HC Deb 20 July 1988 vol 137 cc1085-7
5. Mr. Colvin

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what policies he is considering to encourage the development of derelict land.

6. Mr. Hardy

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will reconsider the present arrangements and conditions concerning the making of derelict land grants.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. David Trippier)

I am maintaining support for the derelict land grant programme. Resources for 1988–89 stand at £77.4 million and priority is given to schemes for the reclamation of urban sites intended for private sector industrial, commercial or housing development.

Mr. Colvin

Will my hon. Friend's Department establish a land use survey of all land, derelict and otherwise, that is developable? Should there not be a presumption against the development of green field sites on a county by county basis until all the developable land has been used?

Mr. Trippier

If my hon. Friend had substituted the words "green belt" for "green field site" I could have met his concern. There is such a thing as the national derelict land survey. I expect the preliminary report to come to me before the end of the year, and I hope to publish it early next year.

Mr. Hardy

Will the Minister acknowledge that the present regulations governing payment for derelict land militate against the recovery of land and the enhancement of the environment in colliery and coalfield areas such as mine, where 1,000 acres of land may be unimproved and unrecovered? Will he look again at the hard use requirement under the existing regulations, to give areas such as mine a chance of a decent prospect?

Mr. Trippier

I am aware of the hon. Gentleman's concern, particularly about the Dearne valley part of his constituency. As a result of the representations that he and other hon. Members have recently made to me I am prepared to consider the after use criteria attached to the derelict land grant. I am sure the hon. Gentleman will he pleased to hear that I have announced today that there is to be an urban development grant of about £454,000 to support a housing programme scheme in the Rawmarsh part of his constituency.

Mr. Adley

I welcome my hon. Friend's answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin). He stressed the green belt versus green field site difference. From his reply, am I to assume that it is definitely not the policy of the Department of the Environment to encourage the development of new towns in existing green belts?

Mr. Trippier

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Simon Hughes

Is the Minister aware that in the Civic Trust's report, entitled "Urban Wasteland Now," which is to be published tomorrow, there is a recommendation that the Government should commission an urgent study of the taxation of derelict land? With the abolition of rates, will the Minister seriously consider taxing derelict land, which people can hold idle at no cost to themselves, so that local and central Government can benefit from additional revenue to bring back life in the inner cities?

Mr. Trippier

I should not think that that proposal would meet with favour within the Government. As the hon. Gentleman knows, it is wholly a matter for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Mr. Churchill

Is my hon. Friend aware of the proposal to tip 7.5 million tonnes of domestic waste from the cities of New York, Boston and Philadelphia on the derelict site at Arpley near Warrington new town? Is he further aware that it is entirely unacceptable that the north-west should be made the world's dustbin?

Mr. Trippier

My hon. Friend is aware that, in the first instance, that matter is the responsibility of the local authority, but he may draw comfort from the fact that my hon. Friend the Minister with responsibility for sport recently met a delegation. I understand that an announcement will be forthcoming in the near future.

Mr. O'Brien

In reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Wentworth (Mr. Hardy), the Minister said that he would look at the regulations and conditions that apply to the derelict land grant in mining areas. In view of the rapid rundown of the mining industry—the Minister is aware of the conditions that apply in the Wakefield area—will he ensure that there is sufficient finance to meet the needs of local authorities in areas in which, because of the mining industry, there has been extensive dereliction?

Mr. Trippier

When I replied to the substantive point made by the hon. Member for Wentworth (Mr. Hardy) I referred to his and other representations. I included representations that were compellingly made to me by the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues of all parties on the local council. As a result, I am prepared to look again at the fairly narrow criteria that we have had in place for some years now regarding the soft or hard after use, which is within the criteria of DLG. I made it clear to the hon. Gentleman that I could not consider that matter until I had the initial results of the derelict land grant survey, which, as I said earlier, will be in my hands prior to Christmas.