HC Deb 08 July 1924 vol 175 cc1973-4

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to extend the powers of local authorities with regard to the acquisition and use of land for recreation purposes. I am very sorry indeed to delay the House, and I should not have put this Bill down for to-day it I had known that there was to be another Bill introduced under the Ten Minutes Rule, but I will detain the House for only a very few minutes. This Bill is promoted by the Commons and Footpaths Preservation Society, by the London Playing Felds, and by the Metropolitan Gardens Association, and it is very strongly and warmly supported by the British Olympic Sports Council, by the London County Council, by the two big football associations, and by the National Association for Hockey, Tennis, and Lacrosse, so that practically all the athletic societies of the country are behind this rather simple and non-controversial Measure. I suppose it is within the knowledge of everybody in the House that big industrial cities cannot find sufficient playing fields for the large number of clubs that spring up in those towns. I understand that the London County Council have only found one-third of the accommodation that is required by cricket clubs this summer, and that last winter they found only 275 football grounds for nearly 1,000 applications that were made by football clubs. I could give corresponding figures for other large industrial centres. The question is very naturally asked, "Why is it not possible to get more land? Why do they not get more land for playing fields? "The first answer is that it is too costly, because they would have to buy land, as they are empowered to do, for recreation grounds and parks; and the second answer is that they have no power to buy playing fields.

That requires just one word of explanation, and it is this part of this simple Bill which is of importance. Under the Open Spaces Act of 1906, it is possible to buy land for various public purposes, such as recreation grounds, but the definition of an open space is so narrow and so confined that it is necessary to alter it. It is not possible for any local authority to buy land unless it is being used as a garden or recreation ground or is lying waste and unoccupied. That means that no local authority, except such local authorities as are very powerful and have obtained private bills of their own, can buy a meadow. They are not allowed to buy a meadow which can be used for playing fields, and of course it is the meadows which the local authorities want to buy. The city is gradually encroaching on the land, and this simple Bill will enable the local authorities to acquire by agreement or by gift or by lease the green fields which are round the town and thus prevent the encroachment of building upon the land. I will not delay any more, because I am perfectly certain that this is a non-controversial Measure. I will just say one word to those who represent agricultural constituencies. I do not know whether they are aware that it is impossible to prevent a village green from being enclosed if it is used by two parishes for recreation purposes. The Clause in this Bill gives the authority power to take a village green which has been used for recreation purposes for 40 years and make it public for ever as playing fields whether it has been used by two parishes or not. That is a most important point and concerns vitally those who represent rural constituencies. I do not think I need say more to commend this Bill to the House.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Alden, Major Birchall, Sir John Brunner, Mr. Alfred Thomas Davies, Sir Joseph Hood, Mr. Pethick-Lawrence, Mr. Mosley, Mr. Rathbone, Mr. Sydney Robinson, and Mr. Ernest Simon.