Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth
My Lords, I thank noble Lords who have participated in the debate on these regulations and I will try to address the points they made in the order in which they were raised.
First, on the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, the definition of “housing-led development” is that the main purpose of the development is housing: that is central. I have much sympathy with the second issue raised by the noble Lord. As officials in my department know, I fight against acronyms and abbreviations every day, because they confuse me—and, I suspect, a lot of other people—so I will go away to reflect on that and look at our website to see how we make this more accessible for people than it is now or is generally the case. I have some sympathy with that point.
Turning to the contribution from the noble Lord, Lord Jones, I thank him, as always, for his courtesy. His point, I think, related to Regulation 5 and the hazardous substances authority. What we are doing here is tightening the restrictions. I know from how this operates in Wales, which I think is essentially the same as in England, that currently if planning permission is granted for a site, the hazardous substances authority, in designating how it can be used—for the storage of oil or whatever—has to consider whether there is planning permission in the vicinity. I am not sure of the precise definition of “in the vicinity”, but I will write to the noble Lord about that, as I suspect that there is a statutory definition of it. The authority has to take account of that and that restricts it, for very understandable reasons. This regulation extends that to permission in principle, in addition to the existing planning permission.
I therefore thank the noble Lord for his considerate and, if I may say so, balanced response—which brings me to the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, who I thank for his qualified welcome and excellent impression of Eeyore during the first couple of minutes of his introduction. I know the noble Lord, and suspect that some of that was tongue in cheek. I will, however, address some of the points he raised about the regulations, starting with Regulation 2. This regulation is rooted in the community; a local decision is being made. This does not in any way run counter to the localism agenda. The choice about where to grant permission in principle is a local one. The local planning authority would make the decision in accordance with its own local plan and in line with the National Planning Policy Framework. That is a rigorous process, and I do not see anything unlocal, as it were, that runs against localism in that.
The noble Lord asked about Regulation 3, which amends the 1990 Act, and what it ensures. It ensures that in addition to current planning applications permissions, which are put on the register, permission in principle is put on the register as well. This extends transparency. Without this, it would not go on the register. I am sure the noble Lord welcomes that provision, possibly in a rather muted way.
Regulation 4 amends the Planning (Hazardous Substances) Act. I think it was the noble Lord who asked about “vicinity”, and I will ensure that that is covered in a letter to noble Lords who have participated in the debate, as I am not quite sure of the definition. I think there is a fairly tight statutory definition.
The noble Lord then raised an interesting point on Regulation 5, which amends the Commons Act 2006. This is not a new procedure. There are trigger events at the moment—I think they operated under the last Labour Government as well—that, for understandable reasons which I would certainly support, put a halt to registering something as a commons when planning permission has been given for it. I do not think that that is unreasonable, as you have given planning permission. If the planning permission lapses or is withdrawn, the land is available once again for commons registration. That seems to me to be entirely sensible. It is a pause, and the same applies here. This extends the process to permission in principle—dare I say, mutatis mutandis? That operates on both sides, that one. The noble Lord, Lord Beecham, raised points on this issue and I will have to write to him on those. As he said, the issue was raised in the Commons, and he makes a very fair point about making clear what we are going to do in this area. I will write to him on that issue and copy noble Lords in. I thank noble Lords who have in general given a welcome to these regulations.