced of the need to bring all floating structures used for fish farming within the scope of development.

The committee did not discuss floating structures at any length in its report. The ACC which requested the change in respect of national parks addressed the question in its evidence. It mentioned that the Lake District National Park had resisted such a proposal at Ullswater. Although it had apparently been successful in doing so, it was concerned that fresh proposals might be made which would be outside planning control.

I appreciate that there is concern. Nevertheless it is not considered that there is sufficient evidence of difficulties arising from the use of floating structures in England and Wales to justify a change in the primary legislation.

I turn to Amendment No. 252A, which is concerned with fish farming in seas. As the noble Lord, Lord Ross, has already indicated, this subject has been considered very thoroughly by the Select Committee on Agriculture in another place. That committee did not recommend that planning controls should be extended in this area.

The Government agree with that committee in promoting an evolutionary rather than a revolutionary approach to marine fish farming. The consultation and decision-making procedures have been improved over the past few years, among other things by the establishment of the advisory committee. I accept in part what the noble Lord said. There was some delay in setting up that committee and, as he indicated, it has only slowly had the opportunity to deal with particular cases. I understand that to date there has been only one disputed case. Be that as it may in terms of its past history, it is certainly true that it will now have an important role. It will be a valuable mechanism for both open and independent consideration of more contentious applications, and procedures involving the advisory committee will be kept under review.

I can tell the noble Lord that preparations are in hand for national planning guidelines for the location and siting of marine fish farms in Scotland in consultation with interested parties. Those guidelines will provide a benchmark for the work of the Crown Estates and the advisory committee in ensuring that the industry develops in full harmony with proper environmental consideration.

The terms of the amendment are such that not only would they bring marine fish farming into planning control but also a range of other developments such as oil-related development and sand and gravel extraction. Careful thought was given to the matter by the Agriculture Select Committee in another place and changes have recently been introduced. While we appreciate that it is a matter of concern, I hope that in the light of action already taken and opinions expressed the noble Lord will allow matters to stand as they are and not press his amendment.

Lord Ross of Newport

It would be pointless to press my amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Stanley, was correct in saying that the Select Committee was not in favour of planning controls. However, at paragraph 23 of its report it admitted that the view of CoSLA—the local authorities' association in Scotland—and the Association of County Councils was that local authorities should be able to control developments in their coastal waters. That view was shared by the majority of other bodies which gave evidence. It is true that the Select Committee did not endorse it, but it said that in its view it should be a matter of evolution. It stated that it did not endorse the solution "at this stage".

I accept that the Government have agreed to planning control in respect of national parks, and presumably there will be an amendment to the Bill. Am I right in believing that the Scottish Office has recently removed the permitted development rights for fresh water farms in Scotland but that the provision does not apply in England and Wales? If so, why should it not apply in the rest of the United Kingdom?

I hope that the debate has been useful. The voluntary bodies will wish to see a little more action by the committee that has been set up. At least it has met once. I am told that a number of issues have been raised by NGOs and others but they have had difficulty in getting the committee to meet. I hope that the Government will fall in behind the organisations and ensure that the committee which is supposed to investigate objections becomes active. There is a strong feeling that the Crown Estate Commissioners are dragging their feet on the issue and they cannot be allowed to get away with that for much longer. Perhaps the Minister will answer my question before I decide what to do about the amendment.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

First, I wish to clarify a matter raised by the noble Lord in order to ensure that he understands the situation. While in Scotland engineering and building works associated with fish farming and inland waters are the subject of planning control, the tanks or the cages within the water are not within planning control, and that is the position in England too. Secondly, I advise the noble Lord that it is unnecessary to table an amendment to the Bill in order to allow for the control that will be introduced in the national parks. That can be achieved through the general development orders.

Lord Ross of Newport

I am grateful to the Minister for that information. Perhaps there is greater control of engineering works in Scotland than in England and we should consider that. However, in response to his remarks I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 113A not moved.]

Schedule 1 [Mines and waste]:

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie moved Amendment No. 114: Page 63, line 29, at end insert: ("4A. In section 100 (revocation and modification of planning permission by the Secretary of State) for subsection (8) there is substituted— (8) Subsections (5) and (6) of section 97 apply for the purposes of this section as they apply for the purposes of that." ").

The noble and learned Lord said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 115 to 117, 119, 120, 121 to 129, 131 and 270. These are drafting amendments. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness David had given notice of her intention to move Amendment No. 114A: Page 63, line 34, leave out, (""site" to the end there is substituted") and insert (""(a)" to the end there is substituted "to undertake every five years reviews of every").

The noble Baroness said: I spoke to this amendment with Amendment No. 107 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Moran. That amendment was concerned with mineral workings and development orders. I thought that the Minister's reply was moderately encouraging. I shall read that with great care. Unless something positive emerges, we shall bring forward further amendments on this matter at a later stage.

[Amendment No. 114A not moved.]

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie moved Amendment No. 115: Page 63, line 34, after (" "site" ") insert ("where it first occurs").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[[Amendment No. 115A not moved.]

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie moved Amendment No. 116: Page 64, line 3, at end insert: ("6A. In section 107 (compensation where planning permission revoked or modified) in subsection (5) for "1(2)" there is substituted "1(3)".").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 116A not moved.]

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie moved Amendment No. 117: Page 64, line 30, at end insert: ("7A. In section 117(2) (general provisions as to compensation for depreciation under Part IV) after "under", where it first occurs, there is inserted "section 116(2) and".").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 118 not moved.]

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie moved Amendments Nos. 119 and 120: Page 65, line 11, leave out first ("or") and insert ("and"). Page 65, line 14, leave out (""the winning or") and insert (""winning and").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendment No. 120A not moved.]

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie moved Amendments Nos. 121 to 129: Page 65, line 25, leave out first ("or") and insert ("and"). Page 65, line 34, leave out ("to whom such functions are assigned by or under Schedule 1") and insert ("entitled to discharge such functions"). Page 65, line 39, leave out ("or") and insert ("and"). Page 66, line 25, leave out first ("or") and insert ("and"). Page 66, line 27, leave out first ("or") and insert ("and"). Page 67, line 14, leave out first ("or") and insert ("and"). Page 67, line 21, leave out first ("or") and insert ("and"). Page 67, line 26, leave out first ("or") and insert ("and"). Page 68, line 6, leave out ("to whom such functions are assigned by or under Schedule 1") and insert ("entitled to discharge such functions").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendment No. 129A not moved.]

Schedule 1, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 19 agreed to.

Baroness Nicol moved Amendment No. 130: After Clause 19, insert the following new clause:


.—(1) In section 198(1) of the principal Act (power to make tree preservation orders) after "woodlands" in both places where it appears there is inserted 'or hedges'.

(2) In Part VIII (Special Controls) Chapter I of the principal Act (Trees) (other than in section 198(1) and in the phrase "tree preservation order") the word "tree" in every place in which it appears includes "hedge" and the word "trees" includes "hedges".").

The noble Baroness said: Amendment No. 130 seeks to apply to hedges the same protection currently enjoyed by trees. I am aware that the rate of hedgerow destruction has slowed. By means of grants, farmers and land owners are being encouraged to plant new hedges. However, there is still a net loss each year and perhaps more importantly, ancient hedges, often valued for their historic and landscape importance as well as for wildlife protection, can be cleared without reference to anybody.

A tree or group of trees with corresponding value has a number of protection measures available. I am aware of the consultation document issued by the Department of the Environment in December 1990 which proposes hedgerow management orders as recommended in the Batho Report. However, acceptance of this amendment would be simple and effective and would mean that farmers and land owners would not have to master yet another set of separate regulations.

This amendment is supported by the National Association of Local Councils and by the AMA. The Hampshire Association of Parish Councils has written to say: Intensive farming in Hampshire and elsewhere has resulted in elimination of hedgerow boundaries. That has led to soil erosion; a decrease in shelter; loss of mature trees; loss of many species of plants and animals; and harm to the natural landscape in the reduction of features of local identity and history provided by hedgerows. HAPC strongly supports hedgerow protection orders.

The Nature Conservancy Council too wishes to see greater protection for hedgerows. In its response to the Bill at paragraph 5.4 it points out that there has already been widespread support for the concept and suggests that there would appear to be no necessity for further delay.

Amendments Nos. 130A to D are supported by the Royal Town Planning Institute as a means of simplifying procedures for protecting trees. The RTPI feels that simplification is needed for the following reasons, which form the basis for that whole raft of amendments: At present, the Act provides for the protection of trees of special value to be by order; and a sample order is prescribed by Regulations. It is the order, not the Act or the Regulations, which requires consent to be obtained. This has a number of disadvantages. Firstly, much of the relevant law is highly inaccessible, being in a schedule to a sample order that is itself a schedule to regulations made 21 years ago—prior to the 1971 Act. Secondly, it means that a vast amount of paper has to be prepared by the authority, and served on all those affected by the order. That in turn results in the part of the order that really matters—the schedule and the map—often being not prepared properly by the authority, nor studied properly by the recipient. Thirdly, any changes in the law are not reflected in the order, and thus do not apply to works to trees protected by orders made prior to the changes".

These amendments would have the effect of incorporating the requirement for consent into the regulations rather than into the order. The Department of the Environment consultation document to which I referred earlier recognised the need for streamlining and shortening procedures. However, it seems to be relying on a continuation of the present status of orders with all their current defects. We believe that this group of amendments will provide a better way forward. I beg to move.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

I am afraid once again I have to say no. I hope that it will be the last time tonight. I do not believe this is the right way forward. The method mentioned by my noble friend earlier is a better way. I have removed some hedgerows and I am not sure whether or not they should have been taken out. I understand the concern expressed by the noble Baroness but I believe the way forward is that suggested by the Government.

The amendment is tabled in the form of a tree preservation order. Hedgerows are not trees. I think this time the noble Baroness is wrong.

Lord Gisborough

There have been some appalling abuses concerning hedgerows. We have seen great tracts of flat farmland stripped of hedgerows, and they look terrible; nobody can deny that. However, there is a demand in farming for rationalisation. Councils tend to try to control everything. If the amendment were accepted we should see more and more controls; it would be a battle between farmers trying to rationalise their fields and councils trying to control them.

We then come to the question of maintenance. Preservation orders can be placed on hedgerows, but who will maintain them? If one allows a hedgerow to grow it will become a series of trees running in line, and it will be worthless. It will look worse than nothing at all.

One must remember also that during the time of the enclosures there was an outcry against the hedgerow. The cry was, "These awful hedgerows". There were hedgerows, which people hated, sprouting up all over the countryside.

Why do we not have a campaign to divide up the parks using hedgerows? Why, if we like hedgerows, do we not have a campaign to put hedgerows across the downs? This demand does not make sense. There is a public demand for the status quo; whatever exists now we want to keep. If we have hedgerows, we want to keep them; if we have not got them, the cry is, do not plant them. That is not logic and I hope that the Government will resist the amendment.

Baroness David

I must say that I have never heard such a load of rubbish as has come from the Benches opposite in the last few minutes. Everybody agrees that hedgerows need management and there are places that ask for hedgerows. Dr. Batho suggested that local authorities should have a new power to make hedgerow management orders to protect important ones. The DoE in its response agreed to this proposal and proposed that compensation would be payable on the use of an order at the rate of £300 for 100 metres of hedgerow.

I think that the AMA is concerned that the requirement of compensation may discourage the use of hedgerow management orders and prevent local authorities making use of an excellent new power. So there is clearly something to be sorted out. Something needs to be done and I certainly say that hedgerows need management, just as much as the land generally needs management. A hedgerow needs looking after or something will go wrong with it. I strongly support my noble friend's amendment.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

Before the noble Baroness sits down, may I ask why it is that the Association of Metropolitan Authorities is so expert on country matters such as hedgerows?

Baroness David

Its members take an interest in places around their areas and people who live under the metropolitan authorities enjoy going to the countryside.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

There is an old saying as you travel north through the Midlands to Yorkshire and onwards, Where the hedges stop, the stumps begin.

Lord Gisborough

If the metropolitan boroughs want to design hedgerows for the sake of having good looks in the countryside, why should not the farmers be allowed to design the towns, in order to try to stop all this awful architecture going up? The metropolitan authorities have ruined their own towns with appalling architecture.

Lord Ross of Newport

May I come in on the act? The noble Lord, Lord Stanley, will agree with me that if we do not have hedgerows there will be no one who can lay hedgerows properly. There are some left in my part of the country and it is marvellous to see a well laid hedge. I want the people from the cities and towns to see a well laid hedgerow.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

This is clearly a controversial matter. The first of the amendments that has been spoken to would extend the scope of tree preservation orders to hedgerows, enabling local authorities, where appropriate, to safeguard this feature of the landscape. The other amendments would have a number of effects. There would be a transfer to regulations of various provisions relating to applications for consent under tree preservation orders, both to help reduce the latter's length and to ensure that any future changes in the law are applied automatically to orders made prior to such changes. The amendments would also vary the existing law in other respects where problems are known to exist.

Amendment No. 130B concerns the replacement of trees under such orders, making further new provisions. Amendment No. 130C relates to conservation areas and also makes substantive changes.

What is important here is not to look to the detail of these amendments, however interesting they may be, but to make this broad observation: the Government are engaged in a comprehensive review of tree preservation policies and legislation. This is not a customary or traditional stance for the Front Bench to take, as I think the noble Baroness will appreciate.

It is not so long ago that the Batho Report was first published. Then on 17th December last year a consultation paper was issued by the Government free to all those who wished it. At present, we are awaiting detailed comments. That paper includes a wide range of proposals, including plans to introduce hedgerow management orders and measures to simplify the form of tree preservation orders.

I suggest to your Lordships that it would clearly be quite wrong to anticipate at this stage the results of the consultation exercise in particular respects. Certainly to adopt a piecemeal approach in this detailed and very important area of the law would be perilous.

My noble friend Lord Gisborough has been accused of speaking complete rubbish, but, if I may come to his support, in what he had to say on the maintenance of hedgerows he made a very valid point. It is our intention that in the making of hedgerow management orders, if they are to be made by local planning authorities, there should be some link with payments to farmers by the authority concerned to help offset the cost of cutting and maintenance. Clearly that cost is not something which can be considered purely negligible. There would also need to be certain new procedural provisions—in particular relating to appeals under such orders—to reflect this rather different context.

I concentrate on that particular point because it seems to me to indicate most clearly and sharply, in the context of the short debate that we have just had, that it is premature to deal with these matters pending receiving the detailed comments that doubtless many people will want to make on the consultation paper that is presently out. In the circumstances, I hope that these amendments will be withdrawn.

Baroness Nicol

The noble Lords, Lord Gisborough and Lord Stanley of Alderley, both missed the point. We are not talking about whether there should be hedgerow preservation orders. As the noble and learned Lord has just told us, they are coming. It is a question of how and when. My pressure on this matter results from my feeling that it is urgent. I felt also that the amendment that we put forward would be more effective than the Batho Report's recommendations. I take the point that has been made, however. When this new legislation about tree preservation is eventually drawn up, I hope that the comments of the RTPI about the complexity of the present legislation will be taken into account and that some attempt will be made to make it more clearly understood.

Finally, to the noble Lord, Lord Gisborough, I would not expect farmers to be asked to undertake anything in these hard times without being paid for it, and I am relieved to hear that there is going to be some form of grant. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 130A to 130D not moved.]

10 p.m.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie moved Amendment No. 131: Before Clause 39, insert the following new clause:

Mines and waste

(" . Schedule (mines and waste - Scotland) to this Act (which, among other things, provides for after-care where permission is given to deposit refuse or waste materials) shall have effect.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 39 [Trees]:

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie moved Amendment No. 132: Page 50, leave out lines 39 to 43.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 39, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 20 [Advertisements]:

Lord Norrie moved Amendment No. 133: Page 29, line 17, at end insert ("colour scheme").

The noble Lord said: This is a simple amendment. It would bring the displays of house colours, or colour schemes, which are so often associated with petrol filling stations and large retail chains, within the scope of planning control. One of the most relentless trends in advertising in recent years has been the growth of house colours and logos intended to identify a particular company or type of business immediately to the public eye. I am sure that we can all think of examples of petrol filling stations in residential areas or open countryside or of retail warehouses or do-it-yourself centres that dominate the scenery because of the distinctive and intrusive way they are coloured.

I was shocked to find that such colour schemes are entirely outside the control of the planning system, and indeed that the Government did not even consider them to be advertisements. Some noble Lords may recall the problems caused by advertising hoardings in the countryside and the great campaigns of the 1930s to bring them under control. I fear that we are faced with a similar sort of problem today.

If you care to walk down the high street of Chichester or other historic towns you will see the dramatic benefits of planning control over shop fronts. All the major chain stores and fast food outlets tone down their advertisements for these special areas. However, no such control is possible over the highly intrusive colour schemes which are being allowed to destroy the environment of both town and country. Logos and colours designed for the convenience of the advertiser are being imposed on different environments without any degree of control over their impact on the countryside or residential areas.

In July 1989 the Department of the Environment published proposals to extend the statutory definition of advertisements to remove any doubt that certain modern forms of outdoor advertising come within the definition, and the results are evident in Clause 20. I welcome the inclusion of awnings and blinds within the definition of advertisements. However, the Bill fails to remove the doubts expressed in 1985 by the Department of the Environment's own working party about colour schemes as an example of another modern form of outdoor advertising.

The Council for the Protection of Rural England, the Civic Trust and other local authority associations represented on the working party argued emphatically that colour schemes should be regarded as advertisements and be subject to control. The working party concluded that doubts on the matter should be cleared up and that the Secretary of State should consider the merits of bringing house colours and colour schemes within the scope of advertisement control.

The Bill provides the best opportunity for clearing up this problem. There is a widespread feeling that colour schemes are advertisements and in need of control. They are distinctive and they convey a particular message that is the essence of an advertisement. They cannot be considered to be acceptable in all circumstances by a reasonable planning authority. That is the essence of a development in need of planning control. Extending the definition of advertisements to include colour schemes would ensure that they were appropriate to the local environment. I beg to move.

Lord Gisborough

I support this amendment in principle. I ran a Civic Trust scheme at my own home in 1966. The whole street frontage was painted to a colour scheme policy. That remained for some time. The street became a conservation area. Recently some of the houses have been painted in garish colours. It has ruined the whole street. There has been an outcry against it. In principle any possibility of initiating colour scheme policies rather than colour schemes should be encouraged so that people can choose within a range of colours which are compatible. I have made inquiries about that recently.

I understand that any local planning authority has the power to make an Article 4 direction subject to appeal and to confirmation by the Secretary of State. That has the effect of clawing back any part of the planning permission otherwise granted by the general development order. Painting may be one such example. I do not know whether that is true because my planning officer says that he has no control over painting. I shall be very interested to hear something about the Article 4 direction.

Baroness Nicol

We support this amendment. Great distress is caused especially in conservation and other sensitive areas by the use of garish colours. There is a slavish attachment by many establishments to what they call their house colours. I was associated with a retail establishment which had a wishy-washy blue as its house colour which it insisted on putting everywhere. Eventually we came up against a local authority in a conservation area which put its foot down and said, "No, you will use brown and gold". We used brown and gold and our customers were delighted and wrote a number of complimentary letters about it. So much for keeping the corporate image. I hope that this amendment will find favour with the Government.

Lord Wade of Chorlton

I am very confused. Who is the expert on colour? What is the standard by which one says "This person knows what the colour ought to be, but that person does not"? I should be grateful if someone could answer that.

Lord Gisborough

Perhaps I can help here. When a Civic Trust scheme is initiated, normally a grant is requested from the local authority to employ an architect. He is carefully chosen. He selects a certain number of compatible colours and uses certain techniques such as painting a whole house the same colour rather than dividing it in two, and things of that nature. It is the architect who produces the colour scheme.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

I think it should be appreciated that the effect of this amendment is to insert the words "colour scheme" into what is the statutory definition of "advertisement" to be found in Section 336(1) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. In practice, this alteration to the statutory definition would bring within the scope of planning control over outdoor advertisements any display of a colour, or a combination of colours, if it could reasonably be held to be displayed for the purposes of advertisement, announcement or direction. The local planning authority would thus be enabled to exercise control over a colour scheme displayed on any premises in the same way as it controls any outdoor advertisement in its administrative area.

While I fully understand the impulse behind my noble friend's wish to ensure that garish or unsightly colour schemes are not applied indiscriminately to buildings, I am bound to say that I do not think that bringing all colour schemes, whatever their nature or purpose, within the scope of advertisement control by local planning authorities is an acceptable way of achieving his purpose. The advertisement control system is intended to enable planning authorities to control the enormous variety of posters, placards, hoardings, signs and fascia boards which advertisers use to communicate with their actual or potential customers. Colour schemes or combinations of colour do not by themselves advertise or communicate information in the way that normal methods of outdoor advertisement communicate.

We think that colour schemes should be dealt with in two main ways, depending on the circumstances in which the colours are displayed. First, if the colour scheme is part and parcel of an outdoor advertisement—for example, if a company's symbol or trade-mark is superimposed on standard colours on all its premises—it is obviously an integral part of the advertising matter. In that event, the whole display is clearly an outdoor advertisement and can be controlled as such by the planning authority. Secondly, if colours are simply applied to the walls or wall-coverings of a building, the question is whether that colouring scheme amounts to development by virtue of Section 55(2) of the 1990 Act because it materially affects the external appearance of the building. That is always a question for the planning authority to decide as a matter of fact and degree, especially when it is considering a planning application. But I am bound to say that the application of any colour scheme is very much a subjective matter—a point which has already been made—in which it may often be appropriate to leave the decision to the common sense of a developer and his advisers.

We have no evidence that garish and unsightly colour schemes are causing widespread harm to amenity, although no doubt individually we could all cite one or two unhappy examples. What is being suggested would be a highly regulatory approach to a matter in which individual taste varies greatly. On balance, we do not think it is a matter on which there should be legislation. It is best left to the good sense of owners and occupiers themselves, influenced by the educational efforts of such bodies as the Civic Trust. In any event, as I have indicated in certain respects such colour schemes may be the subject of a planning control.

I am sorry to disappoint my noble friend, but I hope I have given him an adequate explanation of the Government's stance.

Lord Norrie

I am very grateful to my noble friend for giving such a full explanation. I shall study it carefully. I am also grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Gisborough, and the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, for their support and understanding. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 20 agreed to.

Clauses 40 and 21 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 133A not moved.]

Schedule 2 [Listed buildings, conservation areas and hazardous substances]:

10.15 p.m.

Baroness Birk moved Amendment No. 133B: Page 68, line 17, at end insert: (" . After section 8 of that Act shall be inserted—

"Certificates of authorised works

Certificates of authorised works.

8A.—(1) If any person wishes to ascertain whether any works that have been carried out for the demolition, alteration or extension of a listed building are authorised, he may make an application for the purpose to the local planning authority specifying the building and describing the works.

(2) If, on an application under subsection (1), the local planning authority are provided with information satisfying them that all or some of the works were authorised at the time of the application, they shall issue a certificate to that effect.

(3) If, on an application under subsection (1), the local planning authority are provided with information satisfying them that some or all of the works were at the time of the application not authorised, they may grant consent under section 8(3) for some or all of those works.

(4) If any person wishes to ascertain whether any works proposed to be carried out for the demolition, alteration or extension of a listed building are authorised, he may make an application for the purpose to the local planning authority specifying the building and describing the works.

(5) If, on an application under subsection (4), the local planning authority are provided with information satisfying them that, were the works being carried out at the time of the application, they would be authorised, they may issue a certificate to that effect; and in any other case they shall refuse the application.

(6) A certificate under this section shall—

  1. (a) specify the building to which it relates;
  2. (b) describe the works in question;
  3. (c) give the reasons for determining the works to be authorised; and
  4. (d) specify the date of the application for the certificate.

(7) Where a certificate is in force under this section, it shall be conclusively presumed that the works described in the certificate, if being carried out at the time of the application, would be authorised.

Certificates under section 8A: supplementary provisions.

8B.—(1) An application for a certificate under section 8A shall be made in such manner, include such particulars, and be verified by such evidence, as may be prescribed in regulations or required by any direction given by the local planning authority.

(2) Provision may be made by regulations as to the manner in which applications for certificates under that section are to be dealt with by local planning authorities.

(3) In particular, such regulations may provide for requiring the authority—

  1. (a) to give to any applicant within such time as may be prescribed such notice as may be so prescribed as to the manner in which his application has been dealt with; and
  2. (b) to give to the Secretary of State and to such other persons as may be prescribed by or under the regulations, such information as may be so prescribed with respect to such applications made to the authority, including information as to the manner in which any application has been dealt with.

(4) Where an application for a certificate under that section specifies two or more works, a certificate—

  1. (a) may be issued for all of them or some one or more of them; and
  2. (b) shall be in such form as may be prescribed by the regulations.

(5) A local planning authority may revoke a certificate under that section if, on the application for the certificate—

  1. (a) a statement was made or document used which was false in a material particular; or
  2. (b) any material information was withheld.

(6) Provision may be made by regulations for regulating the manner in which certificates may be revoked and the notice to be given of such revocation.


8C.—(1) If any person, for the purpose of procuring a particular decision on an application (whether by himself or another) for the issue of a certificate under section 8A—

  1. (a) knowingly or recklessly makes a statement which is false or misleading in a material particular;
  2. (b) with intent to deceive, uses any document which is false or misleading in a material particular; or
  3. (c) with intent to deceive, withholds any material information,
he shall be guilty of an offence.

(2) A person guilty of an offence under subsection (1) shall be liable—

  1. (a) on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum; or
  2. 662
  3. (b) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or a fine, or both.

(3) Notwithstanding section 127 of the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980, a magistrates' court may try an information in respect of an offence under subsection (1) whenever laid."").

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 133B, with the leave of the Committee I shall speak to all the amendments listed en bloc. Amendments Nos. 143A, 143B, 143C, 143D, 143G and 143J are miscellaneous technical amendments which on this occasion I am not moving. I have given the Minister notice of this.

The whole group of amendments deals with that part of planning relating to listed buildings and conservation areas. On Second Reading the Minister said: Apart from some technical changes to listed buildings enforcement procedure consequent to the main provisions on planning enforcement, the Bill is not concerned with matters relating to listed buildings, conservation areas or the powers of the English Heritage".—[Official Report, 27/11/90; col. 945.] In our opinion, that is taking an unnecessarily and, I believe, an unjustifiably restricted view of the matter. The Long Title of the Bill describes the legislation as being, among other things, An Act to amend the law relating to town and country planning". The Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980 was, an Act to amend the law on planning". The Housing and Planning Act 1986 was, an Act to make further provision in regard to housing, planning and local inquiries". Neither Act in its Long Title contained any reference to listed buildings, conservation areas or heritage. However, each contained a substantial number of clauses relating to listed buildings and conservation areas. That is not surprising, as such matters were until 1990 contained squarely within the Town and Country Planning Act 1971, along with all other mainstream planning legislation.

When the 1971 Act was consolidated in 1990, although it was recast in three separate Acts—one dealing with mainstream planning, one with listed buildings and conservation areas and one with hazardous substances—they are, nevertheless, treated as one package, under the title of "the planning Acts" and not as three separate codes. Amendments relating to listed buildings and conservation areas are thus entirely within the scope of the Bill and not a different species of heritage amendments as, for example, amendments relating to ancient monuments would be.

The proposed group of amendments seeks to make a handful of adjustments to this area of planning law. None of them is controversial. Indeed, each is merely rectifying one or more apparent infelicities of drafting in the law as it stands. Perhaps I may quickly go through a short description of the amendments. Amendments Nos. 133B, 135A and 138A all refer to enforcement. Amendment No. 133B introduces a procedure to enable any person to discover whether listed building consent is required for works which have been carried out or which are proposed to be carried out to a listed building. That is achieved by inserting three new sections into the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990. Together they provide for the issuing of certificates of authorised works to listed buildings.

At present there is no procedure available other than carrying out the works and waiting to see whether the planning authority chooses to prosecute. That is especially unfortunate as the definition of which works require consent is so subjective. Consent is required if the works, affect the character of the building". It is not always clear whether consent is required for, say, the replacement of old windows by modern ones, the cleaning of a building by sand-blasting, the re-painting of the building in a slightly different colour or the replacement of slates with asbestos tiles. Examples of where such a provision may be useful are where a prospective purchaser wishes to find out whether works which have been carried out to a listed building by the current owner are authorised or where he or she wishes to discover whether consent would be required for proposed works. There is a corresponding provision available to determine whether planning permission is required for a proposed development under what used to be Section 53 of the 1971 Act and what is now Section 64 of the 1990 Act. That section is being replaced as a result of Clause 10 of the Bill. The proposed amendment introduces provisions equivalent to those in Clause 10 for listed building consent.

Amendments Nos. 135A and 138A also deal with the application of the enforcement provisions of the 1990 Act to the listed buildings code. Thus, Amendment No. 135A deals with matters to be specified in listed building enforcement notices. It is a technical amendment with two purposes. First, it would enable a listed building enforcement notice that required two or more steps to be carried out by way of remedial works to specify different time periods within which they must be carried out.

Secondly, it enables the Secretary of State to require that anyone served with a listed building enforcement notice is notified of his or her right to appeal against it. Again, corresponding provisions exist in relation to planning enforcement notices in Sections 174(5) and 177 of the main Act. For some reason they have not been applied to listed buildings. It is possible they were just forgotten and left out.

Amendment No. 138A requires planning authorities to maintain registers of listed building enforcement notices. It is important that such notices should be available for inspection in the same way as are enforcement notices. Again, in Section 188 of the main Act there is a corresponding requirement for a register of planning enforcement notices and stop notices to be maintained. Again, for some reason, that provision has not been extended to listed buildings, and the Bill gives us an opportunity to right that matter.

I now come to the amendments relating to applications for listed building consent and planning permission. Amendment No. 143E requires planning authorities to maintain registers of applications for listed building consent. As with the previous amendment, there is a corresponding requirement in Section 69 of the main Act for a register of planning applications to be maintained. It is important that listed building consent applications should also be available for public inspection.

The following two amendments (Amendments Nos. 143F and 143H) deal with the matters that must be taken into account by planning authorities when dealing with applications. At present, when considering applications affecting a conservation area, planning authorities and the Secretary of State must consider the desirability of preserving or enhancing its character or appearance. However, when an application affects a listed building or its setting, the duty is merely to consider its preservation, not its enhancement.

The mere preservation of a listed building is not always enough, as most Members of the Committee will agree. In an appropriate case, it must, if at all possible, be enhanced. Thus, Amendment No. 143F relates to applications for listed building consent, and Amendment No. 143H relates to application for planning permission. Each ensures that when considering whether to grant consent or permission for any work an authority is obliged to consider positive enhancement as well as mere preservation.

The second of the two amendments (Amendment No. 143H) also has another purpose. Under Section 66 of the Act, when determining a planning application for a development which would affect a listed building or its setting, the planning authority is required to have special regard to the desirability of preserving the building and its setting. Under Section 67, when it receives such an application, it is to give special publicity to it, and (in England) to notify English Heritage.

Amendment No. 143H widens that twofold duty in several ways. First, it extends the duty to developments affecting scheduled monuments and registered gardens. At present there is almost no linkage between the scheduling of ancient monuments and the planning system. There is no statutory duty to consider archaeology, and yet there is increasing anxiety over the threat to archaeological sites posed by unsuitable developments. Similarly, at present there is no duty in regard to registered gardens; that is, gardens included in the register maintained by English Heritage under Section 8C of the Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments Act 1953.

Secondly, the amendment—the proposed new subsection (1A) —extends the type of application to which the duty applies so as to include applications for approval of details and for approval required under a development order. The latter would include those situations where a Private Bill grants consent for works, but subject to detailed approval by the planning authority. Thirdly, although in Wales the Secretary of State, through the vehicle of Cadw (the Welsh Office listed buildings section) has a role similar to that of English Heritage, there is no requirement for planning applications to be sent to him for comment or call in.

The situation is rectified by the new Sections 5A and 5B. I must stress that although the amendment relates to the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, it deals entirely with planning applications rather than applications for listed building consent. It is thus, even more than the others proposed in the group, very much a mainstream planning amendment and in no sense a heritage amendment.

The remaining amendments in the group relate to the acquisition of buildings, repairs and grants. Amendments Nos. 143K to 143S and Amendment No. 395 are designed to rationalise and extend the provision in Chapter V of Part I of the 1990 Act relating to the acquisition of buildings, the carrying out of urgent repairs and the giving of grants and loans for repair and maintenance. They largely finish the job of consolidating this area of statute law, but the opportunity is rightly taken to deal with the inconsistencies that exist at present.

The amendments affect seven sections of the 1990 Act and insert three new sections. However, they also enable the repeal of 13 sections of other statutes and one whole statute. The proposals form a series of eight interlocking amendments which fall into two categories: first, Amendments Nos. 143K to 143P deal with the acquisition of property and of special architectural, historic or other interest. They provide that English Heritage shall be an appropriate authority under Section 47 in respect of any property in England, rather than, as at present, merely in London.

They then extend to the appropriate authorities powers to buy property by agreement under Section 52 and to carry out urgent works under Section 54. This reflects the enhanced powers for English Heritage suggested in the Government's 1989 consultation paper. The amendments also extend the scope of the property that may be acquired under the 1990 Act to accord with the provision currently in the 1953 Act. Finally, the amendments extend to appropriate authorities the power of English Heritage to accept endowments. They are extended to the Secretary of State by Section 58A.

Amendments Nos. 143Q, 143R and 143S rationalise and clarify the procedures relating to the provision of financial support for repair and maintenance. These are currently spread between several different statutes, including the Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments Act 1953, the Civic Amenities Act 1967, the Town and Country Amenities Act 1974, the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979, the National Heritage Act 1983 as well as the 1990 Act. This has an unfortunate effect, since the wording of the different provisions is not consistent. It also causes unnecessary confusion both to those administering the system and to those on the receiving end.

Thus under the Act as modified by these proposals grants by English Heritage to authorities—the National Trust, the Architectural Heritage Fund and individual building trusts —for the acquisition of property would be in Section 56A. Grants by appropriate authorities including English Heritage for repair and maintenance would be in Sections 57 and 58 and grants by the Secretary of State in Section 58A.

The last amendment in the group, Amendment No. 395, provides for the repeals that will be possible following from this series of amendments. This indicates the advantage of the amendments. By the introduction of only three new sections into the 1990 Act, it is possible to repeal 13 sections of other statutes. It may also be possible to repeal paragraph 3 of Schedule 2 to the Local Government Act 1985 concerning grants by English Heritage in greater London.

The extent of these repeals indicates also that essentially a large part of the value of the last set of amendments is to complete the job of consolidating this area of statute law.

I apologise for taking some time, but I assure the Committee that it is much quicker to move the amendments in this way than to take one amendment after another and argue them all out. It also gives the picture of what we are trying to achieve.

Before I sit down, I must reiterate that these amendments are wholly within the purview of the Bill. I suspect the Minister will say that we should await the advent of a heritage Bill. That is like waiting for Never Never Land. I speak from the heart on that matter as I have been a Minister in the department of the noble Baroness and therefore I know how long it takes—irrespective of the government in power—to get colleagues to agree and for a heritage Bill to be produced. In the meantime a great many buildings that we want to conserve may be destroyed. I beg to move.

10.30 p.m.

Baroness Blatch

It is evident that a great deal of detailed thought has gone into the preparation of these amendments, and that the advisers on the amendments have a close knowledge of the legislation relating to planning generally and to listed buildings. Some of the amendments may give us food for thought at more leisure, while a couple strike chords as being points which we already have in mind, but for which we do not see this Bill as the right vehicle. We have, it is true, used the opportunity of the Bill to reflect in respect of listed buildings, so far as we consider appropriate, the changes relating to planning enforcement following the report by Robert Carnwath QC. It would have been illogical not to do so. But, by and large, this is not a Bill about listed buildings: it is one primarily about enforcement, controls over development, development plans and land compensation. I am reluctant therefore to overbalance it by extending it to deal with the details of the listed building regime generally, including consents, grants and acquisitions.

Indeed, I attach such importance to our heritage legislation that in my view any changes to it would deserve proper consideration in a specific legislative vehicle, rather than being tacked on to a Bill about other matters, unless they are of pressing and immediate importance. The Committee will understand, however, that I am not in a position to give any commitment as to the timing or content of any future legislation.

That said, however, I must also say that there are a number of amendments on these topics which the noble Baroness has laid before us which we either do not view as being necessary, or which we considered when consolidating the legislation but thought inappropriate, or in which we see positive disadvantage.

The Committee may know that in 1989 the department consulted on changes to the heritage legislation. These included proposals similar in scope to those of Amendments Nos. 143H and 143N. One such was to require local planning authorities or the Secretary of State to pay special attention to the desirability of preserving a scheduled monument when planning applications which affect such monuments are being considered. Amendment No. 143H would, in part, cover that. However, it is not essential to put it into legislation at this stage. The desirability of preserving a scheduled monument or its setting is already established in case law, and only last November we underlined this message very strongly in our guidance note on archaeology and planning, PPG 16. Nevertheless, we shall want to consider this further for legislation when the time is ripe.

We also consulted on the proposals to give English Heritage powers to issue urgent repairs notices in its own right, although subject to some form of consultation with, or approval by, the department. At present if the Secretary of State wishes to serve such a notice, he must authorise English Heritage to carry out the works for him, but he must also specify precisely what works he is authorising it to do. In practice this means prior consultation with English Heritage to agree on the works which are necessary. The procedure is awkward and time consuming and we see benefit in changing it. This would also implement a recommendation from the 1987 Select Committee on the Environment. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, dealt with this in Amendment No. 143N—and it was ably dealt with by the noble Baroness—although he does not deal with the prior approval point.

Although we have not been out to consultation on the matter, we also have some general sympathy with the proposals to extend English Heritage's grant-giving powers so that it may aid building preservation trusts who wish to acquire buildings in poor repair and sell them on. This is covered in Amendment No. 143Q. The noble Lord, Lord Montagu, indeed raised this point on Second Reading. We are broadly sympathetic to this although we might well need to go out to public consultation. We should also need to consider the interaction between the extension of this power and English Heritage's existing power to grant-aid the Architectural Heritage Fund, which itself grant-aids building preservation trusts.

I hope that the noble Baroness will accept that general philosophy. This is not the right Bill to deal with those points, and even if it were we would need to consider the drafting very carefully. However, I emphasise again that although I cannot commit the Government regarding the timing we are aware that amendments need to be made to heritage legislation and we shall wish to bring them forward at the earliest possible opportunity.

The amendments moved tonight, which we find unacceptable in principle and which we would wish to resist however long we spent debating them tonight, cover two different areas. Amendment No. 113B would introduce a procedure for any person to seek a certificate from the local planning authority that particular works were or would be authorised. While it seeks to mirror the procedure for planning applications which we are introducing in Clause 10 of the Bill, it is not appropriate for listed building control. It also introduces unnecessary complexity into the system and a confusing overlap with the existing listed building controls.

Finally, although we look favourably on Amendment No. 143N we do not accept Amendment No. 143F, which would give English Heritage the right compulsorily to purchase buildings in need of repair. With the greatest of respect to English Heritage, it would be difficult to justify giving that Draconian power to a non-elected body. We have sometimes been asked in the past to set up registers for listed building consent applications as proposed in Amendments Nos. 138A and 143E. We have hitherto resisted such requests on the grounds that they are unnecessary. We could not accept them without consultation with local authority associations because of the extra bureaucracy involved.

The remainder of the amendments seem to be drafting and tidying-up amendments or rationalisation of the grant-making powers. While it might be appropriate to consider some of those amendments if the heritage legislation were being consolidated, there is no need to take them on board now. Indeed, consolidation is really a matter for the Law Commission, not individual departments. As we found when the planning legislation was being consolidated, it is a time-consuming and complex business to ensure that all the cross-references are correct and all the necessary provisions covered. We cannot, therefore, accept them now.

For all those reasons, I cannot support the amendments at this time. I trust that in the light of what I have said—which I hope will have left the noble Baroness not entirely without hope—she will not press the amendments.

Baroness Birk

I thank the noble Baroness for her reply. As was said in a different context on a more famous occasion, "Well, she would, wouldn't she?"

I cannot accept that the amendments cannot be considered in a planning context, which is the most important aspect of the Bill. The Minister has given me no hope of there being a heritage Bill in the future. I quite understand that she could not have done so in any event.

The numbers of the amendments may have been mixed up because there were so many of them. I have a feeling that the number the noble Baroness mentioned when replying to one amendment was not the number that appears on the Marshalled List, but that is a detail that can be sorted out. I shall read what she said and consider what to do at the next stage. In the meantime I do not intend to press the amendments. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 134: Page 68, line 18, leave out from beginning to ("there") in line 19 and insert ("In section 9 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (offences: penalties)— (a) for subsection (4)").

The noble Baroness said: Amendments Nos. 134 to 138 and 140 to 146A are all amendments to Schedule 2 to the Bill in respect of listed buildings and hazardous substances enforcement provisions. They amend further the changes made by that schedule to the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 and the Planning (Hazardous Substances) Act 1990. The amendments for the most part reflect changes made to the planning enforcement provisions by Part I of the Bill and will ensure consistency with those provisions. They also include some minor drafting corrections.

The purpose of Amendments Nos. 229 and 271 is to introduce a new clause and schedule making provision for listed buildings, conservation areas and hazardous substances for Scotland in equivalent terms to that made for England and Wales by Clause 21 and Schedule 2 to the Bill.

I shall be happy to describe the amendments in more detail if Members of the Committee wish. In the meantime, I beg to move.

Baroness Birk

Am I right in thinking that the noble Baroness spoke to Amendments Nos. 144 and 146?

Baroness Blatch

I apologise. I was speaking to Amendments Nos. 134, 135, 136, 137, 138, 140, 141, 142, 143, 144, 145, 146, 229 and 271.

Baroness Birk

In that case perhaps I may ask the noble Baroness why this Section 55(6) of the 1990 Act, which enables the expenses of the authority carrying out the work to be recovered as a civil debt - a useful provision and not used very much - is being taken out and repealed.

Baroness Blatch

That was a specific question on something like a dozen amendments. I believe that we are referring to Amendments Nos. 144 and 145, and I have been helped to find the answer very quickly. These provisions are being repealed on the advice of counsel that they are unnecessary because Section 16 of the County Courts Act 1984 applies to expenses made recoverable under Sections 42(6) and 55(6), and the High Court has inherent jurisdiction over such claims. With hindsight it would have been better to remove those sections when the planning Acts were being consolidated last year.

Baroness Birk

I was concerned that the provision would be lost altogether. If it is covered by different legislation, I am quite happy about it.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 135: Page 68, line 25, at end insert ("and (b) in subsection (5) "on indictment" is omitted.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 135A not moved.]

Baroness Blatch moved Amendments Nos. 136 to 138: Page 70, line 9, leave out from ("offence") to end of line 13 and insert: ("(2A) An offence under this section may be charged by reference to any day or longer period of time and a person may be convicted of a second or subsequent offence under this section by reference to any period of time following the preceding conviction for such an offence."). Page 70, line 15, leave out ("subsection (2)") and insert ("this section"). Page 70, line 16, leave out ("in his power") and insert ("he could be expected to do").

The noble Baroness said: I beg to move these amendments en bloc.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendment No. 138A not moved.]

10.45 p.m.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham moved Amendment No. 139: Page 71, line 12, at end insert: ("8A. After section 76 of that Act there is inserted—

"Alteration and extension in conservation areas.

76A—(1) No person shall, notwithstanding any provision of a General Development Order, without authorisation execute or cause to be executed any works for the alteration or extension of a building within a conservation area which is not a listed building in any manner which would materially affect the character or appearance of the building itself, or the character or appearance of the area as a whole as an area of special architectural or historical interest.

(2) Works for the alteration or extension of a building within a conservation area which is not a listed building are authorised if—

  1. (a) planning permission has been granted by the local planning authority; and
  2. (b) they are executed in accordance with the terms of the permission and of any conditions attached to it.

(3) The provisions of Part 1 of the Planning and Compensation Act 1991 shall apply to any alteration or extension of a building falling within this section." ").

The noble Baroness said: This is a probing amendment. It seeks to protect non-listed buildings in conservation areas. As I am sure the Committee will be aware, at the moment non-listed buildings in conservation areas are protected against demolition and against very little else. I suggest that this is a growing and serious problem concerned with the defacement and mutilation of our country's conservation areas.

Whereas in previous decades our small stone-built villages and later 19th century Victorian terraced houses were at risk from neglect, damp, decay or slum clearance, in the past 15 years or so those houses have faced the opposite problem - the defacement that has come from the rash of do-it-yourself improvements, which sadly often wreck the external character of a house or terrace. For example, there is the replacement of Derbyshire stone slate roofs with concrete tiles, boundary walls with ranch fencing, sash windows with plate glass or painted wood doors with doors of exotic hardwood and neo-Dublin fanlights. Rough cast houses are painted and repointed in dark cement mortar to look like crazy paving, or rose brick is painted and then pointed in bright white. I am afraid that these excrescences have been worsened by the general development order of the Secretary of State which has widened permitted development beyond the scope of planning. We receive reports from the Midlands, Derbyshire, Lancashire, Yorkshire and the South West of the damage done to our townscapes and villages of historic and aesthetic interest.

There are almost half a million listed buildings in England which are secured against demolition and alteration by Sections 7 and 8 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990. There are also some 7,000 conservation areas in towns and villages. Approximately 40 per cent. of listed dwellings are within conservation areas but about 85 per cent. of all buildings and conservation areas are not listed and, therefore, are not protected against alteration. They are historically interesting, they are of significant streetscape value and their quality depends as much on their pleasing and well-mannered neighbourliness as on their individual quality.

The replacement of a roof on a set-back, modern bungalow probably will not affect the streetscape. However, the replacement of Huddersfield stone slates with concrete tiles on a Victorian terraced house will irreversibly damage the entire terrace. Being in a conservation area will protect a property from demolition but from nothing else. As regards alterations or do-it-yourself, conservation area status means virtually nothing. Any conservation that occurs is more by luck and goodwill than by law or education.

How, then, do we protect our traditional villages and our Victorian and Edwardian terraces from damaging alterations while not wishing to interfere too unreasonably with people's proper and natural pride in their homes? I suggest three possible ways of which the amendment is the third and probably the most useful way. The first is to re-invent Grade III listing and extend protection to all. I do not suggest that as a path to the Committee because it debases the language of listing. It would involve 1.5 million buildings and put a huge workload on all concerned.

The second path is to opt for Article IV directions; in other words, to ask the Secretary of State to revoke the permitted planning powers under GDOs for individual houses or parts of streets, thereby giving them greater protection. The problem is that as a procedure Article IV directions are cumbersome; the local authority must apply to the Secretary of State; they are time consuming; they are partial, applying only to individual houses, terraces and parts of streets (certainly not to a conservation area as a whole); and they are uncertain in their outcome. They are hard to obtain because often the Secretary of State refuses them.

Indeed, it is ironic that the Secretary of State has, on occasions, refused Article IV directions on the grounds that in conservation areas do-it-yourself improvements have gone so far that the quality of the area has so deteriorated that there is nothing left that is worth preserving and conserving. Within Article IV the Secretary of State also requires that there must be a real or potential threat to put a building at risk. In other words, the whole pressure of an Article IV direction presumes against a direction which will save the buildings from, in some cases, irreversible defacement. As presently constituted, Article IV directions do not protect our conservation areas. They are an unwieldy way forward.

But there is a third way; namely, the path of this amendment. It takes its wording from the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 but with the important addition of material. After helpful discussions with the Minister I am happy to make it explicitly clear that we are talking about the external appearance of buildings. The amendment would not revoke general development orders but it would provide that, where development—that is alteration—materially and significantly affected the external character and appearance of a building or its area, planning consent would be required. I hope that in discussion with local authorities the Secretary of State will issue a code of guidance as to what constitutes "material". We do not want unreasonable and over-zealous bureaucracy. However, I suggest that "material" might consist of blocking up and moving doors and windows as would be adding a porch but altering paintwork would not. Obviously altering a roof covering would be "material".

It may be argued by Members of the Committee that this would be an unreasonable imposition upon owners; but I suggest otherwise. When people buy a modest house in a conservation area, they are not only buying that house but they are choosing to buy into the character of that area, whether it is presently a conservation area or one yet to be designated. They like its streetscape and the repeated rhythms of its doors and roofs. They do not want neighbours damaging that; nor do they want property values to fall as a result. This amendment would protect the value which young couples put on their first home by ensuring the good behaviour and manners of adjacent homeowners.

By seeking planning permission and perhaps with the bait of a local authority grant, owners of non-listed buildings in conservation areas are encouraged to improve their homes as they wish but in ways which enhance and do not mutilate the areas and which would help also to cherish our heritage.

I ask the Minister and Members of the Committee to recognise this problem. If this amendment does not provide the answer, at least we can flag this matter as an issue so that we can see how best we can save our conservation areas which are in danger of alteration beyond saving. I beg to move.

Lord Gisborough

I strongly support the spirit of this amendment. I hope that the Minister will do all she can to try to meet the point in order to preserve our village scenes.

Lord Montagu of Beaulieu

Speaking on behalf of English Heritage, I have enormous sympathy for the amendment. It may well be that my noble friend is unable to accept it this evening. However, I hope that she can express sympathy for it and if this is not the right time to legislate on this matter, perhaps a similar provision can be contained in a future heritage Bill.

Baroness Blatch

This amendment would remove the permitted development rights in the general development order from all unlisted buildings in conservation areas. It would require a specific application for planning permission to be made for any development involving the alteration or extension of such buildings, I appreciate that the noble Baroness has suggested that the requirement might be confined to works which affect external character or appearance. However, in practice excluding the effects on interiors would make little difference to the numbers of cases that would have to be handled by local planning authorities.

I understand the noble Baroness's concern that unsuitable developments, such as the installation of UPVC windows, in conservation areas can have a detrimental effect on the character and appearance of the area. However, the all-embracing approach adopted by this amendment would impose an unacceptable burden on local planning authorities which would have to deal with the increased numbers of planning applications for quite minor items of work.

There are almost 7,000 conservation areas in England and every local planning authority has designated at least one conservation area within its area. The areas vary in size from small squares or individual terraces to whole city centres. To remove permitted development rights from all alterations or extensions of any kind, in all conservation areas, would slow the planning system to an unacceptable extent and could even prove counter-productive by discouraging authorities from exercising their responsibilities in relation to conservation areas properly. It would also have an unfortunate effect upon householders who wished to make very minor, and possibly quite acceptable, alterations to their houses.

The general development order provides in Article 4 for local authorities to be able to make a direction for the removal of permitted development rights for development where there is a known or potential threat to an area. This power is not restricted to conservation areas. These Article 4 directions must be confirmed by the Secretary of State but he will generally be in favour of confirming Article 4 directions relating to conservation areas where a special need for them can be shown.

There have sometimes been suggestions that the Secretary of State is not sufficiently positive about confirming Article 4 directions in conservation areas. Clearly, I am not able to comment on individual cases. But we must strike a balance: we do not wish to remove permitted development rights lightly; but equally it is important that the powers are used where it is appropriate to do so. However, I urge local authorities to look carefully at their case for an Article 4 direction. In many cases, persuasion and education—so that people understand the special characteristics of the area in which they live and how their own actions can help to preserve or enhance that area rather than detract from its character—may be more effective in the long run than blanket controls.

The Government believe that the Article 4 direction procedure can give a reasonable level of protection to unlisted buildings in conservation areas without overloading the planning system. Nevertheless I recognise the noble Baroness's anxiety. We are considering proposals from English Heritage which may result in further guidance to local planning authorities on the use of Article 4 directions, and some clarification of the Secretary of State's criteria for approving them.

In her presentation the noble Baroness said that she felt that any conservation in a conservation area was a matter of luck. Conservation area designation places a duty on local authorities to bring forward proposals for preservation or enhancement of their area. Therefore its fate should not be one of luck.

I have listened carefully to all that the noble Baroness has said, and indeed to the support for the amendment. If the Committee is content, I and my ministerial colleagues will give careful consideration to all that has been said, and report back at Report stage.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham

I thank, first, the noble Lords, Lord Gisborough and Lord Montagu, for their support, and the Minister for her helpful reply. However, in case there is a misunderstanding I should emphasise that the amendment does not seek to catch "all" alterations, nor does it seek to pick up "minor changes", nor to be "blanket". All three descriptions were used by the Minister. That is the path of the existing control over listed buildings. I had hoped to make clear that my amendment instead followed the path of "material" changes, as opposed to the listed building path which catches the alterations described by the Minister. Material in this context means significant, substantial, irreversible; the very areas of anxiety shared by the Committee. I suggest that the word "material" strikes the balance which the Minister was anxious to explore.

Given the helpful response of the Minister, and her willingness to reflect on the matter and perhaps bring it back at Report stage, with the leave of the Committee I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Blatch moved Amendments Nos. 140 to 143: Page 72, line 3, leave out ("level 2") and insert ("level 3"). Page 72, leave out line 44 and insert: ("9A. In section 23(4) of the Planning (Hazardous Substances) Act 1990 (offences)—

  1. (a) for "the statutory maximum" there is substituted "£20,000", and
  2. (b) for the words following paragraph (b) there is substituted—
(4A) In determining the amount of any fine to be imposed on a person convicted of an offence under this section, the court shall in particular have regard to any financial benefit which has accrued or appears likely to accrue to him in consequence of the offence". 10. In section 24 of that Act"). Page 73, line 29, leave out ("26A") and insert ("26AA"). Page 74, line 34, leave out ("level 2") and insert ("level 3").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 143A to 143S not moved.]

Baroness Blatch moved Amendments Nos. 144 to 146A: Page 75, line 37, at end insert: ("17A. Section 55(6) of that Act is omitted. 17B. In section 82 of that Act—

  1. (a) in subsection (1) for "39(6), 42(6) and 55(6)" there is substituted "and 39(6)", and
  2. (b) in subsection (3) for "sections 39(6) and 42(6)" there is substituted "section 39(6)".").
Page 75, line 38, at end insert: ("18A. In section 90(6) (b) of that Act "and 42(6)" is omitted. 18B. In section 92(2) (b) of that Act "and 42(6)" is omitted. 18C. In Schedule 4 to that Act, in paragraph 5—
  1. (a) after "38" there is inserted "38A",
  2. (b) in sub-paragraph (b) for "and 88(2) (a) and (b)" there is substituted "44A, 88(2) (a) and (b) and 88A".").
Page 75, line 40, leave out paragraph 19 and insert: ("19. In section 25(1) of the Planning (Hazardous Substances) Act 1990
  1. (a) in paragraph (b) (v) for "175(1) to (4)" there is substituted "175(1) to (3)", and
  2. (b) in paragraph (c) "(1) to (5) and (7)" is omitted.").
Page 75, line 42, leave out ("26A") and insert ("26AA").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Schedule 2, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 22 agreed to.

11 p.m.

Lord Norrie moved amendment No. 147: After Clause 22, insert the following new clause:

("Status of development plan

. For section 70(2) of the principal Act there is substituted— (2) In dealing with such an application the authority shall have primary regard to the provisions of the development plan, so far as material to the application, and shall have regard to any other material considerations." ").

The noble Lord said: A large part of this Bill and of recent government policy relies on development plans being central to the operation of the planning system. There has been a spate of new planning policy guidance notes on forward plans, on housing and on the countryside. There have been important appeal decisions relating to new housing, quarrying, extraction and other commercial and industrial development. These decisions, and recent ministerial statements, have focused on the importance that the Government attach to structure and local plans. The Bill itself proposes to make the preparation of local plans a statutory requirement and to speed up the process of structural plan review.

No one should be in any doubt about the Government's views on the matter, and I unreservedly welcome the new priority being attached to development plans. Unfortunately, despite all the welcome noises, this Bill does nothing to strengthen the importance attached to development plans. Welcome changes in policy have not found their way into legislation. This amendment would change that. It is very simple and yet it would have a wide ranging and thoroughly beneficial impact on the planning system.

The amendment would make structure and local plans the primary consideration when dealing with planning applications and appeals, and I submit that this is very much in line with recent Government thinking. At present, structure and local plans are just one of many material considerations to be taken into account. This amendment would give them a higher priority, but without meaning that every development or appeal should stick inflexibly to the plan. Other considerations would still count.

My noble friend indicated in a letter to me after Second Reading that my amendment might be considered unreasonable, because a measure of judgment is always needed and account has to be taken of all material considerations. I agree that local authorities and the Secretary of State should be able to take account of all material considerations, and this is not ruled out by the amendment. It would simply ensure that greater weight would be attached to the development plan when balancing these considerations.

My noble friend also indicated that the Government preferred to stress the importance attached to development plans through guidance rather than through inflexible legislation. I hope that this reluctance is not because the Government might want to withdraw their support for development plans at some future date. A change to the statute would give us a categorical assurance that development plans will be central to the planning system, whatever the short-term priorities of any one administration.

However, I welcome my noble friend's support for a change in policy and hope that she will take the opportunity of her reply to this amendment to confirm that the Government have replaced the general presumption in favour of development with a presumption in favour of development in accordance with the development plan. I shall also be grateful if she can assure the Committee that the Government will amend planning policy guidance accordingly at the earliest opportunity.

Without this amendment, many of the benefits from the Bill's proposals to extend to local plan coverage will never be realised, and unless these new plans, along with structure plans, are given new weight, then their benefits in reducing the appeals work load and in renewing confidence in the planning system will not be maximised. I urge noble Lords' support for this amendment. It has the widest support outside this House and is central to the future operation of the planning system. I beg to move.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham

I rise to support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Norrie. It is a very simple and valuable amendment. At the moment, as constituted the Bill requires local authorities only to produce development plans, but, as the Minister said at Second Reading, development plans help to ensure a proper environmental framework within which competing claims can be resolved.

But such a role for local plans will arise only if those local plans are given the proper weight both by local authorities in determining planning applications and by the Secretary of State on appeal, as I am sure the Government intend that they should be. This amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Norrie, clarifies their standing and makes it clear that there is a presumption against applications and against appeals which contradict the development plan in ways that are consistent for all to see.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Fraser, referred on Clause 91 to the importance which the Government attach to such plans. If that view of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Fraser, is shared by the Minister this evening, then I am sure that she will wish to support the amendment. I second it.

Viscount Astor

Section 70 of the Town and Country Planning Act at present requires that where a planning authority is considering a planning application, it shall have regard to the provisions of the development plan in so far as they are material to the application and to any other material considerations. The effect of the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Norrie, would be to require the authority to have primary regard to the provisions of the development plan.

How much difference this would make in practice seems to me to be a nice legal point. The wording of the existing subsection conveys the implication that the planning authority should first have regard to the development plan, as well as to other material considerations. I am frankly not sure that the noble Lord's amendment would add much to what is already there. If the purpose of the amendment is to create a strong presumption that proposals in accordance with the development plan will be approved and those not in accordance with the plan will be rejected—in other words, if the intention is that the development plan should to a large extent override other material considerations—we certainly would not be happy to make this change.

We have given new emphasis to the role of the development plan over the last two or three years. One of the purposes of this Bill is to ensure that all parts of the country have a comprehensive and up-to-date local plan or unitary development plan within the next few years. We believe that the preparation of these plans will provide important opportunities for local choice in planning matters; and that where there is an up-to-date local plan which has been the subject of public consultation it can greatly increase the local community's confidence in the planning system and simplify the process of day-to-day development control. We have made clear that the Secretary of State and his inspectors will be guided by an up-to-date local plan, particularly where a planning application or appeal raises purely local considerations.

But that is rather different from making the plan the primary consideration which is normally presumed to override other considerations. Local plans cannot provide for every eventuality, nor can they be expected to anticipate every need or opportunity for economic development that may arise; and inevitably, they cannot always be fully up to date. Moreover, the general presumption in favour of development remains: planning authorities are expected to show good planning reasons why development should be refused and that should be more than the purely mechanical application of a zoning policy in a plan.

In the light of this I believe that the existing legislation achieves a better balance between the development plan and other material considerations than would the noble Lord's amendment. The flexibility of our planning system, and its ability to judge individual proposals on their merits, has always been one of its strengths. We need to guard against over-rigidity and against any tendency to treat development plans as a rigid zoning mechanism. In answer to the point that the noble Lord, Lord Norrie, made about planning policy guidance, it has already been adjusted to take account of the changes on the development plan.

Lord Norrie

I was struck by the great degree of support from the other side of the Committee. I was a little disappointed by my noble friend's response. I shall study it with great care because it was quite a complicated reply. In view of that and the lateness of the hour, I shall withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

(Amendment No. 148 not moved.)

Schedule 3 (Development Plans):

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Grantchester)

Schedule 3, Amendment No. 149: if Amendment No. 149 is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment No. 150.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 149: Page 76, leave out lines 7 to 12.

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment 149 I should like to speak also to Amendment No. 151. I hope that they will, at least in one respect, gain the support of the noble Lord, Lord Renton, in the sense that they take text out of the Bill without seeking to put anything in its place. Paragraph 2 of Schedule 3 is quite extraordinary when you read it through from one end to the other. It is concerned with unitary development plans; in other words, those development plans that deal with borough and district-wide issues in metropolitan authorities or single-tier authorities.

If Members of the Committee will look at the text of Schedule 3 paragraph 2(3), it will be seen that there are constant references to interference by the Secretary of State in the preparation and purpose of Part I of these unitary development plans. I refer in particular to paragraph 2(3) because that is a part which we are not proposing to take out. I shall indicate how far it goes in giving the Secretary of State control over unitary development plans. Sub-paragraph (3) states: (6) In formulating the general policies in Part I of a unitary development plan the authority shall have regard to … any regional or strategic planning guidance given by the Secretary of State … current national policies … the resources likely to be available … and such other matters as the Secretary of State may prescribe". One may think that that gives the Secretary State in itself, without any further reference to his powers, adequate power to do what he likes with a unitary development plan. But no, these powers are preceded by a provision in paragraph 2(1) which says that, regulations made by the Secretary of State, may prescribe aspects of such development and use with which the general policies in Part I of a unitary development plan are to be concerned, in which case the policies shall be concerned with those aspects and no others". After saying, such ether matters as the Secretary of State may prescribe", sub-paragraph (3) says, or, in a particular case, direct them to take into account". Sub-paragraph (4) says, Regulations under this section may make different provision for different cases and shall be subject to any direction given, in a particular case, by the Secretary of State". That is not simply laying down the rules of behaviour for the formulation of unitary development plans. It is tying down the local authority hand and foot. It is saying three times over at least that a local authority cannot do anything at all except with the explicit authority and approval of the Secretary of State.

I hope that the Committee will take the view that unitary development plans should have some possibility of diversity and of expressing and reflecting local and regional needs. It is true that these restrictions apply only to Part I which is concerned with the general policies, but responsible local authorities will see to it that Part I meshes with Part II of the plan which is supposed to deal with detailed land use. If they are tied down in the way proposed, what is being said is that the unitary development plans might as well be produced by the Secretary of State. All that the local authorities are being asked to do is to act as scribes rather than playing any real and significant part in the preparation of the plans.

I suggest to the Committee that these sections which we propose to delete by Amendments Nos. 149 and 151 show what the soldiers call "massive overkill". There is no need for them. They are repetitive and complicate the Bill. They grossly exceed the degree to which guidance and direction should be given to local authorities in the preparation of development plans. I beg to move.

Baroness Blatch

I can assure the noble Lord that it is not our intention here to restrict the scope of unitary development plans unnecessarily. What we are concerned to do is to prevent them straying away from genuine land-use issues into the realms of corporate planning, or even politically-motivated propaganda such as nuclear free zones. Of course, we can foresee instances where an authority may have to deal with special circumstances. The provision which Amendment No. 151 seeks to delete will allow the Secretary of State to make specific exceptions in such cases. These are important provisions which should be retained and I invite the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment.

11.15 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I find that a totally unsatisfactory answer. If the Government are keen to say to the local authority that development plans should not contain elements which are not concerned with land use, why should the Bill not say so? That is not what paragraph 2 says at all. Paragraph 2 says that a unitary development plan, which is about general policies controlling land use, shall be drawn up in accordance with regulations which prescribe the aspects of development use and the policies in accordance with the guidance given by the Secretary of State—which we are not proposing to take out—and subject to directions about any individual point in the unitary development plan.

I have not been convinced at all that this is not overkill and a very bad example of repetition and the view that the man from Marsham Street knows best. I am disappointed in the Minister's reply, and it is only the lateness of the hour that prompts me to beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Nicol moved Amendment No. 150: Page 76, line 8, after ("omitted") insert (" , and after "measures for" is inserted "the conservation of natural beauty and amenity," ").

The noble Baroness said: The purpose of this amendment and the others grouped with it is to include conservation considerations in the context of unitary development plans, structure plans and local development plans. The simplified definitions in the Bill, as against the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, are welcome but they still include measures from the 1971 Act which require local authorities to include among policies referred to in the plan the improvement of the physical environment and the management of traffic. We feel that it is important to include the conservation of the natural environment. Environmental issues are involved in every controversial planning application and yet the local authority has no duty to consider them as a policy at early planning stages.

The study of development plans by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, to which I referred during Second Reading, drew attention to the new importance being attached to the role of such plans. There is no doubt of the increasing importance of conservation in our daily lives, and this should be spelled out in our planning procedures.

The RSPB is particularly concerned at the threat to internationally important bird sites. On a sample of 96 areas identified for protection under the Ramsar Convention on the conservation of wetlands or the EC directive on the conservation of wild birds, no fewer than 51 in number—that is, 53 per cent. of those surveyed—are in danger from development under one plan policy and 33 are under threat from two development plan proposals. Clearly local authorities are not giving sufficient weight to nature conservation.

The duty which we seek to lay on planning officers should develop a new perspective in regard to natural beauty and amenity. That phrase is recognised as meaning the conservation of flora, fauna and landscape features.

The Government must acknowledge that the present system is not working, and I hope that they will therefore feel able to accept these amendments. I beg to move.

Lord Renton

I rise merely to say that, superficially at any rate, the amendment has something to commend it. I hope that my noble friend will have considered it carefully.

Baroness Blatch

We welcome the intention underlying these amendments. Conservation and amenity are of course issues which development plans already address. But we accept that it would be desirable to revise the present wording of the legislation so as to give this aspect of land use planning a new prominence.

I am advised, however, that the detailed wording of the amendment needs further consideration, partly to ensure that there is consistency with any similar references in countryside and environmental protection legislation. I would, therefore, like to take these amendments away and consider them rather than accept them immediately as they stand, on the understanding that the Government will table amendments to have substantially the same effect at a later stage. On that basis, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able not to press this amendment.

Baroness Nicol

I am, of course, delighted with that reply; indeed, I could not have asked for anything better. In the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 151 not moved.]

Viscount Astor moved Amendments Nos. 152 and 153: Page 76, line 24, leave out ("them to take into account"). Page 76, line 24, at end insert: ("(3A) After subsection (7) of that section there is inserted— (7A) In formulating their proposals in Part II of a unitary development plan, the authority shall have regard to such information and other considerations as the Secretary of State may prescribe or, in a particular case, direct."").

The noble Viscount said: In moving these two amendments, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 155,156,158,161,165,168,170,172,174,175,179,186,187,188,189,190,191,193,194,195,196,197,198,199,203,208,211,213,216,218,219,220,221, 369, 370 and 374. These are all essential drafting amendments. I commend them to the Committee. I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

In my view, Amendment No. 221 is not quite a drafting amendment, although I accept that that is largely the case as regards the other amendments. With that amendment the Government are removing the specific requirement for the results of public examination into the structure of local plans to be publicised, with provision for a reasonable charge to be levied if the regulations will allow it.

I am not clear about why the Government have put forward such a provision. Surely the results of a public examination into a structure or local plan could establish whether the Secretary of State has been taking decisions on policies against the recommendations of the assessors who advise at an examination in public. What is happening is that a curtain is being brought down over the public consideration of structure and local plans. I find that contrary to what governments say about open government, especially when they refer to local authorities. I do not accept that it is a technical or a drafting amendment. In my view, it deserves a better defence than the one it has received.

Viscount Astor

I shall be delighted to answer the noble Lord on Amendment No. 221. Paragraph 29(2) (d) of Schedule 3 to the Bill inserts a new paragraph (fg) in Section 53(2) of the 1990 Act, specifying a particular requirement that may be made by the regulations. The amendment deletes this additional paragraph as the requirement is adequately provided for by the existing regulation-making power of Section 53.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I shall read the noble Viscount's reply very carefully and consider whether to return to the matter on Report.

On Question, Amendments Nos. 152 and 153 agreed to.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 154: Page 76, line 29, leave out paragraph 3.

The noble Lord said: I had great pleasure in spending part of last week at a conference in Venice attacking the London Docklands Development Corporation. I attacked it for various reasons which are not relevant to the consideration of the Bill. I shall not inflict those reasons upon the Committee nor indulge in a travelogue; but one of the arguments used by those who were defending the LDDC was that it was a short-life corporation and that a UDC's intention is to get in, get something done and get out as fast as possible. Indeed, many of a UDC'S powers are short-life powers just as the powers of an enterprise zone are short-life powers.

Under those circumstances, I find it strange that the Government should be providing even the possibility that the UDC should be, by direction of the Secretary of State, excluded from unitary development plans. That means in effect that there is a possibility, which the Secretary of State could implement, that the unitary development plans of local authorities which have UDCs in their areas may have great big black holes in them. The whole purpose of UDCs, as the Government put them forward, is to provide large-scale developments—for example, millions of square feet of offices or homes for sale or rent. If they are to be successful, those plans will inevitably have an effect upon the transportation, traffic generation and service provision that the local authority will have to consider when preparing the rest of its development plan. If the UDCs are to be successful, that applies not just to the authority itself but sometimes to the whole region. There is no sense in having a UDC unless, in the Government's view, it will have a positive effect on the economy and environment of the area in which it is situated.

Under those circumstances, and especially because the UDCs are supposed to be on a short-life basis and to abolish themselves when they have achieved their immediate objectives, it is a serious defect in the proposals for unitary development plans that they can so easily be flouted by the Secretary of State. It is for that reason that we propose in Amendment No.154 that paragraph 3 of Schedule 3 should he deleted. That paragraph provides: The Secretary of State may direct that a unitary development plan—(a) shall not be prepared; or (b) shall not operate, in relation to the area of an urban development corporation". I cannot see how effective unitary development plans can be prepared if that provision for a direction by the Secretary of State appears in the Bill. I beg to move.

Baroness Blatch

I envy the noble Lord's trips to foreign parts such as Venice. I visit sewage farms and sludge factories.

The Committee may recall that in our White Paper on The Future of Development Plans, published in January 1989, we put forward the proposition that urban development areas, and other areas with special planning regimes such as enterprise zones, should be excluded from detailed development plans; that is, from unitary development plans and local plans. That proposition became known in the planning world as the "black hole" approach to development planning. It was almost universally criticised: it was pointed out that there are important planning relationships between those special areas and the areas which surround them, and neither could be properly planned for without looking at the area as a whole. Moreover, our impression was that the UDCs themselves did not on the whole favour their being wholly excluded from the development plan process.

In the light of those comments we have dropped the "black hole" approach. The normal situation will be that a development plan which includes land within an urban development area will cover that area, taking due account of the UDC's proposals for the area. We should expect close consultation between the local planning authority and the UDC, which is of course generally the development control authority for the urban development area.

Nevertheless, we believe it right to retain as a precautionary measure a power to exclude UDCs from development plans. There may exceptionally be circumstances in which that will be the sensible approach. For instance, one can envisage circumstances in which the UDC will recently have completed extensive public consultation on its own development proposals for the urban development area. If it were then an inflexible requirement of the planning legislation that the local planning authority should replicate those proposals in its development plan, and repeat the process of public consultation (to which all development plans are subjected), the result could be much time-wasting duplication of effort, and a reopening of issues which had been satisfactorily dealt with by the UDC. There may be other cases where there is conflict between the planning authority and the UDC, though such cases will, I hope, be very exceptional. Again, it may be sensible to deal with such cases by excluding the UDC's area from the local authority's plan, rather than by extensive use of the Secretary of State's power to modify the local plan or UDP. I have to say that in practice local authorities are working very closely with the UDCs. Therefore we do not see that the reserve power will need to be used at all frequently.

We have accepted that urban development areas should normally come within the scope of local plans and UDPs. Nevertheless, it is sensible to have this reserve power to deal with the kind of situations I have described, exceptional though they may be. Therefore I hope that the noble Lord will not press his amendment.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

That is an interesting reply which does not seem to bear much relation to the Bill. If the noble Baroness is saying to us that the power will only be used exceptionally, then she must be precise about the exceptional circumstances in which it will be used. She has been quite precise in her reply, but that precision is not reflected in the text of the Bill. We are told by the Minister that it would be appropriate for a UDC area to be excluded from a unitary development plan if, for example, it has already produced its own plan which has been subject to public consultation. Why does the Bill not say so?

We are told that it could be used when there is a conflict between the local authority and the urban development corporation. The Secretary of State is required to sort it out. Why does the Bill not say so? It does not.

I am not sure what the other examples are but they were intended genuinely and helpfully to be limited examples in order to show that the Government have genuinely abandoned the "black hole" approach to the planning of urban development corporations. But that is not what the amendment says. It allows the Secretary of State, for any reason that may please him, to direct that: A unitary development plan…shall not be prepared; or … shall not operate in … the area of an urban development corporation". In the light of what the Minister said, I believe that the right course is for me to take the amendment away and to propose at a later stage amendments which give effect to the Minister's speech and which will restrict the powers of the Secretary of State much more closely than the Bill does at present. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

11.30 p.m.

Viscount Astor moved Amendments Nos. 155 and 156: Page 76, line 34, at end insert: ("(2) The Secretary of State may direct that proposals for the alteration or replacement of a unitary development plan shall not be prepared in relation to the area of an urban development corporation."). Page 77, line 15, after ("by") insert ("or determined in accordance with").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham had given notice of her intention to move Amendment No. 157: Page 78, line 1, leave out ("may") and insert ("shall").

The noble Baroness said: With the consent of the Committee, I shall not move Amendment No. 157 and the related amendment, Amendment No. 212. However, at the appropriate time I wish to come back to Amendments Nos. 164, 167, 176, 177 and 192.

[Amendment No. 157 not moved.]

Viscount Astor moved Amendment No. 158: Page 78, line 6, at end insert: ("7A. In section 17(1) (direction to consider proposals) for "consider modifying" there is substituted "modify".").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Ross of Newport moved Amendment No. 159: Page 78, line 29, at end insert: ("( ) after subsection (1) there is inserted— (1A) All local planning authorities in Greater London shall, before 1st January 1993, prepare a joint unitary development plan for the whole of Greater London; such plan to be in addition to the unitary development plan prepared by each authority in respect of its own area." ").

The noble Lord said: This amendment seeks to prepare a joint unitary development plan for the whole of Greater London and to persuade all the planning authorities in Greater London to get together to prepare such a plan.

I recognise that this is a second best option. What is really needed is a strategic plan along the lines of the structure plans of the shire counties, but we do not have an overall local government body for London. I must be a little careful at this point because the former opposition leader of the GLC is sitting on the Opposition Front Bench. He, no doubt, has strong views on what should happen in London. However, there seems to be general agreement across the board that the present situation is totally unacceptable.

The lady who leads Westminster Council seems to believe that there should be a Minister for London. I believe that the present Secretary of State for the Environment seems rather in favour of an elected mayoral system. I totally support that system. I believe that we should elect mayors in our cities who have real power, rather than elect a mayor for the City of London who happens to be there as a result of his wealth and who is elected by a small number of people. I should prefer to see an elected mayor who had real power, and who was responsible to a council, looking after the wider affairs of Greater London. Unfortunately that situation does not exist. If there is a change of government at the next election, I hope that County Hall will be saved so that we can put back in there an administration that can really look after London's affairs. At the moment London's affairs are in an utter mess. As one of those who has considered the transport problems of London, I know that that is true.

However, the amendment I am moving would require all the London boroughs to come together to produce a unitary development plan for the whole of Greater London. That would be prepared by the London boroughs rather than by the joint planning committee for Greater London which I know will be established under Section 3 of the 1990 Town and Country Planning Act. That committee has no powers to prepare a plan. Furthermore, a plan of that nature would probably lead to a public inquiry so that issues concerning London as a whole could be dealt with openly. The strategic guidance given by the committee would form a useful basis for the plan and would make the process of preparing it easier and cheaper than would otherwise be the case.

I regret very much that we cannot debate this matter at greater length. We cannot do so because of the lateness of the hour. However, I believe that nearly everyone accepts that the whole situation in London is chaotic and the sooner it is put right the better. I suppose the Government will not admit that they were wrong to abolish the GLC as the overall authority for London. However, that is what the Government did. Whatever the faults of the GLC, the Government should have let the populace decide the fate of that body. We believe that in a democracy, if the populace is not satisfied with the body that is running its affairs, it should kick it out and put another body in its place. Such a body should not be abolished by a government who do not agree with the actions of that body.

We should all be proud of this city of ours, but I am not so proud of London today as I used to be although I was brought up in North London. I find the present situation sad. Nevertheless there should be some kind of development plan for the whole of Greater London. This amendment is an attempt to put that into effect. I beg to move.

Lord Renton

Although I appreciate the good intentions of the noble Lord, Lord Ross, in moving the amendment, I must confess I have some doubt as to whether within the Greater London area—that is what we are really talking about—it would be possible to get assimilation and cohesion. After all, the City of London, Richmond and Dulwich, for example, are totally different localities and we could not hope that the motives which apply to the preparation of the development plan in each of those areas could bear any relationship to what ought to happen in the others. Therefore I would be very surprised if my noble friend on the Front Bench accepted the amendment.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I, too, would be surprised if the Government accepted this amendment. I am being incited to intervene in this debate as a former opposition leader of the GLC. However, that is unnecessary as anyone who knows what has happened to London since the GLC was abolished will agree that things are conspicuously worse. That is not a party political point; it has been made by the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the CBI and everyone who is concerned with public transport and traffic in London.

Only this week it has been announced that in the past five years traffic speeds in London have declined by one mile an hour in peak periods and by two miles an hour in off-peak periods. When one is talking about traffic that is travelling at only eight, 10 or 11 miles an hour that is a very significant reduction in speed. It represents a significant increase in inconvenience for Londoners and in the costs of commerce and industry in London.

It is clear that there is no body in the country, whether central government or any other body, which has the power to make sense of London government. There is no body which has the power to make sense of the problems which London faces in terms of traffic and transport in particular and in terms of the deterioration in the condition of the housing stock, the increase in homelessness and the vast and irrational differences between boroughs in the provision of social services, education and many other aspects of public policy.

Unfortunately, with all the good will in the world, the London Planning Advisory Committee is not able to do more than give strategic planning advice which need not be adopted by the individual boroughs. I very much fear that the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Ross, does not take us much further along the road. The kind of unitary development plan he proposes for the whole of London would require consent among the boroughs and, as the noble Lord, Lord Renton, pointed out, it is most unlikely that there will ever be consent of that kind.

The only way in which we shall bring some sense back into London is to have city government in London. We shall not achieve that by half measures. I applaud the motivation and the spirit behind the noble Lord's amendment, but we need a change of government, not just an amendment to the Bill, to bring some sense back into London.

Baroness Blatch

I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Renton for his comments on the amendment. The purpose of the amendment is to raise the issue of the adequacy of strategic planning arrangements in London, but it could hardly be described as a fully articulated proposal for strategic planning in London. It conveniently sidesteps all the practical problems of how 32 London boroughs and the Common Council of the City of London would co-operate in preparing a joint plan; how political disagreements would be resolved; what arrangements would be made for public consultation and objection; and so on. It also overlooks the question of what relationship would be established between the new plan and the individual unitary development plans for each borough.

I mention those points because the reality is that a statutory plan for the whole of London would necessarily imply a strategic planning authority. We would, in effect, be re-inventing the GLC and the Greater London development plan. While that might be welcome to some noble Lords opposite I need hardly say that it is not the Government's intention. We have no intention of resurrecting planning arrangements in London which were notorious for the size of the documents produced, the time it took to produce them and the manpower those processes absorbed.

It seems to me that the arrangements for strategic planning which we now have in place in London effectively meet the concerns underlying the noble Lord's amendment in an economical and more effective manner. Undoubtedly there is a need for an overview of strategic planning issues affecting the capital: it cannot be planned on a borough-by-borough basis alone. We have strategic planning arrangements in place to ensure that that is done, and all the boroughs are involved. Through their joint planning mechanism—known as the London Planning Advisory Committee (LPAC)—they prepare advice to the Secretary of State which he then takes into account in preparing strategic guidance. That advice is regularly reviewed and new proposals are put to the Government and the local planning authorities each year through LPAC's annual monitoring reports. Additional advice on new topics is prepared as necessary.

The Government's strategic guidance for London was issued in July 1989, after wide public consultation. It now forms the framework within which each London borough is expected to prepare its own unitary development plan. Part 1 of each UDP is required to address strategic planning issues as they affect the particular borough in question.

Clearly the guidance we have issued will need to be revised and updated from time to time and to be augmented. We are currently consulting on the arrangements for protecting the strategic views of St Paul's Cathedral and the Palace of Westminster, which will form part of the strategic guidance. The mechanism that we have developed is able to cope with change without the long delays that have been the bane of other attempts at strategic planning for the capital. The Committee will not be surprised that I ask the noble Lord not to press the amendment.

11.45 p.m.

Lord Renton

Before my noble friend sits down, I wonder whether we could give a moment's further thought to the statement of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, about the movement of traffic in London. As I understand it, there are no development plans for London which would deal with that matter. That is a matter for the Secretary of State for Transport. The major roads and the ring road in London are his responsibility and the movement of traffic in and through London depends entirely upon the arrangements that he makes for it which can override any borough development plan. Is that not the position?

Baroness Blatch

My noble friend is absolutely right. This is not the time to go into the details of the investment plans and the way in which that problem is being addressed. My noble friend is absolutely right in what he says.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I think that the Minister would be well advised to avoid agreeing too much with the noble Lord, Lord Renton. If the noble Lord thinks that the problems of transportation in London can still be dealt with by more road development, he is further back in transportation history than I should have thought possible.

Surely by now it is understood, even if not by the Department of Transport, that traffic and transport problems in London will not be resolved by road building and development. They will be resolved only by the improvement of public transport in particular and certain kinds of restrictions on private transport. If that is not understood, we shall not get anywhere in improving transportation in London.

Baroness Blatch

Before the noble Lord sits down, perhaps I may say that my noble friend was suggesting that traffic management includes addressing congestion, which is not just about road development; it is about traffic management in London. I think that that was the point that he was making.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

We must not go on about this matter because it is not part of the Bill. But is it not conspicuous that in nearly five years of not having a city government in London matters have got worse and they have worsened despite the pious words uttered about the role of the Department of Transport?

The Department of Transport does not understand what is going on in London and is clearly incapable of change. The failure of central government and the Department of Transport to deal with the transportation problems of London is plain for all to see. I must say that the Minister's response to that amendment was impudent - I mean politically impudent of course and not personally impudent. She said quite rightly that it is impossible for 33 boroughs to get together and agree by assent a development plan for the whole of London. But whose responsibility is it that there are only 33 boroughs and no city government? It is the responsibility of this Government. That is why I say that we shall have to change the Government rather than change this Bill if we are to have any improvement.

Lord Ross of Newport

I must say that I am delighted that we have had this small debate. I despair about London. I cannot believe - forget all party political differences - that there are many people in this Chamber from any party who do not agree. There is no question but that London transport has deteriorated enormously since the demise of the GLC, whatever its faults. Nationalising London Transport and the London Underground was a disaster. To put them under a former Secretary of State was an even bigger disaster (although I had better shut up about that because I have been ticked off for saying that before).

The fact is that we shall not get any sense in London matters until there is an overall authority. The City must be dealt with as well. There is the ridiculous situation of the Lord Mayor of London travelling the world as if he is in charge of London. He is not. He looks after a small and very wealthy area in the overall city. I do not want to abolish the City, but it is time that we returned to the facts. There is not a worth while city in the world that does not have proper government which is able to deal with the situations that arise. The Mayor of Paris is able to take action immediately. For example, when someone says, "For goodness sake, clear the streets of dog mess", he can take on a whole load of people to clean up the town.

No one in this country can do that. The situation is absolutely hopeless. Different boroughs, such as Richmond, control individual bridges and do not co-operate with each other. In central London half a dozen bridges are closed on Sundays because there is no overall authority. That situation is daft and the sooner we put it right the better. If it means a change of government let us have a change of government. We have a Secretary of State for the Environment who believes in a directly elected mayoral system. If he can introduce that in London, God bless him and the sooner the better. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Viscount Astor moved Amendment No. 160: page 79, line 8, leave out paragraph 15.

The noble Viscount said: I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 222 and 223. These are essential drafting amendments. I beg to move.

Lord Ross of Newport

Amendment No. 160 deletes paragraph 15 of Schedule 3. The Nature Conservancy Council was worried because paragraph 15 proposed a power to make local plans available only to district planning authorities instead of to any planning authority, as is the present situation. That is covered in Section 36 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. Can I be assured that the situation within Section 36 will pertain?

Viscount Astor

The amendment deletes paragraph 15 of Schedule 3 to the Bill. It was to insert a new subsection (2) in Section 29 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, defining references to a local planning authority in the sections of the Act dealing with structure and local plans. This material is incorporated elsewhere in a revised form by Amendment No. 222. The amendment makes county planning authorities responsible for certain functions which relate to structure plans and waste local plans outside Wales and national parks. Paragraph (2) (b) would make district planning authorities responsible for local plans covering the whole of their area except in national parks.

Lord Ross of Newport

I must study that reply but I shall accept it for the moment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Viscount Astor moved Amendment No. 161: page 79, line 20, leave out ("consist or) and insert ("contain").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Nicol moved Amendment No. 162: page 79, line 22, after ("area") insert ("and adjacent tidal waters to territorial limits").

The noble Baroness said: I regret that I must move such an important amendment so late at night. There are arguments to be made but I shall keep them brief. This group of amendments is supported by the Marine Conservation Society and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. I declare an interest, in that I am a vice-president of the MCS and a member of the council of the RSPB.

The amendment seeks to establish a coastal zone management plan. In the words of the Marine Conservation Society, the aims of such a plan are to minimise the conflicts of use at the coast and to make best use of coastal resources without causing environmental problems. The jurisdiction of local planning authorities generally stops at low water, although there are a few exceptions. Beyond that point, where planning exists, it is activity related and in many cases it is evolved and implemented without any attempt at integration with other interests.

An illustration of the difficulties that can arise is provided by the experience of Lancashire County Council. I shall quote briefly from a long letter. Planning application was submitted for above ground parts of development—head works, pumping stations and so on. This is a scheme for discharge of sewage effluent into the sea. The application was submitted in 1988. That short section of the outfall out as far as the low water mark accorded with planning law as it stood then and now.

The letter states: the most significant environmental impact by far, would have occurred as a result of effluent from the end of the pipe, and its effect upon the surrounding marine and coastal areas. None of these effects could be considered as part of the planning process, because this part of the proposal was excluded from the application. This anomaly was further exaggerated by the fact that an Environmental Impact Assessment had been submitted with the planning application, which did address the impact of the effluent. But in determining the application before them, the local planning authority felt unable to take this material into account, because it did not relate to the precise subject of the application and was not a 'planning matter'". Clearly that is quite ridiculous.

On the more general picture, I know that the noble Lord, Lord Ross, will have a great deal to say about the difficulties which have occurred on special bird sites. The attempt to establish marine nature reserves has failed. Two have been designated since 1981. The procedures for designation are bureaucratic and almost unworkable. Clearly a new approach must be found.

I now turn briefly to the amendments. Amendments Nos. 162, 166 and 180 would improved the co-ordination of planning and management between the land ward and seaward sides of the coastal zone and would also ensure that planning authorities take account of activities in the territorial waters adjacent to their coasts. Amendments Nos. 183 and 185 are intended to give specific priority to physical planning for intensively used sea areas.

Amendment No. 201 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Ross, requires local authorities to prepare specific coastal zone plans. No doubt other Members of Committee will supply more evidence which supports the need for these amendments. I am aware that the Government have promised a review of the need for coastal zone planning. However, a planned review is often a euphemism for a stay on the back-burner. The need for action is becoming daily more urgent. These amendments would provide a framework. This Bill provides a rare opportunity to make progress. I beg to move.

Lord Renton

The noble Baroness has raised a very interesting but somewhat technical point. Where does land end around the island which we have the enormous advantage and pleasure of inhabiting? She has used the expression adjacent tidal waters to territorial limits". That may be right and well understood. But going back to my school-boy days I have always understood that the land ended at the high tide watermark at the mean spring tide. When the noble Baroness refers to territorial limits, that may be well understood to be coincidental with what I have described, but it will be interesting to hear the official view of this matter.

12 midnight

Lord Ross of Newport

I wish to speak to Amendment No. 201. I am sad that the matter is being dealt with at this hour. The amendment seeks to cut through the confusion by preparing a statutory basis for the strategic management and wise use of Great Britain's coastal zone. Subsection (1) places a new duty on local planning authorities to draw up coastal zone plans. Subsection (2) allows that a coastal zone plan may be prepared jointly by two or more local planning authorities. That is fundamental to the need for a special form of development plan as many of the most seriously threatened coastal areas are estuaries which form boundaries between administrative areas.

I have heard statistics mentioned in the Chamber about how many of those areas are threatened by development; it was around 100 out of 155. Of the 155 estuaries in Great Britain, four are divided by national boundaries, 20 by county or regional boundaries and 60 fall between two or more district authorities. For example, the estuary of the Welsh Dee is partly in Wales and partly in England. It is bounded by the counties of Clwyd, Cheshire and the metropolitan borough of Wirral; it includes parts of the three district council areas of Alyn and Deeside, Ellesmere Port and Neston, and Delyn. The Dee estuary requires special protection. It has been declared by Her Majesty's Government to be a protected site under the Ramsar Convention on the Conservation of Wetlands. It has also been designated as a special protection area under Article 4 of the EC Directive 79/409 on the conservation of wild birds.

Subsection (2) will encourage close liaison between neighbouring planning authorities by allowing them to produce coastal plans on a joint basis. In their zeal to simplify the planning system, the Government intend to remove Section 36(2) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. That is the only provision which could possibly facilitate co-operative statutory subject plans on estuaries bounded by more than one local planning authority. Hence there is desperate need for the amendment.

By analogy with similar provisions in the Bill for structure, local and local mineral plans, subsection (3) spells out the essence of a coastal zone plan. The definition includes particular reference to the conservation of the natural beauty and amenity of the plan area. The Committee will be aware that "natural beauty" is interpreted in the Countryside Act 1968 and its Scottish equivalent as including reference to flora and fauna. Subsection (4) is straightforward. It defines the powers of the Secretary of State to prescribe or direct certain matters to be taken into account by a planning authority in making a coastal zone plan. Subsections (5) and (6) pick up the necessary provisions as they apply to local plans and enact them as if a coastal zone plan were a local plan.

Adoption of coastal zone planning in Great Britain will provide a sound basis for the future development and wise use of our coast and marine environment. The United States has recognised the need for a statutory basis for coastal zone planning since 1972 when the US Congress passed the Coastal Zone Management Act. Coastal management in Britain will be a success only if it is given legal backing, hence the need for the new clause in the Bill.

I realise that the time is late. The Secretary of State has expressed interest in the matter, and I hope the Minister will be able to give some help in her reply.

Lord Moran

I strongly support the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol. It is essential that we should establish some broader planning protection for our coastal environment, which is under threat by a range of activities including tidal barrages, marinas, fish farming, recreation, bait digging and many other things.

From the point of view of birds, our coastlines and estuaries are of enormous importance. Every winter 2 million ducks, geese and wading birds depend on our estuaries for their survival; over 40 of the UK's estuaries each hold more than 10,000 wading birds in the winter months. All that is threatened. In practice, the establishment of SSSIs has not been an effective protection

The introduction of coastal zone planning of the sort proposed by the amendment, which will require local planning authorities to adopt a strategic approach to planning and to safeguarding the environment, will be a great step forward. The last three years of my diplomatic service were spent in Canada. The Canadians have operated coastal zone strategic planning on a statutory basis since the early 1970s. It has been highly successful in encouraging the sustainable development of coastal areas. More recently, the government department of conservation in New Zealand wrote to the RSPB asking for advice on how to encourage local authorities to manage coastal resources in a strategic fashion because its efforts had failed in the absence of detailed national policy and guidance from the government. If you look around the world - and the noble Lord, Lord Ross, mentioned the United States - the experience of other countries shows that it is necessary to have a national policy for coastal protection, and this amendment suggests exactly that. I strongly support it.

Lord Norrie

I, too, support this amendment. Our present planning system provides for a strategic overview through county structural plans, unitary development plans and local subject plans. Unfortunately, this strategic approach to land use ends at the foreshore, where a piecemeal hotchpotch approach takes over. For example, shipping and harbour matters fall under the Department of Transport; sand and gravel extraction are under the Department of the Environment; oil and gas exploration are under the Department of Energy; fisheries are under MAFF, and so on. In addition, there are various statutory and public bodies involved, including harbour authorities, the Nature Conservancy Council, local tourist boards, the Countryside Commission and sea fisheries committees, to name but a few. Add to that landowners and voluntary conservation bodies, and strategic planning of the coastal zone without an integrated approach becomes a confused nightmare.

An integrated approach is therefore required. This amendment proposes the preparation of statutory coastal zone plans by local authorities. This is only one part of a wide scope of initiatives that would be required. In addition to coastal zone plans, Britain should have a national coastal strategy.

The conservation movement and the public at large are waiting for the Government to signal their commitment to marine conservation with tougher action over activities affecting the environment of our seas and coastline. Acceptance of this amendment would be a major step in promoting the sustainable use of our coastal fringe and setting an example for other nations to follow. I, too, commend the amendment to the Committee.

Lord Renton

We should not omit from this discussion a tribute to the National Trust for the wonderful work which it has done in acquiring various parts of our coastline and appealing for funds in order to preserve it. I am sure that noble Lords will wish that to be put on record.

Baroness Blatch

If I may deal first with the specific question of my noble friend about the limits of the planning control areas, may I say that it normally ends at the low water mark but there are certain cases in certain estuaries, for example—

Lord Renton

I said high water mark.

Baroness Blatch

I am saying low water mark. We are not dismissive of the issues underlying these amendments—far from it. We accept that the scale and multiplicity of the demands being made on our coastal zones raise major and complex planning issues which need attention.

There is the general pressure for development in coastal areas which is particularly acute in our southern and south-western counties. But there are many other factors as well. On the landward side there is the need to protect the beauty of the remaining unspoilt coastline, among the most beautiful in Europe; the need to make adequate provision for increasing recreational demands—for instance, for marinas and other boating facilities; and the need to take precautions against the threat of sea-level rise which may be one of the consequences of global warming.

Below the high water mark, and particularly in congested inshore waters, there are potential conflicts between some of the many uses we make of the sea: recreational and commercial marine activities; the need to tackle pollution and protect the marine environment; and, at the same time, the need to make sensible use of the considerable mineral resources in the sea bed.

We recognised the importance of coastal issues in our recent White Paper on the environment. We acknowledged that valuable action is already being taken; for instance, by the Countryside Commission through its heritage coast designations, and by the National Trust through the Enterprise Neptune campaign. We also recognised the need to conserve wildlife habitats, both on shore and out to sea; and we set out a timetable for action to achieve major reductions in sewage pollution of bathing beaches, and to implement the comprehensive package of measures to reduce pollution of the sea which we have agreed at the North Sea Conference and in other international fora.

So we are far from complacent on this issue. Nevertheless, I do not believe that the approach to coastal zone planning proposed in these amendments is the right way forward, for the following reasons. First, we do not accept the need for separate coastal zone plans. Planning policies for the coast can, of course, be incorporated in structure and local plans as appropriate—we hope they will be. Separate plans would tend to destroy the clarity of the framework that we are aiming for in this Bill. They would, in effect, reintroduce the notion of the "subject" plan, dealing separately with a specific topic. But if there is to be a subject plan for the coast, why not for other topics too—for the countryside perhaps; or for the Green Belt; or for heritage policy? There is in our view a great deal to be said for sticking to a clear and simple planning framework—structure and local plans, supplemented only by minerals and waste plans. The particular need for separate plans for minerals and waste disposal is of course the fact that the county, not the district, is the development control authority for those functions, save for non-mineral waste matters in Wales.

Secondly, the extension of development plans to territorial limits—that is 12 miles out to sea—would only make sense if there were a similar extension in the scope of planning controls, and we have no plans to do that: there are separate mechanisms already in place. The issues raised by development and other activities beyond the coastline are different in kind from those with which the normal local planning department is concerned; the necessary expertise would be lacking. Moreover, how would extended planning controls relate to the existing responsibilities of other bodies —for instance, for navigation and for management of the sea bed? In this connection, it is worth noting that the sea itself has no owner. Some developments below high water mark may be authorised by Private Bills. The Government have announced that they support the amendment of Standing Orders to require environmental assessment in appropriate cases, in line with the recommendation of the Joint Select Committee on Private Bill Procedures.

On one point I can reassure the noble Baroness. One of her amendments would require structure plan authorities to have regard to activities taking place in adjacent coastal waters. To the extent that such activities raise genuine land use issues, I can confirm that authorities can and should take account of them. Moreover, if in a particular case there were failure to do so, the Secretary of State would have power to direct that the matter should be taken into account. On this point, therefore, any amendment of the Bill is unnecessary.

I am not by any means arguing for inactivity on coastal planning issues. As I have said, there are important issues to be addressed. To the extent that these are issues of land use, they can be addressed through structure and local plans. We are giving thought to the preparation of new planning policy guidance on coastal planning issues, and I hope that we shall be in a position to publish draft guidance for consultation before the end of the year. We are also considering, with MAFF and the National Rivers Authority, whether existing guidance to planning authorities on flood risk and coastal protection needs to be updated and expanded.

We shall be looking at the wider issues too. Later this year we shall be commissioning research to clarify the main issues for consideration. My department is also playing an active part in a working group convened by the European Commission, which is reviewing coastal zone issues in the broader context of European environmental policy generally. We are therefore taking action on a number of fronts. But this is a very complex topic, which needs careful study before we decide on the case for legislative change and the form any change should take. The changes proposed by these amendments would be premature. I therefore hope that the noble Baroness will not press her amendment.

Baroness Nicol

I should like to develop a little the answer that the noble Baroness gave to the noble Lord, Lord Renton. I do not think he quite realised what a can of worms he was opening when he asked about territorial limits. I can tell him that the jurisdiction of the local planning authority, as the noble Baroness said, stops at low water. But then we come to sea fisheries committees whose jurisdiction extends for three miles; the National Rivers Authority water quality extends for three miles; the National Rivers Authority salmon fisheries extends for six miles; and the Nature Conservancy Council extends for three miles. I shall not go on, but there is a long list of the different jurisdictions which affect what is happening around our coasts.

I find it difficult to accept the statement of the noble Baroness that this is just like any problem on land: it is not. The problems of the sea coast are quite different, and it only needs a little reflection to realise that. As I said in my introduction, I feel that a promised review is an excuse for putting it on the back burner. However, the noble Baroness gave me a long and full answer and I should like time to consider it. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Blatch

Before the noble Baroness withdraws the amendment, let me say that if she believes that I implied that this was simple and that the issues involved were just like land issues, she misinterpreted what I was saying. I said that they were complex and different from land issues. In my view we should get away from purely subject plans and there should be proper co-ordination. Indeed, the point that the noble Baroness has just made highlights and emphasises the need for co-ordination in such planning.

Lord Renton

In this schedule we are dealing with the development plans of local authorities. That is quite a different responsibility from that of the other bodies which the noble Baroness has mentioned.

Baroness Nicol

That is the whole point of these amendments. The present use of the coast is activity related and we feel that it should not be. We feel that there should be an overall plan. I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her extra explanation. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Viscount Astor

I beg to move that the House do now resume.

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

House resumed.