HL Deb 18 July 1994 vol 557 cc126-32

9.8 p.m.

Read a third time.

Clause 67 [Power to contract for police]:

Lord Howie of Troon moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 53, leave out lines 45 to 50.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a small amendment which seeks to leave a subsection out of the Bill as drafted. The reason for it is quite simple. The subsection as drafted in the Bill defines the limits within which transport police may act as constables. When the Bill was drafted that definition was necessary but it no longer is. The provision has been overtaken by the Transport Police (Jurisdiction) Act 1994 which deals with the matter. Consequently, the subsection is no longer needed. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 82 [Planning permission]:

Baroness Nicol moved Amendment No. 2:

Page 58, line 24, leave out ("subsection (2)") and insert ("subsections (2) and (4)").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, with your Lordships' permission I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 together. The purpose of these amendments in my name is to give effect to undertakings given by the promoters during proceedings in another place that they would not seek to take advantage of the deemed planning permission given to the park-and-ride site under Clause 82 of the Bill. Assurances were given that in due course the undertakers would apply to the county council for planning permission and the county council would have discretion to grant temporary or permanent permission and to impose conditions.

The proposed park-and-ride site in connection with the light rapid transit system comprises some seven acres of the forest recreation ground. It is important that before the car park goes ahead consideration should be given to its impact on the provision of other public transport which could be undermined by the existence of the park-and-ride in this particular location. Consideration should also be given to whether the site, if developed for park-and-ride, could be made suitable and available for public recreation outside the normal working and shopping hours when it would mainly be in use in connection with the light rapid transit route.

I am extremely grateful to the Open Spaces Society for drawing my attention to the proposal which— however valuable the light rapid transit route may be, and I agree that it is valuable—constitutes yet another nibbling away at our diminishing supply of public open space. It is important therefore that as much as possible should be done to limit the impact, and this can best be achieved in the context of a planning application at the appropriate time.

Because it may be some years before this part of the scheme goes ahead, it is important that the requirement for a planning application should be made clear at this stage. The undertakings were, I am sure, made in good faith but they are recorded in an obscure part of the proceedings and could easily be forgotten or overlooked some years hence. At that point even the personnel dealing with the development may have changed. It is therefore important that these undertakings should be put on the face of the Bill in the form of the amendments which I propose. I therefore hope that the noble Lord, Lord Howie, will see the value of the amendments and will be prepared to accept them.

It has been suggested to me that accepting these amendments may delay the Bill further. But, as we have just heard, the noble Lord himself has proposed an amendment and that will have to go to the Commons. I believe that there were other amendments made in Committee which will also need to be approved by the Commons. Therefore there is no question of my amendments holding up the Bill and I hope that they will be accepted. I beg to move.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

My Lords, I have only a few words to say. My noble friend Lady Nicol said that the undertakings were given by the proposers. I would like to know whether these have been honoured in letter as well as in spirit. That is rather important because people or groups tend to promise all sorts of things and part of our duty consists in ensuring that the promises are firmed up. On the other hand, I have a slight worry as regards whether an area that was laid aside for park-and-ride should be available for other people outside the times it is used for park-and-ride. I believe that the provision is a wee bit too vague and I would like it to be tightened up considerably. When does an area cease to be needed as a park-and-ride area? Is that six o'clock, seven o'clock, or eight o'clock at night, or is it seven o'clock in the morning? I believe that that matter must be looked at and I hope that the Minister will deal with that.

The only other worry I have concerns the difficult problem of nibbling away at open space. I believe that those were the words that my noble friend Lady Nicol used. However, to a certain extent, if one does not nibble away at the open space on the periphery of a conurbation, one will nibble away at the open space right in the centre of the conurbation and destroy the whole concept of park-and-ride. I hope to receive a satisfying answer to those points. I fully support my noble friend Lady Nicol in her endeavours to tighten up this particular aspect of the Bill.

9.15 p.m.

Lord Howie of Troon

My Lords, Clause 82, as drafted, is in accordance with the normal manner of dealing with planning matters in Private Bills. The promoters have followed the usual procedures which have been used hitherto.

This specific problem was considered in Committee in both Houses. This is an attempt to reopen a matter which was rejected in Committee in both Houses after careful consideration of the representations made by the Open Spaces Society and others.

My noble friend Lady Nicol says that the assurance given in Committee was inadequate and obscure. The promoters are content for the assurance to be repeated on their behalf.

Baroness Nicol

My Lords, I did not suggest that the assurances were obscure but that the place in which they are recorded is obscure.

Lord Howie of Troon

My Lords, I am happy to accept that correction. The place in which they are found is the Minutes of the Proceedings, and they may not be readily available to everybody. Accepting that point, the promoters are content for their assurances to be repeated on their behalf during this Third Reading debate, which will be more readily accessible to anyone who is concerned with these matters. In that way it will appear on the record.

I have been asked to make it quite clear that the promoters regard this and other undertakings given to Parliament during the proceedings of the Bill as being of the utmost importance. There is no danger of them being overlooked. Moreover, the promoters regard the undertakings as binding on them.

The current local plan predates the proposal for the light railway and makes no mention of the matters which are under discussion now. However, a new citywide local plan is now out in draft form for public consultation. It is expected that following the formal deposit and public objection stages and any local plan inquiry it will be adopted in 1996. The inquiry and discussions on the plan will of course deal with the matters which my noble friend Lady Nicol has raised.

The new subsection proposed for inclusion in the clause states that the development for which planning permission is granted in accordance with subsection (3) shall not include the car park in the forest. I am told that the drafting of the amendment is defective and rests on a misinterpretation of the clause. Planning permission for the works will not be granted by Clause 82 but by the general development order which states that development authorised by Private Acts is permitted development. The purpose of Clause 82 is to impose a 10-year time limit on the permitted development.

As I have already said, similar provisions to Clause 82 have been included in all recent Private Acts authorising light railway systems and railways, and are to be found in most recent Acts authorising public works.

I hope that my noble friend will be satisfied with an assurance given on the record, to be recorded in Hansard, in the following words. If the Bill becomes law, the promoters will not take advantage of the permitted development rights given by the Bill and the general development order to establish a park-and-ride site in the forest recreation ground, but instead will seek planning permission for the site so that consideration may be given to the attachment of appropriate conditions to any permission which is granted.

I hope that my noble friend takes note of the words "the attachment of appropriate conditions", which I hope will satisfy her. I hope with that assurance on the record, she will feel able to withdraw her amendments.

Viscount Goschen

My Lords, I wish to make a few brief remarks. First, it may be helpful if I inform the House that the Government have examined the Bill and raised no objection to it.

Secondly, with regard to the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, we believe that Clause 82 as it stands is acceptable. Provisions very similar to Clause 82 have been included in almost all other recent Acts authorising public works. Clause 82 is therefore well precedented.

In any event, it seems that the proposed amendments, as the noble Lord, Lord Howie, has already submitted, are unnecessary, since the promoters have already stated in Committee that, notwithstanding the provisions in the Bill, a planning application will be made in respect of the park-and-ride site which is the subject of the proposed amendments.

Bearing in mind the assurance that has been given, and repeated and restated by the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, this evening, I suggest to your Lordships that the amendments are unnecessary.

Baroness Nicol

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister. I am grateful, too, to my noble friend Lord Howie for the clear assurance that he has given. Of course, it does not have the same force as having the provision on the face of the Bill. However, I believe that if it came to any inquiry about future developments, due weight would be given to the clear assurance that will now appear on the record. I therefore beg leave to withdraw Amendment No. 2.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 3 not moved. ]

Lord Howie of Troon

My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill do now pass. I shall speak briefly at this late hour. The light railway is proposed to run from the centre of Nottingham to the nearby town of Hucknall, about 13 kilometres away. The proposal has been widely accepted in the area by most organisations. It is true that there have been objections. However, most of the objections have been met and the promoters have made a substantial number of undertakings, all of which they regard as very serious.

The reason for the proposed light railway is simple. It is to relieve traffic in Nottingham and, by relieving traffic, to increase the opportunities for economic development in that city.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Lord Howie of Troon.)

Lord Sefton of Garston

My Lords, I, too, am concerned about the Bill and about some of the objections raised. I feel that I am being a little unfair. Today was the first time that I saw the amendments. I have evidently lost the opportunity to put down amendments which would have suited my anxieties, and those of many residents of Nottingham, about the Bill.

Perhaps I may explain the direction of the intended route. It starts in the city centre. Anxieties were expressed in Committee. I appreciate that the majority of Members present were not on the committee and therefore the story that I tell will be new to them. The line starts in the centre of Nottingham. A point which has worried me and the people of Nottingham is that the area at the start of the line is so congested that the speed of the vehicle will have to be restricted. That sounds all right, but we have just had an example of how high technology can fail with computerised braking systems that cannot work even on a new construction on Blackpool pleasure beach.

The vehicle then moves out of the area in question and goes through one where the streets are so narrow that it has to go north through a shopping area and return through a residential area. That residential area has been subject to traffic calming measures over a long period. Evidently there is a problem from traffic. The railway will be a new form of traffic in the area. The calming measures will not be as effective because a railway line will be laid down through the shopping area. That was the subject of very extensive spending by Nottingham County Council before the railway was planned. There is a grave danger of two things happening: first, the congestion will be fairly heavy; secondly, that shopping area may go altogether.

The line goes north of the city to Hucknall and adjacent is a nice piece of land which will be ripe for development. I was assured both in Committee and in Nottingham itself that there was no question of it being developed as an alternative shopping area to the one that I mentioned. I do not believe that. I believe that economic pressures will be such that it will be developed as a shopping area and all the expenditure of money in the suburb will be wasted. It will decline still further and the area which Nottingham has been trying to build up will be ruined. Efforts will have been in vain.

The third point of anxiety is that just north of that area there is a newly developed housing estate—that is, new in comparison with the rest. Cutting through the estate was an old commercial railway line that served the colliery in the north. It was a narrow one. The proposal is to run the new railway line between two rows of houses adjoining, and in some cases about 10 feet away from, the back gardens of those new houses. Naturally that is a cause for concern to the residents.

There are other proposals in the Bill, and I believe that what is happening in Nottingham is that someone has fallen for the new-fangled fashion of introducing trams again. Economic and political pressures are being exerted in order to get things through. Some of the objections were raised by individuals, and entirely through my own fault I am now out of time as regards moving any amendments. So my only chance to air these points is to say what I have done in this Chamber and then suggest that perhaps a better way to decide whether the people of Nottingham want the railway, the light rapid transit system, is to propose that they themselves should examine it. Here I rest in the knowledge that this is the last Bill to be considered under the present system. So the situation will be that if we do not pass the Bill, it will go back under a completely new procedure to the people of Nottingham.

I speak tonight because I recognise the anxiety of the people in Nottingham who are worried about the problems that I have just outlined. They are worried about how long it will be before the rapid transit railway is built, with the consequent blight that will be visited upon them. If we say no to the Bill, it will go back to Nottingham, which in my opinion is the proper place for it to be considered.

Lord Howie of Troon

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Sefton for his observations on the Bill. He was a member of the committee and knows the situation thoroughly. He will, of course, be aware that most of the matters which he raises now were discussed in the committees of both Houses. They were accepted by both committees, who thought that the Bill should go ahead.

My noble friend raised a number of matters of detail. It is not uncommon for a double track railway to be split if the geographic circumstances demand that it should be split. It is very similar to a dual carriageway on the road. Dual carriageways are sometimes separated—and sometimes by quite substantial areas. That is all that is happening in this case; the twin tracks are being separated for the convenience of running and to make the railway possible. There is nothing unusual or abnormal in that.

What strikes me most is that, as I understand it— and, unlike my noble friend, I was not present on the committee —there was very substantial local consultation about the proposal for this railway, and the results of that consultation indicated general approval. There were of course objections. It would be absolutely astonishing if there were none. But the promoters have gone to very considerable lengths to meet those objections. I hope that the House will pass the Bill.

Bill passed, and returned to the Commons with amendments.