Commencement

Neighbourhood Planning Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 12:00 am ar 27 Hydref 2016.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Amendment proposed (this day): 26, in clause 35, page 27, line 8, after “3”, insert—

“, (Power to direct preparation of joint local development documents)”.—(Gavin Barwell.)

The amendment provides for the regulation-making powers conferred by NC4 to come into force on the passing of the Act resulting from the Bill.

Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.

I remind the Committee that with this we are discussing the following:

Government new clause 4—Power to direct preparation of joint development plan documents—

(1) The Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 is amended as follows.

(2) After section 28 insert—

(1) The Secretary of State may direct two or more local planning authorities to prepare a joint development plan document.

(2) The Secretary of State may give a direction under this section in relation to a document whether or not it is specified in the local development schemes of the local planning authorities in question as a document which is to be prepared jointly with one or more other local planning authorities.

(3) The Secretary of State may give a direction under this section only if the Secretary of State considers that to do so will facilitate the more effective planning of the development and use of land in the area of one or more of the local planning authorities in question.

(4) A direction under this section may specify—

(a) the area to be covered by the joint development plan document to which the direction relates;

(b) the matters to be covered by that document;

(c) the timetable for preparation of that document.

(5) The Secretary of State must, when giving a direction under this section, notify the local planning authorities to which it applies of the reasons for giving it.

(6) If the Secretary of State gives a direction under this section, the Secretary of State may direct the local planning authorities to which it is given to amend their local development schemes so that they cover the joint development plan document to which it relates.

(7) A joint development plan document is a development plan document which is, or is required to be, prepared jointly by two or more local planning authorities pursuant to a direction under this section.

(1) This Part applies for the purposes of any step which may be or is required to be taken in relation to a joint development plan document as it applies for the purposes of any step which may be or is required to be taken in relation to a development plan document.

(2) For the purposes of subsection (1) anything which must be done by or in relation to a local planning authority in connection with a development plan document must be done by or in relation to each of the authorities mentioned in section 28A(1) in connection with a joint development plan document.

(3) If the authorities mentioned in section 28A(1) include a London borough council or a Mayoral development corporation, the requirements of this Part in relation to the spatial development strategy also apply.

(4) Those requirements also apply if—

(a) a combined authority established under section 103 of the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009 has the function of preparing the spatial development strategy for the combined authority’s area, and

(b) the authorities mentioned in section 28A(1) include a local planning authority whose area is within, or is the same as, the area of the combined authority.

(1) The Secretary of State may modify or withdraw a direction under section 28A by notice in writing to the authorities to which it was given.

(2) The Secretary of State must, when modifying or withdrawing a direction under section 28A, notify the local planning authorities to which it was given of the reasons for the modification or withdrawal.

(3) The following provisions of this section apply if—

(a) the Secretary of State withdraws a direction under section 28A, or

(b) the Secretary of State modifies a direction under that section so that it ceases to apply to one or more of the local planning authorities to which it was given.

(4) Any step taken in relation to the joint development plan document to which the direction related is to be treated as a step taken by—

(a) a local planning authority to which the direction applied for the purposes of any corresponding document prepared by them, or

(b) two or more local planning authorities to which the direction applied for the purposes of any corresponding joint development plan document prepared by them.

(5) Any independent examination of a joint development plan document to which the direction related must be suspended.

(6) If before the end of the period prescribed for the purposes of this subsection a local planning authority to which the direction applied request the Secretary of State to do so, the Secretary of State may direct that—

(a) the examination is resumed in relation to—

(i) any corresponding document prepared by a local planning authority to which the direction applied, or

(ii) any corresponding joint development plan document prepared by two or more local planning authorities to which the direction applied, and

(b) any step taken for the purposes of the suspended examination has effect for the purposes of the resumed examination.

(7) The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision as to what is a corresponding document or a corresponding joint development plan document for the purposes of this section.”

(3) In section 21 (intervention by Secretary of State) after subsection (11) insert—

“(12) In the case of a joint local development document or a joint development plan document, the Secretary of State may apportion liability for the expenditure on such basis as the Secretary of State thinks just between the local planning authorities who have prepared the document.”

(4) In section 27 (Secretary of State’s default powers) after subsection (9) insert—

“(10) In the case of a joint local development document or a joint development plan document, the Secretary of State may apportion liability for the expenditure on such basis as the Secretary of State thinks just between the local planning authorities for whom the document has been prepared.”

(5) Section 28 (joint local development documents) is amended in accordance with subsections (6) and (7).

(6) In subsection (9) for paragraph (a) substitute—

“(a) the examination is resumed in relation to—

(i) any corresponding document prepared by an authority which were a party to the agreement, or

(ii) any corresponding joint local development document prepared by two or more other authorities which were parties to the agreement;”.

(7) In subsection (11) (meaning of “corresponding document”) at the end insert “or a corresponding joint local development document for the purposes of this section.”

(8) In section 37 (interpretation) after subsection (5B) insert—

“(5C) Joint local development document must be construed in accordance with section 28(10).

(5D) Joint development plan document must be construed in accordance with section 28A(7).”

(9) Schedule A1 (default powers exercisable by Mayor of London, combined authority and county council) is amended in accordance with subsections (10) and (11).

(10) In paragraph 3 (powers exercised by the Mayor of London) after sub-paragraph (3) insert—

“(4) In the case of a joint local development document or a joint development plan document, the Mayor may apportion liability for the expenditure on such basis as the Mayor thinks just between the councils for whom the document has been prepared.”

(11) In paragraph 7 (powers exercised by combined authority) after sub-paragraph (3) insert—

“(4) In the case of a joint local development document or a joint development plan document, the combined authority may apportion liability for the expenditure on such basis as the authority considers just between the authorities for whom the document has been prepared.”

This new clause enables the Secretary of State to give a direction requiring two or more local planning authorities to prepare a joint development plan document. It also makes provision about the consequences of withdrawal or modification of such a direction.

Amendment (a) to Government new clause 4, in proposed new subsection (12) of section 21 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, at end insert—

“after consulting with the local authorities concerned.”

Photo of Jim McMahon Jim McMahon Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government) (Devolution)

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr McCabe. I refer to my entry in the register of interests as a member of Oldham Council. I am speaking to amendment (a) to new clause 4.

Throughout the debate, what has stood out is a sense that although we are creating a framework to be understood clearly and to set expectations, that is in the spirit of communities themselves determining what is right—a genuinely partnership approach. The amendment to Government new clause 4 seeks to ensure that there is discussion with local authorities before the apportioning of costs between local authorities for joint development plans.

At the moment, new clause 4 will allow the Secretary of State to apportion liability for expenditure, on the basis of what the Secretary of State thinks is just, between the local planning authorities that have prepared the document. The amendment would ensure consultation with the relevant local authorities before the Secretary of State determines what proportion of costs each must pay. The Secretary of State might already intend to consult with local authorities, so reassurance would be what is required. Given that the tone of the debate so far has been one of working with local communities, it would be helpful not to go against that and impose costs without any kind of consultation or discussion.

Photo of Gavin Barwell Gavin Barwell Minister of State (Department for Communities and Local Government) (Housing, Planning and London)

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship again, Mr McCabe.

The hon. Member for City of Durham asked a couple of questions about new clause 4, which I will endeavour to answer before I come to the amendment to the new clause. In essence, the main issue that the hon. Lady wished to explore was the circumstances in which the Secretary of State might wish to pursue the power to intervene. The wording of the new clause is relatively broad—I tried to touch on this wording in my speech this morning—under proposed section 28A(3):

“The Secretary of State may give a direction under this section only if the Secretary of State considers that to do so will facilitate the more effective planning of the development and use of land in the area of one or more of the local planning authorities in question.”

It might help the hon. Lady if I expand on that and give an idea of the types of situation we have in mind. I will make two points. First, in relation to “one or more”, there might be a situation in which a particular local planning authority is struggling to produce its own local plan—perhaps, as I indicated in my speech, because there is not only a high level of housing need in the area concerned, but also heavy constraints on land. Given the cases I have already dealt with over the past three months, I am thinking of districts where a significant proportion of the land area is green belt and therefore has heavy constraints on development potential.

In such circumstances, the Secretary of State might want to direct that authority and two or three others where land is much less constrained to produce a joint plan, in order to provide an opportunity to consider whether some of the housing need in district A might be met in some of the adjoining districts. It is possible that authorities covered by such a direction might have produced a perfectly viable plan for their area, but we would be looking to work across a group of authorities to meet housing need over a wider area.

Secondly, there are probably two types of situation in which that might arise. I have alluded to one already—where an authority has simply failed to produce a plan. As the Committee knows, several authorities are in that position at the moment. The second is where an authority might have tried to produce a plan, but is failing to meet the housing need in its area. Either it has fallen short of the assessed need or the plan was accepted by an inspector but the authority subsequently found itself unable to deliver the housing it had planned for various reasons. Essentially, the two things that I think the Secretary of State is likely to be interested in are, first, authorities that are simply not doing the job of producing a plan; and secondly, plans that are wholly inadequate in terms of meeting the required level of housing need.

Photo of Roberta Blackman-Woods Roberta Blackman-Woods Shadow Minister (Housing)

Will regulations set out the circumstances that are likely to lead to a Secretary of State’s direction, or the process that will be followed in order to involve the Secretary of State? We are struggling with what will trigger the Secretary of State’s involvement. Will it be a complaint from a member of the public or one of the local authorities, or something else?

Photo of Gavin Barwell Gavin Barwell Minister of State (Department for Communities and Local Government) (Housing, Planning and London)

I will do my best to answer that question. I am in a slightly difficult position. I might as well be open about the difficulty that I face. I have referred several times to the fact that there will be a White Paper that will set out clearly how we intend to use the powers. Given that I do not yet have collective agreement to the White Paper, it is difficult for me to say too much. However, the powers will not be used if it is a simple matter of complaints from individual members of the public in an area or from developers.

The Department is likely to proactively monitor the progress that local planning authorities make. I made it fairly clear in my opening remarks that I attach great importance to getting full coverage of the country, not necessarily in terms of every single planning authority having its own plan, but in terms of making sure that all parts of the country are covered by a plan, whether it is a strategic plan covering a wider area or individual authorities having their own plan. I will ask my officials to give me regular updates on progress and I will proactively look to intervene if I believe that is the only remaining lever to get to where I think we all agree we want to get to in planning. Does that go far enough to help the hon. Lady?

Photo of Gavin Barwell Gavin Barwell Minister of State (Department for Communities and Local Government) (Housing, Planning and London)

It does. That is good to hear.

I hope I can provide some reassurance on the amendment. As the hon. Member for Oldham West and Royton said, in the case of a joint local development document or a joint plan, where the Secretary of State is apportioning liability for the expenditure between the relevant authorities, the amendment basically says that the relevant authorities have to be consulted. As I have argued before, I do not think it is necessary to write that into statute, but it is clearly something that we would want to have a discussion with the relevant authorities about. To reassure the hon. Gentleman, the key language in the clause is about justness. There is a test of reasonableness in terms of the way the Secretary of State will be doing it in legislation.

Photo of Jim McMahon Jim McMahon Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government) (Devolution)

Clearly, we have absolute confidence in the Minister. We know he is a localist and values relationships with our local authorities, but—heaven forbid—if another Minister in that position with such powers has a different approach, we would want to make sure that safeguards are in place.

Photo of Gavin Barwell Gavin Barwell Minister of State (Department for Communities and Local Government) (Housing, Planning and London)

Let me make a couple of further remarks and then I will be happy to go away and reflect on that point. I hear what the hon. Gentleman says.

Should the Secretary of State intervene under section 21 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, statutorily he can only require reimbursement of any costs he has incurred if the costs are specified in a notice to the authority or authorities concerned. I will read this into the record because it will allow the hon. Gentleman to go away and look at this and check that he is satisfied with it. This is set out in subsection (11) of section 21 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, which is inserted by section 145(4) of the Housing and Planning Act 2016.

Should it be necessary for the Secretary of State to prepare a plan because the relevant authorities have failed to do so, despite being given every opportunity, again it is right that he can recover his costs, but in doing so he would need to demonstrate that he has been just and has acted reasonably. The former—the justness point—may require a consultation with the authorities concerned. I have given an assurance that that would happen. The latter is a concept that is well understood in legal terms. I do not believe it is necessary to write this into law, but if the hon. Gentleman is happy he can go away and look at what I have just referred to in statute. If he is still not satisfied, there is the option for him to press the matter a bit further on Report. I am happy to talk to him outside the Committee if he is still not satisfied.

Amendment 26 agreed to.

Photo of Gavin Barwell Gavin Barwell Minister of State (Department for Communities and Local Government) (Housing, Planning and London)

I beg to move amendment 27, in clause 35, page 27, line 8, after “3”, insert

“, (Review of local development documents)”.

The amendment provides for the regulation-making powers conferred by NC7 to come into force on the passing of the Act resulting from the Bill.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Government new clause 3—Content of development plan documents—

(1) In section 19 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 (preparation of local development documents) after subsection (1A) insert—

“(1B) Each local planning authority must identify the strategic priorities for the development and use of land in the authority’s area.

(1C) Policies to address those priorities must be set out in the local planning authority’s development plan documents (taken as a whole).

(1D) Subsection (1C) does not apply in the case of a London borough council or a Mayoral development corporation if and to the extent that the council or corporation are satisfied that policies to address those priorities are set out in the spatial development strategy.

(1E) If a combined authority established under section 103 of the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009 has the function of preparing the spatial development strategy for the authority’s area, subsection (1D) also applies in relation to—

(a) a local planning authority whose area is within, or the same as, the area of the combined authority, and

(b) the spatial development strategy published by the combined authority.”

(2) In section 35 of that Act (local planning authorities’ monitoring reports) after subsection (3) insert—

“(3A) Subsection (3B) applies if a London borough council or a Mayoral development corporation have determined in accordance with section 19(1D) that—

(a) policies to address the strategic priorities for the development and use of land in their area are set out in the spatial development strategy, and

(b) accordingly, such policies will not to that extent be set out in their development plan documents.

(3B) Each report by the council or corporation under subsection (2) must—

(a) indicate that such policies are set out in the spatial development strategy, and

(b) specify where in the strategy those policies are set out.

(3C) If a combined authority established under section 103 of the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009 has the function of preparing the spatial development strategy for the authority’s area, subsections (3A) and (3B) also apply in relation to—

(a) a local planning authority whose area is within, or the same as, the area of the combined authority, and

(b) the spatial development strategy published by the combined authority.”

This new clause requires a local planning authority to identify the strategic priorities for the development and use of land in the authority’s area and to set out policies to address these in their development plan documents. The latter duty does not apply in the case of certain authorities to the extent that other documents set out the policies, but in that case the authority’s monitoring reports must make that clear.

Amendment (a) to Government new clause 3, after proposed new subsection (1E) to section 19 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, insert

“(1F) The Secretary of State may by regulations require a particular timescale to be set for the production of plan documents.”

Government new clause 7—Review of local development documents.

Photo of Gavin Barwell Gavin Barwell Minister of State (Department for Communities and Local Government) (Housing, Planning and London)

This morning, when Mr Bone was in the Chair, he kindly allowed me to make some introductory remarks about the whole package of amendments in relation to local plans, so I hope I can be a little more brief as I tackle each one.

We have previously made clear our expectation that all local planning authorities should have a plan in place. That is in paragraph 153 of the national planning policy framework, for example. As I said earlier, the local plans expert group recommended introducing a statutory duty on local planning authorities to produce and maintain an up-to-date plan. The group saw that as a means of underlining the importance of local plans and ensuring that their production is given the necessary priority. We have carefully considered those recommendations and the representations we received on them, and we agree.

New clause 3 amends the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, and introduces a requirement for each local planning authority to identify the strategic priorities for the development and use of land in their area. It also places a requirement on the local planning authority to set out policies that address those strategic priorities in the authority’s development plan documents, which collectively make up the local plan. That requirement does not apply if a local planning authority in London considers that its strategic priorities are addressed in the Mayor of London’s spatial development strategy, the London plan. The same opportunity will be given to local planning authorities in the area of a combined authority where the combined authority has the function of preparing a spatial development strategy for its area as, for example, Greater Manchester will.

Where a local authority is relying on policies in a spatial development strategy to deliver its strategic priorities, it has to make that clear in the authority monitoring report that it is required to publish annually. For local plans to be effective, they need to be kept up to date, which brings me to new clause 7.

Paragraph 153 of the NPPF makes it clear that a local plan should be reviewed

“in whole or in part to respond flexibly to changing circumstances.”

We want to put beyond doubt our expectation that plans are reviewed regularly, so new clause 7 amends the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, introducing a requirement for a local planning authority to review its documents at intervals prescribed by the Secretary of State. When reviewing its documents, it should consider whether they should be revised, a little bit like the statements of community involvement that we covered earlier in relation to the neighbourhood planning provisions. If the authority is content that a document does not need to change, that is fine, but it needs to publish its reasons for coming to that decision. The new requirement does not affect the existing duty to keep documents under review.

Finally, amendment 27 simply provides for the regulation-making powers conferred by new clause 7 to come into force on the passing of the Act resulting from the Bill.

Taken together, the two new clauses and amendment 27 put beyond doubt the Government’s commitment to a plan-led system in which all local planning authorities have an up-to-date local plan that ensures that sufficient land is allocated for housing in the right places to meet needs, with roads and other vital amenities required to support that housing—a local plan that crucially provides an opportunity for local communities to shape the development of their city, town or village. I am grateful for what the hon. Lady said earlier, and I hope that the amendment is accepted.

Photo of Roberta Blackman-Woods Roberta Blackman-Woods Shadow Minister (Housing) 2:15, 27 Hydref 2016

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr McCabe. I will speak about Government new clause 3 and amendment (a) together. I tabled amendment (a) hoping to elicit more information from the Minister about what the Government are trying to do with new clause 3. On the face of it, that new clause seems very sensible in asking that development plan documents set out strategic priorities. That is quite hard to disagree with. What I am not clear about is whether an additional tier of work will be required of local authorities in putting their plan together.

I tabled amendment (a) simply so that I could ask the Minister to focus on the speedy production of local plans. He will know that this has been an ongoing issue for some time. It is undoubtedly the case that the local plan-making process put in place in 2004 ended up being rather more lengthy than those who put the legislation together—I hasten to add that it was not me—thought it would be. It is a very cumbersome process for local authorities. It is not that all the documents are not needed. I will say something about that in a moment.

The issue—I think it is one that the Minister recognises, particularly in terms of the content of new clause 4—is that we need to get local authorities to a position where it is a more straightforward process for them to put a local development plan document together. We know that under the 2004 process, even where there were not really any local difficulties or much complexity, it was taking on average three years to produce the plan to make it ready for inspection. That was not getting it right through the process; that was just getting it ready and going through the various rounds of consultation.

The average cost of the process, from beginning to end, was a staggering £500,000. When I argued earlier in the Committee’s deliberations for putting more money into neighbourhood plans as the building block for local plan-making, that was the figure I had in mind. Lots of money is being set aside for consultation, but it has not always produced results that have altered the local plan-making process in any way. As I said earlier to the Minister, I think that money could be better spent.

I think it is fair to say that there has been a difference of opinion among some inspectors as to the weight that should be given to the plan, and various bits of the plan, during the whole process, particularly if the plan was referred back for a part of it to be rewritten. All in all, we have ended up in a situation where local plan-making has been very complex, lengthy and costly. I pay tribute to the Minister and others who are looking at streamlining this process, but I want to suggest a way of doing it that would help not only local authorities but local communities and all those who are subsequently involved in implementing the plan.

This is not actually my idea; it was put in evidence, before the last election, by the Planning Officers Society, the organisation that represents planners. They are the people who draw up the plans and then have to try and implement them. It is important that any Government listens to what they have to say about the planning system because they know better than anyone the difficulties and what would work in practice.

The planners, interestingly, have put together a two-stage process that relates directly to the content of new clause 3, which is why I made the suggestion here. They are suggesting a first stage, which could be the outcome of a lot of work with the local community to set strategic priorities for that specific local authority, or a group of local authorities if that is deemed to be more important. The critical point is that it would not require the long technical documents that currently go with local plans—such as a detailed minerals assessment or watercourse assessment—to be drawn up at that early stage.

I do not know whether the Minister has worked with local communities, particularly on the examination of a local plan, as I have in my local area on our local plan, but everyone came to the committee with documents at least 12 inches thick. They were incredibly complicated and technical, and unless someone is an expert they simply would not understand or have time to go through them. I am sure almost everyone could get to grips with such documents if they had all the time in the world, but to expect a local community to go through such highly technical and detailed documents at the stage of a public inquiry does not seem sensible. Nothing will be agreed until the public examination takes place.

It would be really helpful to consider what planning officers are saying. They are suggesting getting the community on board for what is important to them, such as the strategic direction forward plan and what, broadly in terms of land use, the local authority will set out—what types of housing and other developments in what timeframe. If it is possible to get broad agreement on that general way forward, there could be a second stage when the first one has been agreed and has been through a lighter-touch inspection. In the second stage, the more technical documents could be brought into the frame and all the professionals who will have to put the document into operation will be able to assess whether the technical support and evidence is there for the exact developments to take place.

I know the Minister is open to speeding up the process and introducing an easier one. I want to use the opportunity of amendment (a) to new clause 3 to suggest this as a possible way forward that could greatly speed up the whole process, not only for local authorities, but for the local community. That is the purpose of amendment (a).

There are two issues. It is really important to have a final date by which local authorities must produce their plan. I hope that we will not be sitting in another housing and planning Bill Committee, but I fear there may be one coming down the line. I certainly hope that in a year or 18 months, 30% of local authorities will not be without a plan in place. We certainly do not want to be here in 2020 with a set of local authorities not having a plan in place, 16 years after a Bill was enacted requiring a local plan.

As well as testing the Minister on whether he has given any consideration to how to speed up the overall planning process, I want to know whether he thinks it would be appropriate to set a final cut-off point for local plans to be made.

Photo of Gavin Barwell Gavin Barwell Minister of State (Department for Communities and Local Government) (Housing, Planning and London)

The hon. Lady has just made a very interesting speech. I do not particularly like her amendment, for reasons I will explain, but I have a lot of sympathy with the ideas behind it and will try to reassure her on that front. She quoted the Planning Officers Society, a fine organisation that is chaired by Mike Kiely, who was chief planning officer at Croydon Council and whom I know very well—he is an excellent planning officer. She is quoting from a very reputable organisation.

The hon. Lady made some sage points about the time and cost involved in producing a local plan, which we will address in the White Paper; I hope that reassures her. We are particularly keen to remove a lot of the confrontation involved in the local plan process, such as the huge arguments about whether councils have calculated objectively assessed need correctly, and everything that follows. Councils face the very high test of whether the plan is the most appropriate one, which allows the developer to say, “Well, you’ve got everything right, except that this site is better than that site.” A huge amount of wrangling goes on, and I am not sure whether that is in the public interest. I have a great deal of sympathy with the arguments underlying the amendment, which the hon. Lady outlined. If she bears with us for a few weeks, she should see our proposals to address those issues.

Let me say a few words, first about the indication of a final date, which the hon. Lady asked for, and secondly about my concern with the specific wording of the amendment—I think it is a probing amendment, so she is probably more interested in the principle than in the detail. The Government have said that we expect authorities to have plans in place by early next year. Anyone who is listening to this debate can be clear that there is a clear deadline to get this work done. That does not mean that we will want to intervene on every single council that has not achieved that by then, because some councils may be working flat out and are very close, so intervening would do nothing to speed the process up. However, councils that are not making satisfactory progress towards that target should be warned that intervention will follow, because we are determined to ensure that we get plan coverage in place.

The key issue with the wording of the hon. Lady’s amendment is that the gun did not start at the same moment; councils are at very different stages of the process. Rather than just saying, “Everybody needs to get to these points by these dates”, we need to reflect the fact that some councils have plans that are no longer up to date, so they need to do a review. Others have never produced one and are at a different stage along the road. If the hon. Lady was in my shoes, she would want a little more flexibility than her amendment would allow to decide on the right triggers for intervention.

What we hold councils to at the moment is whether they are achieving the timescales they set out in their own documents. I hope that I have reassured the hon. Lady on the issues of principle about trying to reduce the cost and the time taken to produce plans, which is very important, but I would not necessarily want to set out in statute or in secondary legislation a set of timescales that every local council had to fit into.

Photo of Roberta Blackman-Woods Roberta Blackman-Woods Shadow Minister (Housing)

I have heard what the Minister has said, particularly on the measures that the Government might consider to help speed up and simplify the plan-making process. I await the White Paper with even more fervent anticipation; it is going to be really interesting. I wanted to test the Minister on what was meant by the Government’s expectation that plans would be put in place by March next year. I heard his response, but I press him to ensure that local authorities complete the plan-making process as quickly as possible.

Amendment 27 agreed to.

Question proposed, That the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Gavin Barwell Gavin Barwell Minister of State (Department for Communities and Local Government) (Housing, Planning and London) 2:30, 27 Hydref 2016

Clause 35 makes standard provision in relation to the commencement of provisions in the Bill. Subsection (1) sets out the default position, which is that provisions are to come into force on a day appointed by the Secretary of State in commencement regulations. Where that default position applies, the Secretary of State may appoint different days for different purposes and may also make transitional provisions and savings. Subsection (3) sets out the exception to the default position, which is that the delegated powers within the neighbourhood planning provisions, the planning register provision and the final standard provisions of the Bill will come into force when the Bill obtains Royal Assent. The clause contains an essential and standard provision that is necessary to implement the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 35, as amended, accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 36 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

New Clause 3