This is entry number 252, published on 20 June 2011, of a blog on the Planning Act 2008 infrastructure planning and authorisation regime. Click here for a link to the whole blog.
Today’s entry reports on the progress of the Localism Bill through Parliament.
The Localism Bill is the government's flagship local government and planning bill, which introduces several new disparate powers and duties into those two worlds under the umbrella of 'localism'. In the realm of infrastructure planning, it removes the Infrastructure Planning Commission's decision-making powers, gives the House of Commons a chance to disapprove of National Policy Statements, and makes several minor tweaks to the regime introduced by the Planning Act 2008.
Today, the Localism Bill starts its committee stage in the House of Lords. Things are done a little differently in the Lords than the Commons, the main difference being that instead of a committee of a small number of members considering the Bill in detail, a 'committee of the whole House' is convened and any peer may contribute.
So far six days have been set down for the Lords Committee Stage - today, 23, 28 and 30 June and 5 and 7 July. The House of Lords rises for the summer holidays on 20 July - it is possible that the committee stage will not have finished by then and will have to continue in September (the House returns on 5 September). The committee stage in the Commons took 12 days, atlhough the first two of these involved examining witnesses rather than considering amendments.
So far 210 amendments have been tabled by 34 different peers, but only nine of these are government amendments. The government amendments will get through and the others probably won't, but there is a greater chance of a non-government amendment getting through the Lords than the Commons. The full list of amendments can be found here Lord Tope tops the list with 41 of the amendments in his name.
The government amendments all deal with the 'pay accountability' provisions of the Bill, whereby chief officers of local authorities must have their salaries published each year. The amendments will also require the publication of the disparity between low-paid and high-paid local authority officers.
There is currently a lack of interest in the infrastructure planning clauses of the Bill, no amendments having been tabled relating to clauses 112-123 (the numbering changed in the Commons). That is not to say that none will be - I am hoping that there will be some government and other amendments that will further streamline the regime, given this once-in-a-Parliament opportunity to do so.
I have not been through the other amendments given that (a) they are unlikely to get through and (b) they are rather opaque without further study (e.g. 'Page 190, leave out lines 4 to 7'), but I believe the usual suspects are there such as introducing a third party right of appeal and enshrining 'sustainable development' in the Bill.