My Lords, I rise to speak to government Amendments 84, 88 and 89—tabled by my noble friend Lord Howe—which are grouped with Amendments 85 and 86, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, Amendment 56, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, and the noble Lords, Lord Campbell and Lord Shipley, and Amendments 61, 62, 64, 68, 69, 70, 72, 76 and 77, tabled by my noble friend Lord Lansley.
I turn to Amendments 84, 88 and 89, government amendments tabled by my noble friend Lord Howe, and Amendments 85 and 86, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson. The purpose of these amendments is to secure that mayoral development corporations, Transport for London, urban development corporations and parish meetings are subject to the power in Section 78 of the Coronavirus Act 2020, which enables the making of regulations to allow these bodies to meet remotely until 7 May 2021.
They correct the omission of these bodies from the Coronavirus Act, which was an accidental oversight due to the pace at which the Act was drafted. It is wholly consistent with the current policy of the Government that bodies such as local authorities—in the broadest sense—should be able to meet remotely, carrying on their business while protecting the health and safety of members, officers and the public. The Government have received representation on this matter from, among others, the Mayor of London—particularly on behalf of the London Legacy Development Corporation—Transport for London and the National Association of Local Councils with regard to the inclusion of parish meetings.
I will answer both the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, and the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, by saying that the Government’s intention is to make the amended regulations with urgency following Royal Assent. In fact, Amendment 89 specifically allows early commencement of Amendment 84 and, in addition, we will move at pace to ensure that the regulations are in place in a matter of days, as opposed to the typical 21 days. This is a similar pace to the laying of regulations following the passing of the Coronavirus Act.
I note Amendment 85 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, which would have put the change to Section 78 of the Coronavirus Act in the Bill in respect of mayoral development corporations, and Amendment 86, which seeks to include a specific reference to the highway authority for the Greater London Authority in the local authority remote meetings regulations. We support the spirit of these amendments but, in the light of the government amendments, we hope that noble Lords will not move those amendments. I hope that will also be the case for the amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson.
I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, and the noble Lords, Lord Campbell and Lord Shipley, for Amendment 56. We agree that local planning authorities should have sufficient information about the impact of extended construction hours on the community and environment to enable them to make a timely decision. We believe that the most appropriate way of ensuring that this happens is through guidance. There is likely to be a range of possible responses from the construction industry to this measure and variation in what will be requested—from an additional hour or so on some sites, so that workers can have staggered start and finish times, to longer evening extensions on others. Therefore, we need a flexible and proportionate approach that can be tailored to the circumstances.
However, we listened to noble Lords’ views during Committee and we hear their concerns. We recognise the need for balance and to ensure that safeguards are in place to protect amenity, as the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, and the noble Lords, Lord Campbell and Lord Shipley, have asked for. We have strengthened the draft guidance so that it also lists an assessment of impacts of noise on sensitive uses nearby as something that local planning authorities may wish to encourage an applicant to provide to aid swift decision-making. This is in addition to providing a justification for extended hours and mitigations to aid swift decision-making, which were already covered in the guidance.
We have also taken the advice of the Institute of Acoustics, the Association of Noise Consultants and the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, and gone further still to make other changes to strengthen the guidance, including that applicants provide information on the primary construction activities expected to take place during the extended hours, including the plant and equipment expected to be used. Taking into account these changes, I beg noble Lords not to press their amendment. I also assure my noble friend Lord Balfe that the legislation is temporary and we will not see any diminution to the environmental gains that have been achieved by the planning system.
I turn to the nine amendments tabled by my noble friend Lord Lansley, which relate to Clauses 17, 18 and 19, and the extension of planning permissions and listed building consents. These amendments would extend the time limit for relevant planning permissions and listed building consents to 1 May 2021, instead of 1 April as currently drafted. I note that he has tabled these amendments as a compromise given my concerns about accepting his amendments in Committee, which would have introduced an extension to 1 June 2021.
I agree with my noble friend that any extension of unimplemented planning permissions or listed building consents needs to be of sufficient length to aid the development industry, given the impact that Covid-19 has had on development. We certainly think that it will take time for many developers to commence new residential and commercial development. I thank him in particular for his insightful points during the debates on these measures, particularly on the potential impacts of the winter months on the productivity of the development industry.
I am pleased to say that the Government will accept my noble friend’s nine amendments. They will provide a modest extension into the more accommodating spring months. I also recognise that this additional time would be welcomed by developers and local planning authorities, given that the development industry is experiencing a slow and cautious return to full operating capacity. We accept that this is appropriate in the circumstances.
The amendments would, in effect, give any eligible planning permissions and listed building consents nine months, or three-quarters of a year, from now to take steps to implement the permission. We will, as previously mentioned, keep the use of powers to extend certain dates in the legislation under review if the impact of the coronavirus continues.
These are modest amendments, but I agree that they will give additional certainty to developers in these exceptional times. I trust that they will be well received by your Lordships’ House, as well as by the industry. On this basis, I am happy to accept my noble friend’s amendments.