Schedule 15

Crossrail Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 4:45 pm ar 27 Tachwedd 2007.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Reinstatement of discontinued facilities

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

I beg to move amendment No. 67, in schedule 15, page 213, line 39, at end insert—

‘( ) Where the site on which the facility was situated prior to discontinuation is available for re-use, the facility should be reinstated under sub-paragraph (1) for the original purpose of the facility and on this site.

( ) Where the site on which the facility was situated prior to discontinuation is not available for re-use, the facility should be reinstated under sub-paragraph (1) on a site as close as possible to this site.’.

Schedule 15 is obviously important, in that it deals with the steps that must be taken to reinstate facilities that have necessarily been taken out of use as a result of the construction of Crossrail. Paragraph 1(4) provides that the reinstatement

“need not be on the site where the facilities were situated prior to discontinuation.”

Of course, in a perfect world, once Crossrail was up and running, we would be able to return buildings and facilities affected by construction to their original state and, in most cases, to their original location and no one would know that it had been a construction site before. This is not a perfect world and I acknowledge that in a number of cases it might not be possible to do that. However, as the Bill stands, there is no obligation on the nominated undertaker even to try to reinstate the disused facilities in their original location.

My amendment is designed to address that gap in the Bill. If the amendment were to prevail, the nominated undertaker would have a duty to reinstate the facility on its original site if it were possible physically to do that. If it were found to be physically impossible, he would have to reinstate the facility as near to the original site as he could. That seems a logical and reasonable way to ensure that the damage caused by Crossrail construction is, to as great an extent as possible, reversed once the construction work is done and reversed in such a way that the original facility is put back in its original state. I look forward to the Minister commenting on the amendment.

Photo of Tom Harris Tom Harris Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

As the hon. Gentleman said, the amendment is perfectly reasonable and sensible. Nevertheless, I ask my colleagues to resist it if it is pressed to a vote, because it is not appropriate to this clause. Schedule 15 relates to the reinstatement of facilities that have been discontinued as a result of the construction of Crossrail, and provides for conditions to be placed on the deemed planning permission granted by the Bill for such reinstatement if it has been environmentally assessed. That reinstatement may be on the original site or elsewhere within Bill limits, which is to say that it must be within the limits set out in the Bill for land to be acquired or used. For example, there is a concrete batching plant at Royal Oak that falls within an area that we need for a worksite. We are in the process of negotiating an agreement with the owners of the plant regarding the provision of a replacement facility. The amendment would mean that any such replacement facility would have to be placed on, or as close as possible to, the original facility.

Proximity to the original site is not the only, or even the most important, factor when deciding on the most appropriate site for reinstated facilities. Generally speaking, Crossrail works will have altered the site and the former location of a facility may no longer be the best one. When deciding on the best location for a reinstated facility, there may be a number of factors to balance, including the operational needs of the business, the operational needs of Crossrail and the impact on neighbouring sites. Depending on the circumstances of the case, it is possible that all of those factors might point towards relocating the facility. The availability of sufficient land within the limits set out in the Bill for land to be acquired or used, may also be a consideration.

That said, for facilities that we intend to reinstate, we currently expect to put the replacement facility very close to the site of the original, where practicable. For instance, there is a Travellers’ site in Tower Hamlets that will need to be used for a worksite. To meet the desires of the Travellers and the local authority, we plan to relocate them to a site adjacent to the existing one. I believe that it overlaps the existing site. We do not think that it would be appropriate always to constrain the position of a new site in the manner proposed. It would not necessarily result in a location that pleased anyone. Local amenity considerations regarding the site of replacement facilities could mean that it would be wrong, in planning terms, to reinstate near an existing site.

There are a range of considerations that the Secretary of State might take into account in the public interest. I should stress, however, that the Bill provides deemed planning permission for reinstated works only  if an appropriate environmental assessment has been carried out and reported in an environmental statement accompanying Bill. The amendment is a touch too prescriptive and represents some form of over-regulation. I do not think that it is appropriate to this part of the Bill, although I accept that the intention behind the amendment is good.

Photo of Peter Soulsby Peter Soulsby Llafur, Leicester South

I will not harp on for too long about what was discussed at the hybrid Bill Committee, but I will back up what the Minister has said. At that Committee, a number of the representations were made about those who will have to be relocated temporarily and about whether it was appropriate for them to be reinstated on the original site or whether some alternatives were to be found. Those who were to be affected had an opportunity to petition and many took it.

To accept the amendment would be too prescriptive. The solutions that were found were in some cases quite creative, but in almost all cases meant that the petitioners whose land was to be affected would find themselves in a better position than they had been in.

The Minister mentioned one example of a concrete batching plant. That was a case that we spent a considerable time on and came to some particular solutions that were satisfactory to all parties concerned. I understand the intention behind the clause, but suggest that it is unnecessary, given the consideration at the hybrid Bill Committee and that which will be given in another place.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

I listened to the hon. Gentleman and noticed that when the words “concrete batching plant” crossed the Minister’s lips, there was a facial contortion. I can only assume that that case took up rather a long time at the Select Committee. I am glad that they came to some concrete solutions.

I am glad that the Minister accepts that we are on to something and I take his point that there are a range of options beyond those that I specified in the amendment. As the clause is drafted, there is no firm obligation to restore sites as close as possible to the original site. I take the Minister’s point that it will be done as much as is practically possible in as many cases as possible. I take his point that the amendment may be worded too tightly. We may wish to redraft the amendments before Report and I therefore beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

I beg to move amendment No. 68, in schedule 15, page 214, line 20, leave out ‘he thinks’ and insert ‘might reasonably be considered’.

This amendment and the following one are relatively small modifications to the wording of paragraph 2 of the schedule, which deals with planning permission issues that may arise as a result of the reinstatement of disused facilities.

The amendment simply replaces the words “he thinks” with “might reasonably be considered” in the context of the method used by the Secretary of State to publish any directions relating to deemed planning permission in his report. I will not dwell long on justification of the amendment; the Minister will be able to see the thought process behind it. It implies that  rather than just thinking about the matter he might have to undertake some consultation. The small change in the wording would allow the Secretary of State to carry out his or her duties in a way that is responsible, appropriate and seen to have been accountable.

Photo of Tom Harris Tom Harris Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

Amendment No. 68 relates to the requirement to publish any directions given under schedule 15 to condition deemed planning permission for reinstated facilities or to disapply or modify the application of schedule 7 to such works. As the duty to publish is a duty placed on the Secretary of State, she must be the one to decide what is the most appropriate manner to do so. Moreover, I remind the hon. Gentleman that the Secretary of State is under a general duty to act reasonably. Although it is a minor change and in the hon. Gentleman’s view it would not change it a great deal, the amendment does not add very much to the Bill and I ask him to consider withdrawing it.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

It is a minor change but its purpose is to ensure that the Secretary of State not only acts in a responsible way but is seen, and proven, to be doing so. That is the thrust of several of our amendments. I am disappointed that the Minister will not accept the minor changes in the wording but it is not worth dividing the Committee on the proposal. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

I beg to move amendment No. 69, in schedule 15, page 214, line 23, at end insert ‘and any other relevant interested parties’.

I will not detain the Committee with this amendment, which we wanted to be on the record. Hon. Members will recognise that it is nearly identical to several others we have debated this afternoon and in previous sittings. In order to build and run the Crossrail network the Government and/or the nominated undertaker will need to intrude on private property and existing infrastructure, which is inevitable with a project of this scale. The key thing is to ensure that it is done in a right and proper way.

To keep disruption to a minimum, all affected parties must be kept informed and consulted and that is the motive behind the amendment. When deemed planning permission is provided by means of a direction, the details should be circulated to the owners and occupiers of the land over which permission is given and to anyone else who might be affected. That might incur a little additional work for the Secretary of State but it will ensure that all the appropriate people are made aware of any of the proposed works. I hope that the Minister will be tempted by this minor wording change.

Photo of Tom Harris Tom Harris Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The hon. Member for Wimbledon started by saying that the amendment was identical to previous amendments. I am about to use arguments against it that are identical to previous arguments.

Schedule 15 already requires copies of the directions to be given to the owners and occupiers of the land to which the deemed planning permission relates, and to the relevant planning authority, as the persons with a  clear and identifiable interest. It also requires the Secretary of State to publish the directions, so that they will be available to those who are less directly affected.

Amendment No. 69 would create an unnecessary administrative burden. It would require the Secretary of State to give copies of any directions given under schedule 15 to

“any other relevant interested parties”.

That would place a potentially large burden on the Secretary of State and it could lead to lengthy arguments, perhaps even legal arguments, about whether all “relevant interested parties” have been identified.

The hon. Gentleman is a member of a party that consistently and regularly lectures the Government on over-regulation of industry. I would have thought that, in the interests of deregulation and simplification alone, he would wish to withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport) 5:00, 27 Tachwedd 2007

But of course if we were to listen to and follow the logic of the Minister’s answer, that way dictatorship lies, in that the powers would be invested only and entirely in the autocrat and they would be subject to no scrutiny at all. I am sure that the Minister would not want to confuse the over-regulation by his Government in one area with the under-consultation of his Government in another area. None the less, I have listened to the Minister and I am happy to accept his invitation. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 15 agreed to.

Clause 58 ordered to stand part of the Bill.