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Ironstone Workings

Volume 465: debated on Tuesday 24 May 1949

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36.

asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning if he will make a statement as to the rate of progress of ironstone excavations in the Kettering rural district; and when he proposes to impose conditions to insure the restoration of the land.

Excavation is progressing at about 150 acres a year. In reply to the second part of the Question, I would refer my hon. and learned Friend to the concluding paragraph of the reply which I gave him on 31st January. I am not yet able to add anything to that reply.

Can the Minister give no idea of when he thinks he will be imposing restrictions ensuring restoration?

We are imposing restrictions as we go along, but that is not the Question on the Order Paper.

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the ever increasing rate with which this despoliation is taking place owing to the increased size of machinery? Is he aware that it is quite easy, if properly organised, to replace the top soil, and that though it costs more, it ought to be done?

It is not so simple as my hon. Friend imagines. It does involve the provision of very heavy and expensive machinery.

The right hon. Gentleman speaks of imposing restrictions as he goes along. Is he taking any action with a view to the restoration of the land already excavated?

I have no power. That land was excavated at a time when there was no planning control. I have no power to impose conditions in regard to what was done before planning control came into effect.

Is it not the case that a great deal has been excavated since there has been planning control?

Does not my right hon. Friend appreciate that this excavation is going on without any conditions to ensure restoration? Does he realise that this is an urgent matter and that it is provoking a great deal of well justified feeling and apprehension in the whole of Northamptonshire? Cannot my right hon. Friend give us some idea of when these conditions will be imposed?

My hon. and learned Friend really ought to understand the position. A good deal of work is going on today as a result of the fact that there were no restrictions until about two years ago. It is possible to impose conditions as regards any new excavations.

That is not what I am asked in the Question, but in fact we do impose conditions on new workings. The difficulty that arises, and the difficulty inherent in that question arises, from those workings which were begun before control was effective, and I am powerless as regards them.

Does not my right hon. Friend recollect that he told the House that workings were proceeding at present over a large area without any conditions ensuring restoration, and when will such conditions be imposed.

That is exactly the question which I am answering. The workings which are taking place without conditions are those which were begun before planning control came into effect, and I have no power in regard to them. I hope that it may be possible to make some agreement about them, but they are not affected by the planning control.

What about the present excavations to which the Minister has just referred? Cannot some conditions be imposed as regards them as well as excavations in the immediate future?

That is just the Question that I am answering. I take it that the present excavations are the work which is going on as a result of mineral workings which were started before planning control came into effect. As regards any new workings, conditions are imposed.

37.

asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning on what dates since 3rd February, 1949, the Standing Conference on Ironstone in the Midland Field has met; with what results; and when he expects a report.

Meetings were held on 17th March and 28th April. Working parties were set up at those meetings to consider certain special aspects of the problem, and reports from some of these working parties have been discussed. I cannot say when the Conference will be able to reach considered conclusions.

Will the Minister consider the advisability of publishing some of the proceedings and some of the results emanating from this standing conference?

I do not see much value in publishing partial discussions until decisions have been reached.

Will this conference report to my right hon. Friend on the advisability of making regulations to stop the existing workings continuing in the absence of replacement of the top soil? Are they making any report on that point?

But future workings and present workings are the same. They go on for years and years.

38.

asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning what are his reasons for proposing to set up a second and parallel Standing Conference on Ironstone in the Midland Field; and what purpose the body will serve.

These discussions are to enable me to have advice from the interests concerned in the industry on problems relating to development plans, restoration of worked-out land and so on. Because it was impossible to persuade the producers and the royalty owners to sit down together we are obliged to have separate discussions with both sides. My Regional Controller is in charge of both discussions.

Is it called by the Minister's Parliamentary Secretary a parallel conference because it never meets the other one?

Will my right hon. Friend assure us that proceedings will not be projected into infinity?