HC Deb 07 June 1932 vol 266 cc1848-50

Amendment made: In page 37, line 32, after the word "and", insert the words "the Common Council of the City of London or".—[Sir G. Hume.]


I beg to move, in page 37,, line 41, at the end, to add the words: (2) In any case where after a resolution to prepare or adopt a scheme has taken effect and an application for permission to proceed with interim development of any land is refused by an authority on the ground that it is intended to reserve the land by the scheme as a public open space and the refusal is confirmed by the Minister on an appeal the owner of the land shall be entitled to require the authority to purchase the land within six months after the date of refusal at a price to be agreed between the owner and the authority or, failing agreement, to be determined by the arbitration of such person as may be agreed upon or, in default of agreement, appointed by the Minister. This Amendment refers to land which is included in a resolution as scheduled for the purposes of public open spaces, and which comes in an entirely different category from any other land which is within the same resolution. I am asking in this Amendment that, if the owner of land which is scheduled as a public open space is refused an interim development order and that decision is confirmed by the Ministry of Health, the local authorities should be compelled to purchase the land at its proper price. Under the old Act, when land was scheduled in this way, the owner did not get his money for the land, nor did he get compensation until the scheme was approved, which might be long after. This is only introducing justice between the local authority and the property owner.


The principle of this Amendment is unobjectionable. It is only a minor extension of Clause 18 (2). I propose to accept the principle of the Amendment, but its place in the Bill is wrong, and the draft is not in the appropriate form. I will put it in the appropriate form in another place.


I should have thought that this was a most vicious Amendment from the Minister's point of view, and I am very surprised that he is prepared to accept it. It is introducing a new principle as regards compensation, which can be very easily wangled by any owner who wishes to do so. All he has got to do, where he is certain that the land is to be used as an open space, is to ask for an interim development order, knowing perfectly well that it will be refused. By so doing he is going to cash in the whole price of the open space, which normally he would not be able to do. The right hon. Gentleman, by accepting the principle of this Amendment, is putting such an onus on local authorities as will effectively stop local authorities having open spaces. Nothing is more calculated to stop the most desirable adjunct of the town planning scheme, a sufficiency of open spaces, than an Amendment of this sort. Local authorities with a desire for economy, which is the desire of the hon. Members who have put down this Amendment, although they do not wish any economy in compensation—


Not economy at the expense of confiscation.


This is no new procedure. It is a procedure which has been going on for 23 years in this country in regard to compensation. Now it is proposed to change it suddenly, for no apparent reason except the pressure put upon the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman cannot have appreciated the enormous harm which this Amendment will do as regards the provision of open spaces. I can imagine nothing more calculated to stop the provision of adequate open spaces than this quite unfair provision as regards a local authority. The matter has often been dealt with by the House of Commons before, but never in this way, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will reconsider his decision to insert such a provision.


I rise to refute the perfectly absurd suggestions put forward by the hon. and learned Gentleman. The only purpose of this Amendment is to say that an owner shall not be saddled with land which he is not allowed to use and which is to be open to the public. The compensation which is given in such cases is always, and must always be, tantamount to the whole value of the land. It simply says that when a town planning scheme includes a provision for a public open space which removes the whole of the value of the land from the owner, and when as the Bill originally stood compensation of the whole value of the land would have to be paid for the convenience both of the local authority and of the owner, the ownership of the land should pass into the hands of the local authority. It is not in the least likely to prevent the provision of open spaces. On the contrary, it is likely to facilitate very much the agreement between the owners and the local authorities in their provision.

Amendment negatived.