HC Deb 05 March 1946 vol 420 cc189-92
The Minister of Town and Country Planning (Mr. Silkin)

With the permission of the House I will make a statement about the planning of London. The policy of His Majesty's Government on this matter is in accord with the fourth and fifth conclusions, unanimously reached, of the Barlow Commission. The Plan for the County of London and the companion Plan for Greater London, which covers the areas surrounding the county, between them contain a number of co-ordinated proposals aimed at achieving these objects. The Plan for Greater London has been under close examination by a number of my colleagues and myself, and the following decisions have been reached:

Firstly, the overall growth of London's population and industry should be restrained. This is one aspect of the general policy for achieving throughout the country a better balance of the distribution of industry, and in particular for assisting the industrial recovery of the Development Areas.

Secondly, a planned programme of decentralisation to the outer areas of Greater London should replace the uncontrolled sprawl of the inter-warperiod. War damage in the congests inner areas and wartime evacuation have provided a unique opportunity for effecting this redistribution. The intention is to make provision for about a million persons and concurrently a related quota of industrial firms to be accommodated further out—mainly in a few new towns and in selected existing towns within 20 to 50 miles of London's centre. The planned developments will be given priority according to their urgency.

Thirdly, it is proposed that the general lines of the decentralisation and resettlement should broadly conform to the proposals made by Sir Patrick Abercrombie for dividing the area surrounding the County of London into four Rings. From the County of London and the Inner Urban Ring round it, which form the congested areas most of the decentralisation should take place. The next Ring, the Suburban Ring, should be regarded in general as static. Surrounding this built up area a Green Belt Ring is to be carefully safeguarded, and this Ring, except in permitted cases, should act as a barrier to further suburban growth. The fourth or Outer Country Ring should serve as the main reception area for persons and industry moving out from overcrowded London into compact settlements surrounded by open country.

The implementation of these proposals rests in part upon the comprehensive legislation for land control which the Government will be introducing. Meantime it is my intention to afford guidance to the planning authorities in accordance with this statement. But while the Government endorse the main principles underlying the Greater London Plan, they do not at this stage adopt a number of the individual projects for development recommended by Sir Patrick Abercrombie, such as the location and number of the new towns and the proposals for highways. These matters are being further examined in all their bearings by the Government and also by the planning authorities both at the local level and through the Regional Advisory Committee, under the chairmanship of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) which is coordinating local views. I hope shortly to be in a position, in association with my colleagues, to provide further guidance to these bodies.

Captain Crowder

With regard to Middlesex, could the right hon. Gentleman say whether he favours the building of satellite towns with industries attached close by to them, or towns used as dormitories with workers living outside and coming in to Middlesex?

Mr. Silkin

Broadly speaking, the Government favour the first proposal—the creation of satellite towns where people can live and work.

Major Vernon

Can the Minister tell us a little more about the inner ring—the County of London itself?

Mr. Silkin

This is the congested part of London, and, generally speaking, there will be a movement outwards, towards less congested parts of London.

Mr. Derek Walker-Smith

Will the Minister say whether he is satisfied that the Abercrombie Report took fully into account the problem of water supplies for satellite towns in the reception areas and, if not, whether he will give an undertaking that that problem will be investigated be fore any decisions are made?

Mr. Silkin

I did say that the question of the location and numbers of the satellite towns is still being examined. One of the factors in that examination will be water supplies, and I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the matter will be taken into full consideration.

Mr. Driberg

Arising out of the Minister's first Supplementary Answer, will he make it possible, as soon as the location of the new towns is agreed upon, for suitable industrial development to take place in good time before the new inhabitants are housed there?

Mr. Silkin

Certainly, Sir. I think that is necessary for the success of the scheme. Conferences will take place with industrialists so that houses and industries can be provided side by side.

Mr. Mitchison

Since the Abercrombie Report is limited in geographical scope by its terms of reference, will the Minister give further consideration to dispersal towns, such as Kettering, a little farther out than 50 miles, having good lines of communication?

Mr. Silkin

That is a separate problem. One has to draw the line some where, otherwise the plan will become a plan for the whole country. Every town will be considered on its merits.

Mr. Scollan

Is it not the case that the purpose of the scheme is to meet the congestion which exists in big cities, and would it, therefore, not be much better if the Government took into consideration the dispersal of industries which would create the necessary cure for the conglomeration which we have in the big cities?

Mr. Silkin

I think the right course is to deal with industry and population side by side, and that is the present policy.