HC Deb 27 February 1980 vol 979 cc1334-5
6. Mr. Heddle

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he is satisfied with the operation and effectiveness of article 4 directions in planning control.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Marcus Fox)

In general, yes, but we are prepared to consider any particular difficulties.

Mr. Heddle

May I thank my hon. Friend for that answer and invite him to consider whether there might be firms of speculators developing these leisure plots, particularly in the Home Counties, and leading prospective purchasers to believe that they might have planning potential? Does my hon. Friend agree that article 4 directions are negative, do not help the planning process and certainly do not protect the purchaser? Further does he agree that the answer is to redefine the words "agricultural use" in the town and country planning Acts?

Mr. Fox

I also deprecate the practice of selling these small leisure plots. The purchaser often suffers the full effect of the law and the vendor escapes. I am aware of the weakness in article 4 directions. However, I must point out that they are concerned with the use of land and not ownership. I shall carefully watch the County of Kent Bill, which is in the other place.

Mr. Steen

Does the Minister agree that a great deal could be done by reducing the powers of the planning department, particularly in urban regeneration? Has he considered setting up enterprise zones, free of planning controls, to help small firms?

Mr. Fox

I sympathise with much of what my hon. Friend says, but that is not a matter for me.