HC Deb 23 June 1976 vol 913 cc1584-5
9. Mr. David Mitchell

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he is satisfied with the arrangements for the making of tree preservation orders; and, if not, what steps he is proposing to take.

The Minister of State for Sport and Recreation (Mr. Denis Howell)

Where a direction of provisional confirmation has been made under Section 61 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 there are sometimes difficulties in ensuring that a decision is properly made before the direction lapses. I am currently investigating possible means of overcoming this problem and will write to the hon. Member.

Mr. Mitchell

That is not a very satisfactory situation. The position has been getting steadily worse for some time. Is the Minister aware that if the Secretary of State does not confirm an order within six months, when there is an objection, the trees can be felled? There have been two or three incidents in my constituency where orders have lapsed because of the failure of the Minister to deal with them, and the trees have been felled. What action does he propose to take to do something about this, instead of continuing to investigate it?

Mr. Howell

If the hon. Gentleman had listened to my original reply, I think that he would have found that it was more satisfactory than the situation about which he is rightly concerned. I have announced that, because I think that it is unsatisfactory, I am looking into it and intend to take action to meet the very point about which he has expressed concern. The difficulty is that, within the six-month period, we find that many local authorities and many objectors who have to be written to drag their feet in letting us have their replies and, as a result, the six-month period lapses. I agree that that is unsatisfactory, and I intend to deal with it.

Mr. Stephen Ross

May I take this opportunity to draw attention to the large number of trees planted in the past two years which are unfortunately dying or are already dead? I think that the Minister's Department might be able to do something about this in drawing the attention of local authorities to the subsequent cultivation that these trees require—quite apart from publicising the vandalism that goes on—by means of television and the other media.

Mr. Howell

I am glad to say that more and more attention is being given to these matters, especially as a result of National Tree Week and the activities of the Tree Council, which receives full support from the Government and co-operates with us. What is more, right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House support this work. But I shall bear in mind what the hon. Gentleman said and see whether we can give any further information.