I beg to move, in page 28, line 3, to leave out from "land," to end of line 39, and to insert:if notwithstanding that refusal, there is available with respect to that land planning permission for development to which this section applies:Provided that where such permission is available with respect to part only of the land, this section shall have effect only in so far as the interest subsists in that part.(2) Where a claim for compensation under this Part of this Act is made in respect of an interest in any land, planning permission for development to which this section applies shall be taken for the purposes of this section to be available with respect to that land or a part thereof if, immediately before the Secretary of State gives notice of his determination in respect of that claim, there is in force with respect to that land or part a grant of, or an undertaking by the Secretary of State to grant, planning permission for some such development, subject to no conditions other than such as are mentioned in subsection (2) of the last preceding section.(3) This section applies to any development of a residential, commercial or industrial character, being development which consists wholly or mainly of the construction of houses, flats, shop or office premises, or industrial buildings (including warehouses), or any combination thereof.The object of this Amendment is to redraft the Clause in simpler and more effective form and to eliminate the Sixth Schedule which, as hon. Members will remember, dealt with classes of comparable buildings. The basic principle in the Clause is that compensation is to be excluded where development of a reasonably remunerative character is allowed. What is important is not the nature of the development for which planning permission is applied but the nature of the development allowed. On that basis the detailed list in the Sixth Schedule of the Bill can be abandoned and an indication given in general terms in the Clause itself of the sort of development regarded as reasonably remunerative. The Amendment is a simpler and more effective way of stating what is in the existing Clause.
§ Mr. T. Fraser
This new provision takes the place of a somewhat comparable provision in the Bill, and merely seeks to provide that no compensation shall be payable in respect of a piece of land where particular development has 1130 been applied for if a reasonably remunerative alternative development takes place. Can he tell us how this will work, because, as I understand it, an intending developer with a piece of land which is available for development in respect of which there is a claim will seek planning permission to proceed with a particular development. The local authority will not normally suggest any alternative reasonably remunerative development. The local authority may well say, "No." I think that I am right in thinking that if the local authority refuses the intending developer permission to carry out his development, he becomes eligible for compensation.
If that is so, there would be nothing to prevent the developer at some other time seeking permission to go ahead with some alternative development on the same land, which might very well be acceptable to the local authority. Meanwhile, compensation would have been paid. It may be that there is a piece of land in my constituency in the town of Hamilton in respect of which the owner has made a claim and that someone wishes to build a cinema, public house, garage or engineering business on that piece of land. Under the provisions of the Bill, if the local authority refuses permission to go ahead with this development, the owner would be entitled to compensation under the restricted global sum.
I imagine that that person would not be prepared to submit an alternative proposal for a reasonably remunerative development of the land if by so doing he would be denying himself the compensation provided for under Clause 24 as now amended. Can the Joint Under-Secretary of State tell me whether I have got this right? I think that I have. I have understood the provisions of the Bill so far. I should think that it would be a very foolish developer who would rush to a local authority with an alternative plan for development of the land, knowing that, the plan already having been rejected, he was immediately qualifying for compensation. There would be nothing in the world to prevent him delaying any alternative solution until he had received compensation, and then nothing to prevent him from submitting a plan for development of the land.
§ 8.15 p.m.
I think that the hon. Member is right to a certain extent. In cases, as he said, where permission is refused, normally a claim would arise. But this is a case where an alternative would probably be suggested by the local authority itself. A gentleman may come along and say, "I want to build a cinema." The local authority may say, "Permission for a cinema is refused, but if you want to build shops that is permissible." The hon. Member said that the local authority would not come along with an alternative, but there is another safeguard because the Secretary of State would receive a claim for compensation, and he would himself then indicate some alternative development.
The whole matter is on the principle that we really do not want things that are undesirable or things to be put in the wrong places. There is no reason why the owner of the land should receive compensation if, in fact, another development can take place which is not altogether unremunerative.
§ Mr. Willis
The Secretary of State cannot tell a person to develop his land; he can suggest but he cannot compel. My hon. Friend is suggesting that a person may say, "I will leave this," and meanwhile he draws compensation.
§ Mr. Willis
In other words, if he does not build something else which the Secretary of State says that he could do, then he will not receive compensation.
No. The Secretary of State would suggest an alternative and say, "You have lodged a claim for compensation. In fact you can build whatever it may be, but you are not allowed to build that for which you have applied." No compensation arises if there is comparable development open to him.
§ Mr. T. Fraser
Suppose there is a case in my own constituency of Hamilton of giving a limited right to a person to carry on an open air market in his part of the town. This is, by way of appeal, allowed by the Secretary of State against the decision of the local authority. The local authority think that it is an inappropriate part of the town for a market, but 1132 they would allow the land to be developed for shops. If the Secretary of State had said to this person, "You have power to erect shops," he could say, "Thank you, but I am not interested"—
The hon. Member has put his question but he must not develop it into another speech.
§ Mr. Fraser
I am seeking to enable the Joint Under-Secretary to reply, because I think that this is rather an important point. I should have thought that if this person who owns the land is not permitted to carry on his open market and develop the land in that way and has not the wherewithal to build shops and no desire to build shops, he would be entitled to compensation. If not, why not?
§ Mr. Bence
The right hon. and learned Gentleman has spoken about a local authority refusing development for certain activities on a given piece of land in the ownership of an individual or a group of individuals. He went on to say that if the owner of that land was dissatisfied with the terms of the planning authority, county council or local authority restricting development in particular things, the Secretary of State could override the authority or could suggest alternatives to what the planning authority had laid down.
§ Mr. Bence
This is my other point. An engineer might acquire a piece of land, thinking that he might use it to build a small factory and start out on his own. Planning permission might be refused, although when the land was acquired it was scheduled for industrial purposes; the planning authority, as the result of negotiations, schedules the land for another purpose—say, a housing scheme. That has happened in my constituency.
A group of engineers acquired a piece of land, knowing that it was scheduled for industrial development. Now, when they 1133 are in possession of it, the land is rescheduled for housing and they do not want it for this purpose, having bought it to build a factory. Will they be compensated, or are they to be compelled to sell either to the local authority or to a building contractor because the land is now scheduled for the building of houses, a purpose less remunerative than would have been its use or a factory for engineering products?
This is important, because large tracts of land are scheduled for industrial development and some of it is for sale. It will be a ticklish business, if a group of people acquire land in an area which is scheduled for industrial development, if at a future date the planning authority reschedules the land and those who bought it are frustrated in their purpose. Are they to be compensated? In my constituency, an area in Bearsden was scheduled for housing and three companies bought land for that purpose. Then the Coal Board decided to sink a pit, and the land cannot be built upon because no clearance certificate can be granted. The Coal Board cannot pay compensation. Who is to pay?
We have already had one tragedy through, I admit, land dealers exploiting a hardworking, innocent man. He bought a piece of land for £400 because he assumed that he could do certain things with it. But the planning authority would not let him do what he intended to do, and its value is only £65. The poor chap was swindled.
We are told that there will not be compensation in these cases. Will there be compensation under the Bill? These are the questions that practical people, using the land for either industrial or building purposes, want to have answered. Sometimes big companies are involved, but in one instance in my constituency a working man bought the land. He was living in a rented house and wanted one of his own, but now he cannot build. True, the land may be used for other remunerative purposes, but that is no use to him. He has a decent plot and he wants a house on it, but he cannot have one. Is he to be compensated by the planning authority because they have changed the purpose for which the land can be used, through no fault of his or, indeed, of theirs, but because the nation needs coal so badly and coking coal has 1134 been found under that area, although there is plenty, I am told, in Lanarkshire if only the Coal Board looked for it.
I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary will give an assurance that these people in Bearsden and Milngavie, who acquired land a couple of years ago when it was scheduled for housing but are now refused permission to build houses because they cannot get clearance certificates, will be compensated.
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
This is most refreshing. The hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) is saying exactly the kind of things that, had be been present in Standing Committee upstairs, he would have heard many of us on this side saying about compensation under the Bill. Many of us think that the Bill does not go nearly far enough in the granting of compensation to owners of land who are adversely affected by planning decisions. On Clauses 23 and 24—and later we hope to do so on Clause 29—we have urged that alterations should be made and that when owners of land apply for planning permission for certain purposes and are refused, but are given planning permission for other purposes which do not interest them in the least—
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
No, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. My Amendment deals with a rather different point, as I hope to explain shortly. I rose merely to welcome the reinforcement that we have had from the other side of the House.
I beg hon. Members opposite not to misrepresent the unfortunate case of Mr. Pilgrim, who has been quoted in this debate and was referred to just now by the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East; I know that he did not want to misrepresent the case, the facts in which were not at all what the hon. Member suggested. Mr. Pilgrim, who lived in Marlborough Road, Romford, in the county of Essex, owned a bungalow, which he had bought himself, with a mortgage upon it. He was continually annoyed by children playing on a vacant plot of ground adjoining his bungalow, and although he was not asked to buy the 1135 adjoining plot of land he took steps to acquire it and paid £500—not £400—for it.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
Call it what you like. I do not mind at all if it is described as a lecture. I think that we want to be clear about our facts. It is no use building an argument upon facts which are incorrect. The hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East, talked about expropriators or speculators as if they forced this land upon the unfortunate man. I have great sympathy with this man and with people in that position, but do not let us misrepresent the case.
§ Mr. Bence
May I put it to the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Thornton-Kemsley) that I do not want to exaggerate or misrepresent the case, but I was led to say what I did because of Press accusations that the situation was brought about because of legislation brought in by the previous Administration.
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
The effect was that this unfortunate man who had paid £500 for a plot of land had it acquired from him compulsorily for £65 with no possibility of claiming any more—
I think that we have pursued this case far enough. It does not come under this Amendment at any point.
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
I hope that my purpose is served in begging hon. Members opposite not to misrepresent this most unfortunate case.
I was asked one or two questions to which, with permission, I will reply.
The hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) thought that I was suggesting that the Secretary of State should override local authorities. That is not what happens. When a claim is lodged for compensation the Secretary of State suggests some other kind of development which would be reasonable. That is all.
§ Mr. Manuel
I think that here there is a point which needs to be cleared up. Surely when the plan for the area is first put forward it has to go to the Scottish Office. The Secretary of State has to endorse the county planning officer's agreed plan and to say if it needs amending and to agree the location of industries and other things. Surely it is true to say that in the ultimate sense the Secretary of State decides.
The hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) was talking about the development plan which paints the broad picture, which states that this area is for housing and that for industry—that kind of picture. It may well be that there is a proposal to put a great garage in the middle of the housing area, which would not be a right thing to do, and the local authority might say, "No." The person concerned might apply for compensation and the claim would go to the Secretary of State who would suggest an alternative form of development to fit in with the plan.
Then there was the speech of the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) in relation to the position of the plan. In Part IV of the Bill there are provisions about what is to happen when planning permission is revoked. There are provisions as to the compensation payable. In the case about which he spoke, as I understand it in the burgh of Clydebank, there was a piece of land scheduled for industrial development and someone bought it. He was a very stupid person to buy a piece of land for certain development without ascertaining from the local authority if it would approve of the development he intended to carry out. There are all kinds of different development—
Even so, I think that anyone is rather stupid to buy land in these days of planning just on the broad picture of industrial development shown in the development plan and I suggest that an application to the local authority would not have been a bad idea. The hon. Gentleman asked if any compensation would be paid. The answer to that is, "No." The remedy in the case which he put to me is for the people to sell and to make the best of what for them has been a bad bargain.
The example put by the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) is rather difficult to answer without knowing the exact circumstances. Perhaps he would have a word with me, because I should like to understand exactly the situation which he described.
§ Amendment agreed to.