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Clause 33—(Recovery Of Compensa Tion On Subsequent Development)

Volume 530: debated on Tuesday 13 July 1954

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I beg to move, in page 37, line 26, to leave out from "development," to the first "in," in line 30, and to insert:

  • (a) to which section twenty-four of this Act applies; or
  • (b) which consists in the winning and working of minerals; or
  • (c) to which, having regard to the probable value of the development, it is in the opinion of the Minister reasonable that this section should apply:
  • Provided that—

  • (i) this section shall not apply to any development by virtue of paragraph (c) of this subsection if, on an application made to him for the purpose, the Minister has certified that, having regard to the probable value of the development, it is not in his opinion reasonable that this section should apply thereto; and
  • (ii).
  • This Amendment is directed to three points. The first is that it is to substitute reference to development to which Clause 24 applies for reference to development falling within the Sixth Schedule. This is a drafting change and is consequential on the Amendment made to Clause 24 and the disappearance of the Schedule. The second point is more substantial. It is to extend the range of cases in which the recovery of compensation is to take place by giving the Minister discretion to recover where the development to be carried out is valuable but is not, "residential, commercial or industrial" and is not mineral working. This meets a criticism made with some force in the Committee proceedings against the selective character of the items listed in the Schedule. We have now widened the range.

    The third point is to provide machinery in paragraph (i) of the proviso for enabling a prospective developer to find out in advance whether or not the Minister intends to exercise this discretion to recover.

    The right hon. Gentleman has gone a stage further towards meeting the point we discussed in Standing Committee. I am sure it will be acceptable to both sides of the House if in fact the intention of the proposal now before us is to reduce the amount of compensation paid, or likely to be paid, for alternative development. What the right hon. Gentleman said is quite true. Under the previous working there was a wide range of uses for which a person could develop a piece of land and at the same time receive compensation for refusal of the original proposal.

    Now, as the right hon. Gentleman has to some extent increased the range of comparable uses, obviously it must follow that there must be a restriction in the cases where compensation is paid for refusal of permission but carrying with it an alternative form of development of a different nature in the way of development value. To that extent the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman goes a long way, but I still think that there will be some other forms of development which will be outside the general range, for the reason I stated on Clause 24. The categories of use there embodied will to some extent restrict the uses which may be regarded as comparable. Uses otherwise not defined in Clause 24 and therefore not regarded as comparable may still rank for compensation.

    This is one more example of the extraordinary complexity of this Bill and the almost impossibility of dealing with all the anomalies likely to arise. Nevertheless, the right hon. Gentleman has made an effort to narrow the gap and I think we ought to accept the proposition.

    Amendment agreed to.

    I beg to move, in page 38, line 4, at the end, to insert:

    (4) Where, in the case of any land in respect of which a compensation notice has been registered, the Minister is satisfied that, having regard to the probable value of any proper development of that land, no such development is likely to be carried out unless he exercises his powers under this subsection, he may, in the case of any particular development, remit the whole or part of any amount otherwise recoverable under this section; and where part only of any such amount has been remitted, he shall cause the compensation notice to be amended by substituting therein for the statement of the amount of the compensation a statement of the amount which has been remitted under this subsection.
    The purpose of this Amendment is to carry further the process of making the recovery provisions of the Bill more flexible. The proposed new subsection will enable the Minister to guard against the risk that desirable development may be frustrated and land sterilised owing to the burden of recovery. The absence of any such provision was criticised in the Committee and it seems desirable that the criticisms should be met.

    It will only operate, it will be the duty of each succeeding Minister to operate it, and it ought only to be operated if the Minister is satisfied that no proper development—that is to say, no development for which permission would be granted—is likely to be carried out because it would not be sufficiently remunerative to carry the burden of repaying the compensation in full. There may not be many such cases, but it would be very desirable to deal with them if they occur.

    The kind of case we had in mind is where substantial compensation may be paid because of a refusal to allow some large and profitable development, say a factory, but owing to a change in plan or in circumstances over a period of years it becomes proper to allow, not the development originally proposed, but something much less valuable, say a number of houses to be built on the site. If nothing was done to give the Minister power to waive recovery, either in whole or in part, the land on which houses might very properly be built would be left idle because no one would face the recovery charge. That would be bad planning because the houses, instead of being built on the land which everyone thought was the best, when pressure was very great, might be built on a site where from a planning point of view that was not so satisfactory. I hope that this provision will be valuable to succeeding Ministers as years go by.

    Once again the Minister has shown his thoughtfulness and skill in dealing with points which have been raised. This matter was one which seemed to me to have grave possibilities of sterilising land. I am very grateful to the Minister for finding a way out of the difficulty which was inherent in the Bill as drafted.

    The only criticism I can offer is that the right hon. Gentleman proposes to pay out compensation for refusal of planning permission, but if at some subsequent period permission is given—probably for the same development as was originally refused, or for some other form of development equally comparable—the individual will not have to repay compensation—

    That is better if it is not for the same development, but one might put it this way. The individual may have a piece of land and apply for permission to put up a factory. The right hon. Gentleman refuses permission and the individual gets compensation. In five years' time there is a change in the development plan and that land may be designated for another purpose, or for some other reason the owner may make application for building houses, a cinema, offices, shops, or any other purpose. As far as I understand, the right hon. Gentleman says that there will he no need for the individual to repay the compensation which was previously given him.

    The hon. Member is inaccurate, and I am sure he does not mean to be inaccurate. I did not say that the owner is not to repay, but that the Minister would have discretion. The result would be that if the repayment were made, either in part or in whole, that land would remain perfectly sterile. It is for the Minister, not the owner, to decide.

    8.0 p.m.

    The Minister quite fairly puts that point of view. I understand now that it is a matter for his discretion; but the discretion may be either in favour of repayment of compensation, or not. I concede that there are cases of the kind put by the hon. Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Horobin) in which there would be no development whatever if the whole or even part of the compensation had to be repaid. If the right hon. Gentleman exercises discretion it means that in some cases he will relieve people from repaying compensation and in other cases will insist on repayment in full or in part. All I hope is that the right hon. Gentleman and his successors will exercise the discretion wisely in the interests of the community.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Further Amendments made: In page 38, line 7, after "notice," insert:
    "then, except where, and to the extent that, payment of that amount has 0been remitted under the last preceding subsection."
    In line 41, after "time," insert:
    "except where, and to the extent that, payment of that amount has been remitted under subsection (4) of this section."—[Mr. H. Macmillan.]