10. Mrs. Butler
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs how many planning applications for office development in the London region he has called in in the past five years because he was not satisfied they complied with planning policy in the area.
Since the withholding of planning consent is the only effective means of controlling office development in south-east England, would the Minister indicate how far he has informed the planning authorities in the area that he will uphold their decisions if they refuse consent to office applications which might attract workers to already overcrowded areas of overfull employment, and that he will call in, if necessary, any applications of that nature for his personal consideration?
The hon. Lady will, I think, appreciate that one cannot, and must not, announce in advance the decision which one will reach on all such applications before the details are available. In general, I regard this as a problem 192 that needs to be solved and I am doing my utmost, in the first instance through the amendments proposed for the London Development Plan, to apply pressure to reduce the growing amount of office accommodation in London.
The problems resulting from office development arise mainly in the central area of London. It is the policy of the Government and of the local planning authorities concerned to limit expansion there by restricting both the areas zoned for offices and the size of office buildings, and by rigid control over changes to office use from other uses, particularly from residential use.
The proposals for the amendment of the Greater London Plan at present before me contain proposals which I am examining for the further tightening of control over office accommodation in the central area. I am also considering the question whether anything more can in practice be done.
§ Mr. Jay
Can the Minister give any details of how this policy will be carried out and how he proposes to tighten this control? In particular, is he aware that one of the many obstacles to any progress at the moment is the enormous financial compensation which local authorities have to pay if they refuse the necessary permission?
In answer to the first part of the supplementary question, I would say, without going into details, for they are a matter for consultation with London County Council, that the suggestions include cutting down the office zones, and the requirement of replacement of any residential accommodation on redevelopment. In answer to the second point, I realise the difficulties caused by the Third Schedule of the 1947 Act, under which there is to be compensation if a 10 per cent. increase is not allowed on reconstruction. Unfortunately, that 10 per cent. is interpreted in cubic space rather than in floor space.
I recognise that and I look at this mainly as a London problem, but I also recognise that there is a good case for replacing some of this out-of-date office accommodation.