Gipsy Sites

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:43 pm on 10th July 1990.

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Photo of Mr Robin Maxwell-Hyslop Mr Robin Maxwell-Hyslop , Tiverton 8:43 pm, 10th July 1990

Unfortunately, local education authorities can spend only the resources that they have at their disposal. If central Government do not make available significant extra resources for local authorities which have these massive extra expenses, my hon. Friend is simply asking local education authorities to rob Peter to pay Paul. These expenses cannot be met from existing resources.

Many hon. Members wish to speak, and for that reason I shall not cover the whole spectrum of these problems, except to say, first, that the Conservative Government who legislated for a mandatory requirement to provide permanent sites were right. Without permanent sites there cannot be the facilities that go with them, and provision for education. We must accept that wherever those permanent sites are located they will damage, if not destroy, the value of adjacent properties. That has been apparent throughout the debate.

When a site is chosen it adversely affects one councillor's bailiwick and the rest of the councillors are heartily grateful that their areas are not affected. Therefore, it is probable that the county council—not now the planning authority—which is responsible for choosing the site will, when it negotiates with the district council, find the majority of the district councillors saying, "Thank God, it has not been visited on my bailiwick. Yes, I will vote for it whatever the merits or lack of them." They will do that whether or not the local primary school can accept the children from the site. That is why I impress on my hon. Friend the Minister the fact that there should always be a public inquiry before a decision of this kind is made. That is the only way in which all the issues can be discussed. The damage to the total savings that people have put into their houses is one such real issue that has been brought out in the debate. Other issues are the availability of education, medical resources and transport, which can be properly aired in a public inquiry.

My principal point is that, when a site is chosen, because of the implications which have been so well illuminated in the debate, there should always be a public inquiry before planning permission is granted. It is too severe a test to expect the members of a planning authority, who are relieved that a site is not to be visited on their bailiwick, to decide against the interests of the one councillor who is averse to it. That is my message to my hon. Friend the Minister, who has a most difficult and taxing job to do in this respect. Clearly, none of us envy him.