HC Deb 19 June 1968 vol 766 cc1100-1
49. Sir T. Beamish

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he is now in a position to state his Department's policy towards planning applications involving land used for agricultural and horticultural purposes following the Minister of Housing and Local Government's consultations with the local authority associations.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. John Mackie)

Yes, Sir. In future it will be our policy to provide local planning authorities with a technical appraisal of the agricultural factors relevant to each application. The aim will be to show the degree of need for the development and the agricultural consequences of disallowing it, so as to assist the planning authority in weighing these factors with the other material considerations.

We propose also to arrange that where a public inquiry is held into an appeal against the refusal of planning permission, a witness from my Department will be able to give evidence in support of the Department's technical appraisal.

My right hon. Friends the Minister of Housing and Local Government and the Secretary of State for Wales will be issuing a Circular to local planning authorities bringing these arrangements into force as soon as possible.

Sir T. Beamish

Is that very welcome announcement likely to result in less good agricultural land being lost than has been the case all too often in the past?

Mr. Mackie

What will happen is a matter of opinion.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

Is it not time that the hon. Gentleman has a survey made of all agricultural land and grading done from it and excluded the best agricultural land from planning permission for dwellings, motorways and things like that?

Mr. Mackie

I must put the hon. Gentleman right. This matter is to do with agricultural dwellings. It has nothing to do with motorways, and so on.

Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the complaint in the past has been that his Ministry has not expressed any view in this matter? Does this change mean that positive action will be taken?

Mr. Mackie

We had to give an opinion on the long-term benefit to the land of any development of this nature. Now we are simply prepared to give an opinion in order to help the planning authority on the benefit to agriculture in general and not simply on the long-term benefit for the land.