§ 42 Leave out Clause 45
§ The Commons disagree to this amendment for the following reason —
§ 42A Because it will prevent the more speedy creation of simplified planning zones.604
§ Lord Rooker
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do not insist on its Amendment No. 42 to which the Commons have disagreed for their reason numbered 42A. I shall speak also to Lords Amendments Nos. 130 and 139. The three amendments seek the removal of all reference to simplified planning zones in both the Bill and the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.
I shall take the amendments in turn. Amendment No. 42 proposes the deletion of Clause 45 from the Bill. The Commons disagree because this,would prevent the more speedy creation of simplified planning zones".Amendment No. 130 proposes amendments to Schedule 6 that would delete all reference to simplified planning zones from the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. The Commons disagree because it would not be,appropriate to abolish simplified planning zones".Amendment No. 139 proposes an amendment to Schedule 9 with the effect that Section 83(1) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 would not be repealed as is currently suggested in the Bill. The Commons disagree to this because it is,not appropriate to retain the existing arrangements for the creation of simplified planning zones".Clause 45 seeks to amend the existing provisions for the creation of simplified planning zones to enable the implementation of business planning zones. These will be fully defined in subsequent policy statements, most likely the forthcoming policy planning statement 4. Planning for Economic Development, which is due to be published later this year.
Broadly speaking, however, business planning zones are as previously described: flexible planning regimes, responsive to the needs of business. They are a strategic tool, to be identified at the regional level and implemented at the local level. We expect them to be used to encourage the development of high quality, high tech business, perhaps in the form of clusters. We will expect regional planning bodies to look at promoting one or two of these only in each region. They will be a valuable tool for encouraging investment and therefore growth and regeneration.
Business planning zone developments will he of a high standard. This is something that we will require through subsequent policy statements. They will have a low environmental impact and will be required to undergo environmental impact assessment. They will, of course, be subject to public consultation, both at the regional level, when the broad locations for business planning zones will be identified, and at the local level as they are implemented.
The new business planning zones will be very different from the current special planning zones, both conceptually, as already described, and technically. The key differences proposed by Clause 45 are as follows. The new special planning zones cannot be made by a local planning authority unless the need for one has first been identified in the regional spatial strategy or, in the case of London, the special development strategy, or by the National Assembly for Wales. The life span of a special planning zone may 605 be varied to respond to the specific demands of an area and be for any period up to 10 years, rather than a fixed 10 years as is currently the case.
The business planning zones are an improvement on their predecessors. They will provide a new, useful and flexible strategic tool and will support business development. They should be supported. I regret that I cannot read out a list of all the people clamouring for them because I have not got one in my notes. I ask the House not to insist on its amendment.
Moved, That the House do not insist on its Amendment No. 42 to which the Commons have disagreed for their reason numbered 42A.—(Lord Rooker.)
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Baroness Hanham
rose to move Amendment No. 42B, as an amendment to the Motion that this House do not insist on its Amendment No. 42 to which the Commons have disagreed for their reason numbered 42A, leave out "not".
The noble Baroness said
My Lords, I suspect that the reason why the Minister has not got a list of people clamouring for these business planning zones is because there are none. When we discussed this issue at Third Reading I thought that the Minister was less enthusiastic over the provisions in Clause 45 than any other part of the Bill. There may be not only a lack of enthusiasm from the Minister—for which, I am sure, he has now been clouted round the head—but a lack of enthusiasm from business itself. In reality, for years there have been business planning zones, simplified planning zones and business enterprise zones, and they have not taken off.
The House would expect me to be concerned about a second aspect of this issue—that is, the fact that these zones will be identified in the regional spatial strategy. It is another name—or misnomer—for the Secretary of State deciding where business development will take place, alongside where housing will be built under the spatial strategies and the sustainable community plans.
As I said before, this is an unloved provision—not even business sees any particular virtue in it. It is not unique—it has been around before—and we ought to take the opportunity with this Bill to put it out of its misery; to take it out of these provisions, to take it out of the latest town and country planning Bill and to dump what is clearly not a very successful project. I beg to move.
Moved, as an amendment to the Motion that this House do not insist on its Amendment No. 42 to which the Commons have disagreed for their reason numbered 42A, leave out "not".—(Baroness Hanham.)
§ Baroness Hamwee
My Lords, some Ministers leave a great many gaps between the lines for us to read into. Perhaps that is what the Minister has done in his final paragraph. Certainly at the previous stage he clearly filled in the gaps.
We still have not had it spelled out how business planning zones will facilitate "high quality" business schemes. As for "high tech", which is part of the same 606 mantra, I remain puzzled. I continue to think that the local planning authority may have the scope to use the new local development orders to achieve high tech business parks or whatever; they seem to be ideal for that purpose. But as to whether we need simplified planning zones or the change in provisions brought about by the Bill to achieve this, I am no more convinced than when we started debating the issue.
The root of the provision does not seem to be the Minister's department. We all recall that the planning reforms were heralded originally by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, on the basis that planning was thought to hinder competitiveness, although there is no evidence of that. I support the noble Baroness entirely; we ought to let this die the death it is headed for.
§ Lord Rooker
My Lords. I have nothing to say in answer. The business planning zones are a vital part of the Bill. It is not a confidence issue.
§ Baroness Hanham
My Lords, I wish I felt moved to say that I was going to press the amendment to a vote, because I might win it, with the Minister voting with me. I shall not do so today; I think this will die its own death. It is unfortunate that we will have in legislation something that is completely useless and will cause justifiable grievance, without having particular merit. We have tested this out—we have talked round it and through it. I think I could move the Minister substantially in our direction, although I doubt whether that applies to his colleagues behind him. However, for today, I will leave the matter alone. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
On Question, Motion agreed to.