HC Deb 19 June 1956 vol 554 cc1236-8

The following Question stood upon the Order Paper:

55. Mr. SMITHERS: To ask the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he will send a circular to local authorities encouraging them to make fuller use of their powers to eliminate advertisements which mar the appearance of towns and countryside.

Mr. Sandys

I will, with your permission, Mr. Speaker, answer Question No. 55. I have been considering whether sufficient action is being taken to protect the beauties and amenities of our countryside and towns from being spoilt by unsightly outdoor advertisements. Thanks to the co-operation of all concerned, an appreciable improvement has been evident in recent years. However, I am sure that much more could and should be done to secure the removal of incongruous hoardings and signs. I have particularly in mind the rural areas and country towns, as well as streets of special architectural interest or civic importance in the cities.

Local planning authorities already possess the necessary powers under the Advertisement Control Regulations and, with some further encouragement from the Government, most of them would, I believe, be glad to make fuller use of them. At the same time, there may be a case for relaxing somewhat the present detailed control in certain localities, where a concentrated display of advertisements is unobjectionable.

I intend, as soon as possible, to issue further guidance to planning authorities on this whole problem, but, before doing so, I propose to have consultations with the local authority associations and representatives of the advertising trade and other interests concerned.

Mr. Smithers

Is my right hon. Friend aware that all dwellers in rural areas and ancient cities, and all those who visit them for pleasure or for business, will welcome his statement? Is he further aware that if in our crowded island the people are to be able to enjoy all the amenities of our country much more vigorous exercise of these powers is necessary?

Mr. Sandys

I agree with my hon. Friend. The beauties of England belong to all, and nobody has a right to destroy them.

Mr. Beswick

While agreeing with the general spirit of what the Minister has just said, may I ask whether he can make some special arrangements under which we can retain for historical purposes those hoardings on which it was said that the Tories would mend the hole in the housewives' purse?

Mr. Sandys

I dare say that could be arranged, on condition of fair shares with some of the posters put up by the party opposite.

Sir V. Raikes

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that there are a number of dreary streets where tasteful advertising can somewhat brighten the prospect, and also that the advertising of industrial products is still of considerable importance to the trade of this country?

Mr. Sandys

I can assure my hon. Friend that all relevant considerations will be borne in mind.

Mr. Chapman

Will the right hon. Gentleman try to make sure that when the new motorways are built there will be, as far as possible, prohibition of roadside advertising, for that would be an enormous advance, such as is being made on the Continent?

Mr. Fell

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the people of the rural districts of Norfolk will be delighted to hear that the attentions of his Ministry are to be confined—more or less confined, I hope —to cities rather than the rural areas— [HON. MEMBERS: "No, the other way round."]—as my right hon. Friend has just said, where there has been the utmost nonsense going on ever since the Act was passed?

Mr. Sandys

What does my hon. Friend mean? He evidently has not understood the Answer which I gave, which is that the attentions of my Ministry will, in the first place, be directed to securing the removal of unsightly hoardings in the rural areas.

Mr. Fell

Will my right hon. Friend look up the correspondence which has taken place about, for instance, the moving under the Act of a clock six inches downwards because it was said to be six inches too high, and all that sort of nonsense which has gone on?