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Clause 7—(Supplementary Provisions As To Development Plans)

Volume 439: debated on Monday 7 July 1947

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I beg to move, in page 7, line 36, at the end, to insert:

"(a) that before preparing a development plan or proposals for alterations or additions to any such plan the local planning authority shall consult with such bodies or persons as may be prescribed by the regulations."
This Amendment is to meet the argument in Committee that there should be consultations with the agricultural executive committees when development plans are being prepared. It would not be feasible to single out the agricultural executive committees for consultation, as this would lead to representations being made from other bodies with just as much right to be taken into consultation. This Amendment enables the Secretary of State, by regulation, to prescribe that local planning authorities shall consult with such bodies as may be specified. I give the assurance that I am quite prepared to specify in the regulations that agricultural executive committees in county areas shall be among the bodies that must be consulted.

I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, in line 3, at the end, to add:

"and in particular, if the regulations so prescribe, with the agricultural executive committee for each county in which any land affected by the plan is situated."
The right hon. Gentleman has said that the regulations will stipuate that the county agricultural executive committees shall be consulted. If that is the case, why will he not put it in the Bill? He said that he did not want to specify all the authorities who might be consulted, but, after all, agriculture is the most important of all bodies, and the land being taken over is agricultural land. Having undertaken to put this in the regulations, why cannot he put it in the Bill? No other parties can be half as interested as the agricultural people, and it seems only right that they should be consulted.

8.15 p.m.

I beg to second the Amendment to the proposed Amendment.

I wish to support what has been said about the importance of the agricultural interests. Those who had occasion during the war to seek the advice of the agricultural executive committees in regard to camping and training sites will realise how important it is that one area should be chosen as against another. To the layman it often seems that two or three areas are of equal value. But when it comes to the detail of the matter only the agriculturist can tell why one area should be chosen and another left alone. That applies particularly in town and country planning. It is of the greatest importance that the local planning authority, in deciding where housing, industrial development, and new centres of population are to be, should act in the closest accord with those responsible for the maintenance and development of agriculture. No one is better qualified to give advice on this matter, in the different localities, than the members of the agricultural executive committees. They are local men, and often they are farmers, who are representative of the agricultural interests. They know exactly the quality of the land, all about water supplies and access roads, and so on, which are so important. The right hon. Gentleman has said that he is prepared to put this into the regulations, but I join with my hon. and gallant Friend in urging him, even at this late hour, to put it into the Bill. Regulations have not quite the force of an Act of Parliament, and if the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to provide for consultation, which was what we pressed for in Committee, I hope he will now accept the point of view that there should be a specific requirement that planning authorities should consult agricultural committees.

Here, again, I have done my best to try to meet the points which were put by right hon. and hon. Members opposite in Committee. I cannot, however, accept this Amendment, because it is often the case in connection with legislation that if one thing is specified there may be exclusion of others. I have made it clear that in the regulations there will be consultation in the county areas. But not all planning authorities have agricultural executive committees. I imagine that Glasgow has not got one; I know that Kirkcaldy has not got one; I imagine that none of the other 19 large burghs have got one, and that the four cities have not got one. Agricultural executive committees operate in the county areas. I agree about the need for consultation, and I have tried to widen the Bill to this effect. Having given the pledge that through the regulations I will see that agricultural executive committees are consulted in the agricultural areas, I ask the House to reject the Amendment.

If the Amendment were accepted agricultural executive committees would only be consulted if consultation was provided for in the regulations. Since the right hon. Gentleman has given an assurance, I cannot see why the Opposition want to put their Amendment into the Bill.

Amendment to the proposed Amendment negatived.

Proposed words there inserted in the Bill.

I beg to move, in page 8, line 10, at the end, to insert:

"(3) If as the result of any objections or representations considered, or of any local inquiry or other hearing held, in connection with a development plan or proposals for amendment of such a plan submitted to or prepared by the Secretary of State under this Part of this Act, the Secretary of State is of opinion that the local planning authority or any other authority or person ought to be consulted before he decides whether to approve or make the plan either with or without modifications, or to amend the plan, as the case may be, he shall consult that authority or person, but shall not be under any obligation to consult any other authority or person, or to afford any opportunity for further objections or representations or to cause any further local inquiry or other hearing to be held."
This Amendment allows the Secretary of State after considering objections or representations or the holding of a local inquiry, to enter into further consultations with any person or body at his discretion. He is able to enter into these consultations without having further meetings with the people with whom he has been previously in consultation. The Amendment is designed to provide facilities in connection with the approval of development plans. It is important that after the Secretary of State has received the report of such an inquiry that he should be free to consider it in the light of further information and further consultation. To prevent him doing that would curtail his opportunities of producing a good scheme

I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, in line 1, to leave out from "considered," to "in," in line 2.

If it would be in Order, I think that it might be convenient to consider together this and the following Amendment, in line 9, to leave out from "representations," to the end.

While the directions of the Secretary of State through the local planning authorities are a natural means of requesting information, the performance of the duties and functions by local planning authorities ought, we think, to be regulated only by statutory regulations under the Act—regulations which are open to public scrutiny and to annulment by Parliament under the terms of Clause 104. Where such directions are of a general character and refer to all or a majority of the local planning authorities, they ought to be in the form of directions. This point was raised in Committee in a rather different way. The Joint Under-Secretary, I think, gave an assurance then that the matter would be looked into, and if it was felt to be one of any substance an Amendment would be put down. We are sorry that an Amendment has not been put down, and that was the reason why we were prompted to put forward these two Amendments.

The Amendment, of the hon. Member for West Aberdeen (Mr. Thornton-Kemsley) is, as he has stated, really to point the opposition to the Amendment which we have proposed. We have looked at this matter again, but we think that it is absolutely essential that the Secretary of State should have this unlimited power of consultation.

Amendment to the proposed Amendment negatived.

Proposed words there inserted in the Bill.

I beg to move, in page 8, line 29, to leave out Subsections (5) and (6).

This is merely drafting.

This is rather a large order to see covered by the words "drafting." Could we have an explanation of where the drafting comes in?

I gave an explanation on a previous Amendment which has been agreed to, and this merely puts these particular Subsections in the right place. This is consequential on an Amendment already accepted by the House.

Amendment agreed to.