HL Deb 28 January 1964 vol 254 cc1080-2

2.42 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the Ministry of Housing and Local Government are seeking to persuade local authorities to reduce the proposed green belt around York in order to provide extra building land.]


My Lords, the question of a green belt around York concerns four local planning authorities—namely, the City of York and the County Councils of the East, North and West Ridings. My right honourable friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government has told these authorities that he does not feel able to deal with the green belt proposals which have so far been put forward until he is satisfied that adequate provision has been made for the needs of development in the City and the adjoining urban areas in the foreseeable future. The four authorities have been asked to co-operate in a study of these needs and to submit agreed proposals to the Minister.


My Lords, does that Answer mean that the Minister is seeking to persuade the local authorities to make available for building land which has traditionally been in the green belt? Does my noble friend realise that the effect of that would be arbitrarily to increase, perhaps forty times, the value of the land which had previously been in the green belt—that is, if the land is released for building—and does he realise how extremely unjust that would be?


In reply to the noble Lord's second point, I would say that he has, of course, made it in debate before. As for the first part of his supplementary question, no formal decision at all has been taken on the principle of a green belt around York. I have little doubt that my right honourable friend will be able to accept the principle of a green belt in that area, but it is for local authorities to coordinate their proposals. This has not been done at all at the moment. It has also to be remembered that York will have certain requirements in respect of building over the next twenty years, and that these should at least be taken into consideration before any decision is reached.


My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that a number of us are really very apprehensive about the attitude of the present Minister of Housing and Local Government? There have been nibbles at the green belt around London, which some of us took a great deal of trouble to get established. Indeed, it has been declared that further nibbles, or worse than nibbles, may take place. York is a city of considerable size, and it is desirable it should have a green belt. Are we to come to the mournful and annoying conclusion that the Minister is not really a friend of the green belt, and that he prefers speculative building development, whereby land values go up enormously, rather than preserving open country for the use of the general body of the people?


My Lords, the noble Lord would be quite wrong in coming to any such conclusion. My right honourable friend is a great exponent and defender of the green belt, and has repeatedly stated the Govern- ment's policy to maintain the green belt. These matters will come out in greater detail, especially in regard to the London area, when the South-East Study is made available. In respect of York, there is no reason at all to consider that my right honourable friend is against a green belt in that area, but he has also to consider the needs of the people of this country in respect of housing.