HC Deb 20 February 1978 vol 944 cc987-9
8. Mr. Gwynfor Evans

asked the Secretary of State for Wales whether he is satisfied with the way in which local authorities use their planning powers.

Mr. Barry Jones

My right hon. and learned Friend is satisfied that local planning authorities in general discharge their ditties satisfactorily.

Mr. Evans

Is the Minister aware that in most, if not the whole, of rural Wales the planning authorities tend to concentrate house building on what they call, in planning jargon, major settlements? Is he further aware that this further depopulates rural Wales and further weakens the rich culture which used to be characteristic of that part of our land? Will his right hon. and learned Friend consider issuing a directive to the local authorities to correct this?

Mr. Jones

My right hon. and learned Friend, in the main thrust of his policies, has always taken into account depopulation and the cultural factors of Wales, but responsibility for land use planning functions has been vested by Parliament in county and district councils, and it would not be right for my right hon. and learned Friend to intervene, save in exceptional circumstances—for example, where wide strategic decisions in planning are involved.

Mr. Anderson

My hon. Friend will be aware that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment announced what appeared to be a major change in Government thinking in England at the recent Bristol conference in talking of what he called organic change between the county and district councils, possibly in education, social services and planning. Is this policy of organic change as between county and district authorities and the old county boroughs also the policy in relation to Wales?

Mr. Jones

I have noted everything that my hon. Friend has said, and it might be that he would need to put down a Question.

Mr. Hooson

Does the Minister appreciate that there is a tendency among some Welsh planning authorities to follow slavishly a directive sent out years ago against isolated development? Powys tends to do this, whereas Clwyd ignores the directive and takes a much different view. Is it not necessary to have regard to Welsh history in this matter and to the position in rural Wales, where we have a good deal of isolated development? Is it not desirable that it should be properly controlled?

Mr. Jones

We shall look at that aspect, but isolated development is different from small development. Complaints of maladministration by local authorities—if the hon. and learned Gentleman has any—could be pursued through the local ombudsman, but we shall look very carefully at what the hon. and learned Gentleman has said.