Town and Country Planning (Interim Development) Bill

Part of Ways and Means – in the House of Commons on 25th May 1943.

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Photo of Mr Alfred Bossom Mr Alfred Bossom , Maidstone

I beg to move, in page 2, line 3, at the end, to add: (3) There shall be set aside around all towns and cities of fifty thousand or more inhabitants a strip of land approximately five miles wide to form a green belt and, within three months of the passing of this Act, this shall be considered as subject to planning resolution and no new development or building schemes shall be planned for future construction within this space without the consent of the Minister. This is rather a drastic Amendment, but I would point out that all the land in this Island of ours can be administered at the Minister's discretion three months after the passing of this Measure under an interim development Order. The position as to the use of land is rather vague, and I think it is most desirable that the use of the land be more definite, and this Amendment sets out that areas five miles wide around towns and cities with a population of 50,000 and over should be reserved as a green belt. The Minister may wish to vary the width to four or six miles, but I have thought it right to bring the matter forward in order that local authorities should have some knowledge of where they can undertake developments. Both the Ministry of Health and the former Minister of Works and Planning have called upon local authorities to plan boldly, but it will be difficult to plan boldly until they are sure how land can be used. Local authorities must prepare plans for future housing estates, for factories and for development generally, but until the Government have given a definite lead they cannot know whether or not their proposed developments will be located in some future green belt, and if that should prove to be the case all their work will have been wasted. This situation is very important from a practical point of view.

More than the questions of law, it is the question of the physical working of the principle that has disturbed me. Our future housing, health and happiness are to a large extent involved, for if plans are not ready when the war ends, the great pressure there will be for houses will make it necessary for us to go ahead under possibly ill-considered arrangements. Green belts, which are advocated, as I think the Minister will agree, by all planning authorities, affect the congestion of our cities and towns. They prevent the improper use of good agricultural land, and they introduce possibilities of control, instead of leaving the lay-out to the merry whims or nebulous chance of land speculators or poorly-advised authorities. In its concluding words the Amendment leaves this matter very largely in the discretion of the Minister, but gives him the opportunity of allowing the growth of communities where possible and permits the extension or the introduction of industry in desirable cases. It will also allow him to define the appropriate size of built-up areas and will certainly stop ribbon development without his consent and I am sure we have had enough of our rural areas spoilt by ribbon development.

Without this Amendment local authoritise may plan their affairs in a very inconsiderate and unfair manner, without regard to any long-term planning ideas of the Minister. We have to face the fact, and this to my mind is most important, that the planning, the making of the drawings, the letting of the contracts, the carrying out of much administrative work will not take less than about 18 months. We have all seen in the papers to-day that General Smuts has said the war will end suddenly, even though the end may not come in a very short time and we shall certainly not get a warning, and if the principle of the green belt, which has been advocated by every authority on the subject is to be introduced, now is the time to do it, so that local authorities may have the opportunity to deal not only with their legal problems but with their physical problems. They will want to get some guidance. If the Minister will accept this Amendment, it will undoubtedly lighten the work of his Ministry, which is going to be tremendous, but this Amendment goes to the root of one of the great uncertainties of the national position and is an essential step in town and country planning.