HC Deb 19 November 1996 vol 285 c818
1. Mr. Tim Smith

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what assessment he has made of the amount of new development taking place on derelict or underused urban land (a) currently and (b) in 1991. [3116]

The Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. John Gummer)

In 1985, 38 per cent. of land for new housing came from land previously used for urban development. Since then, we have moved close to the Government's 50 per cent. target. I am now looking at whether that target could be higher.

Mr. Smith

That is very welcome news, but given the natural and understandable propensity of developers to develop on green-field sites and the obvious benefit to the green belt and the countryside of developing underused urban land, will my right hon. Friend continue to give this very useful programme a very high priority?

Mr. Gummer

Yes, certainly. I have committed myself to defending the green belt and believe that the present footprint is what ought to be developed first.

Mr. Betts

Is not the use to which underused and derelict land is put important and should it not be in line with Government guidance? Perhaps the Secretary of State is aware of the correspondence that I have had with the Minister for Construction, Planning and Energy Efficiency about a planning application for a 20-screen cinema complex in Broughton lane in my constituency. The application was bungled by the development corporation and there was a lack of decision by Ministers. As a result, an application for nine screens became one for 20 screens without any proper debate. As if that was not bad enough, by the time this business is finished, there will be more than 50 cinema screens in my constituency, which is far too many and clearly has a deleterious impact on Sheffield city centre. Does the Secretary of State accept that planning guidance should not be about warm words but about practical action? The development corporation's decision did not follow the guidance. The application will have a deleterious impact on the city centre and is not a proper use of the derelict land in question.

Mr. Gummer

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not want me to comment on such a particular question. I am very pleased that Sheffield, with its development corporation, is now so attractive a place for people to invest in—which was not true when he was leading Sheffield city council.