UK: Planning Act Blog 208: Localism Bill Committee to Get Under Way

Last Updated: 25 January 2011
Article by Angus Walker

This is entry number 208, first published on 24 January 2011, of a blog on the Planning Act 2008 infrastructure planning and authorisation regime. Click here for a link to the whole blog. If you would like to be notified when the blog is updated, with links sent by email, click here.

Today's entry reports on the start of the Localism Bill Committee Stage.

The Localism Bill, the government's flagship planning and local government Bill that amends the regime for planning and authorising major infrastructure projects amongst many other measures, starts its committee stage in the House of Commons this evening with a private programming session. This is the stage where the Bill is considered in detail by a smaller group of MPs - 26 to be precise. Here are the MPs who will consider the Bill.

There are to be two Chairs - David Amess (Con, Southend West) and Hugh Bayley (Lab, York Central) (all pictures courtesy of the Parliament website):

Three government ministers are on the committee, and three shadow ministers, all from or shadowing the Department for Communities and Local Government - Greg Clark (Con, Tunbridge Wells), Bob Neill (Con, Bromley and Chislehurst) and Andrew Stunell (LD, Hazel Grove); Jack Dromey (Lab, Birmingham Erdington), Barbara Keeley (Lab, Worsley and Eccles South) and Alison Seabeck (Lab, Plymouth Moor View):

There is a whip for the government and for the opposition - Bill Wiggin (Con, North Herefordshire) and Angela Smith (Lab, Penistone and Stocksbridge):

There are then nine 'ordinary' Conservative members - Gavin Barwell (Con, Croydon Central), Fiona Bruce (Con, Congleton), Alun Cairns (Con, Vale of Glamorgan) (originally to be Richard Harrington, but there has been a change), John Howell (Con, Henley), Brandon Lewis (Con, Great Yarmouth), James Morris (Con, Halesowen and Rowley Regis), Eric Ollerenshaw (Con, Lancaster and Fleetwood), Henry Smith (Con, Crawley), Iain Stewart (Con, Milton Keynes South);

six 'ordinary' Labour members - Nic Dakin (Lab, Scunthorpe), Simon Danczuk (Lab, Rochdale), Julie Elliott (Lab, Sunderland Central), Pat Glass (Lab, North West Durham), Siobhain McDonagh (Lab, Mitcham and Morden), Nick Raynsford (Lab, Greenwich and Woolwich);

and finally, two Liberal Democrats and a Democratic Unionist - Stephen Gilbert (LD, St Austell and Newquay), David Ward (LD, Bradford East), David Simpson (DU, Upper Bann):

In total, there are 13 Conservative members, 11 Labour members, three Lib Dems and one Democratic Unionist. Thus the coalition has a majority, although no single party does.

The committee will sit in public twice a week for 6 weeks from tomorrow until Thursday 10 March (Parliament is not sitting from from 17 – 28 February), on Tuesdays from 10.30am – 1pm and 4pm – 6pm and on Thursdays from 9am – 10.25am and 1pm – 3pm.

The first two sitting days this week will apparently involve questioning witnesses. There is no official sign of who these will be yet, although I have seen reports that the National Housing Federation's chief executive David Orr is to give evidence tomorrow, and Jessica Bauly of the CBI on Thursday. There is a 'programming' meeting at 6pm today, so perhaps that will lead to an announcement. I'll just mention that I am free on Tuesday and Thursday afternoon...

If witnesses are being examined this week, the business of examining the Bill will start next week. That is just as well, since so far only one amendment has been tabled, although at least it affects the Planning Act regime.

At the moment, neighbourhood development plans (NDPs), the new proposed layer of planning policies at neighbourhood level, cannot intrude upon nationally significant infrastructure projects. In other words, they can't say 'we don't want nuclear power stations here', for example - although arguably they could still say 'we only want playing fields here [here being the site of a proposed nuclear power station]'.

The amendment, tabled by Andrea Leadsom MP, would allow NDPs to cover electricity generation between 50MW and 100MW. She is on record during the second reading debate as wanting more local control over onshore windfarms, so that is no doubt the intended effect of the amendment. It won't work, unfortunately (for her) in terms of allowing local people to decide policy on sub-100MW onshore windfarms, as nationally significant infrastructure projects do not need planning permission. An NDP policy would still be a matter relevant to a decision, though

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Angus Walker
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