HL Deb 04 March 1964 vol 256 cc152-210

4.24 p.m.

Debate resumed.


My Lords, after this rather pleasant holiday interlude, when we have been given, as it were, a holiday by the headmaster and he has been duly congratulated by everyone so as almost to make him complacent, I now resume the subject of our debate. I am not really surprised that the attendance at a debate on this important subject is less than it was at the debate about the title of the Admiralty. People like to attend a debate on simple and clear subjects, where feelings can be raised high and one can excoriate one's neighbour on simple grounds. But here we are dealing with a subject which is very large and in which it is difficult to know where to start and where to stop. I hope, at any rate, to show that I know where to stop.

I suppose there are few places in this country where the problem of urban development is more cramped than the diocese from which I come—namely, the diocese of Manchester. When I went there, seventeen years ago, there was practically no movement at all towards urban redevelopment, but during the last five or six years the pace has increased rapidly, and those who knew Manchester fifteen years ago and have not visited it since would see a very changed city if they came back to it to-day. I am very glad of that. But that means that many problems are raised by this redevelopment. Large sections of the city have been levelled to the ground. I can think of one parish where the only parishioner is the rector: the, vicarage and the church were the only two buildings left in a parish of 6,000 people. I am sure your Lordships will understand that this raises considerable problems for the Church in the area. It is not my intention to deal with those now, but rather to emphasise one point which the noble Lord who introduced this Motion mentioned—that is, the need for some overall regional plan.

There is a Collect in the Prayer Book which has the phrase: We have no power of ourselves to help ourselves ". That might very well be applied to Manchester with regard to urban redevelopment. Manchester has laid suit to Miss Mobberley and Miss Lymm, pleasant and delectable districts, only to receive courteous, and sometimes not so courteous, rebuffs. In point of fact, Manchester could become a prison, so that no urban redevelopment could take place within, unless we can find some outlet outside. I can see no way in which that end can be gained, unless there be a regional plan which will enable the areas or regions outside, where redevelopment may take place either in the way of new towns or new estates, to be conjoined for the sake of the wider good, to contemplate what they will not at present contemplate.

The second point I wish to make is a simple one, but one which has not been very much touched upon in the present debate so far. It is that we need not only to provide houses for people, with proper sanitary arrangements, but also, if at all possible, to provide a sense of community when we rebuild. That was impressed upon me many years ago, when I used to be interested in a housing improvement society in Dublin. I remember one occasion, when I had taken a great deal of trouble to find a council house for a Mrs. Gallagher, who lived in two rooms with a family of children I had never been able quite to count. I got a house for her, with great trouble, and then, with juvenile enthusiasm, reported the fact to her. Her reply to me—I remember it well—was: "Lord love you, dear ! I wouldn't leave this place for diamonds". She liked the cosiness, the community, of the street and the house where she lived. She was not going to move on to some soulless council estate, as she conceived it.

I think that not a few who have moved to council estates or new housing areas have felt that loss of community. It is difficult to see how it can be created. Into these huge, multiple-storey flats that are going up in Manchester families are tipped, and they come from all over the place. In many cases there is no natural connection between the various families. People live in those fiats isolated, alone and sometimes rather suspicious of one another; and this, I am convinced, leads to a kind of mental restlessness which is good neither for the people themselves nor for the community generally.

One of our troubles in great centres like Manchester is the way in which, naturally, by, it seems, almost some hidden law, the society develops. In the centre you have a changing and fickle population; you move out a little and you get a ring of manual workers; moving out a little further you get the artisan class; further out still you get your professional workers and bank clerks; and then miles out you get your business men, business tycoons and chairmen of companies. This is understandable, but, of course, it splits up the natural community. One would like to see communities where the economic status of the people was varied and not monochrome. I believe that this can be attained if careful thought is given to it, but it will not be attained if it is left to a few local councillors to think about it. It needs a good deal of expert thinking and a national plan if a real sense of community is to be created and all those instruments which go towards creating a community are to be brought to bear in an area.

I have only one further thing to say, and it is this. I believe that one of the most effective instruments for creating a community in an area can be the Christian church. I hope that in any plans that are made, either at national or local level, the churches will be carefully consulted. May I illustrate one of our difficulties? Not infrequently a church is sited in a demolition area and the local authority wish to build a road across the front of it, across the back and down the side, and then they say: "Your church is of no use. It has no parish, because all the people have left. It is of no value. We will give you £50 for the ground on which it stands." I am exaggerating, of course, but something like that can and does happen. I hope that the Government, or any body dealing with this problem at national or regional level, will be generous in their treatment of the Christian churches, so that they may replace themselves in the new urban areas that are created.

I end by saying that I, too, with the mover of the Motion, very much hope that thought will be given to this subject and that some national plan, dealing also with the whole problem of land values, will be produced. It seems intolerable that when the community raises the value of land by the use they wish to make of it the interest should accrue to private persons.

4.35 p.m.


My Lords. I am sure we are all indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, for drawing attention to the urgency of urban renewal, an urgency which not half enough people appreciate. Towns and cities are very complex organisms. A prominent American town planner has described a city as the most complete expression of life itself and of the condition of man at any given moment. In the past, to a large extent, urban development has just happened. We are not really sure how it has happened, or of the wider effects of any particular form of development. But now we have the most detailed textbook on the subject, which noble Lords have already mentioned—I refer to the Buchanan Report.

I should like to go along with my noble friend Lord Conesford in his tribute to Professor Buchanan, as he now is. This Report by Professor Buchanan shows, at the same time, the effects of traffic on towns and the fact that it is the layout of the town itself and the use to which its buildings are put which, in turn, generate the traffic. To make the point stronger, Professor Buchanan compares the roads and the streets with the corridors and passages in a building. The fact is that more and more people are travelling along these corridors and passages in motor vehicles; indeed, more and more have to do so. It is now not possible, nor would it be desirable, to contract out of the motor age. Those who come near to suggesting that we should do any such thing should consider seriously the final consequences.

In his Report Professor Buchanan makes some forecasts of future traffic—the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, has already quoted the figures to your Lordships. These forecasts are based on realistic assumptions and should, to my mind, be treated for planning purposes as being as correct as any forecast can be. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, spoke rather against long-term planning, and cited the fact that New Towns, as a whole, have failed. But surely it was the assumption on which the New Towns were based which was at fault, not the plans themselves. To anyone who has studied Professor Buchanan's forecasts, I think it is patently obvious that if our children, or, at any rate, in some cases in your Lordships' House, our grandchildren, are to live in environmental surroundings that are not to be chaotic, then urban development must no longer just happen: it must be planned as from now, not for to-morrow, with to-morrow's traffic in mind, but for the type of volume of traffic of the year 2000. It is equally clear that unless our planning procedures are changed to reflect the urgency of the situation we shall find that, although the Government have accepted the challenge as an act of will, they will be left without adequate means to meet it. First of all, the Government must decide on the basic physical requirements; then they must ensure that the appropriate machinery is available for achieving them; and, finally, they must make available the finance needed for the tremendous construction programme that must inevitably follow.

The physical requirements would seem to be three. First, in general, there must be the maximum amenity for all within the context of purpose-designed urban environments. In other words, the design must be such that the people enjoy living there; that the town functions properly; that its roads and its traffic arrangements enable people to go where they want to go; that the social facilities are adequate; that the open spaces are in the right places; and, finally, that the inhabitants enjoy looking at the town. Secondly, in detail, there must be vehicle/pedestrian separation in all new schemes in certain defined urban areas, including main shopping, business and entertainment centres, as well as primary and secondary urban roads. Thirdly, also in detail, there must be optimum accessibility by motor vehicles to urban areas, with an appropriate balance between public and private transport.

Assuming that these requirements are accepted, what machinery should be made available to them, and how can the planning procedure be amended to encourage their realisation? The Government have rejected the only recommendation of the Crowther Steering Group, that there should be regional development agencies. I fully realise that the difficulty here is that any such development agencies might not be answerable easily to either local or Parliamentary Government. Nevertheless, if it appears eventually that this is the sole method by which the goal can be achieved, then to my mind it must be used, whatever the drawbacks. Indeed, at the recent People and Cities' Conference, held by the British Road Federation, the Minister of Transport said this: At the moment the Government is going to encourage local government reorganisation in the hope that it will be able to adapt itself to the great tasks which it faces. However, am bound to say that if it proves in practice that it cannot perform the task, we shall have to think again and find some other organisation, because, whatever happens, we must see in this country that this is translated into bricks and mortar". I think it would be only fair that the Government should state on what basis and when it would decide if the present planning authority structure is inadequate, and that it should be ready with its own alternative, should this be necessary. But, frankly, I think that this is going to waste precious time. Indeed, I will go even further and say that this lost time may put us so behind that we may never be able to catch up. Our only hope will be to ensure that our present planning procedures are so adapted as from now that existing authorities will be able to do the job expected of them.

In the first place, all planning authorities must produce transportation plans to correspond with their town maps showing how they see ultimate urban development, and they should immediately prepare transportation plans to accompany the statutory development plan at the next review. If this requires new legislation, then by all means let us have it. I would suggest, again at the next review, that all development plans should define the central areas and the main roads which will eventually be rebuilt to standards of full vehicle/pedestrian separation. A definite target date should be completed, even if this is as far off as the end of the century. All development in the meantime should be geared to this, and the areas defined in the development plans must automatically be declared areas of comprehensive development.

I understand that at the present time it is not possible to have an area so designated until there are detailed proposals for reconstruction. But this, of course, causes considerable delay, during which time single-site development might prejudice future plans. We have seen this happening too often already. One clear lesson from Professor Buchanan is that in urban centre areas it is essential to plan on a large scale. Even so, there must be room for smaller developments, provided that they fit in. If this proposal requires legislation, then, again, let us have it.

The noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, introducing his Motion last week on transport, suggested than an experiment could be made with a single town. In another place last month, Sir Robert Cary, Member of Parliament for Withington, also put this point forward. On that occasion it was dismissed as being impracticable. I see no reason why this should be so; indeed, I would put forward a suggestion for more than one experiment. Up to three would be very valuable, as this would permit a study of the results of the application of the best techniques, without too rigid a restriction by local authority finance, in three contrasting areas. In the White Paper on the North-East, the Government have said that all assistance would be given to the Middlesbrough area. I hope that this will not mean all assistance short of finance. But if the only answer that can be made to this proposal is that "it seems unfair", this can only stress the urgency of getting on with the job throughout the land.

Finally, my Lords, I should like to touch on finance. The Treasury, after all, are receiving vast sums of money from road-user taxation, rising, at present rates, from some £777 million this year, to over £1,000 million in 1969. Again, tremendous new property values will be created by this redevelopment. The Government have said that they are reconsidering grant structure for urban roads, and reassurance on this point would, I think, stimulate much local authority action. However, one point must be made; and it is that the present development plans are related to anticipated levels of expenditure, on roads in particular, in 20 years' time. I must admit that, although we criticise the present level of expenditure, it is even more than was anticipated five years ago. But from now on the Government must look ahead, not just 20 years, but, to my mind, as I have said before, to the end of the century. If we must have a financial strait-jacket, let it not be more rigid than it need be. The present approach is stifling good planning. Professor Buchanan has called for a more optimistic view on the financial side and this, to my mind, is clearly needed.

It is recognised that the implementation of the principles set out by Professor Buchanan—the matching of urban pedestrian ways with urban motorways and pedestrian meeting places with multi-storey car parks—will he very costly, but good design and good planning in the long run will be cheaper than an inferior substitute. To my mind, we cannot afford not to afford it. As the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, said, we must get not only the people interested, but Parliament itself. As I said in the Transport debate last week, if we are not courageous now, our children will live in chaos and will live to curse us.

4.48 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, opened this debate with so comprehensive a survey of the problem that he has made it unnecessary for those speaking after him to deal with more than a few special points. I thought—and this is unlike the noble Lord—that he was a little less than fair to the Government when he said that they paid only lip-service to the Buchanan Report. I think there are already clear indications that the Government have for some time been thinking on the lines of the Buchanan Report, and I am certainly hopeful that they intend to implement it in its general outlines as opportunity offers.

I recognise that the points which my noble friend Lord Conesford has made indicate that they have not yet fully realised all the implications of the Report. They will have to be careful that what is done to deal with short-term problems does not get in the way of the solution of the longer-term ones. But the Government have been concerned with this matter for a considerable time. Mr. Deedes before he joined the Government had already initiated in the House of Commons a debate of very great interest and importance and I remember that my noble friend Lord Hill of Luton—at that time Minister of Housing and Local Government—did what was very unusual in Ministers in charge of Departments: he remained in London for a Friday afternoon in order to reply to the debate, and he indicated very plainly that he at any rate was looking ahead to these problems. I only regret that he is no longer in his place here to-day.

The Planning Bulletins recently issued and the circular of January 7, 1964, not long after the Buchanan Report was presented to the Government and, I think I am right in saying, before it was published, indicate that the Government are taking measures on the lines there recommended. The Planning Bulletins which they have issued are, I think, really a very valuable contribution. Three of these were issued jointly by the Minister of Transport and the Minister of Housing and Local Government, which is a clear indication that the Government realise that transport and town planning are matters that must be dealt with at the same time. In the circular that was issued, the Government say, in paragraph 6, that they accept Buchanan's analysis of the situation, and also the basic philosophy that a balance has to be struck between the needs of traffic and other needs of urban life. They agree also with the main planning concepts and techniques set out in the Report. A little later, in paragraph 7, they say that Urban land use and urban transport requirements must be considered as a single subject ". I think it appropriate that last week your Lordships should have considered the matter of traffic, and that this week we should be considering the matter of urban redevelopment. These are two aspects with which Buchanan is concerned. The noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, had not understood the Buchanan Report in the same sense that I had done. He spoke of it as accepting the aim that anyone in a motor car could drive anywhere. I thought it was quite clear from the Report that that was exactly what they said could not be done, and I am very glad that there have been quotations from what Ministers have said, that there will have to be some restrictions upon cars. The public opinion poll indicates that 84 per cent. of motorists also recognise that that is so. That is why I cannot myself agree with the letter in The Times, signed by my noble friends Lord Gosford and Lord Brentford, taking my noble friend Lord Blakenham to task for saying last week: I do not question the need for some limitation. I am very glad that my noble friend Lord Blakenham said that. It is what has been apparent for a long time to people who have thought about this matter, but not until the Buchanan Report was published was there an authoritative statement upon the subject from a Committee which had investigated it, which was accepted by the Government as implying a need for some limitation upon the circulating of motor cars into built-up areas.


My Lords, would my noble friend forgive me for interrupting as he mentioned this letter? I think that obviously we did not put it in the right words, because I do not think my noble friend has got the sense quite right. We were trying to point out that there should not be restriction until all possible short-term and long-term steps had been taken to provide the facilities for motorists.


There are two points about that. The first is that some of the most drastic restrictions will be necessary before the long-term policy can be applied. When the large road building programme that my two noble friends were advocating has, in fact, been carried out, it may not be as necessary then for there to be all the restrictions which are necessary in present circumstances. The second point is that the Buchanan Report considers all the different steps that could be taken. It recommends that more should be done to improve urban roads, but it says when all that has been done it will still be necessary for there to be some limitation on cars.

The Buchanan Report can on this matter be ultimately boiled down into the recommendation of two things: primary road network dealing with essential traffic, and environmental areas. I feel that, so far as the environmental areas are concerned, the Planning Bulletin No. 3, which has been issued by the Minister of Housing and Local Government, is an extremely good guide to the local authorities as to what they should aim at. They mention also the great importance of pedestrian precincts. Safety and amenity alike require that there should be in future a separation of pedestrians from rapidly moving traffic. Bulletin No. 4 of this series gives some extremely interesting and attractive pictures showing how in well-planned New Towns and in badly blitzed towns which have been rebuilt on modern lines there are in the centre of the towns agreeable precincts preserved for pedestrians where they can shop and enjoy the other amenities of life.

What are the main problems of urban renewal which are facing the local authorities? I think they are two. First, the need to acquire sufficient large areas for redevelopment on sound planned lines, and, second, the problem of finance. There is nothing new about the acquisition of a number of small holdings in order to enable towns to be redeveloped. I think I am right in saying that after the Great Fire of London, in 1667, there was a Commission of High Court Judges set up in order to acquire considerable areas of the City to enable rebuilding to take place. It was their task to do what they could to ensure that fair compensation was paid to the previous owners of the land whose title deeds and plans, in many cases, had all been destroyed in that fire.

That was in the reign of Charles II. In the reign of King George VI, it was the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, who, in his Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, provided for something broadly analogous to deal with the case of the large areas which had been bombed during the last war. I believe that the problem sketched by the Buchanan Report indicates that we shall have to take further steps to enable land to be acquired on a large scale for redevelopment. The complications and frustrations which local authorities have to face have been well set out in a book called New Towns for Old, written by Mr. Wilfred Burns, Chief Planning Officer of Newcastle-on-Tyne.

Sometimes it is appropriate for a local authority to act under Section 4 of the 1962 Act, in order to have a comprehensive development area. In other cases it is more appropriate to take action for a compulsory purchase order under the Housing Act. But in each case the local authority is confronted with a morass of problems and difficulties and legal complications, and I hope that the Government will give consideration to this matter and see whether it is not possible to do something to codify the existing provisions.

I do not think that this need arouse any political dogmas on one side of the House or the other. I know there is always a danger that the Labour Party may regard public acquisition as an end in itself, but I do not think that applies to most of them. There is certainly danger that some Tories will oppose any acquisition of land by local authorities, but again I do not think that they accurately represent the philosophy of the Conservative Party. It is, of course, essential that in any procedure enabling a local authority to acquire land compulsorily, there shall be fair protection for individual rights, but it is equally important that local authorities should be able to proceed in the interests of urban redevelopment as a whole. It is accepted by the Conservative Party that where a local authority has acquired land, it is quite appropriate for it in suitable cases either to sell or to lease land to private interests. I am sure that for proper redevelopment we must have co-operation between the local authorities and private enterprise. I noticed that the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, also expressed that view and considered it desirable and possible for there to be co-operation between them.

The second point is that of finance. The Buchanan Report indicated that the grants now being made for roads may not be used to help with any kind of urban redevelopment. I was glad to see that the Minister of Housing and Local Government gave an assurance that that particular problem was being looked at. I think that redevelopment of town centres can often be profitable, perhaps will always be profitable over a long period of time. But there is far greater difficulty in the case of the redevelopment of those large, twilight areas of old houses which, unless something is done, will soon become slums. I do not think that, with the cost of clearing and the value of land, it would be possible for large-scale acquisition and redevelopment to be financially profitable in those cases. I do not know what can be done and I think it is a matter for careful inquiry.

One line that has been taken in the United States of America is that of writing down the price, but I confess I do not care for that idea. Another is for the local authority to charge rents based on a far longer period of amortisation than is current practice. In view of the fact that the greater part of this value will be land which is indestructible, I should have thought there was a stronger argument for approaching the problem from that point of view. What the answer is I do not know. I only say it is a problem to which the Government should give attention. But everywhere we must look for co-operation between the public authority acquiring land and preparing a plan, and development, partly, at any rate, undertaken by private enterprise.

I cannot agree with the suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, that these matters of redevelopment should be in the hands of a single Minister with authority extending over all the different aspects of planning and redevelopment. I believe that a far more promising line is for Ministers in charge of the Departments concerned to co-operate and for there to be consultation between the officials concerned. I have never been able to see how it is possible for a Minister of Town and Country Planning to exercise effective authority as long as housing and roads and water and all such matters remain the responsibility of the Minister of Housing and Local Government; and roads and transport remain the responsibility of the Minister of Transport. But the general objective is one with which I agree. The creation by the Government of a Joint Urban Planning Group is a most promising initiative and one which I hope will be pushed with great energy.

My Lords, urban redevelopment is a matter of urgent necessity, and I am sure that my noble friend Lord Conesford is right when he says it is essential to preserve effectively the boundaries of town and country. There were remarkable articles in the Observer a short time ago, written by Professor Buchanan, warning us of the danger of an urban sprawl extending over almost the whole of the countryside. This arises partly from the increase in population and partly from the increase in the number of motor cars. This is one of the things which make urban redevelopment essential and important. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, has done well to bring this urgent matter before your Lordships to-day, and I hope we may be once more assured that the Govrnment give it its due importance.

5.7 p.m.


My Lords, I must apologise to your Lordships' House for not having been present when this Motion was moved, and I also regret not having heard the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Silkin. I will let you into a secret: I always travel long distances to hear Lord Silkin speak. I only hope that I shall not waste public time by talking upon matters which have already been covered. I think we are all very interested in one aspect of the case which has already been mentioned, and that is the redevelopment of town centres. As your Lordships know, this is an immensely expensive undertaking which involves the cost of buying up existing properties and clearing them, putting down new roads and services, constructing new buildings, both public and private, in the town centres.

Redevelopment may be pursued by a number of different methods. One of the comparatively simple methods is where the local authority select an area for comprehensive urban redevelopment. The basic costs falling upon the local authority are those of land assembly, clearance and preliminary development, and the provision of roads, services and other public improvements. The cost of the commercial development will normally be met by private developers. Fair and adequate provision should be made for traders and business interests displaced by the redevelopment scheme. The traders may be in a large or small way of business. It is customary to arrange with the developers for existing freeholders and leaseholders to be offered first opportunity to take premises in the new development. This may be fair in theory, but it is not so effective in practice. There are some small businesses which are an asset in the town centre but which will have difficulty in meeting the rents of new premises. One may mention repairing jewellers and watch menders, saddlers, curio shops, book shops, bespoke tailors, stamp dealers, fur retailers, sellers of ladies' hats and so forth. I should add that I am of opinion—and I hope your Lordships will agree—that those in business selling ladies' hats will never have the slightest difficulty in paying any rent anywhere.

When traders are displaced by redevelopment the question of compensation is of the highest importance. The statutory compensation code applies to those with a legal interest in the property, and local authorities also have power to make discretionary payments to compensate those on short-term tenancies but with no legal interest. Increased rental payable for new premises may he a ground for compensation on the basis of disturbance. When traders are displaced by redevelopment schemes and are given an opportunity of taking new premises at an increased rental, it will be interesting to know whether those traders have been granted compensation in respect of that increase. There may be many claims for compensation which a trader may be entitled to make on the ground of disturbance. It is to be hoped that the displaced traders are aware of all the claims which they may lawfully make. I do not want to digress too far, but I only wish that the Legal Aid Scheme could be applied to applications of all kinds made to the Lands Tribunal. At present, it does not apply to proceedings before tribunals.

On the general subject of urban development, a great deal has been said about the legitimate wishes of the motoring community. As we know, they are particularly interested in this subject. Quite shortly, provision must be made for the parking of cars in towns, including car parks in the areas immediately outside the towns. Office buildings should be discouraged in city centres. This will minimise the tremendous congestion that arises when office buildings are concentrated in city centres.

There are many other aspects of this case, and there will be many other speakers. But the point I want to emphasise is that many people will be displaced by urban redevelopment, and I only hope that they will be aware of the various items under which they may claim compensation. I should think that most of them are at present ignorant of many of the claims which they may make, but I hope that in future they will be informed, by a circular published by Her Majesty's Government, exactly how they can make as much money out of the Government as possible.

5.13 p.m.


My Lords, my noble friend has rendered a useful service in initiating this debate on urban renewal. I think the course of the debate itself has shown that this problem is a further indication of the grim contradictions that exist in the economic and social life of to-day. We appear to be able to solve problems of physical production with reasonable success. We certainly do not show any great capacity to deal with the economic and social effects of this problem. We can apparently produce cars by the million, but find ourselves unable to provide the roads to cater for those cars. In the same way, we can stimulate the demand for education and not be able to provide the colleges to meet that demand. We can create a demand for shorter working hours, yet give no attention to the problems of leisure which come in consequence of those shorter hours. We are, as has been evidenced in this debate, a small Island with a steadily increasing population, with a growing demand for accommodation in almost every part of the country; yet, at the same time, as a further indication of this grim contradiction that we have to live with, we permit unrestricted land exploitation which places a check, and the most serious check, upon development and upon our ability to deal with the question of urban renewal.

The whole problem of urban renewal is a further indication of the imbalance one can observe in our economy to-day. There is an inability to recognise that economic and social changes are related and cannot be dealt with in isolation. But I think that urban renewal not only is a serious problem—that we all accept—but demonstrates, I think more forcefully than any other problem which confronts this country to-day, the need for overall planning. Overall planning, and indeed regional planning, is almost non-existent.

I was interested in the comments that were made by the right reverend Prelate, the Lord Bishop of Manchester, who spoke on the particular problems of that city; of their inability to expand, to find land outside the confines of the city itself, which is compelling the people there to live in what he described as a prison. I would not share his view that it is a prison, but certainly I accept the comment that they are being forced to reside within an exceedingly confined area.

It is true that a variety of interests are tackling this question of urban renewal and its attendant problems. But different motives are actuating the activity devoted to this question. There are private interests who in some cases of city redevelopment have done quite a good job; but the mo tivation in all cases has been that of profit, and of profit alone. There are the local authorities, with serious rehousing problems, fighting adjoining authorities for the right to deal with the overspill; and there are adjoining areas—we have an example of it in the Manchester area—who are aggrieved because this upsets their plan of development.

So we go on, with no central authority, not even any regional authority, which can assess the true claims of each of the competing parties or, better still, seek a planned development, taking into account all the interests, whether they be urban or rural. We have the problem of local authorities who seek to develop their city centres which have become, or are becoming, obsolete because of traffic developments. In almost all cases they call in private developers. I understand that there are to-day, either under consideration or in prospect, no fewer than 400 such developments to be tackled with the aid of private developers. Of course, sometimes there is considerable improvment of city centres, but with consequential high rents and greater profit for those who are responsible for the development. At the end of the day, however, even in those cases where we can see, and indeed can applaud from the standpoint of presentation and architecture, the results of the work of these developers, we have, in consequence, in many cases, the creation of adjoining areas which are soon truly considered as twilight areas and which proceed rapidly in a process of decay that is accelerated by the development of the new city centre.

Quite justifiably, I suppose, the developer is concerned solely with one area—that which yields him the highest possible profit. I suggest—and this would not be difficult to achieve—that where authorities are giving profitable contracts to private developers for redevelopment of city centres, they should insist on an adequate proportion of residential development for which those private developers would be responsible; otherwise in the course of time that burden is thrown on the community. One then finds no private developer, say in the city of Manchester, who would be willing to come in and deal with the vast twilight areas or properties which are steadily decaying and which show little prospect of improvement, unless it is done solely at local authority expense.

Such, then, is the prospect. In addition—and this gives added justification for regional, and indeed national, redevelopment—one can see the growth of a threat, within ten or twenty years, when even the present city centres which have been redeveloped will be under challenge. As many of your Lordships know, in the United States of America development of modern transport and the possession of motor cars by everyone has led to the development of great out-of-town shopping areas, which has caused the decay of shopping centres in the middle of the city. I have seen, in once prosperous American town centres. "ghost towns", with no possibility of any real, sound, economic development. This has come about because outside the city, forced there by the unavoidable circumstances of developments in regard to motor cars, were the new shopping centres where people went to do their shopping.

This is coming to Britain. With the development of new shopping facilities and new techniques in modern transport, we find an acceleraton of the trend towards the development of new out-of-town shopping centres. There is one in prospect at Haydock, Manchester, which, if it is ever completed, will rival in size many such developments in the United States. There is also a large one in prospect between Leeds and Bradford. These innovations have become necessary in face of modern developments, the distribution of motor cars, and so on. It is bound to have consequential effects on conventional city centres which, in the past, have been the very heart of the civic life of a particular city. Apart from political, social or economic considera- tions, this factor in itself justifies the development of an overall plan able to take into account not merely the circumstances of to-day but the possibilities of developments in coming decades.

Another aspect of this problem is this—and this is yet another great contradiction. At a time when there is a need for land for development—a need to which almost every noble Lord who has taken part in the debate has made reference—coupled with a justifiable demand for preservation of social amenities, such as the green belt, what in fact happens? We permit land exploitation and make the solution of the problem a thousand times more difficult. The very kernel of this problem lies in the question of land utilisation and land ownership. I am not making any suggestion of expropriation of land, but there is certainly need to deal with this question, even within a community based on the principles of free enterprise. But it must be a system of free enterprise on the principle that a particular price will be determined by the normal play of supply and demand, for not even the circumstances of to-day can justify the action of the modern Dick Turpin who takes the benefit of other people's enterprise.

I quote the case of a farmer whose land was quite recently zoned for housing development. He played no part at all in the development of the community, yet it brought him an increased value of £250,000 overnight, secured by that simple decision. He had never paid taxes on that particular amount in the past, neither had he paid rates on the land based on the new valuation. Your Lordships will have seen in the newspapers this morning that because of certain developments in the Romford area developers are willing, in view of the prospect of greater profit, to pay £25,000 for a house which would normally be priced at £4,000. I do not blame the people for taking the £25,000. Obviously, if they do not take it, then the private developer will. But a sensible Government would recognise that the people in a community should have the right to any benefit which flows from their own collective contribution to communal development which has brought about that increase in price. We shall never find a solution to the problem posed by my noble friend until the State fully accepts its responsibility in this matter and prevents private exploitation in land.

We learn from Government publications that over the next ten years the population is likely to continue its present rate of increase of 250,000 a year: 5 million in 20 years. At the same time, the number of new households is increasing at a faster rate than the population. So we can see what sort of pressures there are likely to be in the future. Housing is a fundamental aspect in urban development—in other words, the way in which people live. We still have the housing problem with us to-day in terms of shortage. The real problem stems not so much from an overall shortage of dwellings, as from the maldistribution and obsolescence of existing stock. In the years ahead the qualitative aspect of housing policy—that is, the raising of the standard of existing houses—is going to become as important as, and probably even more important than, the quantitative aspect.

To-day there are 17.1 million dwellings in Great Britain. About 7.7 million of those dwellings (45 per cent.) were erected prior to 1919; they are over 45 years old. But there is worse than that. A breakdown of the ages of the older properties, the pre-1919 houses, shows that 2.3 million were erected before 1851; 2.1 million were erected between 1851 and 1881; and 3.3 million were erected between 1881 and 1918. Thus, about 4½ million houses, over a quarter of the total stock, were erected 80 years ago, before the introduction of even moderately effective building regulations. It would be no exaggeration to state that probably one million of these dwellings are completely unfit for human habitation. They are slums and should be cleared as soon as possible.

If the housing standards are to be raised significantly, the aim should be to replace in total many more than that—2½ million out of the remaining 3.4 million pre-1881 dwellings—over the next 17 years. Your Lordships can see from that, and from estimating the real seriousness of the problem, that a replacement rate of 200,000 houses a year maintained until 1981 would still leave us, at the latter date, with a million houses over 100 years old. Many of these houses are confined in these so-called twilight areas, about which I spoke at the beginning of my speech; twilight areas that are being adversely affected because of the very necessary and justifiable developments in the city centres. Little is being done in that regard. We return to the suggestion that I made at the beginning: that where we have developments in city centres, which almost invariably offer substantial financial rewards for those who embark upon them, there should be at least some measure of responsibility (possibly not full responsibility), on the part of those who seek and secure profit, for the developments in the city centres.

My Lords, I end my speech as I began. I believe that it is impossible to deal with this problem successfully—and it is a large-scale problem, no matter which Government tackles it—unless there is a recognition that many different elements are involved: transport, changes in mode of living, changes in retail distribution and a hundred and one different elements which are brought to bear upon this problem. Therefore it needs more than national planning. I would accept the viewpoint that one single Minister with overall power alone could not do the job. I believe that it is necessary to secure in the regions themselves the setting up of bodies which will have a continuing existence for a number of years; bodies which will be prepared and able, with a combination of all the interests involved, to make a detailed study of the entire region. And I believe that regional reports would be able to fit into a national plan.

I know that in the City of Manchester (I hope that I am not "telling tales out of school") the University itself is particularly interested in this problem. It is capable of bringing together men of the University who are skilled in these matters, men of the great industries in those parts, and representatives of the people themselves. And together, over the course of a short period of time, they would be able to give, probably for the first time, a clear indication not only of the needs of to-day but of the needs of to-morrow. Because, my Lords, in dealing with the problems of to-day it is necessary to have clearly in mind the needs of to-morrow and the necessity for marshalling the forces to deal with those problems.

5.33 p.m.


My Lords, in offering a brief intervention in this debate, I should like to begin by saying how deeply indebted we all are to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, for his brilliant and comprehensive sketch of the problems that are implicit in considering urban redevelopment. There is nothing of value that I could posssibly add to that, but I should like to say just one or two words about the machinery which should be used in order to bring some of these dreams into practical realisation.

I want to put forward the view that this is essentially a matter which local government should be asked to tackle, and should be given the means of qualifying themselves to tackle. But regional bodies would be likely to be a hindrance rather than a help, since they would constitute an additional link in the chain of responsibility and would make further demands on the already inadequate pool of professionally qualified technical officers. Certainly, my Lords, the task of reorganising the areas of local authorities should be completed as soon as possible; but the local government commissions have been at work since 1958, and effect is currently being given to some of their recommendations in relation to the East Midlands. This stage should be reached quite soon in regard to other parts of the country. If it can be accelerated, of course, so much the better. But the main point that I am trying to make is that the process is currently proceeding, and it would be highly undesirable at this stage, while the future shape of local government is still being worked out, to introduce a new form of Government instrument intermediately between the national and the local government.

As the Minister of Housing and Local Government said in another place on February 10 [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 689 (No. 49), cols. 154–155]: … housing and traffic, particularly in urban centres, are interrelated and if ever there was a job of local government this surely must be it. It is of the essence of local government. The effects of town moderni- sation and traffic policy together involve such a wide range of activities and impinge on nearly every aspect of urban development and life that any town must be concerned, and it cannot be divorced from local issues, local activities and local responsibility. The Minister later went on to say [col. 156] that, It does not make sense to divide responsibility and leave the town with the whole huge task of replacing obsolescence in the town whilst the decision about the road and traffic layout in the town is taken by some authority not responsive to election and not aware, or even conscious, of local conditions and thereby doubling the task that should be done by the local authorities themselves. The Minister said also that local authorities should be helped in at least two ways. The Government believe, apparently, that it is necessary … to reorganise local government into areas of a sufficient size and calibre that they can handle the major jobs of transport and planning over the whole built-up area effectively. Secondly, there is the question, of course, of money, and grant, in regard to which I gather that the Government accept the need to overhaul the existing system of planning and highway grants. This matter is being examined by the Departments concerned. The Minister expressed his confidence, also … that a reorganised local government with a revised grant structure, helped by guidance from the centre and by increased numbers of qualified staff, will be able to cope with the job. My Lords, I have quoted these views of the Minister in order to be able to say—and I have ascertained that this is correct—that the Association of Municipal Corporations are in complete agreement with that view about the ability of local authorities, enlarged and equipped, to deal with these great problems.

There is one other expression of opinion to which I should like to draw the attention of your Lordships, and that is the following extract from the first leader in The Times of November 18 last. It said: The period since the outbreak of the last war has seen a growing involvement in the processes of government of the recognised spokesmen of interest groups of one kind and another: and that is not to be condemned, for it is an important element in government by consent. The same period has seen a waning of the influence, as distinct from the business, of locally elected bodies. It is time that trend was reversed, and one condition of its reversal is that locally rooted administration should be organized on an appropriate scale. There would be gains in efficiency, but that is not the most important benefit to be sought. A vigorous and influential system of local government affords an opportunity for active men and women to be associated in a way that really counts with the management of public affairs. It thus counteracts the ever-present tendency for government and its apparatus to become divorced from the people. My Lords, that was a very interesting editorial in The Times last November. I believe, and the Association of Municipal Corporations believe, that when the Local Government Commission's work is done and the Government have given effect to its recommendations, the local authorities of this country should be fully qualified to undertake the tasks of urban redevelopment.

In conclusion, I have no doubt that most of your Lordships have read the first editorial in The Times of to-day, which is appropriately headed, I think, "Are They Good Enough?". The writer is referring to local authorities, and to the problems with which we have been dealing to-day. He ends up by saying in what way he thinks they can be made good enough, and points out what I have just been trying to emphasise—how important it is to our national life, and to the connection between the people and the Government, that local authorities should be efficient, should be respected and should be given the means to perform their functions properly. And The Times leader concludes with this sentence: It is in fact worth cultivating, and its cultivation should be an article of public policy. I conclude, my Lords, by saying in this connection that it should be an article of public policy that the Government should reconstitute local authorities adequately so as to deal with these problems.

5.43 p.m.


My Lords, we are by nature, in Britain, an untidy race, and sometimes, when I look round your Lordships' House and another place and see the paper scattered about on the Benches and the floors, I am not surprised that we are untidy in our town planning and that our civic centres are covered with litter. It runs all the way through the British nature. I do not think it is a wholly bad thing to be untidy, but it has its disadvantages, too. The right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Manchester, when he spoke to us, referred to the problem with which we are dealing to-day as an inchoate problem. I went out and looked up the second verse of the first chapter of Genesis, which says And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep", and I thought of some of our cities in need of urban redevelopment, to which my noble friend Lord Silkin has quite rightly drawn our attention to-day.

My credentials for daring to address your Lordships on this subject are that, as many of your Lordships know, I have spent twelve years in helping to build a New Town, with a New Town town centre, and have thereforse seen how urban development can be carried out in a redevelopment area once we have dealt with the problem of land, as has been pointed out so clearly by my noble friends Lord Peddie and Lord Silkin and others this afternoon. The development of towns is a fascinating subject, and when you visit towns on the Continent you see how different they often are in their form and shape from our British towns; sometimes I think they are of a better form and shape. But if you look at our towns through Continental eyes—and you cannot do better in this respect than read the words of Professor Stein Eiler Rasmussen, a great Danish town planner who has written perhaps the standard book on London—you find that one of the things they admire most about our British towns is the rows of semi-detached villas and their little gardens.

It may seem strange, but they say how wonderful it must be for everybody to have a little garden in which to dig, instead of living in apartment houses, as so many people do on the Continent and as some of our architects would have us do now. I hope we will continue to resist our architects, and not let them put us all into flats, because I do not think we shall be any the happier for that.

The building of a town, and the rebuilding of a town, is an extremely complex process, as has become apparent in the course of this debate. It is like the solution of an equation. In that equation, there are lots of factors which have to be brought together and which have to work together. The land is the primary factor, and movement on the surface of the land is only a final factor. One of the good things about the Buchanan Report is that it made clear that our first purpose must be to provide a decent living environment for people, and that traffic and transport are secondary to this. Unless we have a decent living environment, there is not much purpose in being able to move about easily in traffic. The equation, then, that we have to work out involves the land, our homes, the places where we work, the shops where we buy our goods and all the other places where social functions take place, such as health centres, churches, schools, community halls and all the rest. It is only in the linking together of these things that transport becomes important.

How nice it is when we can plan our work near our homes, and can cut down on this waste of time which so many of us have to indulge in, going to and from work in our great cities! When we started to plan the New Town of Harlow we thought all our people would go to work by bicycle, or that a large number of them would, so we designed cycle tracks from each area of the town so that the wage-earners among the 60,000 or 80,000 people who live in the town could all cycle to work along a cycle track, through a green belt, as it were, to an industrial estate, and so that, wherever they lived, they could get there in eight minutes. We thought we had done splendidly. But, of course, we have done wrong, because we had not realised that within twelve years 60 per cent. of them would have cars and would not be using their bicycles at all, and we had forgotten to provide the vast car parks round the factories which are needed, even for these short journeys to work. That shows how easily one can go wrong.

To come to shopping, the noble Lord, Lord Meston, talked a little about shopping, and so did my noble friend Lord Peddie. They said some very interesting things about shopping, and I propose to say a few more things about it because it is a very important subject indeed in urban redevelopment. It is one of the factors which really make possible the commercial redevelopment of these blighted urban areas. Shopping really falls into three or four tiers. There are, first of all, the shops round the corner—the small group of shops or the single shop. The group, in my experience, consists of a tobacconist, a grocer, possibly a vegetable shop and possibly a fish shop. If it happens to be a fish and chip shop it is very good for the health of the nation, because there is no more nutritious substance than fish and chips for the problem family, the people who are not very good at organising their life. In this case they can "get by" by having fish and chips.

Those are what one calls the "round the corner" shops. There may be a chemist, possibly a pharmacist as well. In my experience, one of those groups of "round the corner" shops is needed for every 5,000 of the population. This is what we planned in our New Town of Harlow and it works well. But if we take all the shops in Britain we shall find there are a great many more than that; and, very often, instead of being in a small group together they are peppered throughout the area.

I have here a splendid book on British shopping centres, by Wilfred Burns, who used to work for the Coventry Planning Authority. He gives us excellent maps showing the location of shops in working-class areas. You will find a mass of streets with houses all crammed together and then, higgledy-piggledy all over the place, shop fronts are fitted on to these houses in which various commodities are offered for sale. If you go round looking at them you find many of these shops are blighted because there is not enough turnover to maintain them. We are a nation of shopkeepers; and for many working people it is the height of their ambition to have a shop, because then they have their independence. But the number who "go bust", who get shops which are not an economic proposition, is nobody's business. We are over-provided with shops in many of our great working-class areas.

We see them on the way in to most great Northern cities; we see them with boards up, with cobwebs in the windows. They are miserable places. This is all because there has been an over-provision, an uncontrolled provision, of shops. We must provide, not too few, but not too many shops, because if we provide too many at once the quality of the shop goes down, the volume of stock that the shopkeeper carries goes down, and the service which the public receives goes down. One must therefore be very careful when planning new shopping areas to under-provide just very slightly. Incidentally, this will pay the developer because it will make sure that the shopkeeper will be able to pay a decent rent. If the developer happens to be a public corporation, then this is very satisfactory from the public point of view. If the developer is a private developer, then I hope the public corporation who hold the ground have a clause in the agreement to say, "If the rent goes up then we will have 50 per cent., please." This we always do in Harlow. This is ordinary, prudent business on the part of a public service. All New Towns try to conduct their business operations on behalf of the public as prudently and as profitably as they can. So, in the case of shops, one should slightly under-provide.

The next layer, beyond the "round the corner" shops, is the shops in the neighbourhood centre. There one wants a group of shops to serve about 20,000 people. This will support a reasonably satisfactory shopping area of perhaps 30 shops. There should be not more than 30 shops for 20,000 people. Such an area has historically always grown up on the side of main roads; and this is a really bad place for it to be. I live in Highgate, to which the noble Lord. Lord Conesford, was referring. He said there was a little spot of trouble with the Ministry of Transport, which turned out all right in the end, thanks to the vigour of the Highgate residents. Where I live, in Islington, the streets are lined with shops, and a double problem arises: first, where to park your car when you shop—one cannot park in front of the shops; secondly, how to deliver supplies to the shops. Of course, every decently-designed shopping centre should have a service road behind the shops for delivery purposes. The shop should be in a pedestrian area and have a reasonable car park round the back and be just off the main road. In the old days the shops were there because the roads were already built; but we must not do that any more.

The third level is the town centre shops, the main shopping area. These major shopping areas serve a population of, say, 60,000 to 100,000; and they will have their subsidiary areas that I have described and their "round the corner" shopping areas; but still the build-up will he to the main shopping area for 100,000. It does not matter whether it is a New Town or a redeveloped area. These are areas of some importance and should be properly and well planned. The first thing that has to be planned in a modern shopping area is car parking. This is priority number one.

The noble Lord, Lord Peddie, referred to those out-of-town shopping centres in America which have become such a feature of the American scene. They are not a beautiful feature. They are very nice from the point of view of the shopper. It is extremely easy to motor to them from your home which is possibly in the suburbs; or, if it is in town, you motor out, say, fifteen miles along a good motorway, and find something like an enormous tin box. There is no other word for it. It has no windows; there are a few holes in it through which you go in; and inside there is the most magnificent supermarket where one can buy anything under the sun. It is surrounded by a vast concrete area of car park. That is the shopping centre. If you like it like that, you can have it like that; but if you have it like that, you finish our cities as we know them. Once we have things like that the economics of urban development are finis, kaput. We cannot maintain a central shopping area if we have these things.

One sees arising as a result in the American cities areas of urban blight in association with these shopping areas. Yet we see the vigour and energy of the Americans in another way: in their regeneration of urban areas. They are beginning to regenerate their urban areas. You see it in Pittsburg. I wish the noble Lord, Lord Bossom, were here. He did a lot for Pittsburg. Pittsburg used to be "hell on earth"; it was one continuous cloud of smog from the steel mills all around, and it had a terrible mortality rate. There used to be terrific epidemics causing bronchitic death. But finally the worm turned: the people of Pittsburg determined to do something about it. One of the final factors was that the industrialists of Pittsburg realised they could not recruit young industrialists to come and work in their factories unless they cleared the air. So a most tremendous drive to get rid of all this filth took place about six or eight years ago. Now Pittsburg is a smoke-free, magnificently situated city, free from smog.

This can be done anywhere if the industrialists are prepared to spend money, or if they force themselves to spend money—and it pays off in the long run. Not only was that done in Pittsburg, but they developed the triangle between the three rivers, which meet in a Y-shaped junction, an area of urban decay. Here they developed the Golden Triangle, with magnificent modern skyscrapers, in many ways better than those in New York, and they have made this very wealthy area the basic centre of the city. So it can be done.

We have heard quite a lot about the virtues of local authorities, particularly from the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, who said that local government should be allowed to tackle these problems. But I would say that it is because local government has failed to tackle these problems that we have them now. That is not perhaps a popular thing to say. But I feel that local government in Britain should be ashamed of itself for failing to tackle these problems and for allowing these urban masses of muck to grow up. Something has to be done and, thank goodness! some local authorities are doing it, but on a partial scale. And, as my noble friend Lord Peddie and the right reverend Prelate reminded us, they are "up against it" because of this problem of overspill. Overspill is an insoluble problem, so long as we leave it to the local authorities, because they are all quarrelling.

The right reverend Prelate gave us the example of "Miss Mobberley" and "Miss Lymm" refusing to look at "Mr. Manchester"—that is what it comes to. There is no way of dealing with this overspill problem on a local authority basis. It has to be handled quite ruthlessly from the centre, as my noble friend Lord Silkin did, when he was Minister of Town and Country Planning. Nobody wanted Stevenage New Town there; but they got it—and a jolly good thing they did! Nobody particularly wanted Crawley there; but they got it—and a good thing it was for Britain that they got it! So one could go on. But somebody has to designate a site, and say, "This is where the overspill shall be". And that "somebody" must be the Government. The local authorities will squeal like billy-ho. I do not mind, because there is no other answer. We have to take much more vigorous and ruthless action under the machinery of the New Towns Act before we shall solve the problem of urban blight and urban manure. This cannot be done unless it is done as a team. The local authorities must somehow teach themselves to act together, like a development corporation. In twelve years each development corporation has virtually built a complete town. This is the sort of speed of operation that is needed.

I am working on another plan—namely, the problem of the future of the universities that can be located inside the major cities of the North in the future. Manchester, I have found, is using its University as a means of removing urban blight. The University itself is acting as a town planning authority, in a sense (I think I am right in saying this), and this is a splendid thing. If we are to get the universities we need for the boys and girls who are coming on, we must have machinery for doing a similar sort of operation in a number of these areas of urban blight; and that means compulsory acquisition inside a designated area of redevelopment and a mixed redevelopment, with university buildings, housing, offices and commercial buildings, high flats and low flats, and the rest—in fact, getting in everything we can. And why not run this at a public profit? Why should we let it be purely for private development? Private builders are going to build these new developments for us. I see nothing wrong in that. But why should not the accrued value of this property—and it will have an accrued value—come back to the university and to the city itself? I am sure that that is the way to do it. I think that we must use this opportunity of university redevelopment to further the whole business of urban renewal.

I have many architect and town-planner friends. Architects are interesting and somewhat unusual people. They are paradoxical people. They get an idea in their heads, stick to it for a long time and then go the opposite way. About 1935 they got into their heads that glass was a good thing. They had read some medical reports about the work of Dr. Rollier, in Switzerland, and sunlight for T.B. children, and they started building everything out of glass. This fashion of glass construction went on for a considerable time. Of course, in a country like ours, it is utterly silly to build houses out of glass, because glass is an extremely good conductor of both cold and heat; and unless you double-glaze everything, at immense cost, the result is chaos. One of the results, as your Lordships know, is that in many of these new schools the authorities have had to spend thousands of pounds putting up what they call venetian blinds and expensive curtains because there is too much light for "the kids" and they cannot concentrate.

I have been making a row to the architects about this for quite a long time. Then, suddenly, they start to build schools without any windows at all. This is the latest one. The windows are merely little slits, placed high up—most extraordinary! They cannot—or, shall we say, they find it very hard to—strike a balance. Now it is difficult to get them to put in an ordinary window. You might think that a window is an easy thing to get, but they will insist on having a rotating window, which will rotate either way. But if you ask for just an ordinary window, with a hinge and a little hook, which can be pushed in and out (that is the best kind of window of all, and it is made by the ordinary commercial joiners, by members of the English Joinery Manufacturers' Association) the architect will throw up his hands in horror.

My Lords, this digression was started by the latest of the architects' ideas—high density and urbanity. Urbanity, you may think, is being smart—like trousers and all that—but that is not it. It is being urban, and in a town you want urbanity. There is something in this. There is some sense in it: it is not just nonsense. Urbanity in a town is a good quality. The architects cannot make out why their new shopping centres are empty at night, and they ask: what can we do to make these places exciting, like the West End at night? As a matter of fact this is a lot of rubbish, because only parts of the West End are bright at night and it requires a population of 8 million to produce a concentration of people knocking about and milling around. It cannot be done with 80,000 people, because there are not enough people milling around to make these crowds at night.

The architects say that it is due to the faulty planning of our New Towns. They say that they should have more residents near. The answer is to go and see Vallingby, the new town twelve miles outside Stockholm, where they have built an excellent town centre, with whole blocks of flats all round it, so as to keep the population as near to the town centre as possible. It is a remarkably pleasant place, as pleasant as Hemel Hempstead, Stevenage, or Harlow. But the point is that if you go there at 5.30 or 6 o'clock in the evening there is hardly a soul in the shopping centre. Just as here, the people are all at home looking at television, having their tea and drinking the wine which, in a prosperous society, they have purchased from the off-licence. It is not so easy to produce that kind of urbanity. T have no objection to urbanity: in fact, I am all for that kind of urbanity which means things like pedestrian-ways, getting diversity of buildings—not having huge monolithic chunks of stone put up by commercial developers, who want to get as much rent as they can—diversity of shops and diversity of shop types.

This is one of the difficulties that you run into with commercial development, because the rents which different traders can afford are so different. If you let a shop to a tobacconist, he can probably pay £1,500 a year, or something of that sort. But if you let a shop to a greengrocer or a fishmonger, he can probably pay only £250 or £450 a year. The ideal commercial exploitation of a site would be 20 tobacconists in a row; but clearly that will not happen, because in their own interests they will not do it. But it may well mean three or four multiple grocers and no greengrocer. It may well mean three or four multiple grocers and no quality grocer, because the quality grocer's rent will be lower. Therefore, one must be careful over this business of letting and about supposing that you automatically get the right distribution of shops by the working of the private market.

Urbanity and high density are O.K. when it comes to the planning of a city centre. But when it comes to the planning of the houses themselves, we are, I think, overdoing it a bit. After all, a home is about the most important thing in a family's life; and it ought to be a good home. I think we have not found a bad formula for building homes in Britain when we build twelve to an acre, and give people a garden. I think that digging is a marvellous thing for everybody. I hope that we shall go on with this. But if our architects have their way, we shall all have a thing called a patio, which is all paved over and walled round for privacy. You cannot dig in a patio and it is a pretty miserable thing. Particularly is this so because, being an ordinary family, you have lots of things you want to keep outside. But you have your dustbins in the patio; the broken-down pram, when the child has grown up; and the children's toys—that is not so bad. But it is not like the pictures that the artists draw of patios. So do not let us overdo this high-density business. It is a lot of nonsense—and pernicious nonsense at that.

The final thing the architects are on about at the moment—and they are on about a good many things—is the question of drift to the South. How I wish that my noble friend Lord Llewellyn-Davies were here and had made his maiden speech, because I should have had him interrupting me all the way through ! But, alas ! he is not here. They are beginning to say that it is a good thing to drift to the South, and that we should have a continuously built-up area all over the South of England. Believe it or not, they are saying that this is economically desirable—and I suppose it is probably very good for architecture. But in every other way the policy which the Government adumbrate—but perhaps do not follow as vigorously as they should—and the policy which Her Majesty's Opposition certainly adumbrate, and would, I hope, follow more vigorously, is the right one. We want to stop the drift to the South and make the North, if possible, a nicer place, which inherently it is, so that we shall find people going back there and wanting to go back there. This drift to the South is all a lot of nonsense. We are told that it is economically necessary to concentrate in the South. This is complete rubbish.

Back in Pittsburg I have some friends who run a glass bottle factory, and this factory has an economic range of delivery. I said to them: "What is your economic range of delivery?" and they said: "It is 450 miles by road, and then 900 miles away we need another factory, because that will bring it to another 450 miles, and if we 'pepperpot' the United States with glass bottle factories at 900-mile intervals we have the proper organisation." Four hundred and fifty miles means that Pittsburg supplies New York with glass bottles. Four hundred and fifty miles on our map means that London is within economic delivery distance by road of Edinburgh and Glasgow, provided that we have decent roads. There is no problem here at all; the country is quite tiny. It is just physical inefficiency that we have not made the North as it ought to be.

My noble friend Lord Silkin was absolutely right when he said that it is the women (my noble friend Lady Gaitskell has gone) who are the trouble, because it is they who want to come South. They are all the time saying how much nicer it is in the South, how much smarter socially, and so on. It is all a lot of nonsense; but that is what they say. We must make it socially smart in the North. How are we to do this? I think that one thing we might do would be to arrange for the House of Lords, if not the House of Commons, to meet in the North occasionally in the Summer Session for a fortnight or so. I am sure this would be rather fun.


At Blackpool.


No, not at Blackpool. Let us go to Manchester, not Blackpool. But let us try to make the North fashionable once again, as I am sure we can if we try; we could certainly contribute our bit to it. Seriously, we have to play our part, and I do not see why we should not move up a little occasionally, because these distances are not worth fussing about.

I think I have been going on nearly long enough, my Lords, and I will finish. I would remind your Lordships that some people rather like the places they live in. A colleague of mine and I have just carried out together a survey of a number of factors, and the particular factor we were interested in was satisfaction with environment. We produced what you might call a ten-point scale. If you were satisfied with your environment, you were on the positive side of the ten points; if you were dissatisfied, you were on the negative side; and if you were just neutral, you were in the middle. We asked a series of questions in order to arrive at an answer: did people want to move?; did they like their neighbours?; and so on.

We applied this test to a sample of people in the New Town of Harlow. We found, to our delight, that 80 per cent. of the people there were satisfied, and we thought: "We have done well; we have built a good New Town." But, being scientists, we thought that we would apply the test on a national sample, and having done so, we found that 91 per cent. of British citizens were satisfied with their environment. So we then went to an exporting area, so-called. I dare not call it an area of social decay, because the area concerned has already complained to me at being called an area of social decay. It is what your Lordships might say was a somewhat less pleasant looking area—an area which is due for slum clearance. Here, also, 91 per cent. were satisfied with their environment. And why? They liked the place they lived in. We find out what the factor is, and it is the simplest factor in the world: how long you have lived in a place. The longer you live in a place, the more satisfied you are. In England, we take a bit of time to make friends, and it is ten years or so before you speak to your neighbour. But once you have spoken to him, you think, "This is not a bad place", and you begin to be satisfied. So let us not be too ruthless in our urban redevelopment, and let us remember that some people like the galleons on their front door, even though the architects disapprove.

6.21 p.m.


My Lords, it is customary at the end of a debate of this length to say that we have had a very interesting debate and to congratulate the noble Lord who has initiated it, even though sometimes, of course, we know that it is not true. But I do not think any noble Lord, wherever he is sitting this afternoon, will accuse me to-day of having my tongue in my cheek when I say that this really has been an interesting and an important debate. By the time I have finished my rather long speech, I trust that noble Lords will feel that it has been an even more important debate.

If I may begin with the very end, I should like to say how much we all enjoyed, not the speech, so much as the chat, that we have just had from the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, who spoke in a most effulgent and free manner for some thirty-five minutes without a note, giving us the benefit of his experience on the more interesting and fascinating details of town planning in its various aspects. I mention his contribution now, because I do not think it will be very easy for me to deal in any detail with some of the things he said, since they were not put in the manner of questions but rather as information—and information which was extremely interesting to all noble Lords. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, of course, opened this debate in his usual extremely interesting manner, and his approach was so comprehensive and covered such a vast field that again I think I shall be excused if I do not follow him into all the ramifications, but concentrate rather on certain aspects of this subject, particularly those which have figured most prominently in the speeches of all noble Lords.

Before I come to these, I should like, even if it is rather repetitious, to sketch in the background against which we must view this problem of urban redevelopment, and to set it in the context within which we must find the solution. It is well known, of course, that over four-fifths of the population live in towns: in fact, if we consider all the smaller towns I believe that the proportion is nearer nine-tenths. That was the figure the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, mentioned.

Both the buildings and the road layouts of these towns were, for the most part, built before the First World War. Nearly 50 per cent. of all our housing stock was built before 1919; that is to say, well before the age of the motor car as we know it. This figure includes over 500,000 slums which must be pulled down, and some 2 million houses in what are known as twilight areas; that is to say, they are houses which may have a life of ten years, or a bit more, but are unimprovable. Those areas must also be completely redeveloped.

In addition, there are many town centres which badly need modernising: because they are no longer suitable for the purposes for which they were built, or to which they have since been adapted, or because the street layout is thoroughly unsuitable and leads to congestion, which means a serious loss of time, not to mention loss of tempers and gross inconvenience in the way of noise, smell and physical danger to the people who work and live in the area.

This, then, my Lords, is the immediate problem of obsolescence. However, when we come to consider what we are going to do about it, we have to face certain inescapable facts. The first is that the population, which has already increased by over 3 million in the last ten or eleven years, is expected to increase by another 8 million by 1982. At the same time, the number of cars is expected to double in the next ten years, and to treble in twenty years' time.

I think these facts give us a pretty clear idea of what our priorities must be. We must provide houses for the people who need them. That is to say, we must overtake the present shortages which exist to-day. We must build for the ever-increasing number of families we expect over the next 20 years; and we must re-house the people living in houses unfit for human habitation. I do not believe that anybody can disagree with that. At the same time, Her Majesty's Government are convinced that it is absolutely necessary over the next ten years to improve the 2 million or more houses which are structurally sound but without the basic amenities, in order that these shall not, in their turn, become twilight areas. As noble Lords know, measures for compulsory improvement, if persuasion fails, are being proposed in the Housing Bill now before another place. At the same time, Her Majesty's Government believe that it is necessary for town centre redevelopment to proceed as an important facet of urban renewal in the interests both of the people themselves, as I have said, and of the prosperity of this country.

I need hardly remind your Lordships that, in order to cope with this programme, the rate of house building is rising to somewhere near 350,000 this year, with a target of 400,000 as soon as possible. At the same time, slum clearance is proceeding at a rate of 70,000 dwellings a year, and the back of the problem should have been broken within ten years. Here I think the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, departed for a moment from his interesting non-partisan approach, and became a Party politician; because he said that the housing position was deteriorating, and that the houses which were built were of the wrong type, for the wrong people, in the wrong place. I do not think he will expect me to allow him to get away with that. I think what he meant was that we need more houses of more types for more people in the right place. If that is what he meant, of course the Government entirely agree, and that is what they are proceeding to bring about.


My Lords, in order to avoid any misunderstanding, I will make quite clear what I meant. I meant that a large part of the housing which is provided, and for which the Government were taking credit in their 350,000, is being provided by private enterprise. Such housing has been for a class of person who is not in such great need as the majority, who cannot afford to buy houses at the prices at which they are being offered. It is in that sense, I think, that there is a need for a greater concentration of effort by the local authorities themselves, in the first place by giving priority to those who are at present worst housed, rather than to those who can afford to buy houses at the present prices. The point is debatable, but it is not Party politics. That is a statement which I honestly believe, and may I say to the noble Lord that I never say anything in this House which I do not honestly believe.


My Lords, in fact, I knew what the noble Lord meant, because we had this little argument during the housing debate not so long ago. Of course, I pointed out on that occasion that the balance is going to be redressed—that is the way he put it, I think—by our carrying out our new housing programme.

It may not, however, be so well known to your Lordships that there are already over 400 schemes, of one sort or another, for the renewal of town centres, either already prepared or in the course of preparation. Some of these schemes are of major importance. For instance, the plan prepared for Liverpool by their consultant, Mr. Shankland, covers 500 acres and involves an urban motorway 3½ miles long. Glasgow has a thorough-going redevelopment plan which, among other things, involves 29 areas of comprehensive redevelopment as well as major road-building proposals. Newcastle, Manchester and Birmingham also have extensive reconstruction plans. I mention these facts because it seems to be the impression in some quarters that nothing very much is being done about urban redevelopment.

My Lords, I have given the background to our problem and the context within which we must operate, both of which are well known to your Lordships but which, nevertheless, bear repetition; let us now consider the way to tackle the problem. That brings me to the Buchanan Report. I join with other noble Lords who have praised this beautifully produced book with illustrations—for that is what it is—and I would add that I found it almost as gripping to read as a thriller, although demanding perhaps a somewhat higher level of concentration. This Report has brought a new vision and a greater sense of urgency to these problems of urban planning. But it is not a ready made solution to these problems, nor yet a set of building proposals. The Buchanan Report provides a general framework within which our cities can be reshaped to cope with the problems of traffic and obsolescence—a framework in which differing local circumstances, local choice and local initiative have a full part to play.

The Buchanan Report provides a deeper understanding of the complex interaction of land use/transport policies. In this respect it is, as the Report of the Steering Committee under the Chairmanship of Sir Geoffrey Crowther has pointed out, a pioneer study. It is a powerful plea for the integration of these policies and for the preparation of comprehensive and far-sighed renewal plans for towns as a whole.

The Report has two major concepts. The first is that a community can make a rational choice of the degree of freedom it wants motor traffic to have within its boundaries—that is to say, the choice of the balance between the level of accessibility for traffic and the standard of environment for pedestrians and residents. The second is that if one provides a primary road network where the car has priority and along which traffic can move quickly and safely and in large numbers, it is not unreasonable to have cars beginning and ending their journeys in environmental areas where traffic emphatically takes second place to the safety, comfort and convenience of those living and working there. I think the general consensus of opinion among noble Lords to-day has concurred with this basic approach towards environmental areas.

The Government have accepted Buchanan's analysis: they have adopted his basic philosophy that a balance has to be struck between the needs of traffic and the other needs of urban life; and they agree with the main planning concepts set out in the Report. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, expressed, I think, some doubt whether there had perhaps been an underestimate of the possibility of other forms of transport in the future, and my noble friend Lord Gosford came out strongly on the side of the user of the car. But other noble Lords took a different view and said that there must be a limitation of traffic, irrespective, probably, of other forms of transport. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, thought perhaps the Government had accepted rather too easily and irresponsibly these principles of the Buchanan Report. But I think he will see, as I continue my speech, that our approach to the Buchanan Report is very responsible indeed.

I can understand that it is not enough merely to say that Her Majesty's Government accept the basic approach and the findings of the Buchanan Report in order to convince the Opposition and the public at large that we mean to do something about it. We must indeed show a will to tackle the problem. We must give a lead. Yet I cannot understand why there are some people, both in Parliament and outside, who have the idea that the Government are shelving the Buchanan Report and funking altogether its implications. This delusion seems to have stemmed from the Government's rejection of Sir Geoffrey Crowther's proposal for regional development agencies, as he calls them. Therefore, I should like to turn for a moment to the proposals of the Crowther Steering Group.

I would first pay a tribute to the very great help given by the Steering Group in the production of the Buchanan Report in its final form. In fulfilling what Sir Geoffrey Crowther has described as the third task of the Group—namely, to attempt to draw some of the conclusions for public policy that seem to emerge—a most stimulating public debate has been engendered; and that is all to the good. Nevertheless, in view of some of the criticism and even hostility that has arisen out of this public debate, I think it may be useful to analyse and clarify both the Steering Group's proposals and the Government's rejection of them. These proposals have figured very largely in the speeches of the noble Earl, Lord Gosford, and my noble friend Lord Milverton, and other noble Lords have of course taken them into account. I embark upon this analysis in no spirit of carping criticism but in a genuine attempt to treat this matter with that objectivity and seriousness which it deserves.

The Steering Group says that in any effective programme of urban modernisation it is possible to distinguish four main stages. First, there must be a clear statement of national objectives. Regional planning cannot work in isolation. Unless there is a policy on a national basis dealing with the location of industry and population from which would flow policies in respect of roads, ports, air facilities, et cetera, regional planning cannot be successful. My Lords, regional planning of this nature is a different and much wider question than the problem of traffic in towns. The Government accept this need for regional planning and have already published their Studies for the North-East and for Central Scotland. The one for the South-East will be available later this month; and there are others to follow after that, for Wales, the North-West and the West Midlands.

The regional policies for the North-East, to take an example, are deliberately directed, by fiscal means and decisions on capital investment, including investment in major communications, New Towns, housing, education, welfare and the improvement of amenities, towards the location of industry and population and the other matters to which the Group refers, and these decisions have been taken not only in the interests of the region concerned, but in the interests of the nation as a whole. I hope this goes some way to satisfy the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, who spoke of a national survey and the need for New Town recommendations of this nature to be made in these regional studies. I hope also it will meet the point made by the right reverend Prelate, the Lord Bishop of Manchester, who asked for a regional plan for the North-West and for a New Town there, too. He is going to get both.


My Lords, he should have got them rive years ago.


Possibly. It should even satisfy the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, who, at the beginning of his rather strongly anti-local authority speech where he was speaking of overspill, thought that the local authorities must accept this sort of regional planning and New Towns; and it does look rather as though his wishes may be granted.


Thank you.


This form of regional development is being assisted by regional organisations manned by senior officials of the main Government Departments concerned, working closely with local authorities and with commercial and industrial interests. We have such a group in Newcastle-on-Tyne. There is also one in Cardiff, for Wales, and we are developing one in Manchester for the North-West. That is not merely the office already there to assist slum clearance. In fact, a circular on this new group was sent to local authorities as recently as February 24. Therefore, it can be seen that the principle of regional planning and regional organisation is accepted and is being acted upon.

The Steering Group then said that the second stage would be to delineate urban regions which would demand overall planning, and for this it would be necessary to take in the whole of the surrounding catchment area for traffic—that is to say, to the limit of commuter travel. Then the third stage would be to get more detailed plans drawn up for the redevelopment of the obsolete and congested parts and for the primary road network. This, according to the Committee, is where the regional development agency comes in. In fact, of course, these agencies would not be regional in the true sense; they would instead be urban development agencies, and I think a good deal of confusion has resulted from the wrong use of the word "regional" in this context.

According to the Steering Group, the functions of these urban development agencies, as I prefer to call them—and here I quote— would be very largely to co-ordinate and stimulate the work of the existing planning authorities. It would be a great mistake to try to impose a plan from above. A regional plan can be made only by putting together the plans of the existing planning authorities and then reworking them by a co-operative process into the wider form that is needed. That refers to the second stage, and when dealing with the third stage the Group say: The detailed planning of redevelopment and of the primary networks of roads also seems to us to be a job, at least in the first place, for the existing local planning authorities. Indeed, if it were taken away from them, their remaining planning functions would be stultified. My Lords, if these urban development agencies are merely to co-ordinate and rework by a co-operative process the existing plans of the local planning authorities, and then are also to leave the detailed planning to those authorities, what possible improvement can this be upon a similar co-operative process being guided by and, in the last resort, controlled through the regional organisations which are now being set up by the central Government? The only effect of the Crowther plan would be, as my noble friend Lord Milverton said, to interpose between local planning authorities and central Government an unnecessary third tier of administration.

My Lords, it is only when we come to the fourth stage in the programme of urban modernisation—that is, the stage of execution—that the Crowther urban development agencies would seem to have a distinctive rôle. In this stage it is proposed that the main emphasis would not be administrative so much as executive. Crowther says: We would expect the agency gradually to extend the range of its own activities, taking over more and more of the development work that local authorities now do for themselves, until only the biggest authorities … would want to do their own. Each agency would itself buy and hold land and employ contractors. It would in fact be more like a gigantic property development company. Apart from the fact that it would be just as easy for local planning authorities, with Government support, to buy and hold land and employ contractors, I would ask two questions about this sort of urban development agency Would it be more efficient? And would it be either democratic or compatible with the very basis of our local government system?

Concerning efficiency, of course there is the problem of qualified staff. We must remember that the local planning authorities will always require qualified staff with skill in the fields of town planning, engineering, architecture and traffic management because redevelopment is a continuing operation. It is not the once-for-all-time operation as suggested in the Steering Group's Report. The insertion of a third-tier authority, with high demands for people of these sorts, might well end up in neither development agency nor local authority having the requisite skilled staff, or else it would mean the development agencies mono-polising skilled staff and giving orders to local authorities in no position to argue. In this situation I believe that urban development agencies would not only prove to be inefficient, but would very soon find themselves up against a lack of co-operation and even outright hostility from local authorities and from individual members of the public.

The bigger local authorities commanding large resources should be able to attract competent staff. Where appropriate, the use of consultants and county teams will, in our opinion, be a more effective way of using scarce professional skills—with good men working in harmony with local authorities, and not closeted away in the Crowther agencies, confined to particular areas, and working in conflict with them.

When I turn to the question of whether it is right to set up urban development agencies as proposed by the Steering Committee, I believe it is implicit in the Buchanan Report that communities, through their locally elected representatives, advised by professional experts, should have the chance to choose between the various levels of accessibility to traffic and standards of environment that will be open to them, and that they should have a voice in the redevelopment of the town which for the whole of their lives is destined to be their home.

The Government do not believe that it could be right that they should be dictated to by any urban development agency, in the shape of a gigantic property development company, which would have to involve itself in detailed matters like rehousing, relocation of trading—a particularly difficult and personal matter referred to at length by the noble Lord, Lord Meston—parking policy, traffic control and other matters of an essentially local nature affecting individual happiness. Furthermore, apart from being a vote of no confidence in local authorities, in whatever way they might be reorganised—and they are being reorganised to make much more efficient units capable of dealing with this sort of problem—we do not believe that this sort of agency or this sort of approach to the subject would be acceptable to the people. Without being complacent, we believe that local government, reorganised and strengthened, can and should be responsible for coping with their own urban renewal.

The noble Lord, Lord Milverton, quoted a Times leading article to-day which came out very strongly in favour of local government, which they said was capable of providing a sensitive and efficient means of administration, and which advocated that its cultivation should be an article of public policy. In fact, it is an article of our policy.


My Lords, I hesitate to intervene, but I only want to get this point clear. To a great extent I sympathise with what the noble Lord is saying, but is he not going a bit far? Because every objection he is making to these bodies would apply to the development corporations of New Towns—undemocratic, doing a job which ordinarily the local authority do, they are interposing. Would he raise the same objection to development corporations, who really have done a good job?


My Lords, I do not think there is a comparison at all, with respect to the noble Lord. New Town corporations are starting from scratch where nothing or very little development exists. The agencies proposed would however be dealing with vast cities and conurbations which have a tradition of local authority government, some of them for hundreds of years. I do not think we can put them on the same footing as New Town corporations.

I was interested as a matter of fact apropos of this subject to notice that Professor Peter Self, who, of course, is well known as Professor of Public Administration at the London School of Economics and also Chairman of the Executive of the Town and Country Planning Association, in a speech only last week on the Buchanan Report described these particular proposals for regional development agencies as one of the worst proposals that I have ever heard". Coming from that quarter, it does look as though the argument I have been putting forward has a good deal of support, and I would trust that it has been convincing to your Lordships.

There is one further point about these Crowther agencies. They are conceived as agencies for a ruthless and massive rebuilding programme. This implies a crash programme giving priority over the many other claims on our national resources. They lose much of their point if this is not their purpose. The Crowther Report points out that most of our city centres were built in a few decades of the 19th century. Crowther envisages that the urban redevelopment now necessary can be carried out during a few decades of this century—a few decades, not a few years. Indeed, Buchanan is dealing with the problems of traffic over the next forty years, and envisages a continuing process of modernisation and adaptation of our cities; not a once-for-all rebuilding programme carried out overnight. The Government will press on vigorously with its modernisation programmes, but we cannot accept that urban redevelopment should have priority regardless of all other demands on our economy.

I have dwelt at considerable length on this question of the administrative and executive machinery for the carrying out of urban redevelopment in general, and of the recommendations of the Buchanan Report in particular, because, as I said earlier, there seems to have been a grave misconception of the Government's intentions. This misconception appears to have been based largely upon the rejection by the Government of the Crowther proposals for regional or, as I say, urban development agencies. I hope that I have now cleared away these misconceptions once and for all, and that in so doing I have also convinced your Lordships, and all those outside this House who are interested in these matters that the Government's reasons for preferring other methods are thoroughly sound and designed for the purpose of implementing the basic recommendations of the Buchanan Report, not only efficiently but also democratically, and in such a manner as to enlist the enthusiasm and energy of local authorities and the co-operation of the people as a whole.

Your Lordships will, of course, still wish to know, apart from the matter of regional studies and regional offices to which I have referred, what action the Government are taking now, and will take in the future. In the first place, within six weeks of the publication of the Buchanan Report (a period which included the Christmas holiday) a joint circular was sent out to local authorities by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and the Ministry of Transport. That is the circular to which my noble friend Lord Molson has referred. The noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, doubted last week in our Transport debate whether this circular means very much. I can assure your Lordships that it does, and that it amounts to a considerable statement of policy.

Local authorities were quite clearly asked to integrate their relevant committees and departments so that comprehensive policies are adopted for towns as a whole. The main planning concepts of Buchanan relating to primary road networks and environmental areas were explained, and a planning bulletin giving advice on design and roads in urban areas was promised for this year. The importance of land use/transport surveys was emphasised and more detailed advice on the execution of these surveys has been promised. The continued importance and improvement of parking policy and traffic management was also emphasised and their place related to the requirements of environmental management.

I think that, while I am dealing with this circular, this might be an appropriate moment to turn to some of the points made in connection with comprehensive development area proposals and the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, and others, relating to the prevention of the wrong sort of development which might subsequently affect the sort of redevelopment advocated by the Buchanan Report. There is no reason why we should get into a muddle about this matter, because, in point of fact, the comprehensive development areas do not necessarily have to wait for the orders to be made before the planning authority can take the sort of action which they consider desirable. So long as the local authority knows what it is aiming at in its area as a whole, it can, of course, through the ordinary planning procedure, prevent the occurrence of individual piecemeal development of a nature that would interfere with the later comprehensive redevelopment. But, naturally, the planning authority must know its own mind in the matter. There is then no reason why it should not act decisively in order to prevent this unfortunate sort of development.

When it comes to the procedure for comprehensive development areas, then, naturally, as the noble Lord, Lord Molson, said, one will go through the procedure which satisfies the needs of justice in individual cases and hold the necessary public inquiries, and so on. But there is no real reason why, if the local authorities know their own minds, they should not be perfectly capable of preventing piecemeal development of the wrong sort.

I have mentioned, in speaking of the departmental circular, the question of parking policy and traffic management. These matters come under the heading of immediate measures, and they are of paramount importance in all towns where the greatest increase of traffic is expected in the next ten years or so, but where extensive redevelopment is bound to be spread over a much longer period. To assist authorities, planning bulletins will be issued as quickly as possible on parking policies in town centres and on traffic-management policies and techniques in general. I would emphasise that it is wholly unrealistic to regard these immediate measures either as shelving Buchanan or as contrary to the spirit of Buchanan. I feel that my noble friend Lord Conesford objects to this sort of measure in an area which might as a consequence have its environment spoiled. These measures are necessary in the present situation, but they are of a temporary nature and there is no reason why, when redevelopment takes place, the requirements of accessibility for traffic with priority given to the comfort of the residents and the demands of environmental areas should not both be satisfied. These measures are immediately necessary, but not necessarily long-term.

The Buchanan Report recognises the essential place of parking and traffic-management policies, and also points out the possibility of improving environmental areas in some cases before major or partial redevelopment begins to take place. Such possibilities are set out in the Report on the Study of Leeds.


My Lords, may I interrupt my noble friend? What he is saying is extremely interesting and important. I wonder that he has not quoted the most interesting suggestion made in paragraph 28 of the circular, where it is suggested that traffic management should in future be used not only for its customary purpose of increasing traffic capacity and to control flow, but also for the control of traffic volume and direction so that it does not impair the maintenance of good living standards in environmental areas. I regard that as being one of the most valuable steps that have been taken by his right honourable friend.


I am most grateful to my noble friend for bringing out that point more clearly than I have done. I said, however, that there was advice in the circular, linking traffic management and parking policies with the question of environmental areas. My noble friend has actually dotted the "i's" and crossed the "t's" more precisely. I think that is a most valuable aspect of the circular.

Then we come to the transport surveys, which take account of future land use proposals, pospulation and employment trends, as well as of traffic movement patterns. The Government have already launched such surveys in the conurbations where traffic problems are most intense. The London Survey is well advanced; others are in progress in Tyneside and in Liverpool; and others have been mounted in the Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow conurbations. The local authorities in Tees-side are considering proposals for comprehensive survey there put to them by the Government. These surveys are basic to the whole programme of urban redevelopment as envisaged by the Buchanan Report, and they cannot be carried out overnight. In addition, the Joint Urban Planning Group set up by the Government to serve the Ministries of Housing and Transport and the Scottish Development Department, to which the noble Lord, Lord Molson, drew attention and of which he expressed warm approval, is planning studies of some medium-sized towns in order to develop the necessary techniques for these comprehensive land use/transport surveys and to adapt them to towns of different types.

This brings me to the general question of research. I can say, very briefly, that all the matters referred to on page 200 of the Buchanan Report are being, or will be, dealt with in one way or another. Specifically, in addition to the surveys just mentioned, renewal design studies will be carried out in conjunction with selected local authorities. The aim is to study some residential areas in depth and analyse the possibilities of applying various renewal techniques, taking into account the concepts of the Buchanan Report. These studies will cover user needs, communications within the area, car parking and storage, landscaping and open space, residential improvement and conversion, clean air and the effect on services, with estimates of design costs and an appraisal of the value of various alternatives which are practicable. In this way we hope to develop survey techniques to help decide whether redevelopment, improvement or conservation, or some combination of these methods, is likely to be most appropriate in various circumstances; to establish criteria and techniques for the selection of improvement areas and to shed light on the technical, financial and administrative framework needed to enable urban renewal to go forward in a comprehensive and effective manner.

There are also the twilight area studies. These are being carried out by private developers, in co-operation with local authorities, under the ægis of the Joint Urban Planning Group. One for Fulham has already been published and has attracted much comment. Another in Bolton is well advanced; this study entails the possible comprehensive redevelopment of an area of 300 acres in which 17,000 people are living. These twilight areas present an immense problem, but the possibility of redeveloping them in conjunction with the traffic requirements of Buchanan also presents an immense opportunity. We need to have a thorough-going examination of all aspects of this type of redevelopment, human and social, financial and legal, so that when we come to the task we can proceed on a sound basis. All these aspects are to be studied in the Bolton project.

The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, asked that the Government should give a lead. Well, the Government are giving a lead in these research matters and in the projects and studies which they are initiating and helping to carry out. Apart from the excellent planning bulletin which was mentioned, Town Centres—An Approach to Renewal—a whole section of which is headed "partnership", a factor of some considerable importance, as was mentioned by the noble Lord opposite as well as other noble Lords—and other planning bulletins mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Molson, the Government are giving a strong lead in all these matters. The all-important problem of environmental standards and environmental management as a technique (which perhaps interests all of us almost more than any other aspect, because it is fundamental to the whole problem), apart from finding its place in the various studies being carried out by the Joint Urban Planning Group, is to be further studied in detail by Professor Buchanan himself, with financial assistance from the Nuffield Foundation.

My Lords, I hope that I have by now said enough to show conclusively that not only do the Government accept the basic concepts and techniques of the Buchanan Report, but that when it comes to urban redevelopment in the future, they intend that these concepts and techniques should be put into practice. This means both taking immediate measures and undertaking projects designed to assist in the long-term programme. Sound planning is required. Not only must technical problems be studied and resolved, but financial problems as well.

The Buchanan Report provides a framework within which a programme of urban redevelopment can proceed. Quite rightly, it does not try to make any comprehensive estimates of the cost of this programme. Clearly, they will be great. We cannot do everything at once; our resources are already fully committed for the next few years. But the Government will press on with their modernisation programmes to the greatest extent possible within our national resources. We are already within sight of 350,000 houses completed in a year; our target is 400,000. The road programme is expanding rapidly. This year £50 million is being spent on urban roads alone; by 1970, or even before, the total will have risen to £140 million.


My Lords, is my noble friend going to say anything about the two specific criticisms I made about Government policy, one feared and one already carried out, where the Buchanan principles appear to me to have been completely disregarded?


I am afraid that I did not understand the noble Lord's point?


I gave in my speech two specific examples of where the Government had taken, or I feared were taking, an action which appeared quite contrary to the principles in the Buchanan Report which they say they have accepted. One was the greatly increased volume of traffic through Piccadilly Circus, which, in the opinion of Professor Buchanan, is not in accordance with what he recommended. The other is what I fear about further office development of railway land in London.


I do not think the noble Lord is at all justified in saying that the Minister took a decision contrary to the Buchanan Report in respect of railway land.


That is what I feared, and I wondered what the position was.


No, he has not done so. The matter is still being negotiated. No formal proposals have been submitted to the Minister and no decision has been taken. I do not know whether the noble Lord was in his place when I was talking of traffic management and parking policies. I pointed out that all these matters were absolutely necessary in the present situation, but that in due course a revision can be made to take more account of environmental areas when more comprehensive plans are developed.


My noble friend seems to be under the impression that I had criticised something the Government had said about parking policy. I had not.


The noble Lord did so on traffic management and the flow of traffic. I thought that what I said was perfectly clear: local authorities must use these techniques of flow of transport and traffic management in general, even though in some cases it may temporarily affect an environmental area. But one can get the picture perfectly clear when the more comprehensive schemes are drawn up and the whole picture can be seen. Then the concept of environmental area will become more apparent and transport will fall into its proper place.


I am sorry that I failed to make myself clear, but there is nothing temporary about rejecting the Holford plan for Piccadilly Circus.


I do not think we can continue this particular argument about Piccadilly Circus. I was dealing at that particular moment with the expansion of the road programme in urban areas. I had just said that by 1970 expenditure will have risen to £140 million. But what is really important is that local authorities have Government aid in the most effective form for facilitating urban redevelopment.

On this aspect both my right honourable friends have made it perfectly clear that they accept the need to overhaul the planning and highway grant systems as proposed. This matter is now under examination. I should be misleading your Lordships if I were to pretend that the results of such examination will be known very soon. This particular problem raises difficult issues, not least because circumstances in each town differ; yet we need to find a comparatively simple and effective method of aid which can be applied generally.

The noble Lords, Lord Silkin and Lord Peddie, brought up the question of land. I do not want to get involved in yet another discussion of the matter of land prices, but should just like to point out to noble Lords that the cost of land has not so far prohibited the development of town centres, and is not prohibiting it at this moment. In respect of the procedures for compensation in comprehensive development areas, I am sure the noble Lord realises that there are already considerable safeguards to ensure that betterment value does not, in fact, accrue to the owners of property in these areas, because the price paid by the authority excludes any element of value due to the development or prospect of development elsewhere in the comprehensive development area. Indeed, if the same person owns property in the nearby area which will improve in value as a result of the redevelopment scheme the increase in the value of that land attributable to the scheme of redevelopment can also be deducted from the amount of compensation payable for the property to be taken over in the comprehensive development area. I thought it was worth while making those two points.

As for the planning system itself, my right honourable friend is reviewing it now. In fact, the Department has already reviewed the existing system with the purpose of reducing the burden of work both on local authorities and on the Department itself, and with a view to speeding up existing procedures. Advice on this will be issued to local authorities soon. This review will help to clear the decks for a more radical look at the development plan system in the motor age; and this, too, is in hand.

My Lords, the Government are taking action on a broad front, both short-term and long-term action. They are adopting a vigorous and positive attitude in this vital matter of urban development. At the same time, they are approaching the problem with a measure of wisdom and responsibility for which future generations will be grateful. We know that we are faced with a challenge and with an opportunity, as indeed are the local authorities and all the people of this country. As the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, said, either we shall save both town and country or we shall ruin both—I think that was the gist of his remarks. The Government intend to accept this challenge, and to rise to this opportunity, and they are confident that in doing so they will have the support and the co-operation of the people of this nation.

7.13 p.m.


My Lords, in concluding, may I just make one or two remarks? First, I should like to express my gratitude to all those who have taken part in the debate, including even the Minister. Secondly, I regret that I have had to be absent for a large part of the debate. I have been in the building but I have been engaged in public work elsewhere which I could not avoid. There has been no disagreement, so far as I can gather, on the diagnosis. In fact, the Minister himself confirmed very largely what I said about the problem we have to face. He patted himself on the back rather hard. I gather that the Government are dealing with the matters with their accustomed wisdom and responsibility; they have thought of everything; all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds; nothing is wrong; we are getting along beautifully; large numbers of plans have been prepared by local authorities. My Lords, I have at home an enormous library of plans that were presented to me by local authorities in the years between 1945 and 1950. I spent a large part of my time going to exhibitions and attending openings for the purpose of publicising these great plans. And where are they? I hope the plans that the noble Lord is talking about to-day will have a better fate than those which existed in my time. But he must not assume that, because local authorities have prepared plans, necessarily they are as good as carried out, because they are not. There is a long way to go before they are.

There are two things I wish to say. First the noble Lord dismissed much too lightly the question of the high cost of land. We shall be coming back to that, and it may be that we shall have a special debate on it and shall try to pin him down. Secondly, he said nothing about the Architectural Research Council. I do not ask him necessarily to make a statement on it now, but I hope he will ask his right honourable friend to give consideration to it. It is a serious proposal and I think it is deserving of a serious reply. With that, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.