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Neighbourhood Planning Bill: Tight vote as Lords seek to make plain government’s intent on conditions

Words: Laura Edgar
New towns / iStock

The House of Lords has voted in favour of an amendment that seeks to make it clear what clause 13’s intention is and to clarify whether or not the government plans to restrict the capacity of local authorities to put into force relevant conditions.

More than 30 amendments were tabled for debate as the House of Lords met for the first report stage of the Neighbourhood Planning Bill, following four committee stages.

Lord Stunell moved amendment 18, which concerns clause 13, alongside Baroness Parminter (LD). Clause 13 gives the secretary of state the power to intervene in, and direct, the planning conditions imposed on a grant of permission by a local authority.

He said all of clause 13 is out of place in the bill – out of context. “It has a very strong power for the secretary of state to interfere with, change, direct or – as it puts it – ‘regulate’ the kind of planning conditions local planning authorities can use.”

Stunell said the minister – Gavin Barwell – responded to a number of his questions during the committee stage, including on whether the government planned to introduce limitations on local authorities regarding the introduction of planning conditions which they can do thanks to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

“The minister’s reply, as I understood it, was that there is no intention to restrict the capacity of local authorities to put into force relevant conditions that are themselves in conformity with the NPPF.

“I suggested to the minister at that stage that redrafting to simply say that might make it much simpler and less challenging for those of us reading the legislation – and amendment 18 says just that.

“In other words, amendment 18 puts in plain language what I understand to be the government’s real intent."

Although ‘co-pilot’ Lord Young of Cookham (Con) asked him to withdraw the amendment, Stunell decided to “test the opinion of the house”.

The amendment was agreed to, 113-107.

Baroness Cumberlege (Con) moved amendment 6, which sought to ensure that the secretary of state upheld the decision of the local planning authority unless it contravened a development scheme of national importance, where an application for planning permission has been refused by a local planning authority on the grounds that it is not in accordance with an adopted local development plan, including neighbourhood plans.

Cumberlege said the amendment sought to “clarify the respective responsibilities of the secretary of state and local neighbourhood planners”.

“It is all a matter of trust,” she said.

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth (Con), parliamentary under-secretary of state, Department for Communities and Local Government and Wales Office, said the amendment would “create a situation where all appeals which are contrary to the local development plan must be dismissed”.

He did not accept that it is helpful for planning inspectors to be told what their conclusion should be.

“I accept that that is probably not the intention of the amendment, but it is dangerously close to the effect the amendment would have. Nor should we tell planning inspectors how to exercise their discretion in terms of the weight attached to particular matters in the consideration of an appeal.”

He asked that the amendment be withdrawn, which Cumberlege did.

On behalf of Lord Taylor of Goss Moor (LD), Parminter moved amendment 10A. She explained: “Where a new town development corporation is established by an order under section 1 of the New Towns Act 1981 (designation of areas), on request of the local planning authority the secretary of state must delegate to the authority the powers to appoint the board and to approve expenditure in applying the compulsory purchase provisions and subsequent development of the new town and its administration.”

She said the success of the garden towns and villages programme, with the government already in support of 14 such developments, “will be greatly enhanced by the ability of local authorities to ensure quality by using the New Towns Act to guarantee that new garden villages and towns all meet the policy objectives of the government”.

The amendment was well supported by the House of Lords, but Bourne asked Parminter to remove the amendment. He said: “There are lessons that need to be learned, but strong examples of what can be achieved [from the debate]… I would be very happy to discuss the issue further with the noble lords, Lord Taylor and Lord Best, and indeed any other noble lord, with a view to coming back on third reading with at least a report on the discussions, and perhaps firmer action based on them.”

Amendments 1, 3, 7, 11, 15, 16 and 19 were withdrawn.

Amendments 4, 6a, 7, 8, 8a, 10, 10A, 12, 13, 14, 17, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 28a, 32 and 34 were not moved.

Amendments 31 and 33 were agreed.

The full transcipt of the report session can be found here.


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