HC Deb 12 July 1967 vol 750 cc785-9
1. Mr. G. Campbell

asked the Minister of Transport how many projects for development on surplus railway land were agreed in each of the years 1964, 1965 and 1966; and what was their capital value in each year.

15. Mr. Geoffrey Wilson

asked the Minister of Transport how many acres o land have been sold or leased for development by the British Railways Estate Department in each of the years 1964, 1965 and 1966.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. John Morris)

The number of development projects agreed by the British Railways Board in each of the years 1964, 1965 and 1966, in which the development value of surplus railway land was realised either by sale or by long lease, was 90, 56 and 50. The capital value of the land involved was about £2.7 million, £2.6 million and about £2.8 million.

The Board do not keep aggregate records by acreage of land leased or sold. They have, however, estimated that the total acreage sold for all purposes in each of these years was about 2,000; 3,000 and 5,500 acres.

Mr. Campbell

Cannot such development contribute to reducing British Railways' deficits? Is it the Government's policy to encourage the development or sale of such land?

Mr. Morris

Certainly, this kind of development can help the finances of British Railways, but there are, unfortunately, limitations on what can be done under the terms of the Transport Act, 1962. We are looking into this in the course of our plans for the next legislation. In addition to this, there has been the outright sale of land in the last two years—in 1965, £12.7 million and in 1966, £24.3 million.

Mr. G. Wilson

Is the Joint Parliamentary Secretary satisfied that everything possible is being done to use the surplus railway land? There seems to be a lot not being utilised at present.

Mr. Morris

This is obviously a matter for management, but I am satisfied that an enormous effort is being made to utilise surplus land within the limitations of the present legislation.

Mr. Ronald Atkins

Is my hon. Friend satisfied that enough is being done to develop railway termini sites, and in particular at Euston?

Mr. Morris

If my hon. Friend will put down a specific Question on that point, I will deal with it. Generally, there are limitations on building in London and there are the restrictions on office building, of which my hon. Friend will be aware. The Railways Board obviously has to operate within the terms of the general legislation.

2. Mr. G. Campbell

asked the Minister of Transport how many building development consortia are engaged in negotiations with British Railways with a view to developing surplus railway land.

Mr. John Morris

Five development consortia are associated with the British Railways Board with a view to developing railway sites.

Mr. Campbell

As much of the possible development is now held up by restrictions to which the Minister has just referred, what new initiative are the Government prepared to take in order to help British Railways and the community to realise the potential value of so much surplus property?

Mr. Morris

I have already told the House in my last Answer that a great effort is being made to utilise this kind of land to the full, but the Railways Board has to operate within the law of the land. One of the restrictions on this kind of development is the limitations imposed by the Transport Act, 1962. This we shall certainly consider in order to remove this kind of hindrance from the Railways Board in the legislation which will be presented by my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Webster

How often is there a joint venture between the Railways Board and the developer?

Mr. Morris

The five development consortia I have mentioned are enterprises carried on by the Railways Board with outside interests of the kind referred to by the hon. Member.

Sir H. Lucas-Tooth

Will the Joint Parliamentary Secretary look into the present method of dealing with surplus railway housing estates? A number of these estates consist of old houses that ought to be redeveloped, and there is a great hold-up in this connection. The tenants do not know what is going to happen, and there is delay in improving houses.

Mr. Morris

This is essentially a matter for management, and I think I dealt fully with this issue in the Adjournment debate that was initiated by the hon. Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale).

53. Mr. Monro

asked the Minister of Transport what estimate has been made by British Railways of the surplus land which will be available for sale or development when the track mileage is reduced to 11,000 miles.

Mr. Morris

Any such estimate would be premature. As regards passenger services, the network for development published last March is a minimum; the eventual route mileage will depend upon my right hon. Friend's decision on each closure proposal put to her. Also, when any line is closed, the Board are asked to keep the land if there is a likelihood of a future need for a rail service.

Mr. Monro

Will not the hon. Gentleman do some forward planning so that this valuable land can be disposed of as soon as possible?

Mr. Morris

I can assure the hon. Member that this is done. The sales of land which have taken place in the last few years show it: 1964, £4.5 million; 1965, £12.7 million; 1966, £24.3 million. As the hon. Member is aware, if there is the likelihood of a future need for the land we take the advice of the Economic Planning Council and take a decision in the light of all the facts. There are difficulties sometimes about the selling of disused railway lines.

Mr. Peter Walker

Would the Minister agree that the 11,000 miles has already become meaningless in that in her circular to the local authorities the right hon. Lady stated that the P.T.A.s will have power to close some of the railway lines included in the 11,000 miles?

Mr. Morris

I can assure the hon. Member that the 11,000 miles figure is not meaningless. The basic idea of the 11,000 miles is to ensure that there is certainty about the passenger services of the country. This is what the Minister is seeking to achieve.

Mr. J. T. Price

Is my hon. Friend aware that I strongly object to the denationalisation of land now owned by British Railways? I am all in favour, as the Minister understands, of land being used to the best possible social purposes. The tremendous exploitation of land values and racketeering in land which has gone on does not tempt me to be too enthusiastic about denationalisation of the only part of our British soil which has over come under public ownership.

Mr. Morris

I am sure that my hon. Friend is aware that the Minister has no such intention. As he knows, the first offer of this land is made to the local authorities. As an indication, £12 million worth has been made available within London to the local authorities. In that case, I do not think there is a great deal of difference between my hon. Friend and the Minister.

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