HC Deb 04 February 1982 vol 17 c530
7. Mr. Haselhurst

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what evidence he has been asked to submit to the Stansted airport public inquiry.

Mr. Peter Walker

As is normal at such public inquiries, my Department has already submitted an appraisal of the agricultural implications of the planning application before the inspector. At his request, my Department is now preparing further material on the agricultural implications of certain suggestions before the inquiry for associated urbanisation.

Mr. Haselhurst

Is my right hon. Friend aware that that will be well received by my constituents, because from their first appearance at the inquiry his officials gave the impression that objectivity was being sacrificed to collective responsibility?

Mr. Walker

No, Sir. My Department is anxious, with regard to any public inquiry or planning application, to see that those making the decisions recognise the agricultural implications of such decisions. The desk work for the work on associated urbanisation had been done for many months and has been made available to the inquiry.

Mr. Jessel

As the total of agricultural land in the United Kingdom is about 73,000 square miles and as, even if only 7 square miles were taken up by expansion of Stansted, that would be only one part in 10,000 of our agricultural land, how can anyone suggest that that should be treated by the Government as a major factor in airport planning policy when set against the congestion and noise that would be felt by millions of people elsewhere if the project did not proceed?

Mr. Walker

If one used that argument on every inquiry, all agricultural land would steadily disappear. It is correct that at every inquiry those making the decision should consider the impact on agricultural land. There are other considerations to take into account, but the duty of my Department is to see that it always understands the implications for agricultural land.

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