The debate began with discussion of Clause 5, covering the powers of a local planning authority to require information from applicants for planning permission. Lord Greaves (Liberal Democrat) proposed Amendments 52-55, saying: ‘The amendments in this group probe one or two things. The bill states that requests for information must be "reasonable"... It should not be in legislation because there is an underlying principle to all legislation that people have to act reasonably. They have to make reasonable decisions on the basis of reasonable evidence. That goes across the whole of the law. Therefore, putting the requirement into a bill is not something that one should do. Yet here the government want to put it into a bill.’
Viscount Hanworth (Labour) agreed, saying: ‘Rather than relating to the practice of planning, the clause seems to relate to a prejudice against the planning process... Perhaps the worst aspect of this clause, as has been suggested, is that it gives no indication of how judgments would be made of what is reasonable and what is not reasonable. The consequence of this is that it invites planning applicants to withhold information on the spurious grounds that it is unreasonable to request it.’
The amendments were withdrawn after Baroness Hanham (Conservative) responded on behalf of the government, saying: ‘I fully understand and respect the need for us to safeguard the ability of local authorities to request information from the applicant where it is essential to the determination of a planning application. Clause 5 and the associated proposed changes to secondary legislation achieve this. No harm will be created by the requirement for such requests to be justified and, if necessary, enabling matters to proceed to appeal for a decision. Indeed, we consider that Clause 5 will encourage both applicants and local authorities to work more closely together to ensure that the likely impacts of development are fully appraised in the documentation submitted with the planning application in question.’
Lords went on to discuss Clause 6, covering affordable housing obligations. Lord McKenzie of Luton (Labour) said: ‘...we have a couple of amendments in this group... Our concern about this clause generally is that it will lead to a reduction in the supply of affordable housing.’
He continued: ‘Amendment 55A in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Best, is one that we can support and to which, as the committee have heard, we have added our name. It restricts the application of the clause to obligations that were entered into prior to Royal Assent. This would act as some restraint on developers overbidding for land and shutting out more responsible bidders that would adhere to local policies, with the prospect of being able to scale back commitments in future.’
The amendments were withdrawn after Baroness Hanham (Conservative), said: ‘I understand the arguments being made that the intent of the clause is to address obligations made in different economic circumstances. It is about giving developers the opportunity to review affordable housing requirements and bring forward stalled sites... I think it would be more helpful if we return to this matter on report, and I hope that I can have some further discussions with noble Lords before we get there.’
Committee stage continues on 30 January.
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.
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.