HC Deb 04 February 1976 vol 904 cc1177-8
5. Mr. Michael Latham

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what recent representations he has received from the House-Builders' Federation regarding the supply of land for private house building; and what reply he has sent.

19. Mr. Cormack

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will take steps to improve the availability of land for development.

Mr. John Silkin

The Community Land Act gives local authorities new responsibilities and powers for ensuring that land is available to meet the needs of both public and private development. I had a meeting with representatives of the House-Builders' Federation on 28th January, following a letter from it on 9th January, to which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State replied on 21st January.

Mr. Latham

Does the Minister realize that there is a growing view in the industry that, because of the Community Land Act, within the next two years there will be a quite disastrous shortage of building land and that, in the industry's own words, will bring the house building programme to a complete halt?

Mr. Silkin

I must disagree with the hon. Gentleman. His view of the effect of the Community Land Act was not basically one of the subjects we discussed with the House-Builders' Federation. Certainly the Federation raised points ancillary to it but, equally, it raised other matters—for example, planning procedures and how long they took, appeals, and even the density of planning permissions.

Mr. Heffer

Will my right hon. Friend inform local authorities such as the Liverpool City Council that where land is available for the building of necessary local authority housing because of long housing lists, it should not be turned over to private developers until the needs of the local community are met, especially those desperately in need of houses to rent? Will he make it absolutely clear to local authorities that steps to let private developers have such land will be frowned upon by the Government?

Mr. Silkin

As I said earlier, one of the basic principles of the Community Land Act is positive planning. That means a sensible assessment of what is needed for local authority house building and private house building. The change that will take place following the Act is that all development land will progressively come under the control of the local authorities.

Mr. Graham Page

Why shou1ci not land lying idle in big cities such as Liverpool be turned over to and developed by private enterprise?

Mr. Heffer

Because people need houses to rent.

Mr. Silkin

I was careful to avoid discussing any particular town and I hope that the House will forgive me if I do not do so. I was endeavouring to deal with general principles. Land required for housing should meet the needs of the community, both socially and for planning purposes, whatever those needs may be.

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