HC Deb 17 May 1972 vol 837 cc519-20
29. Mr. David Watkins

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment when he will publish his decision on the public inquiry held in Durham in November, 1971, into the proposed amendment to the County Durham Development Plan, to remove certain settlements from "D" categorisation.

46. Mr. Armstrong

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he has reached any conclusions on the report of the public inquiry into reclassification of villages in County Durham held in November, 1971: and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Graham Page

My right hon. Friend expects to announce his decision shortly.

Mr. Watkins

I am grateful for the reply but is the Minister aware that it is now four years and two public inquiries since the application to recategorise the village of Hamsterley in my constituency? Since there is no known opposition to the proposal, why does it take so interminably long to make a decision?

Mr. Page

It was a complex inquiry—but not quite as long ago as the hon. Gentleman says. The inquiry took place in November, 1971, on the request of the county council which submitted an amendment to the development plan under which a dozen "D" villages were to be reclassified. The decision will be made shortly. The decision letter is already in draft.

Mr. Armstrong

Is the Minister aware that a progressive local authority in my constituency will not receive his reply with any gratitude? The authority feels that the matter is being delayed. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that necessary development, about which the Minister is always making public speeches, is almost ready to go ahead and is being delayed only by the Department dragging its feet?

Mr. Page

The hon. Gentleman will know that this has been a difficult subject. The idea of the "D" villages is to concentrate scarce resources in selected settlements which have the greatest potential as growth points and can be well equipped with modern living standards. He also perhaps knows that the hon. Member for Crosby is a little vulnerable over this and is in sympathy with him.

Mr. Tinn

Will the Minister allow me, as one who has no constituency responsibility but who happens to live in the area, to support both my hon. Friends, particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Durham, North-West (Mr. Armstrong), in drawing the hon. Gentleman's attention to the fact that some of these attractive villages, to which the local people have a strong attachment. have suffered adversely because of the long period of indecision, and to express the hope that a favourable decision will be quickly forthcoming?

Mr. Page

Yes, but I am sure it is right to try to concentrate the resources on those villages where the living conditions can be well improved.