HL Deb 24 February 1965 vol 263 cc847-51

4.22 p.m.


My Lords, I have now changed my hat. With your Lord-ships' permission, I should like to repeat a Statement which my right honourable friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government has just made in another place about a New Town in the Leyland/Chorley area. Perhaps your Lordships will allow me to use his words, which are as follows:

"The Government have been considering as a matter of urgency how they can help Manchester to deal with its housing problems in a way that would contribute positively to the general prosperity and growth in the North-West. Like other great conurbations, Manchester cannot hope to provide houses within its own boundaries for all those living in slums and for its total natural increase. If decent living conditions are to be achieved in its bold schemes for central redevelopment, a substantial number of those re-housed must be found homes outside the city. In addition to all its secondary efforts to find sites for dealing with overspill, therefore, Manchester needs at least the equivalent of two new towns.

"The search for suitable sites took several years. Finally, last year, the choice fell on Risley—twelve miles from Manchester and only two miles from Warrington. This announcement was received with a good deal of doubt and criticism. Now I must inform the House that a detailed survey has revealed that serious subsidence and other geological defects rule out a large part of the area. It has been strongly urged that the whole Risley project should be abandoned. But in view of Manchester's urgent needs and the fact that some 13,000 houses can be built quickly here, I feel that on balance the right course is to provide these houses as soon as possible and to use the New Towns Act for this purpose. In view of its nearness to Warrington, it seems to me essential that the new development of the Risley area should form part of a comprehensive plan for the whole Warrington area. I propose, therefore, to start consultations at once in order to see how this can best be achieved. In particular I propose to discuss with the local authorities whether it would not be possible in carrying out this comprehensive operation to achieve a partnership of the kind we are now working out in Ipswich, Northampton and Peterborough.

"In addition to the Warrington-Risley project, Manchester will be able to rely on their own development scheme at Westhoughton, which I have now approved with some important modifications. This should provide for some 13,000 houses. Manchester would themselves carry out this scheme in co-operation with the local authorities concerned.

"But by themselves these short-term partial solutions—for that is all they are—would still leave Manchester without the assurance of long-term relief. In order to meet this need, the Government has decided to designate a site in the Leyland-Chorley area for a large New Town. In addition to providing for the long-term overspill needs of Manchester, this New Town—strategically well placed in relation to the road-rail network—should contribute to the industrial revival of the whole region, and form a new focus for urban renewal. I will shortly be discussing with Lancashire and the other authorities the appointment of consultants to carry out a detailed survey as a preliminary to designating the site under the New Towns Act."


I thank the noble Lord for repeating the Statement made by his right honourable friend in another place. It is disappointing that it is apparently not possible to go on with the building of a full-scale New Town at Risley, after all these years have been taken to find a suitable site, as was mentioned in the Statement. I would remind the noble Lord that, as I am sure he must be aware, the New Town of Peterlee, in County Durham, is built on an area which has either subsided or is still being mined and liable to subsidence. Techniques have been developed there for building on that land, but no doubt this has been considered in connection with Risley.

Apparently, Risley is now to form something in the nature of a town expansion of Warrington, rather than a New Town. As a result, it is necessary to find a completely New Town elsewhere. I would ask the noble Lord whether the area proposed to be designated at Leyland-Chorley is, in fact, one of those areas which had previously been examined and found on the first impression, so to speak, not to be suitable, and whether it has been necessary to come back to it to find a place in substitution for Risley. Also, I should like to know what sort of size of New Town is being envisaged.


My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Lord. I am afraid that I cannot tell him whether the Chorley-Leyland area was one of those looked at previously, but I will inquire and will write to him. If he then likes to make it public in the form of a Question, he can deal with it in that way. The point about Risley is not only subsidence, but also the character of the soil. I gather that the difficulty is that it was found to be very peaty; but again I will check on that.

The third point the noble Lord had in mind was the size of the proposed New Town. The Statement speaks of a "large New Town" and of course one knows the size of existing New Towns—something a good deal bigger than had been proposed for Risley, let alone what is now to be carried out at Risley. I cannot say any more about the size, and I doubt whether if my right honourable friend could, because he is employing consultants to look at the area. He will no doubt have to consider their report and their views before making up his mind and designating the New Town, and so fixing approximately its future size.


My Lords, as Manchester needs the equivalent of at least two New Towns, is this going to mean that it also needs the equivalent of two new lakes? Is Manchester going to add, shall we say, Buttermere and Derwent-water to its shopping list, on top of Ullswater and Windermere?


My Lords, we use more and more water in this country, and we grow more numerous as a population. But on this particular question, the importance and contentious character of which I fully appreciate, I have no present information. It seems to me obvious that if there are going to be more people they will need more water. Where they get it from is a wider question, on which I had perhaps better not embark to-day.


My Lords, in view of what has happened in the proposed Risley project, I wonder whether the Minister could tell me whether a thorough geological survey was made of this new area of Chorley before the decision to go ahead was taken.


My Lords, I am afraid that I cannot do that. There again, consultants are being employed, and I imagine that one of the questions submitted to them, particularly after the unfortunate experience at Risley, would have been whether they were quite sure that the site was suitable from that point of view. I hope and trust that they are not going to make the same mistake again; I should think it unlikely. We must be human about these matters. Decisions are made just before a General Election, and are sometimes hastened up a little with an Election in the offing. I do not want to make any Party point, but the period before an Election is obviously a period of Parliamentary time when things tend to get a little rushed and other matters are more in the minds of Ministers.

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