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 Jack Lawson Mr Jack Lawson , Chester-le-Street

I am sorry that I have not been able to take much part in these proceedings on planning, but the principle raised by this Amendment is one that has been in my mind a great deal, as it must have been in the minds of most thoughtful people who are looking forward to the proper development and planning of this country. As the Commission which sat before the war discovered, all experience shows that there may be unexpected and rapid developments of population in different parts of the country, without any arrangements having been made for preserving the amenities of those areas and for maintaining those natural surroundings which are even more desirable than the things one learns in school. I think it is very necessary that the Minister should give his attention to the question of ensuring that there are green belts around certain areas. Anyone who has noticed the developments which are taking place during the war knows that industry springs up in quite unexpected places, and unless the principle of the green belt is adopted we may find ourselves in a very parlous condition.

There is another very important reason why I am interested in this proposal. It seems to suggest a limitation on the population in certain areas, a limitation of the size of towns, and I feel that in a country like ours that matter deserves serious attention. As a people who believe in democracy and in the development of the individual's personality, we suffer from the danger of communities growing to a size at which the communal sense is lost. That is an outstanding problem in this country and one of the great dangers which we run. It has been pointed out—and London provides a particular example of it—that in many places one lives alongside one's neighbours without ever getting to know them. In the shelters a communal sense developed. People gathered together there and learned to know who their neighbours were. I have known many families who have had to come from the North to the South of England. I was never one who was against transference, because I have felt that the change from one locality to another enlarges one's outlook and education, but men, and women too, have often said to me when speaking of life in the outskirts of London: "We get better wages, it is a better living and there are other advantages, but we do not know anybody; there is no social life for us here." That is a psychological consideration which should not be overlooked. There is a very subtle danger to this country there. While it is very necessary to have a green belt round large areas of population in order to provide the amenities which are necessary—for I feel that trees and landscape are far more important than books in the general development of one's mental outlook—it is also important that some attention should be given to the limitation, in a rough and ready way, of the size of the population in these areas, in order that we may redevelop the communal sense upon which our real British character is based.