Orders of the Day — Surrey County Council Bill.

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons on 17th February 1931.

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Photo of Lady Cynthia Mosley Lady Cynthia Mosley , Stoke-on-Trent Stoke

I rise to support the Bill and I hope very much that it will get a Second Reading. I have put my name to the Bill, not as a resident of Surrey, but because I very whole-heartedly approve of the general outline of the Bill. As one who, although not living in Surrey, goes down there fairly frequently and who knows that hundreds and thousands of other people also go down there fairly frequently, I hope that the Bill will pass its Second Reading. It is absolutely essential that local authorities should be given further powers to prevent any development that they may consider to be not in keeping with the district. One welcomes the fact that the county council of Surrey has realised the situation that is facing it. Surrey is an exceptionally beautiful county. It also happens to be very near to London; it is very accessible; and expansion is going on at a tremendous rate. New arterial roads are being cut through the county. Unfortunately already there have been many rather deplorable developments. It is a real joy to see an authority realising the situation and making an effort to cope with it before it is too late, and endeavouring to see that the amenities of the county are preserved.

The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Oxford (Captain Bourne) said that the part of the Bill to which he objected was Part VIII. But it is almost entirely because of Part VIII that I take an interest in the Bill. I do not know very much about the technical details, which concern only the county council. It seems to me that the provisions in Part VIII are of the utmost importance. Nearly every one of the provisions in Part VIII—I think I should be right in saying every one of them—have already been approved by this House in the two Rural Amenities Bills that have already been introduced and have been given a unanimous Second Reading. On the question of rural amenities surely there is nobody who would not agree that some developments may be deplorable and disastrous. A great new road may, in itself, he a fine thing, but if you build rows of abominable and beastly little villas alongside it, a district may be ruined. It seems to me that the Surrey County Council are facing that fact, that they are anxious to see that the space on each side of these roads is kept free, and that trees are planted alongside the roads. They are concerned with the efficiency of traffic and the preservation of amenities. There can be nothing worse than indiscriminate roadside development. The Surrey County Council ought to be highly commended in that they have had the sense not to wait for anyone else to come along, and in this Bill are trying to ensure that their own county is not spoilt.

Then there is the question of the regulation of design and elevation. That is of the utmost importance. You cannot allow people to dump down ugly and unsuitable dwellings in any place they may like. It is perfectly legitimate that the county council should have the power to see that the design and the elevation are adapted to the situation in which a dwelling is to be built. There are many other important Clauses which I cannot touch upon now. The last speaker spoke of the great importance of open spaces, and there is another item in the Bill which is of the utmost importance, and that is the provision relating to the preservation of views. There are numerous fine views in Surrey. The most beautiful view in the world can be spoilt by one unsuitable and glaring building, one ugly piece of architecture, one unsightly advertisement, one ugly industrial or private building. I know many really beautiful views that are absolutely wrecked because of one or two things of that description. I am very glad that the Surrey County Council have made regulations about petrol stations. I do not want anybody to think that I am "anti-petrol station." You must have these things, I suppose, but they should be as unobjectionable as possible. There are many petrol stations that might be a great deal worse than they are. They are nicely designed, they are not ugly, and they are not glaring, but, on the other hand, there are petrol stations that make one feel ill. It is a very good thing that the county council should be given further powers to see that these absolutely necessary wayside petrol stations are of the very best description.

Surrey is absolutely the right county to have introduced a Bill of this description, because it is a county most accessible to London, it is a, county which is expanding very rapidly at present, and the highest possible commendation should be given to the representatives of that county on the fact that they have felt it incumbent on them to introduce this Bill at the present moment. As for the argument that Surrey should not go ahead but should be condemned to wait about until the Government or some other county comes forward with a scheme, that seems to me to be a very bad argument indeed. I believe that here one could draw a moral affecting the whole country at present. What is wrong is that nobody seems to start doing anything until it is too late. A great many deplorable things have happened already in Surrey, and it is essential that the county council should do something before it is too late, that it should look a little further than its own nose, and that it should introduce these provisions before the situation has become too irksome and before it is too late to improve upon it. So many people do nothing until they are caught out, and then they fall down and do not know where they are. I hope this Bill may prove an example to other authorities. I know the Government have announced that they hope to bring in a Bill, but business is so crowded that there does not seem very much hope of such a Bill being introduced at present, and there is absolutely nothing wrong in the Surrey County Council looking ahead. It is indeed refreshing to find that people are anticipating events, instead of waiting for events to overwhelm them.

I hope that this county, which has realised the dangers ahead of it and has put before the House a co-ordinated and comprehensive plan and scheme, will have its proposals sympathetically considered, and that the House will encourage the council in the stand it has taken, bearing in mind the object of the Bill, which is that this really beautiful county shall be preserved, as far as possible, before it is too late. If they waited six months, a year, or 18 months, a tremendous lot of harm would be done. About six years ago we had a house in Surrey, and I used to travel down a certain road out of London. Now, when I go that way, I hardly recognise the road; there is so much building going on and the rural beauty has been ruined and wrecked. I hope the House, without a Division, will pass the Second Reading of the Bill, and will commend the Surrey County Council for its forethought and foresight in putting forward this Measure to preserve the amenities of its county.