HC Deb 15 December 1971 vol 828 cc455-7
29. Mr. H. Boardman

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what has been the response of local authorities to his circular 10/70, Land Availability for Housing.

Mr. Graham Page

I would refer the hon. Member to the answer which I gave my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South-East (Mr. Rost) on 8th December.—[Vol. 827, c. 1287.]

Mr. Boardman

In view of the stubborn refusal of many local authorities to release sufficient land, will the Minister impress upon local authorities that the maintenance of scarcity values is the biggest single factor in the current exorbitant price of land and that they are responsible?

Mr. Page

Of course, I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman that the solution to rising prices is an increase in the supply of building land, but the new arrangements for loan sanction and the working parties which I described in an answer last Wednesday will help, and in the longer term the regional strategies will identify areas for major growth. Difficulties arising out of planning are being corrected. My Department's regional offices are arranging discussions with local planning authorities and builders to find out where the difficulties arise. The Action Group on London Housing recently set up by my right hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Construction is making land availability its first priority.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

Is not the greatest contribution that could be made to this very real problem a speeding-up of the machinery of town planning, so that plans do not so often reflect conditions which are past rather than the existing conditions for which they are supposed to cater?

Mr. Page

I wholly agree with my right hon. and learned Friend. We are pursuing as quickly as possible the new form of planning laid down in the 1968 Act for the structure plan and the local plans. Not until we get some to replace some of those which are now 10 or 15 years old can we really see ahead in land availability.

Mr. Cant

Does not the speeding up of planning lie very much in the hands of central Government, with the fixing of a date of a public inquiry and then the determination of the result of that inquiry? This can take far longer than any delay in which local authorities are involved.

Mr. Page

The hon. Member enables me to say that I have given instructions that in future my Department should be tough over dates fixed for hearings and that the parties should have to appear before the inspector to justify the request for an adjournment.