Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Orders of the Day — Land Compensation Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 27th November 1972.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Terry Davis Mr Terry Davis , Bromsgrove 12:00 am, 27th November 1972

I am aware that one does not have a right to a view. We have all heard of cases of planning permission being given for development on neighbouring fields to existing housing. I have a tragic case in my constituency at the moment. If that has been the situation in the past, it is time that we looked again at these cases of motorways, public works and major developments which totally transform the environment. People have bought their homes because they wanted to live in a certain environment. It is no use saying that people have not been injured, because the value of their houses will have been affected. They should get compensation.

As I understand this part of the Bill, there is no compensation for injurious affection suffered by tenants. I recognise that the landlord is entitled to some compensation for the loss of his investment because the value of the house that he owns has been reduced by the development. But the tenant has to live with the new road, and there is a case for saying that tenants should have some compensation for the injury which they suffer from noise, smell and, I would say, disturbance of the view as well.

I now turn to the part of the Bill dealing with home loss payment. Several hon. Members have referred to the period of seven years' occupation which is necessary to enable one to qualify for this new payment. Many have said that this period is too long. Indeed, why should there be a qualifying period at all? A man bought a house in my constituency. Searches were carried out and inquiries were made by his solicitors from the county council in September. He bought the house and moved into it in October. A week later a man from the county council arrived to bring the news that the road was going to be widened, which would destroy the garden which was the main reason for his buying the house. If the local authority had wanted to take the house as well, he would not have qualified for home loss payment under the Bill, and I suggest that the Minister ought to look again at this qualifying period of seven years' occupation.

The home loss payment can only be made if the notice to treat has been served under a compulsory purchase order. I want the Government to look at this point as well. I have known of many people who sold their houses to the local authority or to the development corpora- tion of Redditch new town because a compulsory purchase order was coming. They sold before the compulsory purchase order was made and before formal notice to treat had been served. They would not qualify for the home loss payment.

It is unfair that people in such circumstances should have to wait for confirmation of the compulsory purchase order and service of the notice to treat. When someone knows that he will lose his home, he starts to look for another house at once, and, having found a house, in present circumstances he must not delay; he must acquire his new home at once. But if he does that before notice to treat has been served, he will not have the home loss payment. Moreover, if he serves a notice on the local authority to compel it to purchase his house before the compulsory purchase order is laid, he will lose his payment. I regard this as unfair, and I want the Government to explain why they have imposed that restriction on the home loss payment.

A similar question arises regarding the disturbance allowance. According to the Bill, this allowance is for people who have no other claim to compensation. Much the same point arises in connection with removal expenses, too. I know of people who have sold their property to the Redditch Development Corporation but who have not been entitled to receive their removal expenses because they sold before the compulsory purchase order was confirmed. This also is unfair. They find a new house, which in some cases is not as good as the one they are losing but it is a house to which they are willing to move. They recognise that they have to surrender their home, but they will not have the disturbance allowance or their removal expenses because they have not waited for a compulsory purchase order.

There is welcome provision in the Bill for rehousing. No one has mentioned this in the debate so far, but I regard it as an important provision because, although it does little more than recognise what many local authorities do in any case, I think it wise to write it into the law. However, I have two reservations about the rehousing of tenants.

In a number of instances landlords hold out in the hope that the tenant will move, so that they may have vacant possession before selling the property to the local authority or development corporation. I do not suggest that in such cases there is deliberate harassment, but a tenant, perhaps an elderly person, may well be left in a house surrounded by empty property, and there is a great deal of anxiety and a lot of moral pressure on the tenant in such circumstances to move out of the house as soon as it is possible to obtain alternative accommodation. This is to the financial advantage of the landlord, and there is nothing in the Bill to make the housing authority provide alternative accommodation for tenants in such circumstances. In my experience, a housing authority will not provide alternative accommodation until the purchase of the house has been completed, so the tenant suffers in that sort of situation.

Second, even where the tenant is transferred into local authority accommodation, he may well have to face a higher rent. This is especially so in a new town where the housing authority is the development corporation. Tenants may be moved from older property which is in perfectly fit condition but which is required for a new road, and they have to accept a new house, or even an old house, at a rent much higher than they paid in their previous home. The situation has been made worse, I should add, by the Government's Housing Finance Act, which has made it impossible for the local authority to give generous concessionary rebates to tenants in this situation.

I know of cases where that has happened. I think, in particular, of a tenant whose rent has tripled in four years, first, as the result of having to move out of his old home, and second, as a result of the Housing Finance Act.

Several hon. Members have referred to the effect of planning blight. I see nothing in the Bill to help in that situation. In my own constituency, I have had experience of it through delay in publishing a proposed route for the M42 motorway. There is nothing in the Bill which will help people in these circumstances, and the problem is growing. Hardly a week passes without a new road or some other development in Redditch new town being announced, and planning blight is affecting more and more people. Only last Friday evening, I learned from the Birmingham Evening Mail that it is possible that we shall have another motor- way, an extension to the M42, going through two more villages in my constituency. At once, planning blight will strike, because people now know that the planners are considering a new motorway which will affect that part of North Worcestershire. They have no compensation. There is no redress. If they have difficulty in selling their homes, there is nothing they can do pending publication of the proposed route.

The Bill does not make motorways more acceptable to the people who are affected by them. I hope that the Minister will not take from this debate any impression that k does. The Bill will do a great deal to ease or redress the financial losses which people have suffered in the past, but it will not make a motorway more acceptable. It is an old saying that money does not pay for everything, and, like all old sayings, there is more than a kernel of truth in it. If someone suffers as a result of a new motorway the Bill will help to avoid financial loss, but it will not compensate for the other losses which people sustain.