Tuesday, 1 November 2011
Localism Bill – Lords Third Reading
The House of Lords seems to have become addicted to debating planning recently. In addition to dealing with the committee stage and report stage of the Localism Bill last month, they had an opposition-sponsored debate on planning on 13 October (to which I referred briefly in this blog on the 23rd). This was followed by a second debate on planning in the Grand Committee on the 27th, this time on a formal government motion to consider the NPPF, and finally they had the third reading debate on the Localism Bill on 31 October.
The debate on Third Reading ranged over various parts of the Bill but, so far as the planning provisions are concerned, dealt only with the definition of sustainable development and transitional arrangements. In both cases, the government stuck to its guns. The definition of sustainable development, if we get one at all, will be in the NPPF, not in the Act. The government (i.e. De-CLoG) is still in full head-scratching mode over transitional provisions. This really relates to the status of previously adopted local plans and core strategies in light of the NPPF. My colleague, David Brock, has expressed his doubts about the bland assurances given by Baroness Hanham in the debate in the Grand Committee (see his recent blog entry, which can be accessed by clicking on the link on the side-bar on the left of this page), and I fully share his doubts, as do various members of the House of Lords and many other people concerned with the practical effect of the legislation and of the forthcoming NPPF.
The Bill now goes back to the Commons for the consideration of Lords amendments – a mere formality, as no opposition amendments were in practice made to the Bill, and it should then receive royal assent later this month. But that is when the fun will begin, and lawyers like me will start crawling all over it, trying to work out exactly how it is to be interpreted and how the various provisions will apply in practice. There will undoubtedly be difficulties of interpretation, and some aspects of the new Act will undoubtedly give rise to significant legal disputes, not least those provisions relating to enforcement and, in particular, concealed development, which is set to become a major legal battleground in the years to come.
© MARTIN H GOODALL