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Town And Country Planning

Volume 463: debated on Tuesday 12 April 1949

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County Committee, Cornwall

13.

asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning if he will change the method of appointment to the Cornwall County Planning Committee so as not to exclude from representation the Camborne-Redruth Urban District.

The Cornwall county scheme, to which the Camborne-Redruth Urban District Council assented, provides that a proportion only of the county districts are represented on the County Planning Committee in any given year. The selection is made by the area committees, on which all county districts in the areas are represented, and though Camborne-Redruth were not selected this year, they have an opportunity of being selected in future years. Any amendment of the scheme would be a matter for the county council.

Is it not clear that the method at present adopted for making appointments to this committee is unsatisfactory, if it tends to exclude in any way an urban district of the size of Camborne-Redruth, which is not only the largest in the county but the most populous? Does the right hon. Gentleman think that any effective planning for West Cornwall can be done when such a large area, with all the advice that it could give, is excluded? Will he use his good offices with the county council to get them to amend this scheme?

The scheme is one which was actually approved by the Camborne-Redruth Urban District Council. If they no longer approve it, I would suggest that they might take the initiative.

Housing Development, Mobberley

16.

asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning whether any decision has yet been reached about the development of housing or a new town in the Mobberley area of Cheshire; what planning considerations have been applied; and whether he is satisfied that such development is in accordance with good planning.

I decided to proceed no further with the proposal for a new town at Mobberley when it became clear that there was no site in the area sufficiently large and at the same time sufficiently free from the risk of subsidence to justify the use of the machinery provided by the New Towns Act. I hope, however, to be able to announce a decision shortly on a separate proposal by Manchester City Council to develop a limited area at Mobberley for the reception of overspill population and industry from the city. Meanwhile, I can assure the hon. Member that all relevant planning and other considerations, including the need to provide land for Manchester's housing, will be taken into account in determining the nature and extent of any development.

Is the Minister justified in allowing a corporation to acquire for building purposes land which is unsuitable owing to salt and/or peat deposits?

That is a general question which I am not able to answer. If the hon. and gallant Member quotes a specific case to me I will deal with it.

17.

asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning what is the amount of good agricultural land and land containing deposits of peat which are involved in the area now under consideration for the development of a new town in the Mobberley area of Cheshire; what are the precise sites under consideration; and what is the estimated loss of milk and other agricultural products which will arise from withdrawing this land from agricultural use.

I would refer the hon. Member to my answer to the previous Question. Since it is not proposed to use the machinery provided by the New Towns Act at Mobberley, the precise extent of any area that may be developed there will primarily be a matter for settlement between the local authorities concerned. The Ministry of Agriculture will, however, be consulted about the boundary of any site which it may be proposed to develop, and about the stages by which land should be withdrawn from agricultural use.

In view of the urgent necessity of producing as much food as possible in this country, is it wise to develop a new town on land which consists of part of the best agricultural land in Cheshire?

That is, of course, the reason for the discussions which will be taking place with the Ministry of Agriculture for the purpose of determining the exact site.

Cannot the overspill population of Manchester be rehoused in Lancashire on land which is of less agricultural value than in Cheshire?

That point has, of course, been considered, but some of the large towns in Lancashire themselves have overspill populations.

Are there not alternative sites within reasonable access of Manchester, where the land is of less agricultural value? Have not the National Farmers' Union already submitted alternative proposals?

I am satisfied that there is no land of less agricultural value which would be satisfactory for this purpose.

Is it not possible that if we excavated enough peat we would find an old town of Mobberley?

Would my right hon. Friend bear in mind the shortage of building land in Lancashire, and take whatever steps are available to provide building land in the adjoining areas?

18.

asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning what will be the approximate cost of excavating the peat, filling up and compaction per acre in the sites under consideration for development of a new town in the Mobberley area of Cheshire.

I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to my answer to the previous Questions. The cost of preparing any site for development could not be estimated until the site has been fairly precisely defined.

Will there be auger borings on a grid system to ascertain the amount of the deposits of peat and/or salt under the site in question; and is this not now more than ever necessary in view of the borings which have already disclosed deposits of peat and/or salt in that area?

Will the right hon. Gentleman inform us whether there has been or will be a full public inquiry which will cover the points raised by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Knutsford (Lieut.-Colonel Bromley-Davenport)?

Quite naturally, if any objection is taken to the site which is eventually chosen, there will be a public inquiry.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is considerable local apprehension about this matter, and will he initiate an inquiry before any further action is taken?

There is adequate machinery for objections. If there is this considerable apprehension, I have no doubt that it will make itself felt by objections.

Agricultural Land

19.

asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning how much agricultural land was taken during 1946, 1947 and 1948 by the Ministries of Health, Transport, Fuel and Power, Civil Aviation, Works, and Town and Country Planning and by the War Office, the Air Ministry and the Scottish Office, respectively; and what acreage is expected to be required by these Departments in 1949, 1950 and 1951.

It is impracticable to give the information in the form requested since the necessary records have not been kept in the past and a forecast for the future would take some time to prepare. The existing statistics of the two Agricultural Departments, which cover nearly all the agricultural land in Great Britain, show for the years 1946, 1947 and 1948 an average net annual loss from all causes of some 8,000 acres. I should, however, point out that there are substantial variations from year to year. There was, for example a loss of 73,000 acres in the year 1946–47, and a gain of 80,000 acres in the year 1947–48. I am examining with my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries whether figures which would not be misleading could be made available periodically to show changes in the acreage of agricultural land.

In view of the general planning, can the Minister give some indication of the amount of land required, at any rate in the next year? Will he give an assurance that where possible land of secondary agricultural value will be taken and not the best agricultural land?

I can certainly give an assurance on the lines of the second part of the supplementary question. As to the first part, until plans are submitted to me I am not in a position to say how much land will be involved.

Purchase Notices

20.

asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning how many applications he has received under Sections 19 and 20 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947; how many of these have been allowed and rejected, respectively; and what is the average period which elapses between the making of an application under these sections and a final decision by the Minister in regard to it.

The number of purchase notices received by me under Section 19 is 570. Of these, 79 have been confirmed and my proposals to confirm 227 others have been notified to the parties concerned. In four other cases I have reversed the decision of the local planing authority which gave rise to the purchase notice and allowed the development to proceed; and in seven other cases I have notified my proposal to take similar action. In eight cases the notices have been rejected. The average period which elapses between the serving of a purchase notice on the local authority and my final decision is 19 weeks. This includes the time during which the notice is with the local authority, the statutory period of 28 days during which a hearing may be claimed, and the time needed to consider the notice. I have no information about the number of claims for compensation received by local planning authorities under Section 20.

Will my right hon. Friend take steps to expedite the decision in these cases, particularly in instances where the property is situated in areas of major war damage? People have been waiting a very long time either to develop or to have their land acquired, and there is a sense of frustration on account of these delays.

I will certainly do my best, but I am not aware that there is any avoidable delay.

Development Charge (Building Land)

21.

asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning whether his attention has been drawn to the impossibility in many areas of obtaining sites at existing use value for the purpose of building houses and to the attempts being made by many landowners to force would-be purchasers to pay the amount of development charge twice over; and what steps are being taken by him or by the Central Land Board to deal with this state of affairs.

Yes, Sir; and the most effective step that can be taken is for purchasers themselves to refuse to buy or lease land except by one of the methods recommended in the Central Land Board pamphlet "House 1," a copy of which I am sending to my hon. Friend. Where approved development is being held up by the price asked for the land the Board are prepared to take the matter up with the seller and in appropriate cases to purchase land under Section 43 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, for resale to developers.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that I know the pamphlet "House 1" very well indeed, having distributed mnay copies of it, but may I ask for the help of his Ministry in getting the existence of the leaflet more widely known so that people will not be held to ransom in the way that many are who want to buy sites at the present time?

Is not the complaint of the hon. Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Mrs. Middleton) a necessary result of the 1947 Act because no inducement whatever is left to the landowner to sell his land?