I was delighted to be successful in the Private Members' Bill ballot and present my Planning (Enforcement) Bill to Parliament on 16 June.
The Second Reading debate of the Bill took place on 19th November and showed the strength of feeling, the impact that serious breaches have on our communities and Green Belt, and the need for the measures in the Bill. As one colleague today highlighted, there is a clear sense of urgency to ensure this is addressed.
The full debate is available here (start time 11.03.10). You can also watch my speech proposing the legislation above.
I am delighted that the Government have acknowledged the importance of addressing these issues, and expressed support for bringing in new powers to strengthen the planning enforcement process and for Local Planning Authorities. In his response, the Minister acknowledged that the issues highlighted are problems we must solve, and noted the level of interest and support the issues had.
I have acknowledged throughout this campaign to strengthen planning enforcement that these are incredibly complicated and long standing issues that I, and everyone who supports the campaign, have been seeking to address. It is essential that the solutions we put forward can really make a difference, and are invulnerable to the abuse of the system we currently see.
A number of technical issues were raised during the debate which will need to be addressed to achieve this. I therefore withdrew the Bill in its current form, and will continue to work with the Government and colleagues to bring back proposals once these issues have been addressed.
I am grateful the Government have committed to take forward some of the measures in the Bill as part of their ongoing review of planning and upcoming reforms. They have a clear aim to strengthen the planning enforcement process and make it easier for LPAs to tackle deliberate planning breaches.
It is essential that we take the time now to get this right. Today's debate is by no means the end of this campaign to strengthen planning enforcement and tackle rogue development. I again wish to thank everyone who contributed to the debate and work so far to address this issue, and look forward to building on the incredible strength of support as we take this forward.
Further details of the Bill, as well as what a Private Members' Bill is are outlined below.
The Planning (Enforcement) Bill
A Bill to create offences relating to repeat breaches of planning controls; to make provision about penalties for planning offences; to establish a national register of persons who have committed planning offences or breached planning controls and make associated provision about planning applications; and for connected purposes.
While most people adhere to the rules, the minority who persistently commit planning breaches can cause misery to neighbours and communities, and can cause irreparable damage to our Green Belt. Since elected in 2019 I have been made aware of numerous cases where repeated planning breaches have caused significant disruption, anxiety and anger amongst neighbouring residents. The current planning enforcement system is beset by long delays, with complicated and repeat offences often taking many years to resolve. Local authority planning teams are also forced to spend too much time dealing with a handful of cases rather than engaging with residents across the local area.
It simply should not be possible for individuals or companies to benefit or profit from intentionally flouting planning rules.
My Planning (Enforcement) Bill sought to address this by strengthening powers to deal with repeated planning breaches. The Bill aimed to increase the penalties for those who repeatedly and intentionally flout the law, and creating a national register to enable local authorities to identify repeat offenders, in order to end the cycle of endless applications and planning breaches on problem sites, and help protect our residents and our natural environment.
Further information regarding the Bill is available at www.stoproguedevelopment.com
What is a Private Members' Bill?
Private Members' bills are public bills introduced by MPs and Lords who are not government ministers. As with other public bills their purpose is to change the law as it applies to the general population.
To introduce a bill in the House of Commons a Member needs to provide its short title (by which it is known) and its long title (which describes briefly what it does). Ballot bills, such as the Planning (Enforcement) Bill have the best chance of becoming law, as they get priority for the limited amount of debating time available. The names of Members applying for a bill are drawn in a ballot held on the second sitting Thursday of a parliamentary session. Normally, the first seven ballot bills are most likely to get a day's debate.
The first reading (formal presentation - no debate) of ballot bills takes place on the fifth sitting Wednesday of a parliamentary session.
The ballot draw for the 2021-22 parliamentary session took place on Thursday 20 May 2021 and is available to watch online on Parliament live.
Further information on Private Members' Bills is available here.
The stages of a Bill
Like other public bills, Private Members' bills can be introduced in either House and must go through the same set stages. Details of the passage of a Bill through Parliament, including what happens at each stage, is available here.