asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs whether he will categorise the exceptions permitted by the Government to its policy of maintaining the green belt.
This information is set out in Circular 42/55, a copy of which I sent to my hon. Friend, following his Question on 3rd May.
Is my right hon. Friend aware of the deep concern felt among my constituents in the Chigwell urban district and the Epping and Ongar rural district lest there be further encroachments on the Metropolitan green belt, which they value very much? Will he remove any misapprehensions that Government Departments and public institutions are in a privileged position in this matter?
Nobody is in a privileged position, though my hon. Friend will recollect from that Circular that the purposes for which buildings might be erected in the green belt include
"… agriculture, sport, cemeteries, institutions standing in extensive grounds or other uses appropriate to a rural area."
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs whether it is now his policy that new schools should be built in a green belt whenever possible, instead of in areas designated for building development; and what consideration he has given to the effect on the green belts of the present financial incentives to local education authorities to acquire land for schools in the green belt because of the much lower compensation payable.
Schools ought not to be built in a green belt simply because the land there is cheaper. Most schools need to be near to the homes of the boys and girls, and this factor alone will normally rule out a site in a green belt. But there are cases where the most suitable site in all the circumstances may be in a green belt, and I would not think that green belt zoning should be held to preclude absolutely such a use as a school.
May I take it from my hon. Friend's reply that he does not regard it as generally consistent with his green belt policy that two or three schools should grow up side by side in what is said to be a green belt?
It is not my policy to encourage schools in a green belt, but there may be cases where the green belt is really the most desirable place for a school, and if it is surrounded by extensive playing fields it might not be an offensive intrusion there.