HL Deb 26 April 2004 vol 660 cc574-82

3 Page 1, line 11, at end insert— (3A) The RSS must include sub-regional plans for all parts of the region in accordance with geographical boundaries defined by the RPB. (3B) The sub-regional plans referred to in subsection (3A) shall be prepared by the authorities falling within section 4(1) if their area or any part of their area is in the defined sub-region. The Commons disagree to this amendment for the following reason —

3A Because it is not appropriate to create more than one tier of regional spatial strategy.

Lord Rooker

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do not insist on its Amendment No. 3 to which the Commons have disagreed for their reason numbered 3A.

The amendment would require the regional spatial strategy to include sub-regional plans for all parts of the region and for these to be prepared by such county councils, metropolitan district councils, unitary authorities and national park authorities if their area or any part of it is covered by the sub-region. We are not clear why the noble Baroness is pursuing the issue when the Local Government Association and the county council network are committed to working within the new strategic planning arrangements. Well, that is what is written down here, but I might redraft it for the next stage. No doubt I will hear about it when the other amendment is spoken to.

The regional spatial strategies will contain a new emphasis on sub-regions. I fully accept what was said at the end of the previous debate when I gave three examples to the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford. What I described in them is happening now, so I cannot claim what will happen if the Bill is passed.

Under the present arrangements with the regional assemblies, the regional planning bodies, a new regime, which are not exclusively elected, the action is already taking place. That regime will carry across, so a new culture of planning is enabling the sub-regional work in the three examples I gave now to take place. It was not taking place prior to the regional assemblies being the regional planning bodies.

The regional spatial strategies will contain a new emphasis on sub-regions. As draft planning policy statement 11 makes clear, where sub-regional strategies are being drawn up, we would expect those authorities with strategic planning expertise in the area to take the lead on or participate in that work. We expect the sub-regional strategies with a distinct set of policies for parts of the region to be the exception and not the rule. Those sub-regional strategies will form an integral part of the regional spatial strategy.

We cannot afford to see a proliferation of plans under the guise of sub-regional strategies. That is not the plan; and nor would it make sense because they would be fully integrated and would serve only to create confusion and uncertainty for the community, local planning authorities and developers. That is one of the problems with our existing planning system. We do not accept that a two-tier planning system will leave us with an unbridgeable gap between regional and local plans.

Where we would otherwise be faced with a strategic policy deficit, sub-regional strategies will be prepared to deal with the specific growth or regenerational needs of an area, for example. Indeed, the three-tier plan system, constrained as it has been by administrative boundaries, has sometimes failed to tackle sub-regional issues which are now for the first time beginning to be looked at in the revision of the regional plans. I mention the three-city area of Nottingham, Leicester and Derby of the east Midlands as one example.

Another example I can give, because I have dealt with it, is the separate sub-regional strategy documents being prepared in relation to the Milton Keynes/south Midlands, growth area and in due course the Thames Gateway. Where sub-regions cross regional boundaries—and the Milton Keynes/south Midlands growth area is an obvious example—it makes sense to have a separate sub-regional strategy document. But we must remember that the Milton Keynes/south Midlands sub-regional strategy is prepared by three regional planning bodies affected and will be adopted as alterations to their three regional spatial strategies. In the Thames Gateway, a non-statutory sub-regional framework is being prepared, but this reflects the unique circumstances of the sub-region rather than providing a model for other regions. I would not dream of saying that it should be a model.

We need a system with strong regional plans that includes sub-regional strategies where necessary. We need to involve authorities with strategic planning expertise closely in their preparation. That is what the new system is supposed to achieve—the one we proposed in the Bill with the amendments and with a strong role for county councils. A statutory layer of sub-regional plans, which is envisaged in the other amendment, will simply mean that the system becomes bogged down again by too many plans which are too often out of date and out of line with each other. I repeat what I said at the end of the previous debate—there will be an argument about who owns the plans. It will not be clear to the public and it will benefit no one. I commend the Motion.

Moved, That the House do not insist in its Amendment No. 3 to which the Commons have disagreed for their reason numbered 3A.—(Lord Rooker.)

Lord Hanningfield

rose to move Amendment No. 3B, as an amendment to the Motion that the House do not insist on its Amendment No. 3 to which the Commons have disagreed for their reason numbered 3A, leave out "not".

The noble Lord said

My Lords, I hear and thank the Minister for what he has said and we thank the Government for the discussions and the concessions that have been made. Many of those were a result of our discussions in this House. I feel strongly about the amendment and I shall go into the reasons why. Throughout the Bill, I have felt that the Government have got it wrong.

I accept, as do Members on these Benches, that the Government will have a new planning system and ultimately new spatial strategies. Indeed, we are working on them in the eastern region. I am a Member of this House and, as everyone knows, I am the leader of a large local authority. As such. I like to make things happen. As a Member of this House, I am debating legislation, which is different, but locally I am an action man. I sincerely believe that my amendment is more likely to make things happen than the Government's system of enormous regional spatial strategies and a local council delivery plan in most of the country through the counties and districts.

I will go so far as to say that if we do not look at the provision again, we shall be able to say, "We told you so". The previous Minister for local government, Hilary Armstrong, wanted a standards board but I argued that it was better to act locally. The Government have reverted to that idea. We made the same point in respect of best value, for instance, and the Government have accepted our suggestion that the procedure should not be so complicated. I am now moving an amendment which will help the Government to deliver what they want to deliver.

My county is in the midst of a great deal of development and we are working in conjunction with that—no one has said that it will work independently. The noble Lord, Lord Rooker, referred to Milton Keynes, which is my example of the Government creating a precedent. They are looking at a sub-regional spatial strategy which will take over the regional spatial strategies.

Turning to my own county again, we have the M11 corridor, which is obviously very dear to the Government in development policies. We have the A 12 corridor, along which tens of thousands of houses and businesses are still being built. We have the Haven Gateway, which, in conjunction with parts of Suffolk, we hope will regenerate a deprived part of the eastern region. We also have the Thames Gateway, in which I am very much involved. That work is already going on at a sub-regional level. It cannot be done by a vast regional hoard. I have quoted statistics about the south-east on previous occasions. The south-east region is bigger than Austria. The eastern region is bigger than several European countries. My own county is bigger than four countries that are just about to join the European Union.

I know a lot about European and American systems. I have studied local government and planning systems in both those continents. No other country would create a body that is so vast and approach matters from that end. I know that it is not going to work. I have been an action person in local government for 34 years and I know what works and what does not. I am helping in Basildon, where we are taking an initiative. I believe in the regeneration of Basildon. We are investing £20 million of county council money in it. If the county council is taken out of the equation, it will not help with the regeneration of Basildon because it will not be involved in it.

The Government are shooting themselves in the foot by not looking at the matter again. It is all very well to sit in offices in Whitehall and think that it might work. I know how it can work on the ground and I am suggesting ways of making it do so; that is, by making sub-regional spatial strategies part of the regional spatial strategy, involving local members at local levels and often putting money and resources into it. We have a superb person in Essex County Council who is helping to redesign Basildon. We are loaning him to Basildon. That kind of initiative will just not happen under the Government's legislation. The noble Lord, Lord Bassam, will know what I am talking about, because he has been the leader of a local authority as well. If we are to have a new system, let us make it work.

I hope that the Government will think again about the amendment because it is important that we develop sub-regional plans to complement the regional plan, given the size of the regions in question. I beg to move.

Moved, as an amendment to the Motion that the House do not insist on its Amendment No.3 to which the Commons have disagreed for their reason numbered 3A, leave out "not".—(Lord Hanningfield.)

4 p.m.

Baroness Hamwee

My Lords, the formal reason that has been given for the Commons' disagreement to the original amendment is: Because it is not appropriate to create more than one tier of regional spatial strategy". The amendment would not do that. It would create not another regional spatial strategy, but a sub-regional one. I do not need to repeat all the good examples that have been provided by both sides of the House of the importance of partnership and of working across boundaries.

I noted how keen the Government themselves were on a sub-regional approach in, among other things, sustainable communities work. The Government recognised the need for action at a sub-regional level. Sub-regions come in a number of shapes and sizes, so it must be important for the regional spatial strategy to be transparent in identifying and explaining its relationship with the sub-regions.

Reference was again made to the Local Government Association and the County Councils Network. We on these Benches often agree with their views and aims, but we do not regard ourselves as their delegates. We regard ourselves as legislators as part of Parliament. We are not at their or anybody's beck and call. Although we often support them in their aims, our position is quite distinct. It is important to put that on the record in light of some comments that have been made. We support the amendment.

Lord Rooker

My Lords, the noble Baroness can put all she likes on the record about those two organisations. I stand by everything that I have said.

I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, said about Basildon and what Essex County Council is doing there. That is absolutely right. I raised the example of Milton Keynes myself. It is a question of horses for courses. Part of the problem with the amendment is that it would require sub-regional spatial strategies for all parts of the region. In some ways, we need a horses-for-courses approach. Where a need is perceived, we should go ahead with a sub-regional strategy. It may be that local authority boundaries cross over regional boundaries—that is part of the problem in a way. It is important that we are able to do that; otherwise, we would be bound by lines on a map, which would be ridiculous. Co-operation is taking place now in sub-regional work, but the results are more difficult to deliver than they should be. That is because when sub-regions become part of regional planning guidance, they are not part of the development plan. To become so, they must first be incorporated into the structure plans and then into local plans. That takes a lot of time. Until the process is complete, the results lack clarity.

The noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, quoted various examples of areas that are sub-regions, but that are not necessarily coterminous with local government boundaries. Under the system that we are proposing in the Bill and in all the guidance that would flow from it, where sub-regional strategies are necessary or beneficial—for that is clearly what we want—they will be prepared as part of the regional spatial strategy. There will be no need for that to be done in a convoluted fashion as it is now. We are not against sub-regional strategies. I hope that I have made that absolutely clear. That is self-evident from the way in which we are implementing the sustainable communities plan in the Milton Keynes and south Midlands areas, as well as in the Peterborough-Cambridge-Stansted-London corridor, which has grown slightly since we extended it. Those areas cross over many local authorities and some issues necessitate sub-regional strategies. Nobody is denying that. Our objection is to the idea that we should cover the whole country with sub-regional strategies. Surely they should occur only where there is a perceived need for a sub-regional strategy, based on history or whatever is proposed. It may not necessarily be based on history. At the moment, sub-regional strategies are being formed because of what the Government are proposing through the communities plan. There would have been no need for the sub-regional strategy in Milton Keynes and the south Midlands, for example, if it were not for the proposals in the communities plan. Therefore, where there is a perceived need for a sub-regional strategy, one should go ahead and do it, but the idea that every square inch of England should be covered by a sub-regional strategy makes no sense.

Lord Hanningfield

My Lords, obviously, some sub-regional spatial strategies would be very active; others would require more time. Due to the communities plan and other initiatives in the eastern region—Stansted airport, for example—the whole of that region requires a sub-regional spatial strategy at this moment.

I repeat that nobody wants ultimately to deny the Government their regional spatial strategies. The sub-regional spatial strategies are a component of them and work in conjunction with them, as the Government have just admitted in the case of Milton Keynes. They would work in conjunction with regional spatial strategies. I repeat that I want to see a system that works for the benefit of our communities that we represent. Essex has 12 district councils. They get on better with the county council than with each other. If anyone is going to make something happen, it has be the county council acting in co-operation with two or three district councils. I am there and I know how that works. Unfortunately, it does not work in an office in Whitehall as it works at local level. If the Government want to make the system work on the ground, they should pay heed to what I am suggesting. If the Bill were passed as the Government require, we would be back at it from a sub-regional angle before we know where we are. That is the only way in which places can be designed and developed and in which the support of local people can be won. If somebody is deciding what will happen from a remote office, without the real involvement of local politicians, the system will just not work.

Lord Rooker

My Lords, this is important. The noble Lord is the leader of a very important local authority. I assure him from personal experience that in none of the places where we are undertaking the communities plan process are we ignoring the local elected politicians—far from it; we are bending over backwards to work in partnership with them. They are the key partnership players in every area, even if the delivery vehicle which we are proposing is statutory in some areas. In other areas, the vehicle is led by the local authority. We are seeking such agreement for horses for courses to ensure that we get the correct delivery vehicle that fits the need for those areas.

So in no way are we seeking to ignore local politicians. There is plenty of evidence of that everywhere I go. Last week I visited both Hertfordshire and parts of Essex, listening to people with different perspectives and from different parties. I listened to those in power—those with whom we are doing business—and to others who represent the community, including those from the local strategic partnership. However, nowhere are we ignoring local elected politicians. They are the key players and key partners. In one growth area the local authority—and in another, the local authorities—is setting up and will be driving the delivery vehicle for that area's communities plan. I would not want the noble Lord to think that we are ignoring or do not want to work with local government; far from it.

Lord Hanningfield

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that. I know that he is making visits and that various people are pleased to see him and to talk about development problems. I am saying that the approach to these issues has to be sustainable. These issues are not just items on paper to be addressed when the Minister visits; people need to be involved in them, particularly if they involve large amounts of housing or development. We have debated this issue at length and we should ask the view of the House on it.

4.12 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 3B) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 132; Not-Contents, 116.

Division No. 2
Addington, L. MacGregor of Pulham Market, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V.
Ampthill, L. McNally, L.
Anelay of St Johns, B. Maddock, B.
Astor of Hever, L. Marlesford, L.
Avebury, L. Mayhew of Twysden, L.
Barker, B. Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Miller of Hendon, B.
Biffen, L. Monro of Langholm, L.
Blaker, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Blatch, B. Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Bowness, L. Naseby, L.
Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, L. Newby, L.
Noakes, B.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Northesk, E.
Caithness, E. Northover, B.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Norton of Louth, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B. O'Cathain, B.
Chorley, L. Pearson of Rannoch, L.
Clement-Jones, L. Peel, E.
Cockfield, L. Perry of Southwark, B.
Colwyn, L. Phillips of Sudbury, L.
Cope of Berkeley, L. [Teller] Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.
Courtown, E.
Cumberlege, B. Prior, L.
Dahrendorf, L. Reay, L.
Dean of Harptree, L. Redesdale, L.
Denham, L. Rees, L.
Dholakia, L. Roberts of Conwy, L.
Dixon-Smith, L. Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Eden of Winton, L. Roper, L.
Elles, B. Rotherwick, L.
Elton, L. Russell, E.
Ezra, L. St John of Fawsley, L.
Falkland, V. Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Fearn, L. Sandberg, L.
Flather, B. Sanderson of Bowden, L.
Fowler, L.
Freeman, L Scott of Needham Market, B.
Gardner of Parkes, B. Seccombe, B. [Teller]
Geddes, L. Selborne, E.
Gilmour of Craigmillar, L. Sharp of Guildford, B.
Glentoran, L. Shaw of Northstead, L.
Goodhart, L. Shutt of Greetland, L.
Gray of Contin, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Hamwee. B. Smith of Clifton, L.
Hanham. B. Stewartby, L.
Hanningfield, L. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Harris of Richmond, B. Strathclyde, L.
Henley, L. Swinfen, L.
Higgins, L. Taverne, L.
Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, L. Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Home, E. Tope, L.
Howe, E. Tordoff, L.
Howe of Aberavon, L. Trefgarne, L.
Howe of Idlicote, B. Trumpington, B.
Howell of Guildford, L. Tugendhat, L.
Hunt of Wirral, L. Waddington, L.
Jenkin of Roding, L. Wakeham, L.
Jopling,, L. Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Kimball, L. Walmsley, B.
Kingsland, L. Walpole, L.
Laing of Dunphail, L. Warnock, B.
Lamont of Lerwick, L. Wilcox, B.
Lang of Monkton, L. Williams of Crosby, B.
Liverpool, E. Williamson of Horton, L.
Ludford, B. Windlesham, L.
McColl of Dulwich, L. Wolfson, L.
Acton, L. Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Ahmed, L. Hogg of Cumbernauld, L.
Alton of Liverpool, L. Hollis of Heigham, B.
Amos, B. (Lord President of the Council) Howarth of Breckland, B.
Howells of St. Davids, B.
Andrews, B. Howie of Troon, L.
Archer of Sandwell, L. Hoyle, L.
Ashton of Upholland, B. Hughes of Woodside, L.
Barnett, L. Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L. Irvine of Lairg, L.
Berkeley, L. Jones, L.
Blackstone, B. Jordan, L.
Blood, B. King of West Bromwich, L.
Boothroyd, B. Lea of Crondall, L.
Borrie, L. Lipsey, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L. Lockwood, B.
Brookman, L. Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L. Macdonald of Tradeston, L.
Campbell-Savours, L. McIntosh of Haringey, L.
Carter, L. McIntosh of Hudnall, B.
Chester, Bp. Marsh, L.
Christopher, L. Mason of Barnsley, L.
Clark of Windermere, L. Massey of Darwen. B.
Clarke of Hampstead, L. Merlyn-Rees, L.
Clinton-Davis, L. Mitchell, L.
Cohen of Pimlico, B. Morris of Aberavon, L.
Corbett of Castle Vale, L. Morris of Manchester, L.
Crawley, B. Nicol, B.
David, B. Orme, L.
Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B. Ouseley, L.
Desai, L. Pendry, L.
Dixon, L. Peston, L.
Dubs, L. Plant of Highfield, L.
Elder, L. Puttnam, L.
Evans of Parkside, L. Rendell of Babergh, B.
Evans of Temple Guiting, L. Richard. L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L. (Lord Chancellor) Rooker, L.
Sainsbury of Turville, L
Farrington of Ribbleton, B. Scotland of Asthal, B.
Faulkner of Worcester, L. Sheldon, L.
Filkin, L. Simon, V.
Fitt, L. Slim, V.
Fyfe of Fairfield, L. Stallard, L.
Gale, B. Strabolgi, L.
Gavron, L. Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Gibson of Market Rasen, B. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Golding, B. Temple-Morris, L.
Goldsmith, L. Thornton, B.
Gordon of Strathblane, L. Triesman, L. [Teller]
Goudie, B. Varley, L.
Gould of Potternewton, B. Walton of Detchant, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Warner, L.
Grantchester, L. Warwick of Undercliffe. B.
Gregson, L. Weatherill, L.
Grocott, L. [Teller] Whitaker, B.
Harris of Haringey, L. Whitty, L.
Harrison, L. Wilkins, B.
Haskel, L. Williams of Elvel, L.
Hayman, B. Woolmer of Leeds, L.

Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.

On Question, Motion, as amended, agreed to.