The House of Lords is due to debate amendments to the infrastructure provisions in the Growth and Infrastructure Bill during its fourth out of five days in committee on Monday 4 February. Here is a summary of the amendments that have been tabled, but first, there is a reminder of the current state of the bill.
The Growth and Infrastructure Bill is a miscellaneous collection of measures intended to boost growth by streamlining procedures. The bill now contains five clauses (originally three) amending the Planning Act regime: clauses 20 to 24, up from three originally. The clauses do the following:
- clause 20 allows some projects consented before the Planning Act came into force to be varied without needing an application under the Planning Act;
- clause 21 removes some of the additional certificates required for Planning Act applications in certain circumstances;
- clauses 22 and 23 reduce the triggers for, and the scope of, special Parliamentary procedure; and
- clause 24 allows nationally significant business and commercial projects to apply to use the Planning Act regime.
The Bill has completed its passage through the House of Commons and is half way through its committee stage in the House of Lords. As of last night it had considered the first 15 clauses of the bill, but had only made one (government) amendment, to clause 6 on affordable housing in section 106 agreements.
There are four highly technical amendments from the government and the rest are in the name of backbench peers. I predict that the former will be agreed and the latter not, but in some cases the government may come back at report stage or third reading with its own amendments if it is persuaded that there is some merit in any of these amendments.
Amendment 71D is a government amendment that slightly recasts the disapplication of the Planning Act to previously consented projects.
Amendment 72, drafted by the National Infrastructure Planning Association (NIPA), the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) and the British Property Federation (BPF), reduces the veto consenting bodies have over the inclusion of their consents in a Planning Act application to a consultative role only.
Amendment 73, which I understand comes from the Compulsory Purchase Association (CPA), removes the offence of knowingly or recklessly getting the certification of notices of acceptance of the application wrong
Amendment 74, favoured by those likely to use the Planning Act to promote bridges, tunnels or roads with tolls, removes the section requiring that if tolling is included in a Planning Act application it must follow the tollbooth-type regime under the New Roads and Street Works Act.
Amendment 75 (recently replaced and extended), another NIPA/CBI/RTPI/BPF one, does four things: allowing inspectors to be appointed to oversee pre-application stages for a project; requiring all National Policy Statement to be in place by 31 March 2015; allowing impracticable steps to be waived for particular applications, and to re-iterate the way examination fees are calculated (see this blog entry for more details of the last issue).
Amendment 75ZA in the name of Lord Berkeley adds a requirement to consider transporting construction materials by rail or water.
Amendments 75A, 75B, 77ZA, 77ZB and 77ZC, which I suspect come from Associated British Ports, would reinstate special parliamentary procedure (SPP) for land taken from railway or harbour undertakers.
Amendments 77ZAA and 77ZAB are government amendments to clarify that the tests for triggering SPP for national trust and open space land are independent of each other.
Amendment 77ZG is a government amendment that slightly changes the amendments to the SPP Act in relation to Planning Act applications.
Amendments 76 and 77, NIPA/CBI/RTPI/BPF again, reduce the trigger for SPP further by only applying it to open spaces that have some sort of designation.
Lord Faulkner, member of the Rookery South joint committee that conducted SPP for that project, is opposing the clauses reducing SPP. He is also proposing amendments 77ZD, 77ZE and 77ZF that reduce the scope of what parliament can consider when it carries out SPP.
Amendments 77A, 77B and 78A would remove the addition of business and commercial projects to the regime. Baroness Young, in whose name they are, is also opposing the whole clause.
Amendment 77C would restrict business and commercial projects in London to those of strategic importance.
Amendment 78, another NIPA/CBI/RTPI/BPF one, removes the condition that business and commercial projects cannot include any housing.
Amendment 78B would restrict the applicant to 'upgrade' a below-threshold infrastructure project into the regime so that it can only be the intended promoter of the project.
Amendment 79 would allow parish councils to register to be informed by their local authorities that pre-application consultation was being carried out on a Planning Act project. Applicants are already required to notify affected parish councils, but this would be a sort of standing order.
Amendments 81A and 81B would require the government to take climate change into account when drawing up a National Policy Statement and when deciding applications. The Planning Act already does the former to some extent. The amendment would also require the government to report annually on the cumulative effects of Planning Act consents on climate change.
There may be one or two further amendments tabled for debate on Monday, but the selection so far promises to instigate a lively debate on the current regime. I understand that Lord Ahmad will be conducting the debate on behalf of the government.
After the committee stage has finished, the bill will go through report stage (provisionally three days for that starting on 27 February) and third reading in the Lords, and then must return to the Commons as it has been amended in the Lords.