HC Deb 05 December 1969 vol 792 cc1938-40

Order for Second Reading read.

3.45 p.m.

Mr. Tom McMillan (Glasgow, Central)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

I understand that the Scottish Minister concerned is not on the Front Bench, but before he left he assured me that he supported this Bill.

This is a small but nonetheless important Bill. It attempts to remedy the problem faced by local authorities in Scotland regarding the provision and maintenance of footpaths and the preservation of open spaces for private housing developments.

It is now accepted as desirable that in urban areas vehicular traffic should be separated from pedestrian traffic, and in modern planning layouts are often designed to this end. This means that there are footpaths which run from one part of the development to the other and do not run alongside a road.

When a town or a county council carries out this type of development no problem arises over the construction or maintenance of the footpaths. On the other hand, if a private developer carries out development in the landward area of a county, which can be either housing or commercial or a mixture of both, the county council has no power to assume responsibility for the future maintenance of footpaths. In that case the private developer has to maintain them and this can create problems. The private developer may have moved on or he may even have gone bankrupt, or the responsibility may have been placed on the individual frontager and this can be quite a burden. In this context private developers include such bodies as new town development corporations and the Scottish Special Housing Association.

There is also doubt about whether the powers available to town councils are adequate to enable them to take over the responsibility for these footpaths. Local authorities in England and Wales already have power to provide and take over footpaths. This is a Scottish problem. It is becoming more acute because of the increase in private house building and the practice of local planning authorities of ensuring that modern standards of pedestrian and traffic segregation are carried out in the private housing layouts. The problem can cause friction between local authorities on the one hand and private developers on the other. It is also hampering the Government in their efforts to expand private house building.

Local authorities have raised with the Secretary of State for Scotland the need for powers to enable them to take over footpaths of this kind, and I am sure they will welcome the Bill. The Bill also fills a gap in their powers by empowering them to construct footpaths as well as maintain them.

The Bill also deals with open spaces in housing developments. Local planning authorities usually insist on open spaces as part of landscaping of the area, but these also cause problems. County councils do not appear to have powers to enable them to take over the responsibility for open spaces of this kind and it is doubtful if the powers of town councils or district councils are adequate for the purpose. Thus, once a developer has provided them he may have to go on maintaining them indefinitely. Therefore it would be useful to give local authorities power to take over these open spaces as well.

The purposes of the Bill are obviously useful and local authorities would be glad of the powers in it. I do not think there will be any objection to these provisions, and I hope that the House will give the Bill a Second Reading.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 40 (Committal of Bills).

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