Oral Answers to Questions — Housing Estates (Community Facilities)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 7th May 1975.

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Photo of Anthony Steen Anthony Steen , Liverpool Wavertree 12:00 am, 7th May 1975

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will propose minimum community facilities which local authorities are required to provide per 1,000 residents when building council housing estates in urban areas.

Photo of Mr Reginald Freeson Mr Reginald Freeson , Brent East

No, not in such generalised terms. But I attach much importance to community facilities being planned and programmed as fully as possible within available resources. These cover, among other things, play space, public open space and educational, welfare and social provisions which are the responsibility of several national and local government departments. Various initiatives are now in hand by the Government to achieve greater co-ordination.

Photo of Anthony Steen Anthony Steen , Liverpool Wavertree

Will the Minister issue aesthetic guidelines to local authorities to encourage them to eliminate drabness, monotony and soullessness when building new council estates and so give hope to new generations of council tenants who will be forced to live in these awful housing estates?

Photo of Mr Reginald Freeson Mr Reginald Freeson , Brent East

A great deal of design material goes out from the Department and will continue to do so. It is becoming increasingly fashionable for many levels of society to denigrate the 5½ million council dwellings, the vast majority of which have far better facilities than have dwellings in the private rented sector.

Photo of Mr Charles Morrison Mr Charles Morrison , Devizes

Is the Minister satisfied about the exchange of information concerning community facilities between local authorities, especially between authorities with the best record for the provision of these facilities and authorities with the worst record?

Photo of Mr Reginald Freeson Mr Reginald Freeson , Brent East

I am not satisfied generally with the collation of information centrally and its outflow for the purpose of monitoring a great variety of initiatives, not only in this connection but in relation to other matters of housing and environment. I hope that we shall improve on this during the course of the coming months and years.

Photo of Mr Eddie Loyden Mr Eddie Loyden , Liverpool, Garston

When my hon. Friend examines the question of community facilities in council estates, will he consider the cost that is borne by the housing revenue account? Does he not agree that these facilities are often provided for rate payers through the rates? Will he make sure that the burden does not necessarily fall on the housing revenue account?

Photo of Mr Reginald Freeson Mr Reginald Freeson , Brent East

That question needs to be taken into account when we are considering the costs and the incomes of housing revenue accounts. I should be reluctant to draw too fine a line for local authorities to pursue. It is necessary to get as much integration of provision as is possible within the resources, and local authorities will find that difficult if too fine a line is drawn. When considering finances it is important to identify closely the facilities that are specifically housing and those that are non-housing although they may be provided as part of housing estates.

Photo of Mr Timothy Raison Mr Timothy Raison , Aylesbury

Is the Minister aware that the low standard of many privately rented dwelings to which he referred is overwhelmingly due to the penal policy pursued over the years by the Labour Party towards landlords?

Photo of Mr Reginald Freeson Mr Reginald Freeson , Brent East

It that is the considered view of the Opposition spokesman on environmental matters, I shall be interested to know why the Conservative Party has declared openly that it does not intend to revert to the 1957 Rent Act and why it did not vote against the Rent Act 1974.