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Orders of the Day — Land Compensation Bill

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

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Photo of Mr Philip Goodhart Mr Philip Goodhart , Beckenham 12:00 am, 27th November 1972

I agree with much of what was said by the hon. Member for Bromsgrove (Mr. Terry Davis). Fairly recently, I drove, at a reasonable speed, I hope, through his constituency, adding not very much, I trust, to the pollution. Since driving through his constituency, however, I have driven on the Boulevard Périphérique outside Paris, and I am sure that that ringway for Paris has done a great deal to ease the difficult traffic problems of that great city. I believe that we ought to have a ringway round London.

My constituency has been much affected by the "Ringway for London" controversy. Indeed, we have the worst of all worlds at the moment, or we had until recently, inasmuch as we had no adequate ring road but we had a number of lines on planners' maps which did a great deal of financial harm to my constituents and caused much unhappiness. We had three lines. We had the original line for ringway 2 set down by the GLC. Then we had a rather sensible amendment to that line suggested by the local council. These two lines between them affected not scores but hundreds of houses. Then there was Parkway E, the line drawn by a planner years ago—almost in the middle ages as planning went, its origin being almost forgotten now.

Two of those lines have more or less gone. There is only partial blight left Although Parkway E continues to exist on paper and it may be that in some dusty cobwebbed office somewhere there is an ancient clerk drawing lines with a quill pen who actually believes that Parkway E will some day be built, I do not think that many other people believe it.

Meanwhile, hundreds of people have had the value of their property adversely affected. I think, in particular, of a man I know well who has a small tobacconist's shop alongside the original route of ringway 2. If that monstrosity, as it would have been for many of my constituents, had been built, that man would not only have lost most of the charm of his residence but he would have faced commercial ruin for there would have been no way by which he could have been compensated by anyone. I am delighted that there is now provision in the Bill for compensating people such as he.

I welcome the Bill warmly, for I believe that the proposals in it tend to take some of the bitterness out of the game of planner's roulette, which arbitrarily reduces the value of some property while equally arbitrarily increasing the value of other property.

Will the Minister say how long he expects the Bill to last? A number of hon. Members have said that it strikes a new balance and clearly that balance could have been struck in a slightly different way. No doubt it will be altered slightly in the course of a protracted Committee stage but is it expected that the Bill will last for a generation or is it seen merely as one of a continuing number of Bills on this subject? Obviously we cannot forecast what will be in the Queen's Speech next year, let alone five to ten years ahead, but can we expect fresh legislation within the lifetime perhaps of the next Parliament?

The right hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) and the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Cant) both raised the question of a simplified procedure. The hon. Member cited the high cost of going to the Lands Tribunal. I am sure that his example was an exceptional case but I know of another case in which a man with property which had been valued originally at £7,000 went to the Lands Tribunal and the valuation was increased to £17,000. But the legal costs amounted to more than £3,500. Those are clearly extraordinarily high legal costs. I come from a legal family and I do not wish to attach the legal profession in any way. But the case for a small claims court to deal with such matters is very strong. I have advocated it for consumer protection matters and I should like to see a modified procedure and a small claims court in this case also.

There is also an omission in the Bill for compensation payments in respect of temporary losses which individuals may suffer although they are not actually displaced during the construction of public works. This is a subject on which the GLC feels strongly and although that council has been criticised tonight we should pay tribute to the work it has done in the original stages of the Bill, along with the work done by my right hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government and Development and my hon. Friend the Member for North Fylde (Mr. Clegg).

I can think of a number of bad cases in my constituency where great hardship was caused by public works. In the Thayers Farm Road area of my constituency there was a great waterworks scheme which was essentially for the public good and which will benefit not only my constituency but many others too. For months steam hammers were operating day and night close to houses of my constituents and making far more noise than anything we have heard in the car park construction outside the Palace of Westminster. It persisted for months on end and caused great hardship to a large number of people and no adequate compensation was paid.

Flood prevention work has caused the closing of part of Beckenham High Street which has meant that for many months much of the traffic that would have gone down Beckenham High Street has gone down Burnhill Road, which is entirely inadequate for this sort of traffic flow. A great deal of inconvenience and hardship is being caused to my constituents there and it will continue for months to come. But even under this admirable Bill there is no way in which they can be adequately compensated.

I therefore welcome the Bill but I fear that those who are chosen to sit on the Committee stage had better put in for compensation now because clearly there are many small points which will have to be dealt with.