The debate began with discussion around clause 1, about the option to make planning permission applications directly to the secretary of state. Lord McKenzie of Luton (Labour) moved Amendment 3, which seeks to restrict the types of planning application that can be made to the secretary of state, he said: ‘These include developments affecting flood risk areas, world heritage sites, national parks, areas of outstanding national beauty and sites of special scientific interest. Our natural environment and our heritage are precious assets that require special consideration in this context. Indeed, issues around conserving and enhancing the natural and historic environment, and meeting the challenges of climate change, flooding and coastal change.’
Lord Greaves (Liberal Democrat) expressed his support, saying: ‘To take functions such as major planning applications away from the national park authority, in these very special places with their very special landscapes, and put them in the hands of a different secretary of state - the secretary of state for communities and local government - with a quite different agenda risks the balance of decision-making on these applications in national parks, shifting away from the importance of nature and landscape and towards development.’
The amendment was withdrawn after the parliamentary under-secretary of state, Baroness Hanham (Conservative), said: ‘Quite apart from preventing the effective operation of Clause 1, these amendments are not entirely logical. Where applications are submitted directly to the secretary of state, the planning inspectors dealing with them will have to have regard to flood risk and any designations that affect the site, and to the national policy that enshrines those important protections where local plans are not up to date. They are required to do so by law, just as the local planning authority is.’
Discussion then moved onto Clause 2, which looks at planning proceedings and costs. Lord McKenzie of Luton (Labour) moved a set of amendments (41-49) which ‘...seek to ensure that when the secretary of state awards costs, he does so in keeping with the principles of good consultation and in a way that is beneficial to the planning process.’ He said: ‘When local authorities consider the risk of having appeal costs awarded against them alongside the risk that any decision overturned at appeal may contribute to their designation as failing, that makes it much more likely that developments, whether good or bad, will be nodded through by a local authority.’
The amendment was withdrawn after Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Conservative), the government spokesperson for communities and local government, responded, saying: ‘The award-of-costs system supports the government's drive to improve the planning system by seeking to reduce the poor behaviour that leads to wasted expense and unnecessary delay. Clause 2 extends existing powers to enable the secretary of state to recover his own costs in planning appeals and makes provision to improve the handling of costs awards between parties. A timely and efficient appeals service will promote economic recovery.’
Day two of committee stage is scheduled for 28 January.
Previous stages of the Growth and Infrastructure Bill
What is committee stage?
Detailed line by line examination of the separate parts (clauses and schedules) of the bill takes place during committee stage, starting from the front of the bill and working to the end. Any member of the Lords can take part.
It usually starts no later than two weeks after the second reading and can last for one to eight days or more.
The day before committee stage starts, amendments (changes) are published in a marshalled list - in which all the amendments are placed in order.
During committee stage every clause of the bill has to be agreed to and votes on the amendments can take place. All proposed amendments can be discussed and there is no time limit, or guillotine, on discussion of amendments.
Growth and Infrastructure Bill summary
The bill looks at the following areas:
- the use of infrastructure
- the carrying-out of development, and the compulsory acquisition of land
- how rating lists are to be compiled
- the rights of employees of companies who agree to be employee owners.