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Neighbourhood Planning Bill: Lords approve final amendments and pass the bill

Words: Laura Edgar
The heart of planning / iStock

The Neighbourhood Planning Bill has undergone its third reading in the House of Lords, with members approving an amendment that requires examiners to give information to, and hold meetings with, neighbourhood planning groups.

Amendment 1 was brought by Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth (Con), the parliamentary under-secretary of state, Department for Communities and Local Government and Wales Office.

He said the government amendment would enable the secretary of state, through regulations, to set out the procedure an examiner of a neighbourhood plan or neighbourhood development order must follow.

“In exercising the power, the secretary of state will be able to make regulations that place a duty on examiners to provide information to, and to hold meetings with, neighbourhood planning groups – the qualifying bodies – local planning authorities and others, and on the examiners to publish their draft report with their recommendations,” said Bourne.

The amendment, he continued, “strikes the right balance” between enabling reforms that can improve the dialogue between neighbourhood planning groups and examiners while allowing for any future procedures to be informed through the consultation on the housing white paper by those who will understand best how the current arrangements are working in practice.

Talking about amendment 5, Bourne said it seeks to replicate changes proposed in amendment 1. It applies in circumstances where a neighbourhood planning group seeks to update an existing neighbourhood plan in the “streamlined way proposed under clause 3 and schedule 1 to the bill”.

“This will ensure consistency for those examining a new or updated neighbourhood plan.”

Baroness Cumberlege (Con) and Lord Shipley (LD) expressed their support for amendment 1, as did a number of other members.

Both amendment 1 and 5 were agreed.

Lord Taylor of Goss Moor proposed amendment 2, which he said is aimed at empowering local government communities to bring forward settlements of the “highest quality ensuring that the value that comes from development taking place is captured to create great places and deliver wonderful facilities for those places and is not captured in excessive profits for landowners or developers”. It also seeks to ensure that the government’s objectives in bringing forward garden villages, garden town and garden cities programme are met and that there are opportunities for small builders.

Currently, the New Towns Act gives the majority of power to the secretary of state because it comes from an era when the government was more involved in local delivery, Taylor explained. The secretary of state “has no capacity to hand over the role of the corporations that will be set up to deliver these new settlements to the local councils that would bring them forward”.

“The principle of the amendment is to give the secretary of state the power to appoint one or more local authorities in the designated area of the new town to oversee the delivery of the new town and the new development corporation. This is a localising measure. It hands really strong power to communities to ensure that new towns are delivered at quality,” said Taylor.

The functions that would be transferred to local authorities would be set out in secondary regulations.

Bourne said the amendment was “entirely consistent” with the aim of the bill. He said the government was in support of the amendment, as was Bourne himself.

The amendment was agreed.

Amendment 3 was withdrawn, while amendment 4 was agreed.

The House of Lords passed the bill during the session, which now returns to the House of Commons with amendments. A date has yet to be set for ping-pong, which will see amendments passed to and from the houses.

The full transcription of the third reading can be found here.

Read more about the Neighbourhood Planning Bill in the House of Lords:

Lords express concerns about planning conditions measures

Lords approve government changes

Prior approval for permitted development debated 

Lords debate planning conditions

Communities should have a say over pub conversions 

Lords vote to protect pubs

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