HL Deb 30 June 1932 vol 85 cc478-82

Matters to be dealt with by Schemes.

1. Streets, roads and other ways, and stopping up or diversion of existing highways including churchways.

2. Buildings, structures, and erections.

3. Open spaces, private and public.

EARL GREY moved to insert: 4. The reservation of sites for places of religious worship or for residents' houses or burial places in connection therewith and preservation of sites held for any of these purposes. The noble Earl said:This Amendment has a twofold object. The first is to secure in all schemes involving housing development on a large scale that opportunities shall be given to the representatives of all denominations to secure suitable sites to build places of worship, and the second to ensure that where the authorities of these denominations by foresight have secured such sites beforehand they shall not be lost to these denominations by reason of the fact that a townplanning scheme is introduced. Under the Places of 'Worship Sites Acts, 1873 and 1882, and the Settled Land Act, 1925, evidence of the provision of such sites is recognised as a purpose to be facilitated on public grounds. The in- sertion of this Amendment here would have the effect of making negotiations easier.

Private owners are generally very generous in the way they meet applications for such sites, but it is not always the case when denominations have to deal with local authorities. It is not always the fault of local authorities that that is so. If you take the case of the Becontree estate, there a large population was removed out of London, churches were left high and dry and the efforts of various denominations to secure sites to serve the same population in this new area were intensified by the very high price charged to them by the local authority. In another case at Middlesbrough, only two months ago, where a local authority had agreed to sell a site to a religious denomination for what was considered to be a reasonable sum, it was overruled by the Ministry of Health on the ground that it was housing money that was involved and therefore the local authority had no power to charge anything except the full commercial value. If that is the law, it will have an unfortunate effect, if it is applied so strictly as that. Certainly, from my own experience as a director of Hampstead Garden suburb for the last twenty years, I know that we are convinced that property in the immediate neighbourhood of a church does not deteriorate but actually appreciates. Therefore, if a site is given at something below the full commercial value, the local authority would get it back in betterment on the surrounding sites.

In addition to that, I would remind the noble Lords that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners are property owners on a very large scale in the neighbourhood of London. They are frequently approached by local authorities and asked whether they would sell sites for the provision of houses for the working classes. I am advised that, in the words of Sir Stanford Downing, it is the normal practice of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners always to treat such requests as requests which should be agreed to on grounds of public policy, and such ground is always transferred to the local authority at substantial reductions from the full value. Quite recently the Ecclesiastical Commissioners have been seriously criticised for events quite outside their control in relation to housing property in Paddington, and it is only right that it should be realised that whenever it is in their control the Ecclesiastical Commissioners always give facilities such as the best class of private landlord also agrees to give. It is in the hope that these words may be inserted that I move this Amendment so that this object will be borne in mind in the preparation of such schemes. The words are taken from the Public Worship Sites Act and are not new to the legislation. They apply equally to any denomination.

Amendment moved— Page 71, line 6, at end insert the said subsection.—(Earl Grey.)


The noble Earl only circulated this Amendment this morning. He has accompanied his Amendment with a speech which has traversed rather a wide field. My instructions are that this Amendment is really quite unnecessary for it is the duty of the planning authority to see that suitable provision is made in the scheme for enabling various requirements of the area to be adequately met, including accommodation for places of worship and burial grounds. Usually the zoning for a new suburb would enable buildings such as churches to be erected without the consent of the authority. In other areas the permission of the authorities subject to a right of appeal would be required. In regard to burial accommodation there are several places where proposals include the reservation of sites which are really an extension of an existing churchyard. The objection to an Amendment of this sort is that if it is accepted other interests might put forward similar claims—for instance, schools or public halls and even public-houses and that in fact has been moved on another clause by the noble Lord, Lord Banbury of Southam, and negatived.


The noble Viscount says that if the words are admitted it would make a serious precedent and that the Government might be asked to provide for schools and, I think he said, public-houses. Surely my noble friend does not put churches on the same basis as public-houses? I am sure my noble friend does not mean that. He must see that churches or other places of worship are part of the necessities of life to any population. Such is the case, I am glad to say, in our country. No neighbourhood is considered by any authority as completely equipped unless there are schools and places of worship. It might easily be that without some words such as my noble friend proposes that requirement might be forgotten by some local authorities. The Government will remember that the local authorities are not all very important ones. There are some very small ones and not all are gifted with full knowledge of what ought to be done.

I know that my noble friend who has conducted this Bill with great patience and skill—and we are very grateful to him—says this Amendment only appeared on the Paper this morning. That does constitute a reason why the Government may hesitate for a moment, but I am quite sure that if my noble friend will consult his advisers he will find that places of worship have always been on a different footing from any other equipment in our legislation. The Places of Worship Sites Act was referred to. That is an old friend of mine and it is only an example of how differently legislation is treated on this subject from that on any other subject. I think the Government ought just to consider whether there ought not to be some words in the clause so that the absolute requirements of the population should be looked to. Everything I have said as to places of worship applies to burial grounds. Everybody will see the absolute necessity of proper provision for burial grounds. The noble Viscount read some words about the duty of the local authority to consider certain obligations. I do not know what he was quoting—whether it was an opinion of advisers of the Government or some regulations which have been issued. If they were regulations perhaps that would go some distance to meet my noble friend. But I hope that between this and the next stage the Government will pay some attention to this question and see that places of worship are on a different footing from any other form of equipment necessary to the prosperity of a growing locality.


I will certainly consider what the noble Marquess has said. It was with no intention of disrespect that I linked together the ecclesiastical authorities and public-houses, but it has already been done in this debate by Lord Banbury.


I do not want to be pernickety about this, but the noble Viscount said the Amendment had really been covered by the Second Schedule. I would like to know where in the Second Schedule it is covered.


I only said that the list of things that ought to be done included in the Second Schedule was not exhaustive; that it merely showed a number of essential things that ought to be so treated.


The Government will consider this matter?



Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Second Schedule agreed to.

Third Schedule: