Dulcote Hill, Wells (Quarrying)

Oral Answers to Questions — Town and Country Planning – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 25 October 1949.

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Photo of Mr Christopher Hollis Mr Christopher Hollis , Devizes 12:00, 25 October 1949

asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning whether, arising out of his recent interview with the deputation interested in the matter, he has yet examined the question of his power to reconsider the permission to carry quarrying over the crest of Dulcote Hill.

Photo of Mr Lewis Silkin Mr Lewis Silkin , Camberwell Peckham

Yes, Sir. My decision is final. It can only be revoked if the circumstances set out in Sections 21 and 100 of the 1947 Act arise, and I am satisfied that these have not arisen.

Photo of Mr Christopher Hollis Mr Christopher Hollis , Devizes

Is not the Minister aware that, in point of fact, this decision was taken under the impression that there was a unique value in this particular limestone, and that it now turns out not to be so?

Photo of Mr Lewis Silkin Mr Lewis Silkin , Camberwell Peckham

There have been no new circumstances at all. The facts which the hon. Member states were brought out fully at the inquiry.

Photo of Mr Henry Strauss Mr Henry Strauss , Combined English Universities

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the widespread distress caused at home and abroad by this threat to the beauty of Wells and its surroundings; and, if he has no power under the existing Act, will he introduce immediate legislation to prevent this disaster?

Photo of Mr Lewis Silkin Mr Lewis Silkin , Camberwell Peckham

I am not aware of the widespread distress which the hon. and learned Member says this decision has caused; indeed, my information is quite to the contrary.

Photo of Mr Thomas Skeffington-Lodge Mr Thomas Skeffington-Lodge , Bedford

Will the Minister look at this again, because there is undoubtedly a considerable feeling among people who have taste and who dislike vandalism. If this quarry is allowed to proceed the setting of one of the choicest mediæval shrines in this country will be adversely affected. I really want to press the Minister on this.

Photo of Mr Lewis Silkin Mr Lewis Silkin , Camberwell Peckham

The hon. Member can press, of course, but he is making an ex parte statement which is very exaggerated and all of which was fully brought out at the inquiry.

Commander Galbraith:

Has the right hon. Gentleman visited Wells personally?

Photo of Mr Lewis Silkin Mr Lewis Silkin , Camberwell Peckham

I cannot. I get 400 appeals a month and I cannot visit every area, but my inspector, in whom I have complete confidence, has visited the area and has given me a full statement of the position with maps, pictures and diagrams.

Photo of Sir Edward Keeling Sir Edward Keeling , Twickenham

Surely the Minister is aware that Wells is one of the six most beautiful towns in England? Surely he will spare the time to visit it?

Photo of Mr Lewis Silkin Mr Lewis Silkin , Camberwell Peckham

I know Wells, of course, and I am quite aware of its beauty. I did not go down particularly for this appeal.

Photo of Mr William Gallacher Mr William Gallacher , Fife Western

People who have no taste like to look at this quarry.

Photo of Mr Thomas Skeffington-Lodge Mr Thomas Skeffington-Lodge , Bedford

Has the Minister looked into the possibility of this quarrying being carried out in the Mendips and the necessary material coming from those hills, by abandoning this project altogether?

Photo of Mr Lewis Silkin Mr Lewis Silkin , Camberwell Peckham

I have looked into the question of an alternative site, but I am quite satisfied that wherever one goes there will be objections like the one made by hon. Members today.

Photo of Mr Christopher Hollis Mr Christopher Hollis , Devizes

In view of the reply I beg to give notice that I shall raise the subject on the Adjournment.