HC Deb 16 November 1948 vol 458 cc188-90
23. Sir R. Glyn

asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning to how many county planning authorities instructions have been issued that whenever possible villages and hamlets of a population less than 150 shall be forced by various means to cease as separate communities, and that steps shall be taken by other Departments to exercise discretion in the supply of services, etc., to such small centres of population; and whether it is intended to carry out this policy generally or only in Berkshire.

24. Mr. Hollis

asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning whether the proposal for the demolition of historic buildings in Letcombe Basset has been referred to the Advisory Committee on Historic Buildings.

Mr. Silkin

Both Questions are based on a misconception. County planning officers are in several cases making preliminary investigations in their areas; their reports are tentative and do not make positive recommendations. Before any such recommendations are made people living in the affected areas would have an opportunity of making their views known.

No instructions such as those mentioned by the hon. and gallant Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) have been issued by my Department to county planning authorities. The question of the demolition of historic buildings in Letcombe Basset does not therefore arise. I understand, however, that there is a number of houses which are subject to demolition orders made under the Housing Act before the war.

Sir R. Glyn

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Letcombe Basset is in my constituency and that the recommendation of the Wantage Rural District Council was turned down by the planning authority because they did not like the idea of a few houses being on the edge of the village? Is it not better to trust to the local authority, who know what is best for a village, rather than to rely on a rather distant planning officer; and is he not further aware that in spite of his answer, a definite refusal has been given by the planning authority to the putting up of eight houses on a more suitable site, more healthy and where drainage can easily be arranged?

Mr. Silkin

That goes very much wider than the original question. No decision has been arrived at. There is obviously a dispute between two local authorities, and, in due course, when the plans are submitted, it will be for the Minister to decide.

Sir R. Glyn

For the purpose of record, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will verify that statement? I think that he will find that a definite refusal has been made by the planning authority to the proposals of the rural district council.

Mr. Silkin

Of course, I will verify the statement, but it is not inconsistent with what I have said.

Mr. Godfrey Nicholson

Is not the House entitled to be told where the right hon. Gentleman and his Department stand? The general feeling is that this is a grave threat to the existence of village communities, and cannot he enlighten us as to the Government's view?

Mr. Silkin

I thought that the position was quite plain. In due course, a plan will be prepared and submitted to the Minister for approval, and it will be at that stage that representations will be heard from all parties who are not in favour of the plan.

Mr. Nicholson

Then it will be too late.

Mr. Silkin


Mr. Wilson Harris

May the House take it that whether or not the principle of this suppression of small villages has been enunciated by an officer of his Ministry, it is a principle which has not the Minister's approval?

Mr. Silkin

The House may take it that the Ministry do not approve of the suppression of these small villages because they are small villages.