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Volume 655: debated on Tuesday 13 March 1962

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asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs (1) if he will indicate the schemes, to which he refers in his letter addressed to the Warwickshire and Worcestershire County Council on 28th February, which in his view would make a major contribution to the ultimate solution of the Birmingham housing problem;(2) in view of his recent proposal that the Birmingham Corporation and local authorities for potential areas of overspill reception beyond the green belt should in conjunction with him pursue urgently those schemes which are physically capable of yielding housing accommodation within a few years, if he will give particulars of these schemes;(3) in view of his decision not to approve the Wythall housing development plan, if he will now give his estimate of the housing needs in the West Midlands and Birmingham, respectively, after taking into account the provision allowed for in schemes already approved.

At the local inquiry into objections to the development of land at Wythall, Birmingham said that their urgent problem stemmed from the need to replace 47,000 slum houses. In addition they have many families lacking a separate home; estimated by the Council, I believe, at 30,000. For the whole of the conurbation these figures may be nearly doubled.The great difficulty for Birmingham lies in finding land on which to build the houses or to get them built. They estimated that, building at the rate of 2,000 to 2,500 dwellings a year, they could carry on till 1967, but that they would then be in difficulties for new land. While they hope to carry on at this rate within the city, houses for overspill are being built outside the city at the rate of about 300 to 400 a year.Wythall, of course, would have helped; but it would only have postponed the real problem—which is to promote more and faster development beyond the green belt. What is needed is to get started as soon as possible two or three major schemes beyond the belt, while pushing on all other town expansion schemes which have been or can be agreed. As the hon. Member knows, I am investigating the possibility of building a new town at Dawley. Places which have been suggested as suitable for major expansion are Redditch, Worcester, Daventry. I understand that consideration is also being given locally to a substantial expansion of Droitwich.Discussions have begun between my Department and the local authorities concerned about how to mount a programme which will secure and maintain an adequate output of houses to meet the needs of Birmingham over the years. No conclusions have yet been reached; and a great deal must depend on the co-operation of the authorities affected. The County Councils of Worcestershire and Warwickshire were very strongly opposed to any development of Wythall. I believe that, this having bean settled, they will now do everything they can to help in ensuring that Birmingham's needs are met elsewhere.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs on what basis he estimates the need for a housing programme in Birmingham of at least 2,500 houses annually; and how long he estimates it will take to meet the existing housing need at this rate of building.

I have made no such estimate. Birmingham managed to complete only 2,142 dwellings last year and at the end of the year had 3,607 under construction. They have been advised to plan for a programme of 2,500 this year because that seems to be as much as they are likely to succeed in putting into contract; but I am quite prepared to reconsider this if progress improves.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs what is his estimate of the annual rate of obsolescence in houses in Birmingham.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs what grant he has made annually to the Birmingham Corporation in the last 10 years for expenditure on the repair and reconditioning of substandard houses; and what further expenditure is proposed.

The amount of grant paid towards expenditure incurred by Birmingham in acquiring and reconditioning unfit houses is shown below. As the Council's programme of reconditioning is some way from completion, I can make no reliable forecast of the claims that will be made in future years.

Financial year to which claim is relatedAmount paid to date