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High Technology Site, Bickenhill

Volume 78: debated on Wednesday 8 May 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make it his policy to reject any planning appeals, involving the proposed high technology site in Bickenhill, until the Marston Green and Bickenhill district plan is determined.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment
(Mr. Neil Macfarlane)

No, Sir. The draft status of a local plan is not in itself a reason for the rejection of planning appeals. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will consider any such appeals on their merits.

Does my hon. Friend realise that his answer will give rise to great concern among my constituents, who consider the pace of applications for that small 140-acre site of green belt, if not illegal, certainly immoral? Is he aware of the legitimate interest of the national exhibition centre in considering development in the area—a most important asset for Birmingham? Will he consider waiting for the determination of the structure plan and the Marston Green and Bickenhill district plan before allowing those applications to proceed?

I note my hon. Friend's comments, and I am well aware of the strength of local feeling in his and neighbouring constituencies which are concerned about development. He has led delegations and has made his views well known on his constituents' behalf. There is a presumption against development in the green belts. Such development will be permitted only in exceptional circumstances. We have to take many steps over the next few weeks. I made it clear earlier this year that the proposal, with careful and sensitive planning, will be economically beneficial to the region as a whole, without being prejudicial to the objectives of green belt policy.

Is my hon. Friend aware of the wider anxiety in Solihull about the pace of change and scale of development? Is he aware of the suspicion that the inner urban areas might have a greater need for the resources involved?

I am well aware of that. All such issues are taken into account before my right hon. Friend reaches a decision.

Is the Minister aware that many of us cannot afford to turn down high technology parks? If the Minister has any trouble allocating such parks, why does he not just send them north, because we shall welcome them at any time? Is the Minister aware that my constituency has the space for a high technology park?