HC Deb 07 February 1949 vol 461 cc107-32

7.18 p.m.

Mr. Molson (The High Peak)

In the King's Speech with which this Session was begun the Government promised a Measure to set up national parks. That Measure will be welcomed far outside the ranks of the Socialist Party. One, of the first three parks that the Hob-house Committee recommended was The Peak. They gave a warning that the beauty and charm of The Peak was in great danger of being spoiled by the quarrying developments that were taking place there. If and when national parks legislation is on the Statute Book, The Peak will obtain a considerable measure of protection. One of the definitions is that it shall be a place where the characteristic landscape beauty is strictly preserved and where established farming use is effectively maintained." … It is not surprising that when it became apparent that The Peak was to be included in the park legislation, the mineral interests concerned should seek, before that legislation was put on the Statute Book, to obtain permission from the Minister of Town and Country Planning for the largest and most extensive mineral development possible. That, indeed, has happened. On 29th August, 1947, the "Manchester Guardian" gave a list of the developments that had been applied for: Bradwell, Pindale, Eldon Hill, Gautries Hill, Water Swallows, Tunstead, Ashwood Dale, Grinlow, Topley Pike, Calton Hill, Hemmerton Hill, Hillhead, Hindlow, Brierlow and Dowlow, Hartington Station, Hartshead, Heathcote and Friden, Bakewell Chert, Hassop Station, Middleton Dale.

It may be supposed that the Minister of Town and Country Planning should have foreseen that applications for development of this kind would have taken place. He foresaw it, but, I regret to say, he neglected to take appropriate action. Why do I say that he foresaw the danger? On 26th November, 1946, he sent a representative of his Ministry to Buxton—two-and-a-quarter years ago—and a meeting was convened by his Ministry. I am quoting the terms of reference: To discuss the future of the lime and limestone industry operating in the vicinity of Buxton and The High Peak. Towards the end of that meeting, Mr. Gillie, an official of the right hon. Gentleman's Ministry, who was in the chair, proposed—and I am quoting again—that Each quarrying undertaking and also each landowner who wished to do so should forward to the Minister in confidence a statement showing the land suggested for quarrying in both short and long-term"— and here I omit many particulars and go on to complete the quotation, without, I think, altering the sense, that the question was one to be dealt with by means of individual fairly long-term proposals for quarrying up to possibly 100 years, or for individual new quarries. That I regard as being a very right and proper way of planning development of a part of the country which is of tremendous aesthetic and amenity value to great industrial populations on the East and West and all round that part, and where, at the same time, there are valuable minerals of which this country stands in need both for its industrial and its agricultural development.

My main indictment this afternoon of the Minister is that nothing effective has been done in the last two-and-a-quarter years to give effect to the policy which was then laid down on his behalf by Mr. Gillie. It is the Minister's own testimony which condemns him. It was in connection with this matter that I am raising tonight that on the 21st January, 1949, he wrote to me: I hope to be able to continue the comprehensive examination of the mineral problem in The Peak at an early date. If the ordinary rules of construction of the English language apply in the case of departmental letters, that means to say that there has been an interruption in this "comprehensive examination" which was supposed to have been taken two and a quarter years ago. It is the need for a general, long-term, strategical plan of development of that kind which I wish specially to emphasise, and I consider that the right hon. Gentleman is, at the present time, in a very special position of responsibility to see that when the national parks legislation is upon the Statute Book no irreparable harm shall not already be found to have been done to areas to be included in the national parks.

Unfortunately, there have been recently two decisions given by the right hon. Gentleman which seem to show that, despite the office which he occupies, he is not a true defender of the amenities of what are intended to be the national parks. He seems to have shown so strong a bias in favour of industrial development that one would almost suppose that he was unable to withstand the influence and pressure of his right hon. colleagues who are responsible for the Board of Trade or for the Ministry of Transport.

The first example to which I want to refer is the permission which he granted after a public inquiry for a great extension of the existing cement works in the Hope Valley. I appreciate fully what can be said in favour of what is there being done. I know that Earle's Cement Works have not been indifferent to considerations of amenity. Quite a long time ago they engaged Mr. G. A. Jellicoe, one of the most distinguished of our landscape artists, to see what could be done to make reparation and to cover up the scars which have been inflicted upon the Hope Valley, and the harm that has already been done to the amenities by their industrial development. I was very glad to open an exhibition in the village of Hope showing in a small plan the scheme which had been prepared by Mr. Jellicoe and which Earle's Cement Works had undertaken to put into effect.

I am only too well aware of the harmful effects upon the Hope Valley of the existing cement works and the two chimneys which at present belch their noxious fumes and dust into the valley itself. This has the most harmful effect upon the pasturage of the neighbouring farms. It is recognised that the effect of the limestone dust upon the grass is extremely bad for the animals which are pastured there. I also understand that there is a theory, not at present, I think, proved, that this dust is also inclined to cause bone disease among the animals. That, I heard only today, has been found to be occurring in Lancashire, and it may well be the same in Derbyshire.

I can, therefore, see that if once it is decided that the life of these cement works in the Hope Valley is to be lengthened for a further century and the area of development is to be greatly extended, it is arguable that in place of two hideous chimneys belching into the Hope Valley, it may be better to have one hideous chimney, 400 feet high, belching its noxious fumes and limestone dust up on to the moors above. Even so, there can surely be no justification for the right hon. Gentleman not having made a condition of this further extension the use of something in the nature of the Lodge-Cottrill precipitator, which has the effect of depositing the dust from the cement-making factory and making it available for industrial and agricultural purposes instead of its being belched into the air and becoming a nuisance to all those who live anywhere in the district.

Certainly there is widespread distress at the decision the right hon. Gentleman has come to upon this matter. I have had a number of letters in recent weeks; and only this afternoon, just before I came in here, there was a telegram from someone in Sheffield, whom I do not know, telling me of the distress the right hon. Gentleman's decision has caused. I am very glad to see the hon. Member for Brightside (Mr. F. Marshall) in his place; I am confident that he will have something more to say upon this subject: he has been chairman of the Town Planning Committee of the City of Shef- field; he has made himself prominent in the task of trying to preserve the amenities of The High Peak before he became Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Town and Country Planning. I hope that from the benches which support the right hon. Gentleman, I also shall have some support for the protest that I am making this evening.

Worse than what has happened in the case of the cement works—because, as I think, more unreasonably decided by the right hon. Gentleman—is what has happened in the case of that part of Wyedale called Ashwood Dale, just outside Buxton. Until the Minister of Town and Country Planning took the right to determine these applications into his own hands, the Buxton Corporation was the planning authority. The most beautiful approach to Buxton is from Bakewell, up a narrow gorge with rugged limestone cliffs on the easterly side. Some three or four years ago the Imperial Chemical Industries wished to work the limestone on the east side. The Buxton Corporation was only willing to grant permission for this to be done provided that a screen of the living rock should be left, in order to preserve the scenery of the gorge.

Parliament, in its wisdom, was dissatisfied with the care that some local authorities exercised in preserving the amenities of their countryside and they set up a Ministry of Town and Country Planning. I can only think that Parliament was, at any rate on some occasions, much mistaken. When an application by Derbyshire Stone Limited was made to the right hon. Gentleman, the Buxton Corporation was quite agreeable to the development taking place provided the same condition was applied to Derbyshire Stone Limited as had been applied to Imperial Chemical Industries. Negotiations took place, and then it was proposed that there should be a formal hearing.

There are occasions when I am disposed to sympathise with the right hon. Gentleman; it seems to me that he is not always entirely well served by those in his Department. The Buxton Corporation protested that there was no public inquiry in this case, and, writing to me on 21st January, 1949, the right hon. Gentleman said: Buxton was told on 18th December, 1947, that there was going to be a hearing, but the hearing itself was not held until 19th February, 1948. If the Council had felt strongly that a hearing was not adequate and had wished to press their case for a public inquiry, they had plenty of time at that stage in which to do so. Their protest was not, in fact, made until 20th September, 1948, after the decision on the case had been taken and issued. It was on 22nd July, 1947—and I am now quoting extracts from the transcript of a shorthand note taken of an informal meeting—that the Town Clerk of Buxton put to Mr. Hughes, representing the right hon. Gentleman, the need for a public inquiry, and said: Whether it is to be a formal inquiry or public hearing can be left until after this afternoon. Mr. Hughes said: I take it the object of Buxton seeking a public inquiry is to bring other information? The Town Clerk replied: Yes, with such bodies as the C.P.R.E., the National Parks Committee, and possibly private people. So far from the statement in the Minister's letter being correct, a resolution calling for a public inquiry was passed on 30th July, 1947. A letter requesting a public inquiry was written by the town clerk to the Ministry of Town and Country Planning on 15th August, 1947; the demand was repeated on 18th December, 1947; it was repeated again on 6th February, 1948; and it was repeated yet again on 12th March, 1948.

In spite of all that, in spite of the opposition of the local authority, which was supported in this matter by the Derbyshire County Council, the Minister has given permission for this development to take place in Ash-wood Dale, in order that a comparatively small amount of what is called Chee Tor stone should be quarried inexpensively by Derbyshire Stone, Limited; the right hon. Gentleman has given permission for 100 yards of the cliff alongside this important approach to Buxton to be swept away. This is a second example of the ill-effects of dealing with these applications for mineral development piecemeal and from hand to mouth, dealing with each one as it arises. One wonders what hope there is for a proper preservation of the country-side when even the Minister of Town and Country Planning himself apparently shows less concern in this matter than was shown by the local authority itself before his Ministry was set up.

I charge the Minister with grave dereliction of duty. Instead of holding The Peak in trust against the day when it becomes a national park, he has, on his own admission, which I have quoted from his letter, neglected the comprehensive examination of mineral development which he began two and a quarter years ago. He has no general plan upon which to work when dealing with individual applications which are already alarmingly numerous, and great harm has already been done to the amenities of the Hope Valley by the permission he gave in that case. Even more inexcusable is it that against the opposition of the local authorities and without holding a public inquiry, he has granted similar permission for a great destruction to be done in Ashwood Vale.

7.42 p.m.

Mr. Fred Marshall (Sheffield, Brightside)

This is the first occasion since I ceased to be Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Town and Country Planning that I have ventured to speak in this House on planning matters, but I am quite sure that my right hon. Friend, knowing my keen interest in The Peak district and the efforts I have been privileged to put forward on its behalf for many years to preserve its beauties, would expect me on this occasion to say a few words. I have always regarded The Peak area as likely to become the cockpit of the national parks' agitation. It is an area almost surrounded by a Midland industrial population, and it is estimated that no less than 50 per cent. of the population of this country reside within 60 miles of Buxton. Obviously, from that point of view The Peak as a national park will minister to a greater number of people than any other of our proposed national parks.

I have always maintained that it is a most important area in the country in that it will minister to the greatest number of people. To the great industrial areas of the Midlands it is easy of access by train, bus and car, and no doubt many thousands of people every week enjoy its beauty. This has been recognised by the Dower and Hobhouse Reports and by numerous writers in books and articles. The Hope Valley in which the cement works are situated, is the chief artery through The Peak district. Beautiful in itself with its varied hill and river scenery, it leads up to some of the most impressive scenery in The Peak, including Mam Tor and the Winnats Pass, Cave Dale, the famous Ridge Walk, Perveril of the Peak Castle, ancient earth works and intensely interesting caves. From the valley access is gained to several typical and delightful Peak villages. Starting from Hathersage in its beautiful setting, we pass Bamford on the right, Bradwell and the Roman fort of Brough well back on the left, through the unspoiled village of Hope and on to Edale or Castleton, two villages nestling at the roots of the hills, with the great mass of Kinder looming in the background.

This, I hope, will give the House some idea of the importance of the Hope Valley to the proposed national park of The Peak. I should also have said that the road through the valley also gives access to the cement works. These are situated on the south side of the valley, at the foot of what has been a very pleasant range of hills. The works can be seen from a considerable distance. Certainly, they can be seen from the hill-tops visible from the valley. In the distance the works are an ugly smudge on the landscape, usually emitting, as the hon. Gentleman the Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson) has said, smoke and dust. But as one passes them on the road these works literally hit one in the eye. It would be difficult to imagine a more incongruous and ugly picture placed in such charming surroundings. To me they have always appeared to be a model of what should be avoided in country planning. They have already gone far to destroy the beauty of this landscape, and the addition now sanctioned will extend and perpetuate the injury for another 100 years.

A 400-foot chimney, the top of which will be 1,000 feet above sea level, will be half as high as Kinder Scout, the highest peak of the area, which is 2,080 feet, and will shriek out to one from all points of the compass. This will be a fitting centre-piece of the national park of The Peak and, if I may say so, it will be a wonderful monument to a Labour Ministry of Town and Country Planning. As one climbs the shivering mountain and takes a backward glance on the lovely and romantic picture of Peveril Castle perched high on its craggy eminence, this montrosity will be peering at one over the veritable glories of The Peak.

This extension does not end there. One has only to read the evidence at the inquiry to find out that the resources of limestone already in possession of the firm will last about another 117 years, while the clay resources, a very necessary ingredient in the manufacture of cement, will only last about 40 years. It is estimated that in order to bring the clay resources up to the amount of limestone already in possession of the firm another 15 to 20 farms will have to be acquired by the firm. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend has seen the areas from which the clay has been extracted. If he has not he should certainly do so. The only description I can apply to it is—it is a spew of slimy desolation, and that is not saying anything too strong about it. These decision, as the hon. Member for The High Peak said, are hand-to-mouth decisions.

Neither the Town and Country Planning Ministry, nor the Ministry of Supply, nor the Ministry of Transport has as yet a body of information showing alternative sites from which these very necessary minerals may be won. As a consequence, I can only come to the conclusion that they take the line of least resistance. They concede the demand. This is not planning. It is mere expediency, and in the process much of our beautiful scenery "goes west."

Those who love The Peak have taken what steps they can to prevent this happening. In 1942, I had the privilege of leading a deputation to the then Ministry of Works and Planning, with the object of placing before the Ministry all the activities of this firm and the threat to The Peak represented by their activities. We were received by the then Parliamentary Secretary, the hon. Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Hicks). At that meeting was also Mr. George Pepler, the Chief Technical Officer to the Ministry. At the interview we strongly urged that restoration measures should be adopted and that no further extension of these works should be authorised. It was war-time and the need for cement was very urgent. We felt that we had received a very sympathetic and understanding hearing.

In his reply to us, the Minister did not commit himself which, in the war-time circumstances, he could not be expected to do. It was significant that a short time after the interview the local branch of the Council for the Preservation of Rural England were invited by Messrs. Earl to discuss restoration plans. At that meeting the Ministry were represented. A short time after that, the Jellicoe plan was brought out and adopted. It is a plan to restore the contour of the hills out of which the limestone has been extracted, and to treat the excavations from which the clay has been extracted by the planting of trees upon a fairly extensive scale. It is recognised by all that the plan will take 50 years to mature. It was accepted on that occasion by representatives both of amenity and industry, and seemed to us to mark the end of a very difficult issue.

To adopt such a plan was surely a recognition by the firm and by the Government that considerable damage had already been done to the valley and that an obligation was upon them to repair it as far as possible. I am sure that this extension to the firm was not visualised at that time. A further point that strengthens my contention is that at that time the firm were looking elsewhere for development. In November, 1944, they received authorisation to construct new works at Caldon Low, which is just inside the Staffordshire border. It is not very far away from Dovedale. Some questions of amenity arose but these were settled by the then Minister of Town and Country Planning. I cannot understand why the firm have not gone on with that alternative. It is the alternative to the vast extensions in the Hope Valley.

We are told that Caldon Low has not been developed because of lack of water. Everyone knows that water is an extremely important element in the manufacture of cement. Are we to understand that a firm of this calibre has gone into this scheme without assuring themselves that a plentiful supply of water was available. That explanation seems incredible. Our impression was that Caldon Low was an alternative to the Hope Valley. It is only now that we learn that both are necessary. I cannot help the suspicion arising in my mind that these extensions are now put forward because Caldon Low has not been developed. Four years is a long time for a project of that sort to hang about without any development taking place I therefore ask the Minister to make searching inquiries into this matter.

Finally, this question raises the matter of amenity and industry in a very dramatic way. The Minister has made his decision to surrender this vital section to desolating and perpetual disfigurement and, in the process, has brought bitter disappointment to all those who love The Peak. The Minister may have been pressed very hard on this matter by other Ministries. If he has, I am sorry that he did not dig his heels in and tell the other Ministries to go to the Cabinet. If, under the stress of postwar temporary shortages, the only thing he can do is to ravage our beauty spots it will indeed be a policy of despair. Under it, no landscape would be immune, if only an urgent economic argument can be advanced for its development. We have done all that we can to fight against these extensions. We think that the health, welfare and recreation of a vast population is distinctly in the national interest and is far more valuable to the nation's economy than an extended cement works.

7.58 p.m.

Mr. Keeling (Twickenham)

I wish to support very earnestly the protests which have been made from each side of the House. Both my hon. Friend the Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson) and the hon. Member for Brightside (Mr. F. Marshall), spoke with authority, my hon. Friend as the Member for the Division which includes Hope Valley, and the hon. Member opposite as one of the Members for Sheffield, the people of which are to be so gravely injured by this decision. I do not think that the words which my hon. Friend used "betrayal of trust" or the hon. Member's word "surrender" are a bit too strong to describe what has happened.

I want to refer to the letter which was sent by the Ministry on 21st December last to British Portland Cement Manufacturers, Limited. One sentence in the letter was: The Minister is advised that there is only a limited number of sites in the country satisfying economic considerations and at the same time providing in workable quantities the raw materials and services necessary for the production of cement. It is very strange that in writing to manufacturers of cement the Minister of Town and Country Planning should have stressed the need for cement. Why should he preach to the converted? I should have expected the Minister to say—this would have been equally true, "There is only a limited number of places within reach of the teeming population of Sheffield and a number of other towns nearby where the people can find fresh air, recreation and beautiful scenery." A great part of that is now, alas, to go. The letter also said: The further development of the area should be carried out in such a way as to reduce to a minimum the ultimate damage to the appearance of the valley through quarrying operations in the future. The words "reduce to a minimum" mean merely "reduce to a minimum consistent with a vast production of cement, a 400-feet chimney and all the rest of it." The "minimum damage" will be very great indeed and, as my hon. Friend has pointed out, the national park will be ruined. It is quite clear that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Town and Country Planning had his tongue in his cheek the other day when he referred to "adverse effects on the amenities, if any."

The hon. Members who have spoken have referred to Mr. Jellicoe's scheme for repairing the damage done to the valley. His main proposals are to provide for the treatment of the limestone quarry in order to give the illusion that the form of the hill is undisturbed; the treatment of the clay excavations by a series of informal lakes and planted banks, or alternatively the planting of trees to match those already in the valley; and a tree-planting scheme for the whole area. Mr. Jellicoe is, of course, a distinguished landscape artist, but he is employed by the cement company, and I should like an assurance that the Ministry will consult some responsible body—I can think of nobody better than the local branch of the Council for the Preservation of Rural England, which has done such splendid work for the people of Sheffield—as to the method and details of carrying out the Jellicoe plan and as to any modifications of that plan which either the cement company or the Minister wish to propose, or the Council for the Preservation of Rural England to suggest. In a last effort to save something of the wreck of the Hope Valley, I ask the Minister to give that assurance.

8.5 p.m.

Mr. Champion (Derby, Southern)

I want to add a few words to the protest which has been made. I congratulate the hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson) on having raised this extremely important matter and I congratulate the hon. Member for Brightside (Mr. F. Marshall) upon his poetical contribution to the protest which has been made in connection with this extension to the cement works in the Hope Valley.

We should expect the Minister of Town and Country Planning to be the last to give his permission to a project of this sort. After all, he has spent practically the whole of his life telling us of the mistakes which have been made in the past and the desolation which has been caused by introducing industry into the lovely parts of our countryside. He ought to be using his office to ensure that areas such as The High Peak area of Derbyshire are not subjected to any further industrialisation. I am sorry to hear that he has given his consent to this addition, and I hope that the Debate will cause him to reconsider the matter. He should have consulted other Ministers—I suppose he has done so—and he should certainly have consulted the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster who was recently photographed rambling over some of this part of the country and who, as President of the Ramblers' Association, ought to be here to add his protest to ours.

The trouble about these acts of industrialisation which from time to time spread to our valleys and hills is that once permission is given, there is no going back. It seems as if extension follows extension in a sort of logical procession of concessions by the Minister to industrialisation. With these few words, I add my protest, and I hope that even at this late hour the Minister will give us some indication that he is prepared to reconsider his decision.

8.9 p.m.

Mr. Burden (Sheffield, Park)

I want to pay tribute to the wonderful work done on behalf of Sheffield folk by the local branch of the Council for the Preservation of Rural England and to the moving speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Brightside (Mr. F. Marshall). My hon. Friend has made town and country planning his life study and I am sure that he speaks with great knowledge and deep appreciation of all that is involved in this project. Last weekend I took the opportunity of going to the site and I tried to gather from a plan which was shown to me, what these developments involve. The local manager of the works, who has been there only a short time, showed a keen interest in the problem from the point of view of the amenities of The Peak district and seemed extremely anxious to do everything within his power to mitigate any ill-effects which might arise from the scheme. It is only fair to say that in connection with this development.

I want to ask the Minister first, are these extensions and developments within the area of the existing cement works in the Hope Valley, and do they really involve some work which will tend to decrease the undoubted nuisance of cement and other material not only over the Hope Valley but also in the surrounding districts? Is it true that urgent steps are being taken in regard to the precipitation tanks which will also mitigate the nuisance arising from the cement works?

I can understand and deeply sympathise with what the hon. Member for Brightside has said in regard to the 400-foot chimney which I believe is to replace two chimneys of 150 feet each. Will that 400-foot chimney be above the skyline? I have seen one plan which shows it not above the skyline, but I have also seen an imaginary photograph which shows it standing up right above the surrounding district. I was informed, rightly or wrongly, that the local officers of the Ministry of Town and Country Planning went carefully into this matter on the spot. I cannot believe that, if this monstrosity is actually proposed to be right above the the skyline, anybody in their senses could have approved such a thing in The Peak district and in what will be a national park.

Mr. Keeling

May I answer the hon. Member's question? I have in my hand a photograph of the Hope Valley, showing the chimney. As he will see, at any rate from this position, it is far above the skyline.

Mr. Burden

That is an effort of somebody's imagination because the chimney does not exist at present.

Mr. Keeling

No, it is superimposed.

Mr. Burden

Well, obviously it is not a photograph of the chimney.

Mr. Keeling

No, I should have said it was a photograph of the valley with the proposed 400-foot chimney superimposed on it.

Mr. Burden

As a matter of fact I have already seen the plan which would be produced to the Ministry, without anything superimposed on it, showing that this chimney will not be above the skyline and will not be like the monstrosity in the hands of the hon. Member. I do not know which is correct and I am asking for information.

Mr. Molson

It depends on how close one is to the chimney. The skyline is not fixed it varies as one approaches the object.

Mr. Burden

A plan was produced to me which would be submitted to the local Ministry officials. Is that plan correct or is this imaginative photograph correct? I am only asking for information.

May I reinforce the plea that even now inquiries should be made on the spot in regard to this chimney and other extensions. For what it is worth, I am told that the chimney is to be erected in order to throw the smoke farther away from Hope village, but obviously what goes up must come down, and it will be spread over a wider area. Be that as it may, if there are no advantages in regard to the 400-foot chimney, I suggest that even at this late hour there might be further inquiries made on the spot to see what can be done to allay genuine apprehensions.

Finally, I would urge that in these days of urban development every effort should be made to retain what natural beauty spots still exist in this country. Among those beauty spots there is nothing to equal what can be found in the Derbyshire Peak district. That is all important. If it means that some industry has to go, well let it go. After all, beauty and the joy of life are more than a few extra tons of cement. Therefore, I urge the Minister, if he can do anything to help in this business, to do so. At the same time, it was only fair that, having seen what purported to be a plan of the spot. I should say to the House what was represented to me to be the position.

8.18 p.m.

Mr. Harrison (Nottingham, East)

I would utter a word of complaint in that the hon. Member who opened this Debate limited his protests to the area of Sheffield, as did also my hon. Friend the Member for Brightside (Mr. F. Marshall). They seemed to imagine that the population surrounding Sheffield were the only people who would be intimately affected by this proposition, but I want to couple with their protests those of the citizens of Nottingham, Derby and Leicester. I have been connected for many years with the rambling and cycling clubs of Nottingham and Derby, whose populations are at a greater distance from the coast than are those in any other part of the country. That part of The Peak district is our holiday resort and we view this proposition with the greatest concern, having suffered from the Ambergate Cement Works. A lot could be prevented by up-to-date methods and adjustments of the smoke and dust nuisances, but these steps are not always taken, and to sacrifice the beauties of Hope in the same way as Ambergate Valley has been sacrificed, seems to our people to be a sorry thing to face in the near future. I am sure that I speak for the majority of our people in Nottingham, Derby and Leicester in coupling their protests with those of the people from Sheffield.

8.20 p.m.

The Minister of Town and Country Planning (Mr. Silkin)

It is very gratifying to find that there are six honourable and respected Members of this House who are prepared to give some of their leisure, and to turn aside for a short time from the more mundane matters with which we are concerned, to discuss the question of beauty and amenity. While I welcome this Debate, I regret that I cannot welcome the intemperate tone of some of the speeches. Two matters, and only two—Hope Valley and Ashwood Dale—have been discussed as constituting a grave dereliction of duty and a betrayal of trust and as having caused widespread distress, and permanent disfigurement of the countryside. That is so terrible an exaggeration that hon. Members are not really doing a service to the cause which they have at heart.

Mr. Molson

I think that the right hon. Gentleman heard my speech. I began by dealing at length with the need for a comprehensive study of the mineral development of the whole of that area and I gave two particular examples of the most recent cases which have come before the right hon. Gentleman. I gave them as examples, and no more than examples, of the ill-effects of his major dereliction of duty in not having dealt with the matter by means of a general planning scheme.

Mr. Silkin

I do not think I have anything to withdraw. The hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson) did refer to myself as having committed a grave dereliction of duty.

Mr. Molson

So the right hon. Gentleman has.

Mr. Silkin

He made that complaint on the strength of two decisions which he quoted in his speech. I will not deal with them at the same length as did the hon. Member, nor will I embark upon so many technicalities.

I accuse the hon. Member of suppression of facts. There are a good many things that he ought to have told the House if he wanted to present a true picture of the responsibility which lies upon my Ministry and myself. One would not have realised, for instance, from what has been said, that planning control over mineral workings first came into operation on 1st February, 1946; that before that date there was absolutely no control whatever, although there had been a previous Minister of Town and Country Planning and many previous Ministers of Health responsible for planning; that although, under the Town and Country Interim Development Act, 1943, the whole country was brought under interim development control, by an interim development order made by the Minister mineral workings were deliberately excluded from control. Nor did the hon. Gentleman or my hon. Friend and late colleague at the Ministry the Member for Brightside (Mr. F. Marshall) tell the House that the Hope Cement Works first began to operate in 1929 and had, therefore, been in operation for 20 years. These are all material facts which ought to have been placed before the House if it is to judge whether there has been any grave dereliction of duty.

I agree with a great deal of what has been said about the present condition of The Peak district. Of course I agree with the need for preserving, so far as we possibly can, the amenities of that still lovely area. Of course, I recognise how important it is to a large mass of people living within a relatively short distance of The Peak district who look to it for their recreation and holidays and for the fresh air that is so necessary for people living in those congested areas. Of course, I realise all those things. That is one of the reasons why the Government propose in the near future to introduce a Measure to secure national parks for the nation. But it is really not serving the cause which the hon. Members have at heart to pretend that such spoliation of The Peak district that has taken place has been caused by any failure on the part of the Ministry of Town and Country Planning or by any decisions which they have given. The plain fact is that the whole of the damage to The Peak district has been caused by lack of planning control and at a time when actually there was no planning control whatever over the district.

I want to refer to the two decisions. One of them—Ashwood Dale—is not even in the proposed national park area; it is close by. It is a little difficult, therefore, to follow how one can be accused of doing an injury to the proposed national park area by something which happens outside it. We are left, therefore, with the case of the Hope Cement Works. An application was made for an extension of those works. I, as Minister, was bound to consider that application on its merits. I cannot adopt a general policy for all applications for mineral works in a certain area and say that we shall refuse them all. Every applicant for development is entitled to have his case considered, to have a public inquiry held, and to have a decision on the merits of his case.

In pursuance of that, the Hope Cement Works applied for an extension to their works. It is a material factor and I am afraid hon. Members cannot get away from it by making eloquent speeches. that there is a great demand for cement in this country today. It is also true that this country can go without, and my hon. Friend the Member for Brightside said that, if industry conflicts with amenities, then industry should suffer, but, in saying that industry should suffer, my hon. Friend must really face up to the consequences that would flow from industry suffering. Going without cement in the last resort means going without a certain number of houses or without certain road improvements. It also means going without exports, and going without exports means going without certain things that we import in exchange. I wonder whether my hon. Friend has really faced up to the implications of his own statement that in the last resort we can do without industry? Of course, we can, but we cannot do without industry without inflicting a good deal of suffering upon the population of this country, and I think the people of this country are entitled to have some voice in the decision whether, in the event of this conflict, they would prefer beautiful scenery or the products of the mineral workings which are necessary for their livelihood.

In the case of the Hope Cement Works, there was a long inquiry and every opportunity was given to those who objected to state their case. I was faced with the fact, among others, that it was necessary that we should increase our output of cement by some two million tons a year. I was faced with the fact that in this area, in the immediate vicinity of the existing workings, there was to be found some of the best limestone in the country. I was also faced with the fact that this particular undertaking had already spent between £2 million and £3 million on their plant, machinery and equipment which they were actually working, and that there would be less damage by permitting them to extend than by any alternative of creating fresh workings in some other part, possibly, some other part of the Peak District.

It was also possible for me to require the undertaking, as a condition of my consent, to restore and reinstate some 40 acres of land which at the present moment have been rendered derelict; otherwise, I had no power to require them to do this. One of the consequences of this consent, therefore, is that 40 acres of land will be restored and made avail- able to the public which would otherwise have stayed derelict for many years. In the light of all these considerations, I felt that I had no alternative but to permit this firm to carry out its extension.

Complaint has been made about the chimney of 400 feet, and I was asked whether this chimney could be seen from certain points. I am not going to pretend that a chimney of 400 feet is invisible. Of course it will be seen, and I readily admit that it will be seen over a wide area. I gave consent to a chimney of 400 feet after consideration of all the circumstances, including the efficiency of working, on the one hand, and the amenities on the other. Personally, I am bound to confess that I do not really feel very guilty about the height of the chimney. I do not know that a 400-foot chimney is any worse than a 200-foot chimney. I think opponents of the proposal are ready to use every single weapon with which to attack it, and this happens to be a weapon which they think is to hand.

If a chimney is ugly at all, a chimney of 200 feet is much more than half as ugly as a chimney of 400 feet. I do not think the ugliness necessarily lies in the height. Although I admit, as a matter of pure physics, that everything that goes up must come down in due course, it does not always come down in the same place. The higher the chimney, the greater and more widespread the area, the less the volume of the stuff that comes down, until we reach a point at which if the chimney were high enough, the grit, dust, soot, sulphur and so on that came out of it would be distributed over so large an area that nobody would notice it at all.

At the present moment, I admit that the nuisance is a serious one, and life in the vicinity of the Hope Cement Works must be very unpleasant. It was with a sincere desire to improve conditions in the vicinity, and after hearing all the scientific evidence, that I decided in favour of the higher chimney, which I felt would be less injurious to the people in the neighbourhood and not injurious to the people around. I may have been wrong, although I think I was right, and. after all, I had to make the decision.

Mr. Molson

Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves that point, has he given any consideration to a precipitator?

Mr. Silkin

Of course, we have; it is elementary. The company will use the best known method of preventing the production of soot and dust and so on, and that is one of the conditions. It is actually in the conditions that they will use the best known methods, and I understand, although I am not an authority on this subject, that it is possible to arrest something over 90 per cent. of the various particles that are produced and that only a very small proportion, something under 10 per cent., is actually released into the air.

I was accused of dealing improperly with Ashwood Dale, which is not even within the proposed national park area. A public inquiry was held——

Mr. F. Marshall

May I interrupt? It is quite true that Ashwood Dale may not be in the national park area, but I think my right hon. Friend should appreciate that this is one of the most beautiful roads in this country.

Mr. Silkin

I do appreciate that this is a beautiful road, but I thought that the burden of this discussion was my failure to safeguard national park areas. That was the case that was made, and this area is not in the national park.

Mr. Molson

I am sorry to interrupt again, but the Minister is supposed to be replying to my speech. Perhaps I may be allowed to point out to him that the subject of this Adjournment Debate is "Mineral Development in The Peak, including cement in the Hope Valley." I am fully aware of the fact that the place in Ashwood Dale where quarrying is taking place is 200 yards outside the boundary of the proposed national park.

Mr. Silkin

But it is outside, and I think I am replying to the hon. Member's speech and to the five other speeches that were made; I am not confining all my remarks to him. I thought that he had made the case that there was a special duty imposed on me to preserve the proposed national park areas pending legislation. I think it is right for me to point out that one of the two examples which he quoted is outside the national park area. I do not care if it is 200 yards or 200 inches outside, it is outside, and I am entitled to say so. I do not know what the hon. Gentleman is complaining about; he is becoming very squeamish.

With regard to Ashwood Dale, the hon. Gentleman complained that there was no public inquiry. I agree that there was no public inquiry; I am not obliged to hold a public inquiry. What I am obliged to do is to give the various parties an opportunity of stating their case to a person appointed by me. Where I think that justice will be served by a public inquiry, I hold one; where I think that the circumstances can be met by a hearing, I have a hearing. In this case I thought that the circumstances would be met by a hearing, for the reason that there was really no dispute about the principle of working Ashwood Dale; all the local authorities concerned had already agreed in principle to the working. There was some argument about the exact area, and there were one or two technical arguments, but there was no dispute between the undertakers and the local authorities. Therefore, I felt that a hearing at which all parties would be present would meet the case. There were present, in fact, all the local authorities concerned, the amenity societies were represented, and the Press was present.

Exactly what the hon. Member's complaint is about I have not been able to fathom. He made the point that in my letter to him I said that they had not complained until 1948. He then gave me a number of dates earlier than 1948 when the local authorities had complained about the public inquiry. But the point is—and that point still stands good—that, although they had a good many weeks' notice of the proposed hearing, they raised no objection to it at the time, and did not do so for many months. Even the first of the dates to which the hon. Gentleman refers was some months after the hearing—at any rate, it was after the hearing—and if they had felt so strongly about a public inquiry, the local authorities had a good many weeks in which to say so.

In fact, we have had no complaint whatever about the lack of a public inquiry from the amenity societies—the Council for the Preservation of Rural England, and the other organizations—whose presence we always welcome on these occasions because, very often, they give us very valuable assistance. So far as I could gather from the hon. Gentleman's speech, this was really the only complaint he had to make about Ashwood Dale except as to the exact limitations of the area which would be permitted to be worked. I can only say on that point that the matter was very closely gone into, and I do not think it would be profitable for me to endeavour to justify the exact boundaries of the permission in the House this evening.

May I tell the House what I regard as the duty of a Minister of Town and Country Planning in dealing with applications of this kind. Obviously, one has to have regard to amenity. I agree that we have a beautiful country, and a great many specially beautiful parts of the country which we want to preserve. But this is a very small country, and it is unfortunate that nature has placed some of the most valuable minerals, some of the minerals on which the life of this nation depends, in these beautiful areas. Very often, unfortunately, there is a conflict between the different uses to which the land should be put. Very often industry, mineral workings, the Services, agriculture, pure amenity, recreational land, housing, schools, all compete for the same piece of land. It would be delightfully easy—and I know it would satisfy the hon. Member for The High Peak if in those conflicts amenity always succeeded, and all the other claims went by the board. But I submit to the House that if I decided in that way, I should not be discharging my duty, nor the purpose for which the Ministry of Town and Country Planning was set up. I regard it as my duty to consider, to weigh up and to balance all these conflicting claims, and to endeavour to come to the right decision in the case of such a conflict over a particular piece of land.

I am very conscious of the fact that when there are six contestants for a particular piece of land, only one can be satisfied and five are bound to be disappointed and that, if they have the opportunity, the disappointed ones will raise the matter on the Adjournment of the House. But, nevertheless, it is quite impossible to satisfy more than the one, and it cannot always be the same one. In some cases, admittedly, amenity must dominate; there are cases where the claims of amenity are so great that other considerations must go. However, there are other cases—and I submit that the case of the Hope Cement Works is one of them—where the claims of mineral workings are so vital to the necessities of this country that one cannot ignore them, and they have to override all other considerations. But, having said that—and one should make the best of a bad job—it is possible to do a great deal. It is possible, for instance, to secure that if there is a disfigurement to the countryside, that disfigurement is a temporary and not a permanent one, as has been the case in the past, and that the owner should be required to carry out his activities in such a way as to inflict the least possible damage to the countryside, and should be required to carry out restoration as he goes along.

Much of the damage to this country has been caused by owners being allowed, without let or hindrance, to spoil the countryside and, having taken out its wealth, to leave it in the condition in which they finished their workings. They were under no obligation to carry out any restoration whatsoever. Those days are gone. The Ministry of Town and Country Planning will ensure that in future where we are compelled to permit mineral and other workings to take place on our land, the owner will be required—and it will be a condition of the consent—to carry out his workings in the least injurious manner while he is actually working. Stringent conditions will be, and have been made, that restoration should take place not when the work is finished but, so far as practicable, as it goes on. It will not be necessary in the future to wait 20 years, as has been the case with the Hope Cement Works, before the land with which they have finished is restored. It will be done periodically according to the requirements of the Ministry of Town Country Planning, and it will be done as soon as practicable.

I regret that what I have said may not give complete satisfaction to those who regard amenity as the only important aspect of life, but to those who realise that the life of the community has to continue and that we cannot afford to dispense with the wealth that exists in our land, I hope that what I have said will give some satisfaction; and I hope that they will realise that the Ministry of Town and Country Planning is doing a good job in ensuring that the bad conditions which have been allowed to grow up in the past will not continue in the future. The Ministry has done a great deal, of which incidentally, nothing is said—it gets, no medals for that—in preventing development from taking place which, in a large number of cases, would have been injurious to the countryside. On the whole, when the work of the Ministry is judged by generations to come, they will not regard what we have done as a betrayal or a dereliction of duty, but as a very good job well done and will recognise that while preserving so far as possible the amenities of the countryside, we have also done our very best to enable the life of the nation to continue.

Mr. F. Marshall

Will my right hon. Friend arrange for periodic visits by his officers to this firm to see that the landscape plan is carried out?

Mr. Silkin

Of course, but I can assure my hon. Friend that it is not necessary for me to arrange this. It will be done as a matter of course. Having laid down conditions, we should regard it as part of our duty to see that these conditions were carried out, but, so far as it is necessary to give the assurance, I gladly give it.

Mr. Mitchison (Kettering)

Will my right hon. Friend say whether the principles of restoration which he has so eloquently set in Derbyshire also apply to iron-ore mining in Northamptonshire?

Mr. Silkin

The situation in Northamptonshire is that the works that are today taking place are without consent because they were begun at a time when there was no planning control. I hope my hon. and learned Friend heard my opening remarks. Planning control has existed only since February, 1946. Perhaps I ought not to say this, because it is prejudging an application that may be made in the future, which I ought not to do, but I would say that if an application came forward for an extension, in the same way as has been the case with the Hope Cement Works, certainly one would take into consideration the possibility of making similar conditions with regard to the iron-ore workings to those which have been made with regard to cement workings.