All 6 Lord Northbrook contributions to the Levelling-up and Regeneration Act 2023

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Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill

Lord Northbrook Excerpts
Moved by
177: After Clause 77, insert the following new Clause—
“Local authority consultations: code of practice(1) Within 6 months after this section comes into force, the Secretary of State must publish a code of practice for public consultations by local authorities.(2) The code must recommend ways to ensure impartiality, including having consultation conducted by an independent third party, and having consultation materials and process pre-approved by such a party.”
Lord Northbrook Portrait Lord Northbrook (Con)
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My Lords, I apologise that I was unable to take part in the Second Reading of the Bill.

Amendment 177 proposes the preparation of a code of practice for consultation by local authorities and public bodies on contentious matters to ensure that they are impartial and not manipulative—which follows on well from the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Fox of Buckley, on the last amendment.

Conservatives used to criticise Ken Livingstone, as leader of the GLC, for conducting bogus consultations designed to justify whatever decisions he had already made. Unfortunately, there have been a number of serious examples of similar behaviour by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea affecting the area of the borough in which I live—I declare my interest. I will mention here just two. The first was a council scheme to turn Sloane Square into a crossroads, when two bogus consultations were held that purported to show widespread support for the scheme. The council was pressurised to hold a third consultation, conducted impartially by an independent third party, that showed that 72% of respondents were opposed to the scheme, which was then dropped.

The second was the Cadogan Estates scheme to have dedicated parking bays created outside its high-end designer shops in Sloane Street. This was taken up by the council and rebranded as a scheme to “improve the public realm”. Among the manipulative consultation materials, to give but one example, was a question on whether people wanted “more trees and planting”, which was welcomed because people generally like more trees. The result of this is that Cadogan now has permission to disfigure the street with 52 ugly “planters”—work on which has now started.

The request that the consultation be conducted impartially by an independent third party—failing which, the local residents’ associations wished to review and comment on the consultation materials in draft form—was ignored. The response of the Minister in the other place in a letter of 31 August last year to Richard Drax MP was as follows:

“On consultations by local authorities and public bodies, the Government has been clear that communities must be at the heart of the planning process. The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, as introduced into Parliament, will reform the process for producing plans so that it is faster and easier for communities to engage with. The Bill will increase and enhance the opportunities for involvement to ensure that development is brought forward in a way that works best for local people”.


The Minister’s response does not address the problem, perhaps because the central Government and all their predecessors like to be able to hold bogus consultations just as much as local authorities and public bodies. I suggest that His Majesty’s Government be obliged to draw up a code of practice for such consultations to ensure impartiality, either by having them conducted or having the consultation materials and process pre-approved by an independent third party.

Amendment 178 seeks to amend the legislation on business improvement districts, or BIDs, so that residents have a say in their establishment, policies and management bodies. There has been widespread criticism of the undemocratic way in which BIDs are established and operate. The Government’s website says:

“There is no limit on what projects or services can be provided through a BID. The only requirement is that it should be in addition to services provided by local authorities”.


As a result, powerful local businesses can push through projects for their own commercial benefit, for which they are willing to pay. My area, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, is happy to agree to them if they can be described as “improving the public realm”. Local residents may be affected by these projects—for example, streetscape, parking and traffic management—but cannot influence them.

We have recently had imposed on us two new BID schemes led by the Cadogan Estate—one for the Brompton Road, since renamed Knightsbridge, and one for the King’s Road—in which residents’ views were ignored from the outset and look likely to continue to be ignored. The Brompton Association was deliberately excluded from the BID proposal for the Brompton Road, in what seems to me a manipulative ploy and an ominous sign of things to come.

The BID legislation should be amended so that local residents of a particular ward within which a BID falls are consulted on proposals for their establishment, are represented on the BID proposal groups which prepare the business plan, participate in the vote on the establishment and are represented on BID management bodies. In addition, local planning authorities should be able to veto BID proposals if there is a significant objection from local residents, not just if they conflict with a significant policy of the local planning authority.

The response of the Minister in the other place, in the same letter that I quoted on Amendment 177, was that

“the majority of BIDs set Baseline Agreements with their local authority to demonstrate the additionality it will provide over the term of the BID. The Government encourages the use of clear agreements and the fostering of strong ongoing relationships between BID bodies and their local authorities, to make sure each is aware of their obligations towards one another and to agree changes to such agreements where appropriate. The BID itself is responsible for deciding on the mix of representatives to ensure their Governance Board is an effective decision-making body with the right skills. The legislation does not preclude local authorities from being represented on the BID board, nor residents or members of the community”.

The Minister’s written response does not answer the point. The legislation does not preclude residents from being represented on the board of a BID. However, what happens at present is that BID promoters make arrangements for their own commercial advantage and exclude resident representation, as the views of residents do not always coincide, and frequently conflict, with those of the business promoters. I beg to move.

Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan (Con)
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My Lords, I had not expected to speak in this group, but since my noble friend Lord Northbrook has referred to a number of matters in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea—where I had the privilege of being deputy leader of the council for quite a period—I thought I would say just one or two things.

The current proposals for Sloane Square I have nothing to do with, I know nothing about; I ceased to be involved in the council in 2018, so I cannot speak for them. The other example my noble friend gave of what he called a “bogus consultation”, I was responsible for. Noble Lords might not be aware that this is an archaeological exercise because he has had to reach back to 2007. It is true that there were three consultation exercises, but I assure my noble friend that the first two—which supported the proposals—were not bogus at all; they were carried out in a very serious way. Indeed, the results surprised me in that there was as much support as there was. The third one that he referred to was conducted after a year of campaigning by opponents in what was quite the most unpleasant year of my life, certainly politically. It was a very long and really quite vicious campaign, all of it funded by the council so that the residents could have as much say as possible. It found against the scheme, which was not proceeded with.

Where I can find a level of agreement with my noble friend is in relation to BIDs. Here, I declare my interest in being a resident of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, as he is. I recently discovered that there is a BID to be introduced in Kensington High Street that is going to include Kensington Square, which I do not live in, but which I overlook from an adjacent street. The Kensington Square residents’ association has not been consulted about this, and it is to be introduced in Thackeray Street—which is where I do more or less live. The relevant residents’ association body for that has also not been consulted, as far as I can make out.

I think that in relation to BIDs my noble friend is putting his finger on a very important point: they do involve a transfer of say—I do not say control—to local businesses, which will pay extra money and expect to get what they want for that extra money. That transfer—those expenditures—can have an affect on local residents, and they should have some involvement in the establishment of a BID. I did not imagine I would ever have to go down the memory lane of Sloane Square improvements again in my life, but it is good that my noble friend has brought back those not always pleasant memories. I am with him when it comes to business improvement districts.

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Lord Northbrook Portrait Lord Northbrook (Con)
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My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who contributed to the debate on my amendments. I seemed to have good support on Amendment 178 from the Labour Front Bench and the Lib Dems, but my Front Bench did not seem keen at all. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Moylan for his experience and memory regarding my consultation comments on Amendment 177. I would like to have a word with him on this outside the Chamber afterwards. I am sorry for the personal abuse he may have suffered, which is entirely unnecessary.

I will read Hansard carefully. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 177 withdrawn.

Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill Debate

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Department: Leader of the House

Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill

Lord Northbrook Excerpts
Moved by
311: After Clause 123, insert the following new Clause—
“British standards: publicationWhere legislation made under the Planning Acts, or a local authority planning policy, refers to a British standard, the Secretary of State or local authority must take such steps as are necessary to make the relevant standard publicly available online free of charge.”
Lord Northbrook Portrait Lord Northbrook (Con)
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My Lords, Amendment 311 requires the British Standards Institution, the BSI, to publish electronically the text of at least some British standards without charge to readers. Secondary legislation and LPA’s planning policies frequently require compliance with British standards or employ definitions which refer to British standards. Examples include the building regulations, my local borough’s— the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea’s—definition of a basement and the Code of Construction Practice which, for example, requires compliance with

“BS 5228: Code of practice for noise and vibration control on construction and open sites”.

However, it costs £330 to obtain a hard copy of a BSI document or to download it in PDF format. The cost is reduced to £165 for BSI members, which we imagine includes the council.

A local residents’ association of the RBKC asked the council to reproduce in or attach as an appendix to the code all, or just the relevant parts, of BS 5228 so that neighbours and residents’ associations can see what is required. The council replied that it cannot do so as copyright vests with the BSI.

I believe that all citizens have the right to see the relevant British Standards without disproportionate charge, and that the BSI should be instructed to publish these standards on the internet. The Minister in another place responded in a letter to Richard Drax MP on 31 August 2022, saying:

“The BSI are an independent organisation and we therefore cannot compel them to publish some, or indeed any, of their standards without charge”.


I believe there must be numerous independent organisations referred to in statute whose publications are routinely made available free of charge on the internet. For example, air source heat pumps are legally required to comply with MCS planning standards or equivalent standards. The relevant microgeneration installation standard—MCS 020—is the property of the MCS Charitable Foundation and is published on the internet, available for anyone to read without charge. Why cannot the BSI do the same?

If the issue is one of cost, one solution would be for the Government to negotiate with the BSI and pay it to publish. If this is not acceptable to either party, the Government should take powers to compel publication. As a matter of principle, our citizens should not have to pay to read the text of those obligations with which they are legally obliged to comply. I beg to move.

Lord Bellingham Portrait Lord Bellingham (Con)
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My Lords, I rise very briefly to support my noble friend Lord Northbrook. It is a very simple and straightforward amendment, but it raises some important principles. As my noble friend pointed out, the BSI is a well-resourced organisation—a commercial, not-for-profit body established under royal charter. I had a look at its website, although I did not look at its accounts. It would be wrong to say that it is awash with money, but it has plenty of money to carry out the excellent work it does on behalf of many different parts of industry in our society. There is no reason whatever why it cannot publish these matters, and it would make a huge difference to residents to be able to know exactly what is going on.

Maybe the Minister can look at one particular point —my noble friend did not mention this, though he mentioned a number of other bodies that are mentioned in statute and different legislation that do make reports and other information available free of charge. I gather that in Ulster such documents are online completely free of charge, and that is a precedent that our Government could follow.

I hope that if the Minister cannot promise to accept the amendment, she will at least undertake to talk to the British Standards Institution about this, because it is a problem that could be solved very easily.

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Lord Northbrook Portrait Lord Northbrook (Con)
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My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister for her reply. I was interested to hear that in some circumstances the Government have funded the publication of these standards. I am not sure of the total number of standards in this planning area—there may not be a huge number of them—but I do not see why the Government might not extend that action in this area. I have listened carefully to what the Minister has said and will read it carefully in Hansard. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 311 withdrawn.
Moved by
312: After Clause 123, insert the following new Clause—
“Change of use to café etcIn the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 (S.I. 2015/596), Schedule 2, Part 3, after Class B.1 insert—“(B.1A) Development is not permitted by Class BB from a use within Class E (a) or (c)-(g) (commercial, business and service) of Schedule 2 to the Use Classes Order, to Class E (b) (the sale of food and drink principally to visiting members of the public where consumption of that food and drink is mostly undertaken on the premises).””
Lord Northbrook Portrait Lord Northbrook (Con)
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My Lords, Amendment 312 obliges the Secretary of State to amend the general permitted development order to make a change of use from business premises to a café or restaurant subject to planning control. Regulations made in 2020 amended the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 by introducing, in Part A of Schedule 2, a new class E—“Commercial, Business and Service”—covering, inter alia, shops, offices, cafés and restaurants. Change of use from any part of this class E to any other part of class E is permitted development so, for example, a shop or an office may now change its use to a café or restaurant without requiring planning permission.

This will have a number of undesirable consequences in quiet residential areas. For example, planning permission may have been granted for a change of use of a building, or part of it, from residential to office without any objection, and the office may now change its use to a café or restaurant without planning control. On the face of it, there would be nothing to stop, say, an estate agent turning into a McDonald’s, open throughout the night, providing it did not sell alcohol. LPAs would no longer be able to use planning policies to regulate or prevent such activities.

If a café or restaurant wishes to sell alcohol, it needs a licence to do so under the Licensing Act 2003. I take comfort from the ability of local authorities to refuse permission by virtue of the specified licensing objective of the prevention of public nuisance. However, noise nuisance and disturbance from customer parking, loading and unloading, waste disposal and odours can be as disquieting from unlicensed as from licensed premises, and they are now impossible to control by planning policy.

My suggested solution is to amend Part 3 of Schedule 2 to the GPDO, entitled “Changes of use”, by inserting a new class BB—commercial, business and service to restaurant or café—with the text as follows:

“Development is not permitted by Class BB from a use within Class E (a) or (c)-(g) (commercial, business and service) of Schedule 2 to the Use Classes Order, to Class E (b) (the sale of food and drink principally to visiting members of the public where consumption of that food and drink is mostly undertaken on the premises)”.


The Minister responded in a letter to Richard Drax on 31 August 2022:

“We have created a new ‘Commercial, business and service’ use class (Class E). This encompasses offices, shops, restaurants and other uses which are suitable in a town centre. Changes of use within the class does not require planning permission. The new class also allows for a mix of uses to reflect changing retail and business models, allowing businesses the ability to adapt to changing circumstances and respond to the needs of their local communities more easily and quickly. However, it remains the case that planning permission is required to change use to or from a pub. This ensures that local consideration can be given to any such proposals, in consultation with the local community”.


I believe that local communities should have a say in the establishment of new cafés and restaurants, not just pubs. I beg to move.

Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Portrait Baroness Taylor of Stevenage (Lab)
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My Lords, this group of amendments is another indication of why we believe it would have been better to bring forward a dedicated planning Bill rather than trying to amend some of the interconnecting pieces of legislation that have overcomplicated the planning scene in the last decade and have certainly had some undesirable effects because unintended consequences have not properly been taken into account. The noble Lord, Lord Northbrook, has eloquently described some of the impacts of widening the use classes so that local people and local authorities no longer have much control over what takes place in their own high streets. We get a proliferation of betting shops and things that people do not really want to see so much of in their high street.

I will give just two examples of permitted development. In Hertfordshire, over 750,000 square feet of economic and commercial space has been lost to permitted development. These developments are delivered with none of the community engagement and consultation that go on with standard planning applications, and they then often result in the infrastructure needs of the development being ignored. This has had the longer-term impact of alienating communities from development altogether, as they see housing developed in unsuitable locations and with no consideration of the proximity of any local facilities. One of the worst examples of this is in Harlow new town. Harlow, like Stevenage, has a commercial and industrial zone deliberately segregated from its residential areas. This was part of the master-planning for first-generation new towns. A permitted development saw a housing development conversion in the middle of this commercial/industrial area, leaving its residents feeling isolated from community facilities and other neighbourhoods.

The other example has been in relation to the creation of houses of multiple occupation from family homes in residential streets, putting unreasonable extra pressure on local resources and creating often far more transient populations, which has disrupted previously settled neighbourhoods.

There seems to be something very perverse in pursuing this permitted development regime at the same time as withdrawing the requirement to set housing targets. The former allows often substandard housing to be developed without the benefit of infrastructure funding, funding for social and affordable housing, or adequate consideration of the needs of the local area. It can put unnecessary pressure on public services in that area and create further pressures on housing as local people are priced out of reasonable developments or forced into poor conversions that are totally unsuitable for family living.

My Amendment 312F calls for a review of this permitted development regime to properly gather data on what it has delivered in terms of: achieving housing targets; importantly, the quality of housing delivered; the impact on heritage and conservation areas; the overall carbon impact since permitted development expanded to demolition; the relative costs to local authorities of dealing with processing permitted development compared with full planning consents; and how it is intended that permitted development sits within the role of the national development management policies.

We are also interested to learn from the review how the Government assess that a permitted development has contributed to levelling up. The feeling of the local government community is that permitted development has done the exact opposite of levelling up and driven a coach and horses through the rigour of the planning regime. That is why the Local Government Association’s comment on this issue was that

“if the Government is serious about strengthening the role of Local Plans, they should also urgently revoke permitted development rights”.

Amendment 312J refers to the totally inconsistent way in which Article 4 directions have been applied across the country. Such directions restrict the scope of permitted development in relation either to a particular area or site or to a particular type of development anywhere in an authority’s area. They can be used to control works that could threaten the character of an area of acknowledged importance, such as a conservation area. Article 4 directions are not needed for listed buildings, which are protected under different legislation, but noble Lords will remember the Harlow example that I gave earlier. Stevenage, which also has a segregated area for commercial and industrial uses, successfully argued that an Article 4 direction should apply to that area so that we were not faced with permitted development housing there, isolated from all our community facilities.

However, the Government have threatened to remove the provision of Article 4 directions altogether and have applied them inconsistently in different locations. Our Amendment 312J asks that a statement be laid before both Houses, setting out how the Government intend to achieve consistency in the application of Article 4 directions.

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Baroness Scott of Bybrook Portrait Baroness Scott of Bybrook (Con)
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It is in the current consultation. I assure the noble Baroness that we will be taking account of the consultation responses on this.

I turn next to Amendment 312J, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, which seeks to require the Secretary of State, within 60 days of the Bill achieving Royal Assent, to make a statement on the use of Article 4 directions by local authorities, and to explain the reasoning behind occasions when they may be modified by the Secretary of State and their resulting consistency.

It may be helpful if I briefly explain Article 4 directions. Permitted development rights are a national grant of planning permission. These allow certain building works and changes of use to be carried out without having to make an application for planning permission. Where it can be clearly evidenced that a permitted development right will cause unacceptable harm to a particular area, local authorities can make an Article 4 direction. This stops development proceeding under the permitted development right and requires that a planning application is submitted.

While Article 4 directions are consulted on and made locally, the Secretary of State has the power to modify or cancel an Article 4 direction. He will intervene where he considers that there are clear reasons for doing so, most particularly where he considers that they do not comply with national policy, as set out in paragraph 53 of the National Planning Policy Framework. This policy requires that all Article 4 directions should cover the smallest geographic area possible. Where they relate to a change from non-residential to residential use, they should be made only to avoid wholly unacceptable adverse impacts. All other Article 4 directions should be necessary to protect local amenity or the well-being of an area. Local authorities must notify the Secretary of State when they make an Article 4 direction.

When it is considered that an Article 4 direction as made by a local authority does not comply with national policy, officials have worked with the local authority to agree a revised Article 4 direction. Between 1 July 2021, when there was a change in national policy, and 3 May 2023, modifications have been made to Article 4 directions from 10 local authorities to ensure that they comply with national policy. I hope that noble Lords will be reassured that there is consistency in Article 4 directions that is ensured by the statutory process, policy and guidance. The Secretary of State exercises his power to intervene where there are clear reasons to do so, and in a consistent and measured way. With these reassurances, I hope that noble Lords will agree that Amendment 312J is not necessary.

To conclude, I hope that I have said enough to enable my noble friend Lord Northbrook to withdraw his Amendment 312 and for the other amendments in this group not to be moved when reached.

Lord Northbrook Portrait Lord Northbrook (Con)
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My Lords, I listened carefully to the Minister’s reply. I should like to say straightaway that I applaud the useful overall relaxation in permitted development rights. I take her point and that of my noble friend Lord Bellingham that there could be problems in high streets with my proposed permitted development BB1. I still believe that in residential areas it is important to propose change. I am noting some support from the Benches opposite. I should like maybe to recraft the amendment so that perhaps residents’ associations could have a say in residential areas.

Lord Bellingham Portrait Lord Bellingham (Con)
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Before my noble friend withdraws his amendment—once he has done so, I would be unable to speak again—I was disappointed when the Minister said that the amendment was flawed, whereas Amendments 312F and 312J were fit for purpose but not flawed. Just because she does not agree with it does not mean that it is flawed. The amendment was well drafted and perfectly sustainable.

There is a possible compromise to be had here because we do not, as my noble friend pointed out, want to do anything to curb enterprise investment and wealth creation in the high street, but we want to try and protect those residents in a small number of residential areas where there might be this particular problem. Perhaps some adjustment could be made so that, if there is a potential permitted change of use and permitted development in a residential area that could lead to all sorts of disturbance and people’s quiet livelihoods being put at risk, maybe there could be an argument for local residents going to the council and asking for the proposal to go through the planning system. Perhaps my noble friend and I can come back to this on Report and have a meeting with the Minister in the meantime so we can go through it in more detail.

Lord Northbrook Portrait Lord Northbrook (Con)
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I thank my noble friend Lord Bellingham. It may be that we can craft a new amendment whereby, if there is a recognised residents’ association, some consultation process should be able to take place on the matter. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 312 withdrawn.

Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill Debate

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Department: Leader of the House

Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill

Lord Northbrook Excerpts
Moved by
64: After Clause 78, insert the following new Clause—
“Business improvement districts(1) Within 6 months of this section coming into force, the Secretary of State must launch a review of arrangements for business improvement districts (“BIDs”).(2) The review must consider whether the arrangements should be changed so that—(a) local residents are consulted on proposals to establish a BID,(b) local residents are represented on BID proposal groups which prepare the business plan,(c) local residents participate in the vote on the establishment of a BID,(d) local residents are represented on BID management bodies, and(e) local planning authorities may veto BID proposals if there is significant objection from local residents.”
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Lord Northbrook Portrait Lord Northbrook (Con)
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My Lords, Amendment 64 seeks to amend the legislation on business improvement districts—BIDs—so that residents have a say in their establishment, policies and management bodies.

There has been widespread criticism of the undemocratic way in which BIDs are established and operate. The Government website says:

“There is no limit on what projects or services can be provided through a Business Improvement District. The only requirement is that it should be something that is in addition to services provided by local authorities”.


As a result, powerful local businesses can push through projects for their own commercial benefit, for which they are willing to pay. In my area, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea is happy to agree to them if they can be described as “improving the public realm”. Local residents may be affected by these projects—streetscape, street furniture, new advertisements and clutter, narrowing of the carriageway, unwelcome new parking and traffic management arrangements and other anti-motorist measures—but they cannot influence them.

I want to say a few words about two BID schemes in the borough in which I live. The Cadogan estate, for which I have the highest regard—it has done some great developments in Duke of York Square and Pavilion Road, for instance—has initiated and established two BID schemes. Following Committee, I have been asked by the chief executive, Hugh Seaborn, to re-examine the comments that I made about lack of consultation during that stage; I am grateful that he is reading our debates. Having reviewed the matter, I have to correct some of my comments. Residents’ associations—Brompton, MISARA and the local society, the Chelsea Society—were consulted by Cadogan but their views do not seem to have been taken into account in the final decision. In fact, they might as well not have been consulted at all.

I believe that the BID legislation should be amended so that local residents, first, are consulted on proposals for their establishment; secondly, are represented on BID proposal groups that prepare the business plan; thirdly, participate in a vote on the establishment; and, fourthly, are represented on BID management bodies. In addition, local planning authorities—LPAs—should be able to veto BID proposals if there are significant objections from local residents, not just if they conflict with a significant policy of that LPA.

The Minister’s response in a letter on BIDs was that

“the majority of BIDs set Baseline Agreements with their local authority to demonstrate the additionality it will provide over the term of the BID. The Government encourages the use of clear agreements and the fostering of strong ongoing relationships between BID bodies and their local authorities, to make sure each is aware of their obligations towards one another and to agree changes to such agreements where appropriate. The BID itself is responsible for deciding on the mix of representatives to ensure their Governance Board is an effective decision-making body with the right skills. The legislation does not preclude local authorities from being represented on the BID board, nor residents or members of the community”.

My reply to that would be that the Minister’s response did not answer the point. Indeed, the legislation does not preclude residents from being represented on the board of a BID, but what happens at present is that BID promoters make arrangements for their own commercial advantage and exclude resident representation as they know that the views of local residents will conflict with those of the business promoters.

My noble friend Lady Scott of Bybrook did not explain why she opposed the amendment. She said that local authorities are represented on some BID boards and reiterated that

“the legislation does not preclude residents … from being consulted”.

She also said:

“It is right that the businesses that will be required to fund the BID make the decisions on whether there should be consultations”,—[Official Report, 20/3/23; col. 1645.]


effectively concerning their undemocratic nature.

The Knightsbridge BID board of 19 people has one council officer and one RBKC councillor who does not represent any residents living in the area covered by the BID. I fear a repetition of the damage that has already been caused to Sloane Street, narrowing the carriageway so as to create dedicated parking bays and installing large, ugly planters to prevent ram-raiding. This is why I have tabled Amendment 64.

I also wish to speak to Amendment 65, which seeks to prepare a code of practice for major, non-statutory consultations by local authorities to ensure that they are impartial and not manipulative. Within six months of this section coming into force, the Secretary of State must publish a code of practice for major, non-statutory consultations by local authorities. The code must recommend ways to ensure impartiality, including, first, having a consultation conducted by an independent third party; secondly, having the consultation materials and process pre-approved by such a party; or, thirdly, having those materials and process submitted in draft to the main stakeholders for their review and comments in advance of the consultations. The Consultation Institute commends on its website The Art of Consultation, by Rhion Jones and Elizabeth Gammell, as:

“A unique book, essential to those involved with consultations … There’s a multi-million-pound industry out there, currently asking us what we think. Lots of this is public money and much of it is wasted. Whilst a great deal of consultation is effective, some of it is downright dishonest; decision-makers have already made up their minds. If they then consult, it’s a waste of everyone’s time; they are just going through the motions”.

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Baroness Scott of Bybrook Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities (Baroness Scott of Bybrook) (Con)
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My Lords, Amendment 64 in the name of my noble friend Lord Northbrook concerns a review of business improvement districts. I have listened very carefully to this debate and the debate in Committee. We want BIDs to work with and alongside residents and members of the local community. It is important that the projects and activities that a BID delivers benefit the local area and encourage more people to visit, live and work there. Residents and members of the community are not prohibited in legislation, as I said in Committee, from being consulted on a new BID proposal. I know many BIDs that include many stakeholders, including the communities they serve. There is nothing to stop a local authority doing that.

It is clear that we need to explore how BIDs can work better with residents and communities, but I do not believe that legislating for a review in this Bill is the right approach. I therefore ask my noble friend to withdraw this amendment, but with my reassurance that I will take this away and consider the proposition of a government review of the BID arrangements. I would welcome further conversations with interested noble Lords to take this forward.

On Amendment 65, there is a statutory framework, and clear rules for consultation already exist in some areas, such as planning. There is also a statutory publicity code which is clear that all local authority communications must be objective and even-handed. There is support and guidance for local authorities on how they should do this. As I said, councils also carry out non-statutory consultations to allow residents to shape local decisions and plans.

I absolutely agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor of Stevenage, that this should not be a one-off; it works much better when local authorities have a good ongoing relationship and conversation with their communities. It is then much easier to deal with issues such as those my noble friend Lord Northbrook raised in Kensington and Chelsea, because it is a continuation of an ongoing conversation. I encourage all local authorities to look at how they can do that better. Greater involvement for local people can be only a good thing. We do not think it is for the Government to tell councils how to do it. Most councils know how to do it; they know what works best in their area and get on with it.

I agree with the noble Baronesses opposite that the concern over the requirement for all consultations to be carried out by third parties is that it would impose additional costs on local authorities and may encourage less consultation and engagement rather than more because they just cannot afford it. I therefore hope my noble friend will agree not to press his amendment.

Lord Northbrook Portrait Lord Northbrook (Con)
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My Lords, I am most grateful to all noble Lords who participated in debates on these amendments. I particularly appreciated the offer of the noble Baroness, Lady Scott of Bybrook, to look at the way bids work to ensure better relationships with residents.

On Amendment 65, I appreciated the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor of Stevenage, talking about the costs of outside consultants. I was hoping that

“having the consultation materials and process submitted in draft to the main stakeholders for their review and comment in advance of the consultation”

would cover that point.

In the meantime, having thanked all noble Lords, I wish to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 64 withdrawn.

Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill

Lord Northbrook Excerpts
I hope that, with that explanation and reassurance, noble Lords will be willing to support the government amendments in this group. I beg to move.
Lord Northbrook Portrait Lord Northbrook (Con)
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My Lords, I rise to speak to two amendments in this group. Under Section 72(1) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, on making planning decisions in conservation areas,

“special attention shall be paid to the desirability of preserving or enhancing the character or appearance of that area”.

Local planning authorities have a wide degree of discretion in deciding whether applications for development in conservation areas pass this statutory test. In my local borough, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, planning officers do not normally live in or near the relevant conservation area and routinely substitute their own opinions for the opinions of those who do, frequently in disregard of the relevant conservation area appraisal document and advice from important third parties such as Historic England.

The problem is particularly acute in the royal borough, where harmful decisions have been made in the past and then been used as precedent to justify approving further harm of a similar nature. This line of reasoning has been criticised frequently by the Planning Inspectorate and runs contrary to the advice of Historic England in its document, Managing Significance in Decision-Taking in the Historic EnvironmentHistoric Environment Good Practice Advice in Planning: 2, published in March 2015. Paragraph 28 of this document states:

“The cumulative impact of incremental small-scale changes may have as great an effect on the significance of a heritage asset as a larger scale change. Where the significance of a heritage asset”—


which, of course, includes the entirety of a conservation area—

“has been compromised in the past by unsympathetic development to the asset itself or its setting, consideration still needs to be given to whether additional change will further detract from, or can enhance, the significance of the asset”.

Regrettably, such consideration is all too often not given by planning officers in their decision reports on the exercise of delegated powers or in their advisory reports to planning committees recommending the approval of an inappropriate development without clear or compelling justification. The exercise is all too subjective, frequently a reflection of poor taste and simply wrong.

My amendment in Committee was to insert at the end of Section 72(1),

“and (in relation thereto) to any views expressed by persons living in that area”.

I believe that making such an amendment would have a significant and beneficial impact on the content of planning officers’ reports, in that they would need to include a special section identifying clearly such views of local residents as have been expressed and, as the case may be, explaining why the officers’ views should be accepted, rather than those of local residents.

I also believe that such an amendment would have a significant and beneficial impact on the approach taken by planning committees, which would need to change from an instinctive desire to accept officers’ recommendations to a real determination to understand and respect the views of local residents. If the planning officers wish to substitute their own opinions on what is good for a conservation area, the amendment would require them to explain clearly and convincingly why they seek to do so and why views of local residents should not be respected.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist, objected to my amendment on the grounds that:

“It would mean the views of conservation area residents would have greater weight than those living outside the area, which we think would be unfair.”—[Official Report, 20/4/23; col.847.]


I strongly disagree that it would be. Nevertheless, I have recast the amendment for Report to avoid this objection by requiring special attention to be paid to

“any relevant guidance given by Historic England”,

instead of

“any views expressed by persons living in that area”.

I will also speak to Amendment 204. The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea used to insert a standard condition on planning approvals in conservation areas that any replacement of sliding sash windows fronting the street should be like-for-like. The owner of a house in Moore Street put an ugly, non-sliding sash window in a breach of planning conditions. The local residents association complained to the council and asked planning enforcement to get it removed. The local ward councillor, who was also the cabinet member for planning at the time, sent them an email saying, “I have just been to see the window. It is clearly inappropriate and will need to be replaced as soon as possible”. The enforcement officer then sent an email agreeing with the complaint, and an enforcement notice was duly served. The owner then told the council that his new window was in fact permitted development, so the enforcement notice was cancelled, and the enforcement officer sent a second email saying that the council had no control over its staff. The window remains.

My proposed solution is to amend class A.3(a) of Part 1 of Schedule 2 to the GPDO, which currently reads,

“the materials used in any exterior work (other than materials used in the construction of a conservatory) must be of a similar appearance to those used in the construction of the exterior of the existing dwellinghouse”.

My amendment would add the wording:

“and, in respect of a replacement window in a conservation area, the style and colour”.

The Minister responded:

“For windows specifically, under nationally set permitted development rights, homeowners are able to enlarge, improve or alter their homes, subject to certain conditions and limitations to minimise their impact. As an improvement, the permitted development regulations allow the installation of new doors and windows. We have no plans to further restrict the ability of people to replace windows in conservation areas”.


My rejoinder to this is: what is the logic of requiring similar materials but not similar style or colour? The Minister does not explain. When granting planning permission for replacement windows in conservation areas, local planning authorities frequently impose like-for-like conditions to preserve the character and appearance of the conservation area. I sympathise with making the replacement of windows in conservation areas permitted development, provided the replacement windows appear like for like. GPDO should be amended to reflect this.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bloomfield, opposed the amendment as premature to accept in advance of a current review of planning barriers that households can face when installing energy-efficient measures, including double glazing. I do not see that the amendment would cut across recommendations arising from the review. The noble Baronesses, Lady Hayman and Lady Pinnock, both made the point that like-for-like replacement windows of wood and glass can be very expensive. I agree, and this points to a defect in the current permitted development right, which is a requirement for similar materials. In a conservation area, it is the appearance that matters, so the requirement should be for a similar style and colour, rather than similar materials. These days it is possible to buy much cheaper replacement windows, made of composite material, which appear identical to the original, so why is this not permitted? However, the existing permitted development right is subject to a similar materials condition and applies to all exterior developments other than conservatories—that is, not just windows and in all areas, not just conservation areas. Therefore, I cannot recast the amendment to replace “materials” with “style and colour”, as I would like. So the amendment has been retabled for Report. I beg to move.

Baroness Andrews Portrait Baroness Andrews (Lab)
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My Lords, I have two amendments in this group, which I tabled as new clauses in Committee. I am again very grateful to the Victorian Society for helping us do this. I am also extremely grateful to the Minister for the amendments he introduced this afternoon; they are very welcome and very overdue. With a very ancient hat on, I remember that some of the best times I had at English Heritage was unveiling plaques—I unveiled a plaque when Yoko Ono and John Lennon had lived in Notting Hill for just the right amount of time to get a blue plaque. I think that William Hewitt will be very pleased, as will the new chair—I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Mendoza, on his appointment.

The new clauses were the subject of a very sympathetic meeting we had with the Minister before the Recess. I was very grateful to him, so I shall not reiterate much of what I said. We just need to hear what he has to say this evening.

For the record, I want to point out the anomalies that the new clauses in these amendments address. The gap in the law is affecting people and places, which is why it needs to be closed. Quite simply, permitted development means that unlisted buildings as a whole and buildings which are on the local heritage list but outside the protection of a conservation area are outside the protection of planning law. They can be demolished without challenge and without local people being able to defend them. The Minister said in Committee that Article 4 directions offer a protection: in principle they do, but they are rarely used. The way in which planning departments have been stripped out means that this already onerous business is hardly ever used, because there are not the people there to do it.

Amendment 204A would bring the demolition of all buildings within the scope of planning law. Amendment 204B sets out a more limited case for bringing all buildings which are on the local heritage list but outside a conservation area within the scope of planning law. This is an anomaly because, essentially, nationally listed buildings already have this protection, but it does not apply to other buildings, including locally listed buildings, as I said, which are not in a conservation area. There are other anomalies in this situation; one has to seek planning permission, for example, to “significantly amend” a building but not to knock it down. A third anomaly is that a building can be demolished while a decision is being taken. I will come back to that shortly.

I do not apologise for trying to find a simpler way by which all non-designated heritage assets can be listed and protected; frankly, we are just too casual about demolition and about reference to the local community or the impact on the local setting or character, or the environment as a whole. I argued in Committee that it was better to repurpose and reuse good and useful buildings, however idiosyncratic, than to demolish them and to involve the local community in the planning process.

--- Later in debate ---
Tabled by
203: After Clause 99, insert the following new Clause—
“Conservation areas: guidance from Historic EnglandIn the Listed Buildings Act, at the end of section 72(1) insert “and (in relation thereto) to any relevant guidance given by Historic England”.”
Lord Northbrook Portrait Lord Northbrook (Con)
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My Lords, I am grateful to noble Lords who contributed to the debate on my amendments, particularly my noble friend Lord Bellingham and the noble Earl, Lord Lytton. I am also grateful for the general support from the Labour and Lib Dem Front Benches. I listened very carefully to the Minister and was very encouraged by the fact that local planning authorities should have regard to relevant Historic England advice, and that the Government’s planning practice guidance points them to this. I am especially pleased that, when the guidance is next reviewed, my noble friend Lord Parkinson will be happy to ask officials to consider whether links to Historic England’s advice could be strengthened. On that basis I am happy not to move my amendment.

Amendment 203 not moved.
Tabled by
204: After Clause 99, insert the following new Clause—
“Permitted development: replacement windows in conservation areasIn the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 (S.I. 2015/596), Schedule 2, Part 1, Class A.3(a), after “conservatory)” insert “and, in respect of a replacement window in a conservation area, the style and colour”.”
Lord Northbrook Portrait Lord Northbrook (Con)
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My Lords, again, I listened very carefully to the Minister’s reply. Particularly important was what he said about the Secretary of State for Levelling Up’s housing speech on 24 July that launched this consultation, which includes the proposal to apply local design codes to permitted development rights. I also note that the Government will consult this autumn on how better to support existing homeowners to extend their homes, and the promise to keep permitted development rights under regular review. On that basis, I will not move my amendment.

Amendment 204 not moved.

Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill

Lord Northbrook Excerpts
Lord Randall of Uxbridge Portrait Lord Randall of Uxbridge (Con)
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My Lords, I support my noble friend Lord Goldsmith, and I am delighted to have been a co-signatory of his amendment along with my noble friend Lord Blencathra.

The hour is late and, like the swifts, most of the Benches have migrated somewhere else, possibly to cavities unknown. The people remaining in the Chamber probably do not need me to tell them about the marvels of swifts so, whereas I was going to spend a lot of time talking about this iconic species and the fact that the sound of swifts overhead is always in dramas when it is summertime, whether it is dubbed or recorded.

It is not just about a lack of cavities. The reduction in insects and everything else means that they need help. I say to my noble friend on the Front Bench that I admire the gamut of what we have to deal with in this Bill and she is doing admirably—in fact, more than admirably: magnificently. It is just marvellous. I do not see how a Minister can have so much knowledge and briefing about all these different subjects.

However, I say to her that Gibraltar has done this very successfully for several years, if not longer, and it is something that we should be looking at seriously. I do not believe the Government are opposed to it; I think there is that sort of bureaucratic looping in to which we should probably, as my noble friend Lord Goldsmith alluded to, have given more time.

I am sorry that we do not have more time today to discuss this issue and see where we are going, but I urge the Government to look at it. I have had a briefing from house builders today with some marvellous ideas, so they are sort of onside. This is something that we can really get behind because it would not cost the Government anything. It would just show that this country and this Government are nature-friendly, and I would welcome any comments from the Front Bench to that effect.

Lord Northbrook Portrait Lord Northbrook (Con)
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My Lords, I am not quite sure why the Control of Pollution Act is put in the same group as swifts. Anyway, my Amendment 282 is in this group.

My local authority, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, unlike some local planning authorities, refuses to impose by planning condition any requirement on developers to mitigate noise, dust and vibration during construction work in accordance with an improved construction method statement that the developer is routinely obliged to submit as part of its planning application for a major development. Instead, with respect to such developments, it promises to encourage developers to submit applications for prior consent under Section 61 of the Control of Pollution Act 1974, failing which it promises that the council will issue a Section 60 notice.

These consents and notices create legal obligations on the developers but the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea can take action only if a breach has been notified. However, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea does not publish the consents and notices anywhere on its website or even the fact that a notice has been issued or a consent agreed to. As a result, residents are not aware whether or when a notice has been issued, what measures a developer has promised to take, what the obligations are under the notice or whether an obligation has been breached. They therefore cannot notify the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea that a breach has occurred. As a result, the system is rendered useless.

My proposed solution is simply that local planning authorities should be obliged to publish all such consents and notices on their planning websites promptly upon issue and not remove them. In the other place, the Minister’s response was that Section 69 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 requires local planning authorities to keep a register of applications. The Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2015 requires that these registers contain parts 3 and 4 containing details of local development orders and neighbourhood development orders respectively. Part 3, for instance, must include copies of any draft development orders that have been prepared but not adopted by the local planning authority and any adopted local development orders.

The Minister’s reply in the other place completely missed the point. Notices issued under Section 60 and consents given under Section 61 of the Control of Pollution Act are not planning applications or local or neighbourhood development orders. The reply in this place from the noble Baroness, Lady Bloomfield, in Committee showed that she did not seem to understand what the amendment was seeking to achieve or why. She said:

“Legislating for information to be published in a specific way would remove their ability to make decisions at local level, for little additional benefit”.


This is incorrect. It would not affect in any way local authorities’ ability to make decisions. She concluded, without explanation, that

“the Government believe the proposed amendment is unnecessary and cannot support it”.

On being pressed by my noble friend Lord Bellingham, she replied:

“Since this is a Defra lead, I will commit to write to my noble friend and share the answer with the rest of the Committee”.—[Official Report, 18/4/23; col. 577.]


She did not do so.

When an LPA imposes a planning condition to require compliance with an approved construction method statement, it is obliged by law to publish on its planning website the text of the condition and the fact that the condition has been imposed. No one argues that this removes or affects its ability to make a decision, nor have I ever seen it argued that there are any circumstances in which it would be justifiable to keep the imposition of a condition or its text secret. Measures whereby the developer promises to mitigate noise and disturbance during construction do not touch on privacy or national security. By analogy, I cannot think of any circumstances in which it would be justifiable for a local planning authority to keep the issue of a Section 60/61 notice or consent, or its contents, secret. The Government have not explained why keeping it secret might be justifiable, and that is why I tabled the amendment on Report.

Lord Blencathra Portrait Lord Blencathra (Con)
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My Lords, I declare my interests set out in the register. It was a delight to listen to my noble friends Lord Goldsmith and Lord Randall describe the importance of swift bricks to the preservation of this species and to stopping their decline. I am delighted to be able to support it.

Installing these bricks is an absolute no-brainer. They cost between £25 and £35. Last year, the big four housebuilders—just four of them, Barratt, Berkeley, Persimmon and Bellway—made profits of £2.749 billion. I am sure they can afford a £25 brick for the 300,000 homes they might or might not manage to build next year. Installing the bricks is a no-brainer.

I learned today—I hope, wrongly—that the Government may be opposed to this measure. That, too, would be a no-brainer if they are. I wonder where the opposition has come from. I hope they have not been lobbied by the Home Builders Federation—the organisation which lied, lied and lied again about the Government blocking the building of 145,000 homes because of nutrient neutrality. That was totally untrue. Of course, housebuilders are sitting on more than 1 million planning applications and are land-banking until they can release them gradually and make maximum profits. If that is legitimate, so be it, but let us not let them attack the Government for holding up housebuilding when it is not the Government doing it.

I understand that in the Commons the Government said they could not mandate this nationally and it must be left to local voluntary discretion. Housebuilding left to local voluntary discretion? You cannot build a house anywhere in the country without the Government almost dictating the colour of the curtains. Look at the national regulations on every aspect of housebuilding: electrics; plumbing; the type of cement; the way the damp-proof course is laid; the tiles and insulation. Nearly every mortal thing of importance in the house—the width of the doorways, the bannisters, the boilers you may install after 2030—is dictated by central government, and rightly so. I am not complaining about that, but I am complaining about the apparent hypocrisy if the Government I support are now saying “Oh, we can’t order every house to have a little brick installed because that is taking national government interference too far”. If that is the case, I think that is nonsense.

I know that some Government Ministers have already installed these bricks. They have done it voluntarily, without guidance. If it is good enough for some Ministers, quite rightly, to save swifts out of their own volition, then it should be quite right that the Government support a measure to impose this nationally.

If it is the case that the Government are opposed to this, I would really like to know where that opposition came from in government. If it is true then some idiot—an adviser, spad or civil servant, but hopefully not a Minister—has decided to oppose this. I exempt my noble friend the Minister, as this is an environmental matter and nothing to do with her brief, but why in the name of God should a Conservative Government oppose this?

In the first three years of this Government, under Michael Gove and George Eustice in environment, we made the biggest strides forward in environmental and nature protection that this country has ever seen, with the 25-year plan and the Environment Act. Now we could lose that good reputation because of a trivial thing if we oppose installing a 25-quid brick in a house wall to save swifts.

Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill Debate

Full Debate: Read Full Debate
Department: Leader of the House

Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill

Lord Northbrook Excerpts
Moved by
282: After Clause 226, insert the following new Clause—
“Control of Pollution Act 1974: publication of notices and consentsIn the Control of Pollution Act 1974—(a) in section 60(2) for “may if it thinks fit publish notice of the requirements in such way as appears to the local authority to be appropriate” substitute “must publish notice of the requirements promptly and permanently on its planning website”;(b) in section 61(6) for “may if it thinks fit publish notice of the consent, and of the works to which it relates, in such way as appears to the local authority to be appropriate” substitute “must publish notice of the consent, and of the works to which it relates, promptly and permanently on its planning website”.”
Lord Northbrook Portrait Lord Northbrook (Con)
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My Lords, before I withdraw the amendment, I make a small request for a letter from the Minister. My noble friend Lady Scott of Bybrook said at Report:

“Legislating for information to be published on a specific platform, when it is routinely made available on local authorities’ websites, would remove their ability to publicise decisions at a local level.”—[Official Report, 6/9/23; col. 543.]


However, these consents and notices are not routinely made available by my local borough, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea; they are kept secret and are not published anywhere on its website. I ask my noble friend the Minister to write to me to explain whether he agrees that they should be made available somewhere on an LPA’s website. If not, why not; and if so, what is the objection to having them on the planning website, rather than a separate register, which might be hard to find and the existence of which might even be unknown? After all, the planning website is what everyone looks up to see what conditions have been imposed on an applicant, and the idea that an LPA should be able to hide them on another part of its website is absurd.

Amendment 282 withdrawn.