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Land Development

Volume 885: debated on Monday 27 January 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he is satisfied that builders will be able to continue to operate in the period before the legislation on community ownership of development land comes into force so as to maintain development programmes and, in particular, an adequate level of private housebuilding; and whether he will make a statement.

The Land White Paper (Cmnd. 5730) made clear our intention to avoid disrupting essential development, and our proposals have been framed with this in mind. Local authorities will build up their acquisition programmes as resources permit. But until local authorities are in a position to supply their land needs the Government look to private builders, who can make a contribution to the maintenance of essential development programmes, and in particular to the recovery of housebuilding, to press ahead with any steps needed to maintain necessary development on their own land.Points on which guidance may be helpful to local authorities and builders generally concern planning applications not decided by 12th September 1974 or made in the interim period before the scheme comes into operation; land purchases; and the precise categories that, under paragraph 36 of the White Paper, are normally to be excluded from acquisition. The following guidance applies to England; but I understand that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Wales will adopt a similar approach.

Planning Applications

Some builders may need to seek planning permission for fresh land in the interim period before the scheme comes into operation, in order to maintain and expand their programmes. The land proposals do not constitute a change in planning circumstances such as to affect the handling of planning applications, and I look to local planning authorities to continue to consider applications on their merits in the normal way.

Land Purchases

Those who hold land or who need to acquire fresh land now will require some assurance that they will be able to develop such land. I shall look to local authorities to frame their proposals for early acquisition under the scheme in such a way as to avoid delaying housebuilding and industrial development; and I shall not normally be prepared to entertain compulsory purchase orders under the scheme for land provided that good progress is being made with its development.

Exclusions under Paragraph 36 of the White Paper

In the transitional period it will be for local authorities in the first instance to decide on the scope of their acquisition programmes. However, paragraph 36 of the White Paper indicated that land with planning permission on White Paper day and land owned by builders on that date would normally be excluded from acquisition under the scheme. These exclusions will be achieved by administrative means. By way of general guidance I set out below the broad interpretation to be given to the words in paragraph 36 of the White Paper. When the scheme is ready to come into operation, more detailed guidance will be issued to local authorities on the circumstances in which I would not normally be prepared to entertain compulsory purchase orders under the new acquisition powers. This guidance will take account of circumstances at the time including both the need to bring the land scheme into operation as soon as possible and also the need to maintain essential development programmes.

"Planning Permission"

1. Development for which planning permission, whether outline or detailed, was in force on White Paper day (12th September 1974) will normally be free to go ahead without public acquisition, whether carried out by the person owning the land on 12th September 1974 or by a subsequent purchaser. Planning permissions granted on appeal against a refusal of permission or a deemed refusal given or deemed to be given on or before 12th September 1974 will be treated as being in force on that date. The date of a planning permission or refusal will be taken to be the date on the notification sent to the applicant.

2. In general, exclusion from acquisition will apply only where development is carried out in accordance with the White Paper day planning permission as defined above. Subject to 3 below, development carried out in pursuance of a permission granted as a renewal of or in replacement of a White Paper day permission—even if the new permission is for the same development as the White Paper day permission—will not receive any special treatment.

3. In some cases a builder may wish to seek a revised planning permission in pursuance of the Government's stated policy of encouraging the building of cheaper houses. So that the position of builders wishing to do this is not prejudiced, a permission for housing development of this kind granted after White Paper day in substitution for a housing permission falling within the terms of paragraph (1) above which has not expired will be treated as being in force on 12th September 1974.

"Owned"

4. This means land which a builder owned, or was under a binding contract to purchase, on 12th September 1974. This exclusion will apply whether the land is to be developed by the builder who was the owner on White Paper day or by a subsequent purchaser. It will not apply to land which was the subject of a conditional contract or of an option; but where a local authority does acquire such land it will be encouraged to give the builder concerned an opportunity to undertake its development, subject to agreement on financial terms.

"Builder"

5. This term will be interpreted as covering firms actually engaged in building operations, and also developers whose business consists wholly or mainly of building, or arranging for the building of, residential or industrial property. All land held within a group of companies where the group itself is primarily engaged in building operations or residential or industrial development will be regarded as owned by a builder.

"Normally"

6. The exclusions in paragraph 36 of the White Paper are designed to ensure that there should be no hold-up in essential development programmes in the early years of the operation of the scheme. Exclusion from acquisition will, therefore, operate only where it is clear that development is likely to be achieved reasonably swiftly without public intervention. Where a local authority consider that acquisition is necessary to achieve early development I shall be prepared to consider compulsory purchase orders on their merits.

Owners of land not covered by the exclusions as set out above who consider that there are special circumstances which might justify their land being treated as if it came within the excluded categories, may wish to seek the views of local authorities in their areas on their likely attitude to the land in question when the new acquisition powers become available.

Nothing in this statements affects the acquisition of land by local authorities under their existing statutory powers, or the question of liability to development land tax which is to be the subject of a separate statement by the Inland Revenue.