HC Deb 13 May 1925 vol 183 cc1862-4

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to make provision for the proscription of building lines along public highways, and for purposes connected therewith. In reply to numerous questions which have been asked in the House during the like of this Parliament and the life of preceding Parliaments, information has been elicited that this question is under consideration. The fact remains that up to the present nothing has been done. I cannot help thinking that in the absence of pressure from private Members it is unlikely that the powers which county councils seek in this direction will be granted to them. Many hon. Members thought that under the provisions of the Roads Improvement Bill powers would be granted to deal with this question, but, unfortunately, under a ruling which has been given in Committee upstairs, the Committee have found themselves unable to insert any Clause dealing with this matter. It was held to be outside the preamble of the Roads Improvement Bill. Hence, other methods have to be sought to deal with this question

I would like to remind the House that the borough and district councils have, under the provisions of the Town Planning Acts, 1909 and 1923, powers to make town planning schemes, in which they may prescribe building lines. Under the Public Health Act, local authorities can prescribe improvement lines in their streets. While these local authorities have these powers, they are denied to county councils, who have no similar powers to deal with building lines along the main highways which stretch throughout the length and breadth of our country. The only method by which county councils can prescribe building lines, apart from powers given to them by fresh legislation, is by approaching the rural district councils, and asking them to form town planning schemes. It is, obviously, impossible to expect rural district councils, numbering as they do many hundreds, to form town planning schemes simply to prescribe building lines along the highways

For some years after the old stage coach ceased to rumble along our highways, until the coming of the petrol era., there was little need for powers of this kind. Roads occupied what was, after all, a very secondary position in the country. They were dirty in winter and dusty in summer. No one desired to build houses close to the road, but a change has come about with the construction of the modern dust free road, and the handsome inducements now being offered by the Government for building houses have given a stimulus to building houses in a manner which compels attention to be given to this matter. Houses are springing up in great numbers along our highways, and they are made along roads which are already in many cases too narrow for the heavy traffic which they now carry, and will certainly prove far too narrow when the traffic increases, as it is bound to increase, in the near future.

I would remind the House of the great burden upon the ratepayers. In 1913–14 the ratepayers were called upon to contribute £71,000,000, or £1 18s. lld. per head. In 1923-24 they contributed £144,000,000, which represented a burden of £3 14s. 10d. per head. Ratepayers are naturally somewhat anxious about the burdens which may be placed upon them, yet it is clear that unless the local authorities, the county councils, are given powers to prescribe these building lines, in the near future, when they are called on to widen these roads, as in many instances they will have to do in the public interest, they will have to pay enormous sums for compensation. The County Council Association have received numerous representations from their constituent bodies. No fewer than 16 county councils have approached the central organisation. Those representations have come from Cambridgeshire, Cheshire, Norfolk, Monmouthshire, Surrey and Yorkshire. They come from all parts of the country, and it is clear that this need is not a local but a general need felt throughout the country

I would suggest to the House that this matter is urgent. It cannot be denied that many of our roads are already too narrow to meet the requirements of modern traffic and will have to be widened. I respectfully ask the leave of the House to introduce a Bill which, I am glad to think, has been backed from all parts of the House, to give powers to the county councils to prescribe building lines, and thus check the rapidly increasing drains which are being, and will be, made upon the ratepayers in the shape of compensation arising out of the widening of roads

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Sir Douglas Newton, Mr. Turtou, Lieut.-Colonel Watts-Morgan, Mr. Fenby, and Mr. William Thorne.