I have seldom found myself so entirely in agreement with the course of a discussion as I have upon this Amendment. The Committee is unanimously in support of the spirit which prompted my hon. Friend to put his Amendment down. There was a great deal in what was said by the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson), that it is sheer destruction of communal life to allow unregulated expansion all over England of vast communities of shapeless form, and that every effort ought to be made, by good town and country planning, to secure that the community sense is maintained which is one of the priceless possessions of the ordinary man and his friends and neighbours. The loneliness of vast cities is a very grievous matter. Access to the countryside is of importance not only for children but for grown up people to enable them to get away from the cities and disport themselves in the beautiful countryside.
If we were writing on a completely clean slate in this matter, which we by no means are, it would be a desideratum in every ideal urban community that a man could get out of it into the country without undue expenditure of time and money when he wanted to go there. That by no means says that cities and. towns cannot themselves be objects of beauty, refinement and dignity, as they certainly can be and as we shall endeavour to make them. The old saying is true of the Amendment as was said about many other things: "The spirit maketh alive, but the letter killeth." To adopt my hon. Friend's Amendment in the form in which he has drafted it would lay it open to the animadversions passed upon it by the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Penrith (Lieut.-Colonel Dower). We are not writing on a clean slate, and to adopt the Amendment and so make statutory a proposal of this kind, would be impossible. My hon. Friend's mistake—I suggest it to him with affection—is in trying to put a plan into the Bill. We ought to concentrate upon getting the machinery for good planning right. That is properly a matter for the Bill. If you try to put into the Bill a plan for all England and Wales, you will find cases here and there to which the plan is inapplicable. I would like to assure those who have asked me the question, that we have in the Bill ample powers to secure the great object which we all have at heart. The mover of the Amendment suggested that the green belt should be the subject of a planning resolution. This is possible under the Bill, as are his further suggestions that no development should take place without the Minister's consent and that no development should be allowed in a planning scheme except with the Minister's consent. Under the present law the Minister's approval to a planning scheme is required, and this object can be achieved.
There are one or two other points. In reply to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ripon (Major York), who asked about the relationship between central and local planners, I would point out that there is an invaluable link, which I hope to strengthen and make more perfect as a matter of administration, in the regional planning officers who are situated in various parts of the country and who are in close personal touch with local planning officers and committees of local authorities who deal with this matter. I hope they will be very powerful in helping to secure consistently good planning throughout the country. There must be a lot left to local authorities, because local authorities know their own problems. We hope to secure that harmonious working of local enthusiasm and initiative with the central direction in the way I have suggested. I hope that what I have said will satisfy my hon. Friend that I am entirely in sympathy with the motives which prompted him to put down the Amendment. For technical reasons—I put it no higher—the Amendment cannot be accepted.