Schedule. — (Metropolitan Region Out Side Greater London.)

Part of Ballot for Notices of Motions – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 14th April 1965.

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Photo of Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith , East Grinstead 12:00 am, 14th April 1965

I beg to move, Amendment No. 63, in page 24, line 2, to leave out "districts" and insert "district".

I understand that it will be convenient to the House also to take Amendment No. 64, in line 2, leave out "Cuckfield and East Grinstead".

I appreciate that the moment for which we have been waiting has almost arrived, the second of these being the penultimate Amendment if my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) wishes to move the last Amendment before Third Reading.

The points which I wish to raise have been put to me by my constituents. They are worthy of consideration by the House. I hope that the Government will see their way to grant the requests set out in the Amendments. By excluding the urban district councils of East Grinstead and Cuckfield there is hope that the areas of those two councils will be able to develop in the way they wish. They would be able to build offices and provide the light industries which they think necessary. In an area which is fast-growing people are anxious that there should be diversity of employment and proper employment opportunities for the rising generation. The county council of East Sussex and the urban district council of East Grinstead have looked at the estimates of growth in that part of England as made in the South East Study. They consider them to be too low in the light of known factors, such as planning permissions which are still to be exercised.

1.45 a.m.

Developments already been approved by the urban district council would result in a population increase from about 15,000 in 1961 to 20,000 in 1968. That is already in hand. It has already looked further ahead, because it has planned a sewerage capacity for about 40,000 people in the urban district of East Grinstead. One would imagine that there is to be a great deal of residential development to be undertaken in that area. Further, East Grinstead, as an area, has been represented to the Location of Offices Bureau as suitable for office location, and it is interesting to note that inquiries of a substantial nature have been made to the council. It is felt that East Grinstead is on a par with Tunbridge Wells, which was considered as a suitable area for office development.

The council is convinced that an essential planning factor in employment in this district is the provision of office development, land for which is available in the town centre. One site alone would provide office space of roughly 200,000 square feet, and there are other areas which it thinks would be suitable for designation for office development. The council considers not only the job aspect to be important; there is also the question of transportation in the area. It is argued that if office development were allowed to take place in the near future it would considerably ease congestion on the road from East Grinstead to London, and also help to reduce congestion on the railway from East Grinstead to London. Increased congestion has also arisen from the fact that there is a considerable office development in East Croydon.

So much for the arguments adduced by the East Grinstead Urban District Council for exclusion from the terms of the Bill. The other urban district council which would also like to be excluded is Cuckfield, especially as the centre of that area is the town of Haywards Heath. One has only to mention that town, or read about it, and to conjure up a vision of the vast and growing army of commuters who struggle into the trains, packed hike sardines, to realise that there is a serious problem for them. This problem is likely to grow worse. The population of the area is now about 21,000, and it is planned to increase it to about 28,000, and probably more.

In Haywards Heath there are two estates in which light industry has been developed. It has been put to me that they would like to continue with this development in light industry, and also to provide offices for that population. The light industry which has been developed is useful to the country. One of the firms there designed the world speed record holder, "Bluebird", and there is a small firm which makes radio and television parts which wants to expand and a firm which has developed a process of colour printing, which understand is very advanced, and which has been given permission to re-establish itself on the trading estate at Haywards Heath.

It seems not unreasonable that in this area, like East Grinstead, the authorities should want to relieve the congestion, arising from the fact that so many people are travelling to London, by providing job opportunities in the area. I mentioned by way of a small digression that there was a further concern. When it wished to deal with the non-conforming industrial user it was concerned whether or not it would be allowed to re-establish such companies on its estates.

Finally, to support both urban district councils there is the East Sussex County Council, which is, of course, the major planning authority for the area. It should be noted that it has been clear all the way through that both East Grinstead and the urban district of Cuckfield are areas where office development ought to be allowed, and a certain amount of light industrial development, too. One thing of which those areas are conscious—it finds emphasis even at this late hour—of is that, although this area has traditionally been a rural area and still vast areas of East Sussex contain some of the most peaceful and beautiful parts of England, nevertheless it is an area where the population is drifting away from the countryside into these towns, and it is likely that the drift will be accelerated in the light of the agricultural Price Review because much of the farming is dairy farming and the tendency is for people to get out of dairy farming and take other job opportunities in the towns. In other words, with the decline in the population which is working on the land, there is a need for diversity of employment, and there is a growing need on the part of the increasing population in the area—young families of children —for job opportunities for the young.

It is thought wrong that the Bill does not take account of this need and—this is a very important point—that it somehow does not seem geared to harmonise with the policy of the local authorities and planning authorities. What is feared is that no development whatever will be allowed. I hope that it will be possible for the Minister of State to allay, if not altogether remove, these fears.

Finally, in case it is thought that I have been too parochial—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] When the Local Employment Act was going through the House, some hon. Members opposite spoke up well for their constituents, and that is what I am doing tonight. There are other authorities which have come to conclusions broadly similar to those which I have already mentioned. The South East Study refers to commuting. Paragraph 14 on page 43 states: Any prediction of the future commuting rate is hazardous. It mentions certain figures, and comes to this conclusion: This means that we must expect 200,000 more commuters, over and above the number travelling to central London in 1961; though not all of them will travel at the most congested hours. There may well be further heavy demands after 1971. But the pattern of transport needs after that date will depend very much on the success enjoyed by the policy of office decentralisation. I should have thought that that very much strengthened the arguments of the urban district councils to which I have referred because they note that there is already a very heavy strain on the commuting resources of British Railways.

Commenting on the development of offices in the Metropolitan Region, on the increase in the population and on the strain on local services from attracting more employment opportunities there, the South-East Study states in paragraph 31 on page 64: In these circumstances. there are strong arguments for keeping further planned expansion schemes out of this area. In practice, this is not likely to be possible. The difficulty of finding enough centres with the advantages necessary to support strong and rapid growth makes it necessary to look to a handful of places in the outer metropolitan region if enough viable schemes are to be got going. But it may be possible to confine these to the outer part of the area". I think that those were wise words which underline the arguments produced by the urban district councils which exist in the outer Metropolitan Region.

I will quote one other authority—the Standing Conference on London Regional Planning. I will quote from the Bulletin of 25th November last year. I quote from page 34: This conference agreed that while some increase in daily commuting to the conurbation is to be expected and is provided for in the Development Plans, in general, further provisions outside the conurbation should be for locally matching growth of population and employment. This is the argument of the two urban district councils. They know that their population is increasing. This means that there will be a growing need of jobs for young people. They also know that unless further provision is made in the areas these young people will have to commute on lines which are already over-congested. I therefore hope that the right hon. Gentleman will meet some of these arguments and in so doing allay the fears of my constituents. If he can do so, I hope that he will accept the Amendment.