8 June 2022
Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown welcomes the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill but cautions against upsetting the balance between national and local policy

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown welcomes the Bill, which will help to level up some of our poorest communities in this country, but raises concerns that national development management policies could override local plans and set a precedent that begins to nationalise planning policy and upset the delicate balance between national and local policy that has existed since the Town and Country Planning Act 1947.

Intervention on the Secretary of State

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (The Cotswolds) (Con)

My right hon. Friend has referred to the national development management policies. There is great concern that they will override local planning authorities, which spend a great deal of time preparing their local plans that are then approved by Government inspectors. It would be quite wrong if national Government overrode them, and it would destroy the careful balance that has existed since the Town and Country Planning Act 1947, in which planning was devolved to local authorities.

Michael Gove (The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and Minister for Intergovernmental Relations)

My hon. Friend gives me the opportunity to reassert that the NDMPs will not override local plans. Local plans have primacy—that is perfectly clear in this legislation. As a result of strengthening the plan- making system, we will make sure that we deal with the issues and questions that have led particular communities to resist development in the past.



Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (The Cotswolds) (Con)

I am grateful to have caught your eye in this very important debate, Madam Deputy Speaker, but I am not so grateful to have to follow the speech of the hon. Member for Wigan (Lisa Nandy). I cannot believe that in a speech that lasted more than half an hour, she could not find something to welcome in the Bill, which will help to level up some of our poorest communities in this country. I can only conclude that she and I have been reading different Bills.

I declare my registered interest as a Fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors; I have practised professionally in planning matters. I welcome the fact that earlier zonal planning proposals were dropped, and I welcome the abolition of the five-year land supply. It is right to try to speed up the planning process by better using data and digitalisation. Where better to start than by streaming and accelerating the local planning process, and concurrently introducing neighbourhood development orders in clause 89 to make the neighbourhood plan process easier? That is important, because those plans are where most people become involved in the planning process. They are a truly democratic part of that process.

Unfortunately, the democratic theme applies with a vengeance to the national development management policies set out in clauses 83 and 84, which I referred to in an intervention on the Secretary of State. It is very important that we think carefully about them, because they set a dangerous precedent that begins to nationalise planning policy and upsets the delicate balance between national and local policy that has existed since the Town and Country Planning Act 1947, which largely decentralised planning.

Munira Wilson 

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown 

I will not, because I have only four minutes.

Given the enabling power in the Bill to implement NDMPs, and the enormous centralising power, what will they contain and what will be the consultation process to create and amend them? That is a key question, and I hope that the Minister for Housing will provide some answers when he sums up.

I was heavily involved in the Public Accounts Committee’s inquiry into local government finance; indeed, I secured an Adjournment debate on the subject on 27 April—it is printed at column 845 of the Official Report—to urge the Government to stop local authorities such as Cotswold District Council, which wants to borrow £76.5 million on an annual core spending budget of just £11.2 million. The Liberal Democrats running that council are financially illiterate.

I welcome the implementation of the Letwin review to speed up development with the introduction of a development commencement notice that sets out the annual rate of housing delivery within large developments and the consequent completion notice. I also welcome the new infrastructure levy in clause 113, to be set in conjunction with the retained section 106 powers. In the Cotswolds, agricultural land is worth between £10,000 and £15,000 per acre; with planning permission, that could increase to half a million pounds or more. With good tax advice, only 10% is paid on the gain.

If the infrastructure levy is properly implemented, it could provide substantial infrastructure. It could end the endless argument about delays and viability, because the developer would know before purchasing the site what they would be expected to provide. The construct of charging on the gross development value—I urge the Minister to listen to this—is interesting, but will deter any aspect of environmental design improvement unless it is statutorily required. A better construct might be to capture the increase in land value, which I have demonstrated is there.

Finally, the increase in planning and enforcement fees is welcome. Most planning departments are poorly funded; they should be properly funded to determine applications rapidly and should employ good and well-qualified planners. Thank you for allowing me to speak in this debate, Madam Deputy Speaker.


Later intervention on the Minister winding up the debate

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown 

I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. He will have heard what I said in my speech about the gross added value method of charging for the infrastructure levy, which will act as a disincentive to developers to put added value on environmental and design matters. Will he please discuss that matter with me to see whether we can use a better method by capturing the increase in land value?

Stuart Andrew (The Minister for Housing)

I certainly make that commitment. My hon. Friend raised that point with me earlier this afternoon. There are some points there that I want to further explore, so I will ensure I meet him in the next week or so.