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Development Land

Volume 884: debated on Wednesday 15 January 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will now abandon the proposals for taking development land into community ownership in view of the fact that local authorities have submitted to him the opinion that the proposals will delay house building.

No, Sir. No local authorities have submitted to me the opinion that the implementation of my proposals will delay house building.

Has the right hon. Gentleman seen the reported opinions of the Greater London Council, among other local authorities, and the views of a wide variety of respected commentators who have expressed this worry? Is he aware that the White Paper is already delaying the forward housing programme because of its effect on land acquisition and on planning by builders which is necessary if they are to have a continuous programme?

I have seen the reported views of the Greater London Council on this matter and perhaps I could quote the council's actual views as stated on 12th December. The council said that it

"welcomes the objective of providing the opportunity through land ownership for more positive planning in housing as in other forms of development".
On the more general part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, he greatly underestimates the extreme care taken in these proposals not to introduce measures or arrangements which would affect the house building programme. That remains an absolutely firm objective of the Government.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that last weekend the representatives of 600 local authorities took exactly the opposite view from that expressed by the hon. Member for Hove (Mr. Sainsbury) and that their anxiety was in the opposite direction—namely, that public acquisition powers should be obtained by them more quickly and not less quickly?

My hon. Friend is quite right in his account of the conference which we both had the pleasure of attending. He is also right to say that from many quarters the criticism is the opposite one—namely, that in the transitional period we have made concessions to private builders to protect the house building programme which go too far. Personally I do not think they have gone too far, but nevertheless it is right to bear in mind that there is also that opposite criticism.

Will the Secretary of State say what additional recruitment will have to be made by local authorities in town planning, valuation and legal departments to implement these proposals? What estimates has he made of the additional rate burden which will fall on the nation because of such recruitment and the additional office accommodation that will be required?

There will, of course, have to be additional recruitment, as we have made clear, though I cannot put a quantitative figure on it. This necessity is one of the reasons for our having made transitional provisions in the White Paper proposals.

As for the second part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, I wish to underline what I have said on many occasions—namely that, taking a reasonably long-term view, these proposals will not cost the community something but will be of enormous financial benefit to the community.