HC Deb 11 July 1984 vol 63 cc1020-1
3. Mr. Hal Miller

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what progress he is making with structure plan reviews; and if he will make a statement.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Neil Macfarlane)

It is for county planning authorities to review their structure plans and to submit proposals for alteration when they consider it appropriate. A number of authorities have submitted alterations or replacement plans following review, and at present 10 such proposals are with my Department.

Mr. Miller

Does my hon. Friend understand the concern felt for the green belt by people in my constituency and county, which is mentioned in the review proposals of other authorities? Will he give us an early assurance about our green belt, preferably by approving our structure plan review?

Mr. Macfarlane

I am aware of the anxieties that my hon. Friend has expressed over several months, and I am considering the report of the panel, which conducted a public examination in March. There will thereafter be an opportunity for objections. In the recent green belt circular we reaffirmed the fact that the Government continue to attach the greatest importance to green belts, and the circular gives further advice on the establishment of long-term green belt boundaries in local plans. I hope to report to my hon. Friend as soon as possible.

Mr. Ashton

Is there anything in the structure plans concerning water authorities? Is the Minister aware that people in many parts of the country are receiving no water, but get no rebate on their water bills? Is that not monstrous, especially since the Government cancelled plans for a national water grid system?

Mr. Macfarlane

That has nothing to do with structure plans. Had the hon. Gentleman been in the House earlier this week he would have heard my hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Construction discussing that matter in answer to a private notice question.

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson.

Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson

Do the reviews take place purely on a county-by-county basis, or against the backcloth of a regional master plan that is being updated?

Mr. Macfarlane

I echo the sentiments of all hon. Members by saying that we warmly welcome my hon. Friend back to these Benches. I am considering urgently several structure plans, and the master plan and structure plans are closely integrated. I am aware of my hon. Friend's anxieties about Berkshire, which he has discussed with me and with hon. Members for neighbouring constituencies.

Mr. Ashdown

When the Minister discusses such matters with county councils, will he bear in mind that many of them must radically review and change their structure plans? Is he aware, for instance—

Mr. Skinner

I was a councillor for 18 years. He has not even been a parish councillor.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) must not interrupt from a sedentary position. If he rises and wishes to ask a question, he may be called, but he will not be called while he mutters from a sedentary position.

Mr. Ashdown

Is the Minister aware that the Somerset structure plan is based on a predicted job increase of 12,000 and that recent figures show that we are nowhere near that target? Indeed, there may be a net loss of jobs at this point in the plan period, which will require a radical restructuring of the entire plan.

Mr. Macfarlane

I wish that the hon. Gentleman, who speaks for the alliance on such matters, would understand what structure plans are about. He is completely wide of the mark, as usual.